During the darkest days of World War II, US Army general Joseph Stilwell earned the nickname “Vinegar Joe” for his brilliant, blunt, bracing, leadership style. Stilwell’s tough, honest assessment of a disastrous military campaign in Asia captured the imagination of the American public, and roused the White House to completely re-assess the direction it had been taking: “I claim we got a hell of a beating. We got run out of Burma and it is humiliating as hell. I think we ought to find out what caused it, fix it, then go back and retake it.”
Though she may not enjoy the comparison to a military man, the same tough-but-invigorating observations can be found in the pithy, concise, sharp (and sometimes humorous) words of legendary anti-nuclear activist Helen Caldicott, who recently gave an hour-long interview to the Bulletin by Skype from her home in Sydney. For nearly 60 years, this Australian physician has been taking on the powers-that-be, and fighting for a world without nuclear weapons.
And not holding anything back.
It’s not every day that one hears the words “missile envy” in a sober-sided analysis of the reasons for the nuclear arms race. Or learn that the solution to nuclear proliferation may be to give the collective bottoms of those in charge a good swat.
Or hear this observation about the current situation in Washington: “We’ve got a man in charge who I think has never read a book, and who knows nothing about global politics, or his own county’s politics. Who operates with his own kind of sordid intuition. And he’s putting people in every department committed to destroying that department… My dream solution is that people from Congress come in, pick him up, and lock him in a laundry [room] or something. ”
And now, you can enjoy a sneak peak of the full interview, for free, in advance of formal publication in the Bulletin’s bi-monthly magazine.
And find out what she said about you.
(Full disclosure: I was the interviewer, so I may be biased in her favor. But I’d still highly recommend reading what Caldicott has to say, no matter who conducted the interview.)
Originally published: https://thebulletin.org/straight-talk-down-under11743