For the sake of argument

For the sake of argument

One man can do something to ward off nuclear war

JOHN B. WITCHELL CONTENDS October 8 1960
For the sake of argument

For the sake of argument

One man can do something to ward off nuclear war

JOHN B. WITCHELL CONTENDS October 8 1960

For the sake of argument

One man can do something to ward off nuclear war

JOHN B. WITCHELL CONTENDS

Last year I gave up a $6,900-a-year job as a professional engineer with the Defense Research Board. I have a wife and six children to support, and I appreciate the value of a steady income as much as any man. But the issues over which I resigned are of such tremendous importance that I feel I was justified in risking my household in order to place the facts in the clearest terms before the government and people of this country.

I am not a pacifist. I believe that Canada needs more defense, not less. I have many friends in the defense department and the armed services. They are serving their country in all good conscience, often in frustrating circumstances. I do not suggest that they should resign. Mass resignations would not improve the situation, but would create an even greater confusion, when what we need above all is a clear, rational defense policy. What we have now, instead, is a policy of planned national suicide.

There are really three lines of genuine defense. The first is our policy in international affairs, which should aim at keeping us out of troubles that are not our concern. We should decisively separate ourselves from U. S. belligerence. Positive efforts for peace, both in and outside the UN, should be actively encouraged. This first line of defense is by far the most important, since we cannot expect our present way of life to continue unless it is held.

The second line of true defense consists of a complete Canadian rejection of nuclear weapons of every description. This is essential for at least two reasons. One is the effect upon world opinion — a factor of incalculable importance that the West has grossly ignored. The other is the fact that if nuclear war does start, all the nuclear nations will be obliged to devour one another. The atomic club is a suicide club.

It will be said that non-nuclear armed forces are useless. This depends upon their purpose. Our armed forces and civil defense form the third line, and the third line only, of a true defense system. They are the disaster team, which will come into action only when all else has failed. They could also do much to prevent disaster — by providing troops for a permanent UN police force, should this be established.

What we need, I contend, is a large and highly mobile Canadian army, one built around rugged equipment and men trained in survival techniques.

McCarthy’s ghost still walks

As we move from the already tense age of the manned bomber into the age of the missile, we move into a situation that will allow only a tiny fraction of time for making decisions that will mean the survival or non-survival of the human race. The data on which these decisions are to be based are provided by a fantastically complicated network of apparatus spread over half the world. In effect, this is the fuse of an infernal machine on which we are all sitting. This in itself is an intolerable situation. When to it is added the fact that the Russians will undoubtedly achieve full missile capability before the U. S., it becomes evident that the sole result of our present association with Washington is that we will share with the United States a one-way ticket to Valhalla.

Too many scientists in government employment have been so intimidated by the ghost of Joe McCarthy that they are unable to convey the terrible facts even to their own governments. I did not feel that I could square the principles of Christianity, or even my professional integrity as an engineer, with a meaningless contribution to a

MR. WITCHELL HAS BEEN AN ENGINEER WITH A QUEBEC PLASTICS FIRM SINCE HE RESIGNED LAST YEAR FROM THE DEFENSE RESEARCH BOARD.

CONTINUED ON PAGE 56

For the sake of argument continued from page 10

“Nothing of any consequence has been done by Ottawa to check the present drift to war”

suicidal sham. Some protest, I felt, was absolutely essential.

I opened my campaign in the fall of 1957. The first Sputnik was beeping its way round the world. The U. S. had risen to the heights of hysteria. A continuous H-bomb patrol was reported to be in operation, and massive efforts were being made by the late John Foster Dulles to foist the half-baked, liquid-fueled Thor missiles on the unhappy European allies. The trend was obvious, but what could one ordinary person do about it? Nobody can tell until he has tried. If our country, our homes and our children are to be destroyed. I feel that we should at least make a fight of it. The Canadian public has a moral right to know what is going on.

