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Facing nuclear war

By Kari Ann Owen  Posted by Carol Wolman, MD (about the submitter)       (Page 1 of 2 pages)   1 comment
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Message carol wolman, MD
Facing Nuclear War
By Kari Ann Owen
634 Lois Lane
El Sobrante, CA 94803
510 860 8188

In the Spring of 2006, I became aware of a vast shift
in American nuclear policy - one that not only allows
but apparently advocates first use of nuclear weapons
against Iran. Alarmed, even horrified, I contemplated
the escalatory (how fast would it spread?)
possibilities emerging from such evil stupidity and
wrote a published letter to my then-local newspaper in
Saint Helena, California. Saint Helena is as far
removed from nuclear conflict as one might imagine,
and shines like an amethyst in the midst of the
grape-growing region of the Upper Napa Valley. I then
talked to our county's Disaster Relief Director about
what would happen to our valley should Travis Air
Force Base, about forty miles from Saint Helena, be
targeted. The director informed me that he could not
even get Napa Valley residents to purchase a thirty
five dollar earthquake preparedness kit, much less
worry about an air force base forty miles away.

However, since I was teaching horseback riding to
disabled men and women and children at a stable only
eight miles from Travis, and since many of our
volunteers and students and their parents came from
there, I could not feel as resigned as our Disaster
Relief Director and wrote a short screenplay, a visual
poem with a narrative directly addressing President
Bush (who coincidentally had just visited a resort in
Saint Helena) pleading for a change in nuclear policy
which would spare the lives of my students, our
program's horses, the Napa Valley and the world. This
film is going into pre-production now, as three
American carrier groups are present in the Persian
Gulf  ( please see

Facing nuclear war means facing the possibility of my
own death. At age 58, having survived challenges
ranging from violent crime to the death of my beloved
husband, I am furious at my helplessness and even more
furious at the slumbering expediency of Congressional
officials who seem willing to choose between the
survival of humanity vs. the survival of their
political reputations (please see with the exception of a
few courageous elected officials. These heroic few
haven't forgotten the defenseless humanity they
allegedly represent, who would die a hideous and
unprotected death in a nuclear war. I cannot
understand the informed yet indifferent men and women
who could do something but won't. Don't they remember
waiting for the dawn during the Cuban Missile Crisis,
wondering if dawn would arrive and if it would be
illuminated by a mushroom cloud? Have none of them
ever experienced death as imminent, either through
illness or criminal violence - or a loved one's
experience of the same? Are our leaders so arrogant,
so filled with a mad sense of invulnerability that
they believe not even a policy mistake, much less a
deliberately provocative nuclear policy can destroy

Throughout my life, I have known children and adults
who believed in their superiority and invulnerability
absolutely. Powerful cliques in schools, camps and
adult social and professional situations always seem
to have or have had at least one would-be pathetic god
whom no one, even authorities, would contradict or
criticize, much less restrain. If the world were an
American high school, President Bush and Vice
President Cheney and their intellectual gangsters who
continue to advocate first use of nuclear weapons
against Iran would approximate the leaders of those
cliques. How ridiculous they would seem if I could
stop checking the news online every morning to see if
we have bombed Iran yet.

Are there any words in any language which can deter
them? Nobel laureates have pleaded with them (please
Protestors in many nations have shouted and sung their
fear and anger. Even men and women within the American
government have made their views known. that war
against Iran is insupportable from every possible
point of view, and our exhausted troops in Iraq, may
God save them, are in no position to extend themselves
any further. Yet, the machine rolls forward and I pray
every night for God to spare the good should He become
so disgusted as to let the wicked die. And I know that
one reason this is happening is that we Americans have
been silent too often when non-American lives were,
have been deemed politically and militarily
expendable, and that the shadow of our cruel silence
must somehow, at some point fall upon ourselves.
Mossadegh in Iran, Arbenz in Guatemala, Lumumba in the
Congo, Allende in Chile and the slaughtered masses in
Vietnam, East Timor, Palestine, Lebanon and Iraq, and
the Jews of Europe during World War Two whom we would
not admit to these shores must have something to say
to God as they plead for a justice they were not
granted on Earth.

Add to that my own list. As a vet's kid, I remember my
birthfather's wired-on arm, devastated and somehow
sewn back at Walter Reed Army Hospital after a World
War Two army vehicle collision in the Blue Ridge
Mountains. He was sent to Sacramento, California,
awaiting embarkation to Japan, where doctors did not
carry arms in combat. When the bomb was dropped on
other human expendables, he was saved. And I remember
my friends, my loves. courageous survivors of various
American wars, particularly the Vietnam War. JD, the
one love of my life (before my husband), almost died
in my arms during a coughing spasm. JD had been
exposed to Agent Orange and had contracted cancer,
which metastasized into his lungs and then the rest of
his body. I held him up, God knows how. Love makes us
stronger. Why can't it assuage the pain of my love's
near-death in my living room? These memories are not
made easier by knowing that millions of courageous
lovers, relatives, friends have gone through much
worse over a much longer time.

