Nuclear Madness, a 1978 book by Dr. Helen Caldicott, a pediatrician, was debunked by reputable scientists. Now we have Life after Doomsday, by Dr. Bruce Clayton, an ecologist, that appears almost as far out, and dangerous, in the opposite direction. If Clayton's extreme view is believed by Congress we may have no ABM-laser defense; if believed by Soviets, we may have a nuclear exchange.
Clayton's article ("Don't Plan to Die," Aug.) is replete with errors: If we go smaller than Hiroshima's 12.5-kiloton bomb, instead of larger, still basing our figures on Clayton's halving the danger each time the bomb size is reduced 10 times, we find that a 1.25-kiloton bomb should kill half as many as the 80,000 who died in Hiroshima. If so, a world nuclear war involving 10,000 megatons in 1-kiloton-sized bombs could, theoretically, kill 400 billion people, if there were that many cities and people. Clearly, Clayton's figures don't add up.
I suspect he errs in not realizing that most of the reduction in kill efficiency, as bombs get larger, has been included in his radius figures (he states that a 10-megaton bomb would only increase the kill radius 8 times over that of a 10-kiloton bomb—I agree—and would therefore be only 8 times as dangerous—I don't agree). He appears to overlook the fact that area, which increases as the square of radius, determines the kill. Thus, the 10-megaton bomb would be 64 times more dangerous than a bomb of about Hiroshima size, instead of 8 times.
It is true that the 5,600 deaths per kiloton, based on Hiroshima, decreases as bombs grow larger. However, a 10-megaton bomb would destroy all but the largest cities and cause about 5 million deaths (64 x 80,000) if such a city did not have large parks, lakes, abandoned slums, subways, building shadows, etc. A figure of 2 million deaths is more plausible. How many injured?
Ecologist Clayton is almost as far off in his radiation and fallout claims. Eniwetok is still uninhabited 26 years after testing only a few bombs. Contrary to Clayton, 90 percent of fallout from a US-Soviet exchange would remain in the Northern Hemisphere, mostly in our temperate zone, making it dangerous. I could go on and on if space allowed.
Space Guidance Engineer (Ret.)
Dr. Clayton replies: In terms of the "dangerousness" of the weapons, I was referring to safe separation distances. I believe that this is clear in the article. The "area" figure Mr. Morse is groping for is referred to as "equivalent megatonnage" (EMT) and is calculated as yield to the two-thirds power. This is a measurement of destructiveness and tells us that a 1-megaton explosion is 19 times more destructive than the Hiroshima bomb, while a 20-megaton bomb is about 7 times more destructive than a 1-megaton bomb.
Attempting to scale the number of deaths in terms of the megatonnage of the nuclear arsenal is nonsense, which is the point which I was trying to make in the article. The number of people killed in a nuclear explosion is mainly a function of the number of people present in the area.
If I recall correctly, Eniwetok is uninhabitable 26 years after testing mainly because the land crabs are still slightly radioactive and the natives insist on eating them. Hiroshima, of course, is a thriving tourist attraction and, except for the zone of total destruction, was not "abandoned" for even a single day.
Finally, I would like to point out that the figures that "don't add up" are Morse's, not mine, and that I am in favor of ABM systems of whatever type, including laser ones.
Thank you for the article by Bruce Clayton on the true effects of nuclear war. It was of great help in bringing together the many loose pieces of information I had.
There is one aspect of nuclear war that was not touched on, though: the possibility of death due to simple starvation as a result of the severe economic disruption that would result. Our sophisticated economy is quite fragile in many ways, and with most of our major electric generating plants, oil refineries, and transportation centers suddenly knocked out, our food production and distribution system would become paralyzed.
The social chaos that would result from millions of people starving to death could render the situation permanent. It would be impossible for 200 million people to return to the land, and stored food would not last indefinitely.
Albert K. Heitzmann
What in the world is REASON doing publishing government propaganda? I can't believe it!
Right at the very beginning of his "Don't Plan to Die," Bruce Clayton admits that one of his "most helpful" references was a book published by the Departments of Energy and Defense. Now there's a couple of truly trustworthy sources of information. They're almost as trustworthy as the official Soviet documents he uses as evidence of what the Soviets are doing.…
Let's not be naive. Governments lie. We really don't know anything at all about any government's nuclear weapons or strategies, because we haven't dismantled their hardware and examined it. For all we know, there could be millions of 10,000-megaton bombs, or no bombs at all. We only know two things of any significance: (1) many governments probably have many nuclear weapons and (2) anyone crazy enough to use those weapons is probably crazy enough to design and aim them so as to create as much horror and death as possible.…
How Could Freedom Prevail?
I am disappointed to read in your pages of the virtues of preparedness for nuclear attack. Mr. Clayton's fact finding may be entirely scrupulous. I would concede all his claims willingly; yet I care about them not at all. The contemplated use of nuclear arms remains one of the greatest sins against humanity and nature recorded in our time, second perhaps only to their actual use.
