JOURNAL OF THE
FEDERATION OF AMERICAN SCIENTISTS (FAS)
Volume 48, No. 5 September/October 1995
Atomic Scientists Appeal to Colleagues: Stop Work on Further
In an "Atomic Scientists' Appeal", FAS, for the first time in
its 50-year history, has called on scientists throughout the
world to stop working on further nuclear weapons and on other
weapons of potential mass destruction.
Inspired by a letter from Nobel Laureate Hans A.
Bethe, who is the senior living original atomic scientist,
the FAS Council endorsed his appeal and secured the individual
endorsements of most of its other FAS member survivors of that
era including Marvin L. Goldberger, Jerome Karle, Glenn T.
Seaborg, Philip Morrison, Victor Weisskopt, Robert R. Wilson and
Herbert York, and also an endorsement by Richard L. Garwin.
This "Atomic Scientists Appeal" was released in Hiroshima on
July 25 at a Pugwash Conference by FAS President Jeremy J. Stone.
It is noteworthy that the Pugwash movement itself has never
issued a similar appeal despite the fact, as one high official
admitted, "this has been considered before". In seeking
endorsements from non-American scientists, Stone managed, in
particular, to secure the endorsement of all but one Pugwash
Council Member attending the conference.
Subsequently, the final communique of the Pugwash Council
included this statement:
" ... presented to the Conference on its first morning was a
letter from one of the most senior Manhattan Project scientists,
Nobel Laureate Hans Bethe, calling on "all scientists in all
countries to case and desist from work creating, developing,
improving, and manufacturing further nuclear weapons--and, for
that matter, other weapons of potential mass destruction such as
chemical and biological weapons." Conveyed by the Council of the
Federation of American Scientists and endorsed by that group as
well as by a number of prominent Manhattan Project scientists in
addition to Bethe, his letter is a remarkable document to which
the Pugwash Council is pleased to add its own endorsement."
A number of observers commented on the fact that it is much
easier for scientists to call on governments to do one thing or
another than to call upon their colleagues to do something with
the collegial censure this implies for colleagues who do not
agree. Accordingly, the Atomic Scientists Appeal was viewed by
many as a "breath of fresh air", as one scientist put it, and as
an important precedent for similar activities of other kinds.
The release in Hiroshima was complicated by events on the
opening day when Pugwash President Joseph Rotblat, at a plenary
session, gave a lecture with slides on the culpability of the
United States in dropping the atomic bomb on Hiroshima.
Rotblat opened his presentation by saying "In total disregard
of the basic tenets of science--openness and universality--it
[the atomic bomb] was conceived in secrecy, and usurped--even
before birth-by one state to give it political dominance." And
his primary view was: "As a scientist I want also to apologize to
the Japanese people for the atom bombs. Their use was
unjustified. Their making was necessary."
Despite an awareness that the Federation's main message--the
Atomic Scientists Appeal--could be prejudiced by doing so, Stone
rose from the floor, criticized Rotblat for not having scheduled
an alterative view, and noted that most scholars did not accept
this revised interpretation of history. In particular, Stone
noted, even the scientists of conscience within FAS did not, in
most cases, agree. (For example, Hans A. Bethe believes that the
use of the bomb saved Japanese lives by producing a prompt
surrender that cut off the continued fire-bombing of Japanese
cities and saved Japanese lives that would have been lost in a
subsequent invasion. Needless to say, it also saved American
lives.) And Stone offered to circulate a more balanced appraisal
in the form of a Washington Post two-part series written by
Rotblat's perspective on this is worth noting. He alone among
the atomic scientists at Los Alamos, left the project when it
became clear that the Germans would not get the atomic bomb.
Accordingly, from his point of view, on which he acted at the
time, the completion of the atomic bomb was inconsistent with the
original defining purpose of ensuring that the Nazis did not,
alone, get the bomb. As for the dropping of the bomb being
unjustified, he accepted the view that the Japanese were near
surrender, that the potential American invasion casualties were
fewer than many were led to believe at the time, and that the
real purpose of dropping the bomb was to impress the Russians.
MINORITY VIEW "TOO SIMPLE"
Afterwards, a Pugwash participant well informed on the debate,
described Rotblat's presentation as "too simple, and at least
partly wrong. It's too much Blackett-Alperovitz." A number of
other participants agreed in private. A few days later, a Pugwash
session occurred in which Historian Burton Bernstein did offer
the alternative majority view.
Although Stone's response to Rotblat was carried in the
Japanese media and did, reporters later noted, persuade them that
FAS had a hawkish perspective, they nevertheless accepted the FAS
"Atomic Scientist's Appeal" in good spirit the next day. The main
Hiroshima newspaper reported the FAS appeal with small pictures
of four signers (Bethe, Morrison, Seaborg and York). And another
newspaper helpfully ad-libbed a quote that our effort was "part
of a drive for zero nuclear weapons" which its editors realized
was necessary to give the Japanese public a correct understanding
of our intentions.
The reporters were helped, in their assessment of FAS, by being
shown 20-year-old reports of FAS's previous visit to Hiroshima on
August 6, 1975. At that time, Stone held a press conference,
convened by the city's mayor, to explain FAS's work and, in
particular, to float the then-new idea of restricting any
president or prime minister from ordering, on his own initiative,
the first use of nuclear weapons (i.e. the
"no-one-decision-maker" theme which would require Congressional
or other acquiescence in such an escalation). In sum, FAS has
now, twice, at 20-year intervals, reported to the Japanese public
on its continuing efforts to Preclude further use of nuclear
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