I would like President Bush to have seen JD in the
throes of the consequences of a toxic battlefield.
Maybe my love's strangled coughing and the ravages of
that six foot two inch two hundred pound body would
illustrate what words cannot. Would the sight of my
blind, mobility-impaired, autistic and attention
deficit disordered riding students prod our President
toward mercy and away from a first use nuclear policy,
from threatening the Russians with new missile
"defense" system and possibly cornering them into
pre-emption? Would it even spur him toward an
evaluation of  the passive genocide which might be the
most correct term for what our government did for New
Orleans during Hurricane Katrina.. for the poor
residents of the Ninth Ward, whose lives President
Bush would never deign to even imagine, much less care

Is the monstrous abandonment of these people a preview
of what we can expect, should a nuclear attack on Iran
escalate into general war, which it almost certainly
will, given the panic among all nations which will
almost certainly ensue? Those few people in a position
to stop this march toward annihilation seem
indifferent, invulnerable in their belief that having
achieved a certain level of income and status, they
cannot be harmed. Those of us who are fully aware can
do nothing except speak and write and stockpile our
earthquake or other emergency kits, none of which will
have any effect if San Francisco International
Airport, Oakland and San Jose International Airports
and the City of San Francisco and Lawrence Livermore
Lab are attacked. I have no fantasies of soothing
myself with bottled water from my emergency kit during
the Holocaust, although I can imagine myself hearing
the missiles and bombers approaching and the sirens
going off while I yell, "Emergency dismount, please!"
to my riding students and their parents and our
volunteers. My fantasy ends there because everything
else would end there.

In 1978 while writing my doctoral dissertation on the
Holocaust and Crucifixion, I stood before my books by
and about survivors of the concentration camps, and as
many books about the history of the Second World War -
including some less publicized histories of the nexus
of trans-national financial and other organizations
which helped the Nazis build their war machine. These
Americans and their British and other friends seem mad
as Bush to me now - did they really imagine if the
Nazis won, they would not be murdered along with the
rest of the non-Nazi world? Did they honestly imagine
that their money and collaboration with absolute evil
would render them invulnerable, as if their flesh were
Kevlar and their bones were granite? Did they really
believe they would be left alone to rule a destroyed
America and United Kingdom? ("I don't care what you
do, just spare Lord & Taylor's and Saks and my house
in the Hamptons or Greenwich or Martha's Vineyard. Oh,
and don't forget Tiffany's and the New York Yacht
Club!" Maybe Prescott Bush offered to have a couple of
 Hitler Youth admitted to Yale and inducted into Skull
& Bones.)

I stood before my books and prayed for a different
course for present humanity, even in the midst of our
general helplessness before mad power. And I embraced
a vision of God refusing to abandon his People.

I was twenty nine years old then. I am fifty-eight
now, and believe that God's compassionate vision
requires our partnership. Sorry, God, we haven't been
doing too well: that childish maniac of a President
seems as delusional as the screaming schizophrenics
who make book-shopping an ordeal on Telegraph Avenue.
I don't begrudge those wounded, smelly souls a thing;
I want them to have what they need. I don't even
begrudge President Bush his wealth, security or his
ranch; if he would go back to Texas and realize his
original dream of becoming Baseball Commissioner, I
wouldn't think about him.

What I do begrudge is the abstractedness from human
vulnerability of Bush's so-called warrior
intellectuals, who have conceptualized a first strike
American nuclear policy from the safe perch of their
think-tank, the Project for a New American Century .
Some of the signatories to the Project's Statement of
Principals (please see
were, like me, born Jewish. I cannot grasp their sense
of invulnerability to war, particularly genocidal war,
in the face of our family histories. Nor can I grasp
their use of education to condemn humanity. How many
of them, like me, would never have been born, or
survived our childhoods, had our grandparents or
parents not been able to emigrate from Europe? My
birthfather's parents came to the United States from
Wodz, Poland at the turn of the twentieth century,
leaving a community which lost ninety percent of its
people to the Nazis. I grew up with full and agonized
knowledge of that history, and remember today the blue
tattooed numbers on our tailor, Mr. Marshall's, arm.
And I remember the ball of flesh hanging from the face
of another camp survivor who passed me on the street
of our tree-lined, gorgeous Flatbush neighborhood. My
birthfather's war injury; his ancestor in Poland, who
had died of a heart attack while the Germans were
invading his house; a woman ancestor who was bayoneted
and lived to bear children; my birthmother's Civil War
ancestor who was captured and somehow survived
incarceration in Libby Prison. I remember my ancestors
as if I had met them personally. And I wish that I
could have talked with Mr. Marshall about his
experiences and survival. I was too shy, at the time;
polite little girls didn't question adults.

It is way past time to start questioning now. What is
the President's time table for the end of the world?
What does he intend to do with dissenters, should
there be any time to dissent? Do we have any time
before Bush leaves office (with a bang?) to secure our

What worked in the sixties and seventies against
legalized racial segregation and another war-mad
American regime might work now. What else can, but an
aware America demanding its and the world's right of
survival? Every elected official's future should
depend on their immediate willingness to impeach this
regime, because our general future really does depend
on it.

Just because our present government is deaf does not,
should not allow us to be silent. Let us disengage our
headsets; log off the Internet; turn off the death
worshiping television programs and "music" and walk
out of violent movies, demanding our money and our
sanity. Let us ask ourselves why we spend
irreplaceable resources on those who assure us that
death is not real when a man of stunning immaturity
and low intellectual preparation is President. We have
feasted on myths of false resurrection, from coming
attractions to the Rapture, while universal murder is
being not only advocated but prepared.

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Carol S. Wolman, MD is a psychiatrist in Northern California. A lifelong peace activist, she is helping to distribute a Peace Plan for the Holy Land- email her for a copy. She also a film producer with Paradise Cove Productions, currently (more...)

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