I was inclined to believe in the good faith of the Diefenbaker government, but it appeared to me that its scientific advisers had failed to bring out the full force of the situation. I wrote essays to the cabinet, particularly the Prime Minister and the late Sidney Smith, putting the thing in the plainest words I could find. Both received them with courtesy, and I believe that some of them at least were read. I also freely indulged in that last resort of the frustrated author — I wrote letters to editors all over Canada. Most of them were printed.

At that time there seemed to be a period of indecision in Canadian defense matters. I tried to use this period to

present tin alternative to annihilation. I wrote to all kinds of people — important people, and people as unknown as myself. Although at first the climate of public opinion was frigid, it was changing. Among those who were facing the same grim facts were Major-General W. H. S. Maeklin. Dr. J. S. Thomson of the United Church of Canada, and, later, James M. Minifie. There were many others, most of them unknown to one another. Each had his own contribution, and I was determined to add my own two cents' worth. Who could tell? It might be worth a dime after all. The extent to which responsible opinion on this matter has shifted is tremendous. Recently, the Liberal party announced a firm non-nuclear stand.

There was no censorship

My public letter-writing naturally became known to the Defense Research Board. Eventually 1 received a letter that spoke sombrely of the grave doubts bound to be created about the wisdom of my employment in a defense agency. It also expressed qualms concerning the embarrassment and ridicule 1 might eventually bring upon the defense department. 1 had just written a letter to the Ottawa Citizen about the Bomarc, and I must admit that the fears of ridicule were not unfounded. The very name Bomarc has since become a symbol of

futility. My How of ietters continued.

In spite of all this, the DRB authorities did not fire me. At no time did any senior official deny my right to express my views. This is a very real testimony to the degree of practical freedom that exists in Canada. What would have happened in Russia? Or. for that matter, in the U. S.? The present persecution of that distinguished American, Dr. Linus Pauling, gives the answer.

Actually, I suppose I must have been almost as hard to fire as the Bomarc itself, because firing me would have drawn attention to the embarrassing things I was saying. But tension was building up, and finally 1 offered my resignation on the condition that it should get the personal attention of the minister of defense. This was agreed to, and I wrote out my resignation. It was accepted, and I received a pleasantly worded acknowledgement from Mr. Pearkes.

So ended five years' service with DRB, and the prospect of a government pension. A futile protest? I still think it was both necessary and worthwhile.

1 had no prospect of work when I left, but within a week I was offered an engineer’s job with a small plastics plant. The starting salary was considerably less than I had been making, but I was glad to accept. I am still doing this job, which I find interesting. But 1 have not grown any the less concerned about armaments. Present-day armaments do not permit

people to forget about them. If we are so busy with our own little lives that we neglect the great issues, our own little lives will abruptly cease.

We cannot sweep this problem under the rug indefinitely. It will eventually cease to be a far-off bogey and will become a problem for every one of us. We must strive for a solution now.

It is difficult to tell where the present Canadian government stands. Like any other group of people, it includes some who think and others who prefer not to. Prime Minister Diefenbaker and Howard Green, the Minister of External Affairs, have from time to time voiced a concern that appears to be genuine. In view of what they must know, it could hardly be otherwise. But nothing of any consequence has been done to check the present drift to war. For some months after my resignation I let the matter rest. Then, when George Pearkes made his celebrated remarks about "knocking the stuffing out of Russia,” 1 started a new campaign. I realized that at the top of the defense department there was a mentality far too dangerous to be ignored by the public. My object was to expose this thinking.

Recently, a group of responsible women formed an organization called the Voice of Women. They went to Ottawa and obtained interviews with Diefenbaker and Green. They were pleasantly received, and were promised every assis-

lance — short of effective action, of course.

Nevertheless, these women have the light idea. They are determined to use to the full the legitimate means democracy offers for the expression of public opinion. The sum of many such actions by ordinary people like you and me can eventually encourage our timid politicians to take the sort of action the situation demands.

