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European Confrontation Spoils Jason’s Summer Vacation
by Al Weinrub
‘Science for the People’ Vol. 4, No. 6, November 1972, p. 9
|Luis ALVAREZ (Nobel Price)
Murray GELL-MANN (Nobel Price)
Donald GLASER (Nobel Price)
Charles TOWNES (Nobel Price)
Eugene WIGNER (Nobel Price)
S. Courteney WRIGHT
These Physicists have participated directly in the American war of genocide in Indochina: they were members, as of 1970, of the Jason Division, the technical advisory organ of the Pentagon.
Fields of research of Jason: chemical and bacteriological warfare, military applications of lasers, counter-insurgency techniques, electronic battlefield…
Right now, american pellet bombs are killing thousands of vietnamese peasants; the american bombing attacks on the dikes and hydraulic works of North Vietnam are threatening the lives of millions of people.
On June 14th, 1972, Gell-Mann was not permitted to give a talk on quarks in the College de France, Paris; instead, a group of scientific workers threw him out of the College.
PHYSICISTS! DO NOT LET THE WAR PROFESSORS SPEAK OF “PURE” PHYSICS UNTIL THEY HAVE DENOUNCED THEIR PARTICIPATION IN JASON, AND CONDEMNED PUBLICLY THE AMERICAN WAR CRIMES!
— Collectif Intersyndical Universitaire d’Orsay “Vietnam • Laos • Cambodge”
The following documents, sent to us by our brothers and sisters in Europe, depict a series of actions this summer centering on the contributions of noted U.S. physicists to the work of the Jason Division, the Institute for Defense Analysis’ prime Pentagon advisory committee. At institutes and summer schools in France and Italy, members of the Jason Division have been subjected by their peers to intense questioning about their warmaking activities. First on June 13 at the College de France, Murray Gell-Mann was ushered from the lecture halls after refusing to answer questions concerning his involvement with the Indochina war. Slightly more than a month later, on July 27, the Cargese Summer School in Theoretical Physics was closed prematurely when Sidney Drelllikewise refused to discuss his warmaking activities with Jason. Then in August at the Varenna Summer School in the History of Physics, participants prepared and signed a statement condemning scientists who have willingly involved themselves in the waging of the Indochina war and called for the immediate end to the bombing. And in September as this magazine goes to press, European physicists are demanding that there be discussion of the role of science in the military- industrial complex when they convene in Trieste for a meeting on the “Development of the Physical Conception of Nature” where Eugene Wigner and John Wheeler of Jason will be in attendance.
The European physicists have made clear that they do not subscribe to the traditional dichotomy between physics and politics—a basic tenet of U.S. science. In view of the vast quantity of scientific resources being directed by the U.S. government to the suppression of the liberation struggle in Indochina, statements of scientific neutrality are seen as meaningless. Thus the European students and scientists are convinced that they can no longer separate their attitudes on such political issues from their professional activities, and are demanding that such issues be honestly and openly faced within the scientific community. Though their actions this summer have centered on the direct involvement of U.S. scientists in the Jason Division, the documents here indicate that such actions are merely a starting point for a broader analysis of the relationship of scientists to political forces. Those few who willingly contribute their energies to the destruction of the Indochinese people can be easily isolated and denounced, but those who unwillingly or unwittingly contribute—the vast majority of scientists—are beset with more difficult problems. How can scientists become a socially productive and truly progressive force?
In a sense, the actions in Europe this summer are reminiscent of the events of March 4, 1969—the research stoppage at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)—when students and faculty here in the U.S. stopped to consider the relationship of science to the Vietnam war, and to discuss their role in the military-university-industrial complex. March 4 was the starting point for a much broader understanding of the social function of science in the capitalist world. From these beginnings, too, has come a better understanding of the source of frustration and alienation of the scientific and technical work force; and consequently, the demand for a radical change in society. As the March 4 Buttons correctly advertised:
“MARCH 4 IS A MOVEMENT NOT A DAY”.
