Anti-Nuke Icon Wonders if We Have Death Wish

Helen CaldicottDave Zweifel, The Cap Times, 20 April 2012

Dr. Helen Caldicott, the internationally renowned physician, activist and author, is concerned that she’s spent her life warning the world about the terrible dangers of nuclear weapons and energy in vain.

“In the 1980s, we had 86 percent of the people in the United States agreeing we needed to rid the world of nuclear weapons,” she said.

But our politicians did little and now we’re here 30 years later with the world in greater danger than it was at the height of the Cold War, she said on a visit to The Capital Times this week.

The doctor was in Madison as a guest of the local chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility, the organization she helped found in her never-ending crusade to bring about world nuclear disarmament.

The soon-to-be 74-year-old Australian native is just as sharp and outspoken as ever and genuinely perplexed why the world just “doesn’t get” the dangers of nuclear energy — whether for bombs or to generate electricity — and why we continue to plod along as if blowing up the world someday is a viable option for humanity.

She insists that we’ve become distracted by “righteous outrage” over North Korea or Iran having nuclear weapons.

“The real rogue nations are the United States and Russia,” she said, both of which are sitting on stockpiles of nuclear bombs — 90 percent of all nuclear weapons in the world — while trying to lecture others about developing nuclear weapons.

“We should be talking and writing about this rather than putting all our energies into Korea and Iran,” she asserted.

We had the chance to rid the world of the bombs when the Cold War ended and she insists that it was President Bill Clinton who dropped the ball in dealing with Boris Yeltsin and the Russians.

She was blunt: “Clinton was gutless. We gave it to him on a silver platter and he did nothing.”

Barack Obama, on the other hand, has “potential,” she insisted, pointing out that while a student at Harvard, Obama wrote two impressive papers on abolishing nuclear weapons. That shows that his awareness of the dangers run deep in his conscience, she claimed.

“But he can’t do it alone,” she added, contending the reason nuclear power isn’t reined in stems from the fact that American politicians “are corporate whores” — that nothing is done so that they can placate their big campaign contributors.

A pediatrician, Caldicott explained that her anti-nuclear biases began when as a young woman she saw the 1959 film “On the Beach,” in which fallout contaminates the atmosphere after World War III. In 1979, she wrote “Nuclear Madness,” a much-heralded book that was credited with opening eyes to the dangers of all things nuclear.

Since then, as she predicted, there have been terrible accidents, including the well-known debacle at Chernobyl (which she calls the biggest cover-up in the history of medicine) and the Fukushima disaster. She brought along a book with pictures of children born in the wake of Chernobyl with grotesque deformities. But it isn’t just the sensational accident that endangers health, she insisted. She said that birth defects in kids born to mothers who live near nuclear power plants exceed the average. So does incidence of childhood cancer.

And because the U.S. has used depleted-uranium anti-tank weapons in Iraq, the country is currently experiencing an explosion of birth defects. Women have even been counseled not to have children, she said.

The dangers posed by nuclear weapons have led her to wonder how it is we’re still here.

“But we march on, like lemmings moving to the cliff,” she insisted. “I sometimes wonder if what we have here is a case of collective suicide.”

Although she’s disappointed that countries like the U.S. haven’t come to grips with the problems of nuclear energy, she said she will continue to carry on her crusade, trying to educate people about the dangers.

“I wouldn’t still be doing this if I didn’t think there was hope,” she added.

2 thoughts on “Anti-Nuke Icon Wonders if We Have Death Wish”

  1. Dr. Caldicott is an important voice in the fight to save the world from radioactivity. We feature her at

  2. Denis L White

    Dear Helen
    For what its worth I wholeheartedly support your position on the nuclear and other global social issues. I have read Missile Envy, The New Nuclear Danger and A Passionate Life. I am deeply disturbed by the content but I admire the passion, intellect and sheer guts with which you have confronted the blind ignorance and beligerence of those who exercise global power. Other Australians notably Rachel Carson, John Pilger and Geoffrey Robertson have also put their necks on the line in an attempt to address and inform about global issues. What a shock it would be if the Australian government had the mind to reclaim the country’s inderpendence and tell the American war machine to pack up its obscene toys and go home. This might be the only country in the world that could get away with it and, what an encouragement that would be for the rest of the unfree world. If I have a chance to hear you speak, I live on the Sunshine coast, I will take it.
    Kindest regards
    Denis White

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