REASON deserves better. "Free markets" know no greater enemy than acts of violence, and war does nothing for "free minds" but destroy them.
Bob Poole's editorial "Nuclear Freeze?" (Sept.) suggests that the bilateral nuclear arms freeze proposal is unrealistic and asserts that it attacks the wrong target. But even if all the points of the editorial were valid, it does not mention the most significant argument for the freeze proposal: the freeze should be supported, not as an end in itself, but because popular support for it will create a dynamic that could pressure US officials to take meaningful steps to reduce the cost of the arms race and the risk of nuclear war. Without pressure from freeze proponents, what is the likelihood of the US government giving serious consideration to nonnuclear defensive measures (such as the High Frontier antimissile system) and to taking realistic steps toward nuclear arms reduction?
Support for the nuclear freeze has already had an impact on the Reagan administration. More widespread support would accelerate the process of implementing alternatives to replace what Poole recognizes as the "dangerous and immoral balance-of-terror approach to strategic defense" presently supported by the Reagan administration.
Manuel S. Klausner
Senior Editor, REASON
We read with interest your September 1982 feature article ("Up against the Birth Monopoly") on the battle between consumers and the "childbirth establishment." The discussion of government interference with distribution of childbirth information really struck home, because we have found the same sort of repression routinely practiced by the US Postal Service.
Under 39 U.S.C. Section 3005, the Postal Service may destroy mail order businesses or ban the sale of products or books on its own initiative. And no, the USPS is not obligated to allow the defendant his "day in court" before an impartial judge and jury.
The USPS has for several decades used (abused?) this power to enforce medical orthodoxy. As documented by the Association of American Publishers in recent congressional hearings, the USPS has not just suppressed holistic health products but has also engaged in book suppression in at least several dozen known instances in the last several decades—plus many others that did not leave a clear record (because the USPS used verbal threats of prosecution, other means of intimidation, etc.).
The most recent case, of course, was the celebrated Stale Food vs. Fresh Food by Robert S. Ford (USPS Case No. 10/123), in which the USPS, in its infinite wisdom, banned the mail order sale of a book on nutrition because, in the opinion of the Postal Service, the author's ideas were not in accord with medical orthodoxy…and therefore were "incorrect." That case ended in 1982 when the Postal Service backed down after public and congressional criticism. But the USPS has not changed its attitudes; in House Postal Subcommittee hearings, the Postal Service sought to retain and expand its censorship powers.…
Readers interested in defending their "health freedoms" might want to write for information from the National Health Federation (NHF), Box 688, Monrovia, CA 91016.
Council on Postal Suppression
"Women's Worth," by Peter Schwartz (July), is the best true-to-life description of my "counterparts" I have, to date, seen in print. The absurdity of their thought process is an insult to women who not only want to be recognized on their personal merit but demand it.
I have long been against any movement for women's rights via the government because it assumes the right to speak for "all" women. I am a woman who has asked no one to represent me on any issue, and I resent the feminist invasion of my personal integrity. I am equally opposed to women who claim that "we" belong at home.
As these groups antagonize each other over their equally irrational beliefs, I, and other competent women, will go charging up the middle. I believe that as enough of us reach the top, we will mushroom out and squash both ignorant sides—not by making empty speeches, but through productive action that speaks for itself.
It will take time, because as worthy women move up, they are forced to fight the injustice our self-proclaimed "friends" actually create. People still overwhelmingly categorize people, and as the stupidity of feminist demands is so obvious, all women are guiltily not qualified until proven (100 times over) innocently competent.…I cannot help but know how much faster intelligent, productive women would reach their destinations if all energy were directed toward that end instead of a portion being given to clear the black cloud feminists so smartly put in our way.
So thank you, Peter Schwartz, for stating the truth of what the feminist movement stands for and making clear how devastating their principles are to freedom.
Benito and Franklin Exposed at Last
Donald Feder's article "Benito and Franklin" (Aug.) was a long-overdue expose of the close similarity (if not complete identity) of the economic, social, and political programs of two of the most successful demagogues of the century. My only (small) disappointment was that Feder did not point out more clearly the ideological relationship of syndicalism, or fascism, to socialism, nor the fact Benito Mussolini was in fact a socialist before developing his own syndicalist version of collectivism. "Right opportunists" is the term Lenin and his crowd used to describe the syndicalists, and, if nothing else, they got the "opportunists" part right, as amply proved by Roosevelt and Mussolini.
I wonder how long civilization can last, however, when the great majority of the media continue pouring out the feldercarb they are so fond of about Roosevelt (and others). The facts are not only distorted; they are ignored completely in the interest of creating (with statist enthusiasm) great heroes of men and women who in a laissez-faire society would be considered little better than carnival hucksters or snake oil peddlers.
As it is, millions of us—many, like myself, not even born when Benito and Franklin went on to their rewards—are paying for the continued penchant for collectivism, regulation, regimentation, and nonsense. Every "liberal" and "conservative" in America ought to be sent Feder's article and sharply admonished to reflect on his sins.
S.D. Yana Davis
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Letters".