Of course the movement has some way to go. We still do not understand how the system produces people like Murray Gell-Mann, of unquestioned intellect, people who speak of the beauty and wonder of science, of the need for a humane rationality, and who with great zest lend their talents to the most uncivilized acts of genocidal barbarism. Are such acts merely the result of a moral, intellectual, and human perversity? Or do their roots lie within the ideology and practice of science in our present social and economic system? These and many other questions must be answered as we stand with our European colleagues in denunciation of the Indochina war and those who perpetrate it.
As a footnote to the following documents it is of interest to note that the Varenna Statement on Vietnam was also circulated in the U.S. among participants of the Batavia high-energy physics conference this September. It received only 21 signatures of a possible 700-800, and most of these signatures were of European scientists. What explains the contrast between the attitude of the U.S. physicists and that of their European counterparts? Perhaps the elite of the Jason Division have such influence that all others fear to criticize them, even indirectly. Perhaps most of these physicists themselves serve on government and war advisory committees. Perhaps these physicists simply hide under an intellectual cloak of political innocence. Whatever the answer may be, it can only mean more work and dedication on the part of those scientific and technical people opposed to the Indochina war. We can all take heart in the initiatives of the New York Regional Anti-War Faculty and Student Group that protested the war research of the Jason Division by occupying the Columbia physics building last April (see Science for the People, vol. IV, no. 5, Sept., 1972), and in the initiatives this summer of our sisters and brothers across the ocean.
— Al Weinrub
THE COLLEGE DE FRANCE, THE JASON DIVISION, AND THE WAR IN INDOCHINA
Since the beginning of the current escalation of the war against North Viet Nam, hundreds of pellet bombs have struck the town of Nam Dinh, killing more than one thousand people. On June 13, 1972, far from Nam Dinh, far from Viet Nam, Mr. Murray Geli-Mann, Nobel Prizewinning physicist, who is one of the most competent and well-known men in his fields, was invited to the College de France to give two lectures on quarks (a revolutionary hypothesis on the structure of elementary particles of which Geli-Mann himself is a co-author). For the first time in the history of the prestigious College de France, a lecturer was not permitted to give his talk; instead, a group of scientific workers from Paris and the suburban research center at Orsay, ushered Professor Geli-Mann to the street. Why? Mr. Geli-Mann has been a member of the Jason Division of the Institute for Defense Analysis (I.D.A.), the Pentagon’s technical advisory organ.
As an integral part of the attempt to suppress the resistance of the Indochina people, American policy-makers have encouraged the extensive development of scientific methods well-adapted to serve a policy aimed at destroying human beings and nature. In 1966, Robert McNamara called together, under the umbrella of Jason, 47 of the most eminent American scientists. His intent was to enlist their expertise in the development and implementation of new destruction techniques (cf. The Pentagon Papers, Bantam Extra Edition, p. 483): thus was born the technological war. The true nature of the contribution of these scientists has long remained unknown.
In 1970, American anti-war militants seized a collection of secret documents (including lists of members of work committees, minutes of certain sessions of I.D.A. committees) which they released to the public ( cf.”The Student Mobilizer”, April, 1970, “New York Review of Books”, November 19, 1970). These documents leave no doubt as to the active and creative participation of the Jason Division scientists in the technological war. In a Jason report, recommending the construction of an electronic barrier in Viet Nam, we read:
The key requirements would be (all numbers are approximate because of assumptions which had to be made regarding degradation of system components in field use, and regarding the magnitude of infiltration): twenty million Gravel mines per month; possibly twenty-five million button bomblets per month; ten thousand SADEYE-BLU26B clusters (pellet bombs) per month … These quantities depend on an average number of strikes consistent with the assumption of 7000 troops/month and 180 tons/day of supplies on the infiltration routes. (Pentagon Papers, Gravel Edition, vol.4, p.122)
Because he participated in producing this report, Professor Gell-Mann was expelled from the College de France by a group of scientific workers.
