Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

An Anthropologist studies the psychology of the nuclear bomb scientists

Designed for Death Guernica , Helen Caldicott interviews Hugh Gusterson September 4, 201As we grapple with the legal, political, and cultural implications of drone warfare and targeted killing, the renowned anthropologist draws on an older turning point in military ethics—weapons design at Los Alamos…

…. . A pioneer in the anthropology of science and current professor at George Mason University, Gusterson has studied the culture of nuclear weapons scientists and antinuclear activists in the United Sates and Russia. He is a vocal critic of government recruitment of anthropologists in counterinsurgency projects in Iraq and Afghanistan, and a founding member of the Network of Concerned Anthropologists.

The following interview is excerpted from the forthcoming Loving This Planet: Leading Thinkers Talk About How to Make a Better World, a collection of transcripts from the weekly radio program of physician-turned-activist Dr. Helen Caldicott. …. . A pioneer in the anthropology of science and current professor at George Mason University, Gusterson has studied the culture of nuclear weapons scientists and antinuclear activists in the United Sates and Russia. He is a vocal critic of government recruitment of anthropologists in counterinsurgency projects in Iraq and Afghanistan, and a founding member of the Network of Concerned Anthropologists.

The following interview is excerpted from the forthcoming Loving This Planet: Leading Thinkers Talk About How to Make a Better World, a collection of transcripts from the weekly radio program of physician-turned-activist Dr. Helen Caldicott. ….

Hugh Gusterson:  There are two nuclear weapons labs: one is Los Alamos, which developed the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the other is Lawrence Livermore in San Francisco, which was established in 1952. I have done extensive fieldwork at both labs….I vividly remember one weapons scientist telling me that he could never work on conventional weapons, because it would be immoral. He felt much more comfortable working on nuclear weapons, because he was convinced that nuclear weapons would never be used. I was very struck that he felt morally cleaner working on weapons that could destroy a city than he would have felt working on napalm…..  most of the weapons scientists didn’t see much conflict between Christianity and designing weapons of mass destruction, and they were quite sure the weapons would never be used……

Hugh Gusterson: They also talk about missiles being connected to the outside world by umbilical cords. The very first bomb tested was referred to as Oppenheimer’s baby. The one dropped on Hiroshima was Little Boy. So there is this language of metaphors of birth that surrounds this bomb enterprise. They talk about the results of radioactive decay processes as being daughter products. So there is this language of fertility and birth….. The language of death is banished from the world of nuclear weapons scientists; they don’t talk about killing people; they talk about collateral damage. People are not incinerated; they’re always carbonized—anesthetizing language from which death is banished. But there’s this very rich set of metaphors about birth. I’ve always wondered if that wasn’t an attempt on their part to say, We’re really about life, we’re not about killing people. Which you can see as a form of denial…..

As an anthropologist, I find it particularly offensive when you talk to weapons scientists, or to other kinds of nuclear weapons professionals, that there’s a uniform assumption that Americans are the only people who can be uniquely trusted with nuclear weapons in a way that black and brown people, non-Christians in particular, cannot. You hear it said that only Americans and Europeans have the strength required of people to have nuclear weapons. This flies in the face of the evidence, since the United States is the only country ever to abuse weapons….. http://www.guernicamag.com/interviews/designed-for-death/

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September 5, 2012 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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