As Canadians, we must grasp the simple fact that the purpose of Canadian defense is just that—the defense of the nation. It is remarkable how easily people can become convinced that its main object is to create employment, to bolster the economy, to promote higher education and scientific prestige, or to keep the air force Hying. All these things may be desirable, but they will be pointless if our nation should cease to exist.

We must not be apologetic about wishing our lives, and the lives of our children and nation, to continue. This is file aim of genuine national defense. An insistence on continuing the nuclear race to annihilation is certainly not patriotism.

A means of countering communism without war must be found. The fanatics would have us believe that the choice is between communism and annihilation alone, and that we have a moral duty to choose annihilation. It's not true, and the "morality" that supports it is perverted. There is an alternative, but first we must adjust our defense policy and international conduct if we are to have a legitimate hope of survival.

We have common interests with our bigger allies, but we have no control over their actions. Acceptance of nuclear weapons makes a mockery of our efforts for international peace. Since such weap-

ons must come from the U. S. and remain in U. S. custody, they will place our national forces under foreign control. We will be used as pawns in a game of chess played from Washington—by people who understand poker only. It is to the credit of the Diefenbaker government that it has not fully capitulated—at the time of writing—on this point.

Rejection of nuclear weapons would leave us free to play the strong Canadian diplomatic hand to full advantage. If war does come, the absence of these weapons may reduce the intensity of the attack. Possession of them can do nothing to protect us.

We must realize that nuclear war, if it comes, will change the face of the earth. Super-powers may well become insignificant overnight. Even if we Canadians survive and still have enemies, it does not follow that those enemies will be in any condition to think about additional military adventures. At such a time the existence of a large and highly mobile Canadian army, trained in survival procedures. would discourage such attempts.

The emphasis should be on tough men and simple, rugged equipment. Men can survive in conditions where complex machines are useless. We need the largest possible number of people trained in emergency procedures. Decentralization is vital, and stockpiling should start at once. If any evacuation is to take place, the time tor it is now. It is impossible to break up our great urban centres, but their continued growth could be restricted.

I he importance of informing the public on survival techniques must be stressed. It is a duty governments have shirked because they fear the effect upon morale if the true prospects in nuclear

war become widely understood. But ignorance will lead only to panic and organizational breakdown.

1 he change I am suggesting will be condemned as anti-American. It is nothing of the kind. On the contrary, it is anti-American to continue obstinately in a course that can lead only to America’s ruin. A large but inarticulate body of American public opinion is far from satisfied with the present lunacy. The effect of a firm Canadian stand on this matter would be to enable it to express itself. If you are in a friend's car. and he goes to sleep at the wheel, you will not help him if you merely hold his hand and assure him of your affection. When the crash comes you will both perish. It would be far more to the point

to stamp on the brake pedal yourself, even if by so doing you stand on your friend's toes. He may be hurt, but he will recover. He may even thank you.

When do we start on our new program. and who starts it? We start right now, and the person who starts it is YOU. We are driving straight to disaster. ( hange of course is essential. Everybody knows it. but everybody is waiting for everybody else to act. Don't tell yourself that you are a helpless child of fate. ^ our opinion does count—if you express it. You. as an ordinary citizen, are in a position ot freedom the statesmen themselves may well envy. If this matter were discussed across the country, even in such a lowly forum as the local Home and School Association, the ultimate effect might well be enormous. Almost everybody in Canada has a home, and most people send their children to school, it is certainly an appropriate subject, for nuclear war threatens both home and school with extinction.

I he countdown is well under way. But you can stop it. The course of events does not depend only upon those who hold great public office. They are often bound hand and foot, and are subject to many pressures. But public opinion is one of those pressures, and you are a member of the public. If the government is assured of support, it may take the necessary action. If it does not, democracy offers you the possibility of replacing the government with one o' greater humanity and moral fibre.

I believe the course I have suggested is both practical and honorable. Maybe you don't agree. But at least think the matter over, and see if you can come up with something constructive.

Ultimately, it all depends on you.