MACLEAN'S REPORT

U. S. REPORT

Why some Americans hate the test ban; and why hardly anyone listens to them

IAN SCLANDERS October 19 1963
MACLEAN'S REPORT

U. S. REPORT

Why some Americans hate the test ban; and why hardly anyone listens to them

IAN SCLANDERS October 19 1963

U. S. REPORT

IAN SCLANDERS

Why some Americans hate the test ban; and why hardly anyone listens to them

IF THERE is ONE THING some Americans fear more than the Soviet Union, mainland China and Cuba combined, it’s the relaxed kind of peace that might bring real disarmament. This has never been so clear as it is now. International tension has eased a little since the limited nuclear-test-ban treaty was negotiated, and the easing has alarmed the brass hats who want to command bigger, not smaller, fighting forces. It has alarmed industrialists who fear the trimming of fat defense contracts. And it has alarmed whole communities that have grown up around plants that make weapons and would be ghost towns if the plants closed.

The apprehension over the “threat” of peace goes a long way toward explaining the loud sounds from opponents of the test ban at the Senate hearings, the antiban propaganda by right-wing outfits like the one that calls itself Manion Forum and the hastily organized National Committee Against the Treaty of Moscow, and the antiban resolution of the Air Force Association.

All the bombast against the ban was offered in the name of patriotism, as in the case of every other defense issue in recent years. But, for a change, some of the blowhards found their logic or their motives being questioned by a large segment of the public. If their statements seemed malicious to the ninety countries, among them Canada, that welcomed the testban pact and hastened to sign it because it might keep strontium-90 and iodine-131 out of the milk children drink, the same statements, as far as I can judge, struck most Americans the same way.

I have a distinct impression — and so have other reporters I’ve talked to — that the arch foe of the test ban, Dr. Edward Teller, who likes to be credited with fathering the hydrogen bomb, emerged from the Senate hearings with his stature shrunken. Elis tirade against the treaty has been widely criticized. A congressman’s receptionist asks: “Does this guy want me to have two-headed babies? Does he think leukemia’s good for kids?” This was the attitude of a lot of Americans even before the appearance of a half-page newspaper advertisement signed by Dr. Benjamin Spock, the expert on child care, and sixty-six other physicians. The ad said: “We believe that as a result of the fallout from past tests, at least a small percentage of our children will develop cancer or leukemia in the future, and that some of our children’s children will be born with physical deformities or mental deficiency. If testing in the atmosphere continues, the risks will increase.”

On the other hand — unless you ran into brass hats of the more bellicose type, John Birchers, the kind of senators who are sure integration is a Kremlin plot to “mongrelize America,” or panicky weapon-peddlers — you

heard nobody wildly excited by the Manion Forum's full-page newspaper ad that was written by a retired rear admiral named Ward. This ad said: NATIONAL DISASTER IMPENDING! SENATE RATIFICATION OF THE TEST BAN TREATY WILL DESTROY OUR COUNTRY. Nor did you hear anybody much stirred by the full-page newspaper ad of the National Committee Against the Treaty of Moscow, which said DEFEAT THE TREATY OF Moscow and implored citizens to WIRE OR WRITE YOUR SENATOR TODAY. Ill Other days this kind of drum-beating whipped many Americans into a warpath frenzy. Now it seemed to produce yawns and virtually no hysteria about the Red peril.

The Soviet Union is still not trusted — far from it. But there are signs that most Americans would rather gamble on Russian intentions than on an increase in fallout. There are also signs of a growing belief that without cautious steps in the direction of disarmament it will not be possible to escape nuclear war. These are not the sentiments, it goes without saying, of those whose profits, jobs, power, or prestige would be undermined by disarmament, or of those who imagine a communist conspiracy behind any development they dislike. These people did their best to block the ban.

TELLER AND GOLDWATER RAN TRUE TO FORM

It was predictable that Edward Teller would blast the ban: he has opposed test-ban proposals for fifteen years, and during the years 1958-61, when the U. S. and the Soviet Union refrained from testing, he advocated the resumption of tests. He held that underground testing could not be detected — a theory that's much in doubt now — and argued that the Russians were probably engaged in such testing. He said the U. S. also should be testing underground. But testifying recently against treaty ratification, Teller said underground testing — permitted by the limited ban — wasn’t enough; atmospheric tests were essential to develop antimissile missiles. White House scientific advisers argued, that, with or without atmospheric tests, there was slim likelihood of a workable antimissile missile.

The opposition of Barry Goldwater was predictable too. He attributes the worry over fallout to a communist campaign, belongs to the better-dead-than-Red school, and asserts: “Peace has never been achieved, and it will not be in our time, by rival nations suddenly deciding to turn their swords into plowshares.”

There were others in opposition:

■ Senator Richard Russell of Georgia, chairman of the Senate armed services committee, whose state has so many military installations that a general is supposed to have cracked: “One more base would sink it.”

■ Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, a right-wing diehard who is often the army’s mouthpiece in the Senate.

■ General Thomas Power, commander of the Strategic Air Command, who in 1960 launched the “missile gap" tremors by stating Russia was getting far enough ahead of the U. S. in missiles to wipe out U. S. defenses in half an hour.

Even the tactics of the antibanners could be anticipated for they had been used before — for instance, to prevent a test ban from being signed at Geneva in 1959. Writing in The Nation, Fred Cook said in 1961 that these tactics were attempts to convince the American government and people that no inspection system was scientifically feasible, that the Russians could and would cheat, and that Americans by binding themselves to a treaty would be handing themselves over to an unscrupulous and implacable enemy.

That, as you know, was the refrain of the antibanners inside and outside the Senate hearings this fall. They left no doubt of their fear of what Cook, two years ago, had termed “the first toddling precedent on the road of disarmament.” But as nearly as I can tell most Americans watched their performance calmly, without being much impressed. And on Capitol Hill there were politicians who started wondering whether the outcry of “communist plot” was losing its steam, and whether we might not get a bit of disarmament after all.