Gell-Mann is not an isolated case, he is not a scientist gone astray. All 47 men, attracted by the Pentagon to work on Jason technical projects for mass murder, are prestigious members of the Academic Community. Mindful of the freedom and happiness of mankind, Gell-Mann devotes weekdays to his theoretical research which has no possible military applications. Indeed, he is distressed by the progressive deterioration of the environment from industrial pollutants ( cf. “How scientists can really help”, in “Physics Today”, May, 1971 ). But during university vacations1, he turns his attention to a new scientific problem: given peoples who resist American imperialism and its puppet regimes, how can one most effectively wound, mutilate, or kill, the maximum number of civilians without employing, for the moment, strategic or tactical nuclear weapons. It is to such madness that “rational” science leads when devoid of human values.
More than three-fourths of Jason’s members are physicists, among whom five have received the Nobel Prize2. One I.D.A. session was organized on the possible military application of lasers; the cream of America’s physicists assembled on the California coast for several weeks to consider this question3. Today, in Indochina, laser-guided bombs are striking targets as precise as the caves which serve as air-raid shelters for the civilian population. One member of Jason, Charles Townes, has been particularly noteworthy for his failure to disavow laser-guidance systems. Indeed, we do not know that he has not encouraged such development—Mr. Townes received the Nobel Prize
for the invention of lasers.
To help the Pentagon, Jason’s members do not confine themselves to their fields of expertise, but frequently stray across disciplinary boundaries. One Jason session was devoted to the creation of a social science division, advantageous because “Jason prestige … makes SS (social scientists) available to necessary tasks” and gives “the government…the use of their time.”4One “social science” problem: counter-insurgency in Thailand. The minutes of the session read:
Because of their views of responsibilities and because of their lack of commitment to others, villagers cannot be expected to organize effectively for their own protection. One technique, perhaps, for handling this problem would be to recruit villagers (possibly from the same class who now join the insurgents) into an armed, uniformed, paid militia, perhaps responsible to the local police. This force would provide aggressive young village males not only a way of dissipating excess energy, but a possible route for promotion and success.5
In this same session, the eminent physicist, Murray Gell-Mann, ventured into social science territory to ask “Can we find out what effect increasing police density or ear cutting or other negatives have on villager attitudes?”6
On June 13, 1972, some hundred scientific workers confronted Gell-Mann with this evidence of his complicity with the war machine. Gell-Mann was asked:
You have shown a concern for the environment by participating in Earth Day last year. What do you think of the 26 million bomb craters in VietNam?
Are you ready to condemn the American bombing attacks on the dikes and hydraulic works of North Viet Nam?
To these and all other questions, Gell-Mann responded: “I am not free to answer.”
The use of advanced technology in the war, introduced and sanctioned by Jason scientists—new doctors Strangelove—is denounced in the United States itself by groups of scientists opposed to the imperialist war waged in the name of all the American people. These groups include: NARMIC (National Action Research on the Military-Industrial Complex), which has researched and produced a
slide show documenting the electronic air war in Indochina; and “Science for Viet Nam”, whose members include nonscientists, as well as zoologists, doctors, biologists and physicists who attempt to help the scientists of Viet Nam deal with war related problems. But it is not only the Vietnamese and the Americans who are concerned, as certain professors at the College de France would have us believe: each of us at our place of work can demand an accounting of those who have contributed to American war crimes and denounce their complicity.
— Collectif Intersyndical Universitaire d’Orsay “Vietnam-Laos-Cambodge”
This is a text signed by the quasi-totality of the participants in the Varenna Summer School, among which “distinguished” scientists, such as H.B.G. Casimir (president of the European Phys. Soc.), L. Rosenfeld (editor of Nucl. Phys.), G. Toraldo di Francia (president of the Italian Phys. Soc.), C. Weiner (director of the Centre for History of Physics).
It has been sent for publication to general scientific journals (such as Nature, Science, etc.). It takes place in a general anti-Jason campaign in Europe, started by the expulsion of M. Gell-Mann off the College de France and continued in Roma, Erice, Cargese (Summer Schools) and which still has developments.
More about it in a few days. Ask for details if you need them
Greetings and Solidarity!
