17 November 2004
By David Williams
November 16, 2004
Nobel Peace Prize nominee Dr Helen Caldicott fears US President George Bush's re-election will lead to Armageddon and she isn't sure if mankind would survive another four years.
"This is the most serious election that has ever occurred in the history of the human race, without a scrag of doubt," she told smh.com.au.
"I don't know if we'll survive the next four years ... I don't think the Americans have, on the whole, the faintest idea - and I have to say also I don't think most Australians do either. But it's not just the threat from nuclear war. It's the threat of what's happening to the environment, the global warming which is occurring rapidly now, to ozone depletion, to species extinction, to deforestation - it's the whole thing."
Speaking from her son Will's Boston home, the Australian paediatrician, who runs the Nuclear Policy Research Institute in Washington, has just spent a frantic two-and-a-half months criss-crossing America to deliver her anti-nuclear and anti-Bush message. She discovered the country was more divided than at any time since she first stepped onto American soil in 1966.
Early on election day she was convinced Democratic challenger John Kerry would win but reality soon set in.
"This is what I've been afraid of and I actually can't believe it's happening," she said. "The voter turnout was so high, which should have supported Kerry.
"I don't think I've ever felt so personally, politically devastated in my life and that includes when [former president Ronald] Reagan won a second term of office - which was pretty devastating for me as I was so heavily involved in the anti-nuclear movement in those days.
"But this is worse, these people are much worse than the Reagan people."
Dr Caldicott rose to fame in the American peace movement during the '70s and '80s, her vehement antinuclear stance earning her many enemies, some of whom saw her as an apologist for the Soviet Union. She has long warned of the dangers of nuclear weapons, America's "first strike" policy and missile defence.
In her 2002 book The New Nuclear Danger, she detailed links between the Government and weapons makers and Mr Bush's will to militarise space.
Mr Bush's win meant "endless war and I think it could mean nuclear war", she said.
"In January 1995 we got to within 10 seconds of nuclear war when [former Russian president Boris] Yeltsin and the Russians made a mistake and thought they were under attack. The Americans still have a first-strike policy to win a nuclear war against Russia. The weapons are still in place both in America and Russia. Virtually nobody knows that in this country and that a mistake or a terrorist takeover of the command system - on either side - or errors being made could lead to the end of life on earth."
In a website interview two years ago, Dr Caldicott was asked why Mr Bush remained so popular. She replied she didn't believe it - that the polls were inaccurate [although that was before the invasion of Iraq].
Now she has to face the reality that more than half of Americans want Mr Bush back, despite [or because of] his policies. She puts it down to brilliance on the part of his campaign team, in particular Karl Rove, and the ignorance of much of the population.
"They [the Bush administration] have been able to con the American people with their extremely brilliant propaganda and brainwashing, with the help of the media ... they consistently lie. On the whole the American people don't really understand the dynamics of the right at all. They don't know that Bush et al want to go into Iran next and that they want to dominate the world militarily and that they want to put weapons in space.
"I don't think they [the American public] understand. It is a mandate for Bush to do absolutely anything he wants. I know people don't like me using this word but they're fascists."
Not firing all her ammunition at Mr Bush, she saved some for Australian Prime Minister John Howard. She said Australia was now the "51st state of the US".
"I've always been so proud of my country, now I'm not just ashamed by what's happening and embarrassed ... but I really fear for the future of Australia and the previous wonderful quality of life that we've always had."