Transcript of August 4, 1999, Press Conference
on behalf of Radiation Survivors

Vice Admiral Eugene Carroll
Center for Defense Information

Good afternoon. It's an honor to join with concerned, informed individuals to address the tragedy of nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons ARE a tragedy, the testing, their barbaric use against innocent people. The continued existence of nuclear weapons is a tragedy. The United States spends more than 30 billion dollars a year to maintain its nuclear war fighting capability. At the same time, as President Eisenhower noted, people hunger and are not fed, people are cold and not clothed. They are an abomination, a threat to the future of humankind.

And particularly so at this moment, because just about eight years ago, at the end of the cold war, we had hope, there was going to be a peace dividend. That peace dividend would include addressing this nuclear question and getting rid of these engines of destruction.

The reality, of course, has turned out to be entirely different. Just a year and a half ago the President of the United States determined that the world's most powerful nation must depend for security upon the availability and use of nuclear weapons. That's the formal policy of the United States of America today. Our security will depend indefinitely upon nuclear weapons.

In pronouncing that he declared that that gave us the right to make first use of those weapons, first use against non-nuclear states if we deemed it in our interests, that we would maintain our arsenal in what's called a "launch-on-warning" condition, meaning that they could be used in the matter of just a few moments if we thought our security was imperiled, creating a hairtrigger situation in which the end of humankind could occur, because of misinformation, system failure, human error, fear.

We live in a world which today is not one whit safer than it was during the Cold War. As has been noted, the existence of nuclear weapons won't deter violence, they don't deter attacks against other nations, they don't even deter attacks against the United States. We have our citizens blown up by truck bombs, our allies are attacked in Kuwait. Nuclear weapons simply do not make us securer and yet we pronounce them the cornerstone of our security.

In the process, a further blow to our hopes at the end of the Cold War, we have caused Russia now to become more reliant on nuclear weapons. They used to have a no-first-use doctrine. They said, "As moral people, we will not make first use of nuclear weapons." Now they've renounced that. They say that nuclear weapons are their security because we threaten them, and they have no other form of military power, no form of political power, no form of economic power, they're a destitute, bankrupt nation, and yet they have thousands and thousands of nuclear weapons, including weapons on hairtrigger alert.

And we have in fact contributed to that situation in Russia. The United States and Russia, by our behavior, threaten the non-proliferation regime of the world. This is another horrible problem. If the superpowers, the great nuclear giants, say "We have to have these weapons for our security," what are we telling other nations? We've seen in India and Pakistan, just in the last year and a half, their actual testing of nuclear weapons to join the nuclear powers. We know that there are other ones. They're only the tip of the iceberg. Iran, Iraq, North Korea, and others are attempting to pursue possession of nuclear weapons, to create them.

It is shocking to think that we have this moment in history when there are no great powers threatening each other with fearsome forces, other than these nuclear weapons, that we are not smart enough to get rid of them.

We are living instead in a world in which the danger of nuclear catastrophe is actually increasing day by day, year by year.

I'm pleased, having given you the bad side of the picture, to say that it isn't all bad news. Because the problem is continuing, because it is increasing, because it is becoming more threatening, people are beginning to wake up again. The nuclear freeze movement, which ensued in the 1980's when everyone was convinced that Ronald Reagan wanted to put us in a nuclear war, is now coming back again in a degree. We have the Canberra Declaration, which is a signpost to the world. This was a declaration by some of the most esteemed leaders in the world. Military, political, scientific, Nobel Peace Prize winners gathered together, and declared that the only safety lay in the abolition of nuclear weapons, the total elimination of nuclear weapons on earth. There is a declaration by the 62 generals and admirals a year and a half ago, I'm proud to be one, calling for the elimination of nuclear weapons. This represents military people from 17 nations in the world. Now the civilian leaders, premiers, prime ministers, presidents, have joined together in a call for the abolition of nuclear weapons. So there IS awareness that we are in a blind alley, we put ourselves in this position, saying "We trust nuclear weapons," when we should be fearing them.

There are other efforts going forward. I participated in this study, just out, which you might be interested in. We published it under the title, "Jump Start," meaning, Start isn't getting it done, Start is stopped. Let's jump over Start an let's make deep reductions in nuclear weapons, let's take the existing nuclear weapons off hairtrigger alert, and let's establish a solid security accountability system for the fissile material that is so grotesquely excess to anybody's safety. Three steps that will move us toward the reduction of nuclear weapons.

Another group with which I'm participating, the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, published a report, "Waging Peace Worldwide," and this calls for nuclear abolition and involves the important leaders and thinkers of the United States and other nations.

You always, I hope, can count on the word from the Center for Defense Information. We publish facts about the dangers, the numbers, the systems, and make recommendations, recipes for dealing with these problems.

So there is a body of public opinion that exists, and I think that can be strengthened into a significant political force.

Now, it has to begin in the United States. I guess our guests (Hibakusha from Japan) are doing their share, but it has to start to here, we started the nuclear age. We're the only nation ever to use nuclear weapons. If we say that they're the cornerstone of our security, we're never going to get rid of them, so it has to start here, which means the American people have to be the engine for change, they have to become alarmed, and concerned, and active, and convince our leadership that we will lead the world toward nuclear abolition.

Then it has to become a global effort, just like the nuclear freeze began in the '80's, it started here in the United States, but pretty soon there were people in Munich, and people in Milan, and people in South Africa, there were people all over the world demonstrating against nuclear weapons. And I think we can build that sort of spirit, concern, and activism with the facts. Groups like this are helpful, you get the information out, it shows everybody that there are concerned, informed individuals who want to change what's going on in the world today. So let's cling together, let's work together, let's count on each other, and let's get on with this imperative, to rid the world of nuclear weapons.


Comments from audience:

Ellen Thomas, Proposition One Committee:

I don't have a question, but I'd like to speak to what Admiral Carroll had to say about the need to abolish nuclear weapons and to start here in the United States. I'm not sure that everyone in this room is aware that on July 16th, on the anniversary of the dropping of the first bomb, Trinity, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton and Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey jointly co-sponsored a bill in the United States Congress entitled the "Nuclear Disarmament and Economic Conversion Act." What this is asking the United States to do is to promise the world that we will get rid of all our nuclear bombs if everyone else does, and that we'll use the money instead for converting those industries, cleaning up the environmental mess, and providing for human needs. In other words, solar panels and windmills instead of missiles and bombs, so there should never be another Hiroshima or Nagasaki. Thank you.

Question: I'm Lee Vandervorn, Executive Director of Veterans for Peace.... Admiral Carroll, I'd like to direct a question to you, and ask you how we can get better media exposure. It is so tough to get this word out. We are thousands of veterans ourselves, and many of our members are atomic veterans who talk about this issue. We feel many times we're speaking to the choir. We need to get more attention. Do you have any solutions?


In a word, no.

[The videotape ends here; the essence of Admiral Carroll's further response was that in his experience, journalists see nuclear weapons as a non-issue. This opinion was reinforced recently by Mary McGrory of the Washington Post, who told Ellen Thomas that she probably wouldn't write about HR-2545 "because the only thing we're writing about for the foreseeable future is the CTBT."] ###

Questions? Please contact John Steinbach, 703-369-7427, Hiroshima-Nagasaki Committee of Gray Panthers; or
Ellen Thomas, 202-462-0757, Proposition One Committee,