Paris August 31, 1972
Translation from Le Monde, June 15, 1972
The Nobel Prizewinner in Theoretical Physics and Indochina
Professor Murray Gell-Mann, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1969, teaches at the California Institute of Technology. On Tuesday June 13 at 5 pm, he arrived at the College de France to speak about a field he knew well: quarks or elementary particles. But Professor Gell-Mann is also closely involved in counter-revolutionary techniques in Asia and it was this that forced him to leave the lecture hall at 5:19 pm.
Large numbers of members of the “Collectif Intersyndical Universitaire d’Orsay Vietnam-Laos-Cambodge” were there. Despite the protests of the French professor who wanted to introduce his American colleague, a leaflet was read to the audience. It related how Gell-Mann had been a member of the Jason Division of the Institute for Defence Analysis from 1961 to 1970. The operations of
this institute are concerned with Vietnam; defoliation techniques, the perfection of laser-guided bombs, everything for the electronic war and techniques for a better control of the Asian people. Experts from the Pentagon and the CIA collaborate in this research. (Le Monde of 11 July 1970 described techniques from the Jason Division that have been applied in Thailand).
On Tuesday, the audience reminded Gell-Mann of this practical work, which is far removed from theoretical physics. Many questions were put to him: how could he be interested in the preservation of the American countryside from pollution by highways, without worrying about some 20 million bomb craters that pit the Vietnamese earth? What did he think about the application of scientific research to the destruction of dikes? Why did he advocate the creation of sociological sections in the Jason Division? He was saved from nothing. Tense and smiling at the same time, Gell-Mann pointed out that he had not come to speak about Indochina. However, for nearly all of the people present, the Vietnamese war was of far greater importance than a learned discourse. If there would not be a debate on this subject, then neither would there be, at least in that lecture theatre, an expose on quarks. The Nobel prizewinner collected his notes, walked out and finally spoke to a very much reduced audience
in another room.
|Varenna Summer School in the History of Physics:
STATEMENT ON VIETNAM
In recent weeks diplomats, journalists and responsible visitors to North-Vietnam have reported the bombing of dikes by the United States Air Force. Officials of the U.S. Government have acknowledged that several dikes have in fact been damaged by bombing. They have also admitted that the destruction of the system of dikes would inevitably cause the death of thousands of persons during the monsoon season.
The last tactics in the American war has been made possible by a systematic application of scientific discoveries for military purposes. This has included the use of laser-bombs, anti-personnel shrapnel and remote-control fire mechanisms.
These new technologies have been fostered by scientists working in such projects as the Jason programs of the Institute for Defense Analysis. These programs have enlisted more than thirty top-rank physicists, including five Nobel Prize winners.
The operational use of scientific knowledge in the Indochina war is of particular concern to us as participants in the 1972 Varenna Summer School on the History of Physics. The applications of science in modern society have been at the centre of our debates and we cannot overlook the professional participation of scientists in the waging of a war against the people of Vietnam.
Our discussions have convinced us that it is no longer possible to separate our attitude on these issues from our professional activities. This is why we express, as scientists and in the publications and institutions of science, our condemnation of those who have willingly involved themselves in the waging of this war; we ask that these issues should be honestly faced within the scientific community, wherever it meets.
We also call for the immediate ending of the bombing of Vietnam and the total withdrawal of
(original italics—editorial collective)
Signatures of the Varenna Statement or statements of support should be sent to:
ACTIONS AT THE 1972 CARGESE SUMMER SCHOOL
The 1972 session of the Cargese (Corsica) Summer School in Theoretical Physics ended one week ahead of schedule, as the administration of the school decided to close it upon occurrenceof the following events. A group of students asked one of the invited lecturers to speak on his participation in the activities of the United States Defense Department’s JASON DIVISION, of which he was a
member as of 1970. The group objected to his lecturing in physics before having a discussion on the Vietnam Conflict and on the association of physicists to war related activities. This action was meant to express the growing apprehension and outrage felt by many physicists about the fact that some members of the physics community give advice on technological warfare to their governments. In this case, it is the American government, which is engaged in the massive destruction of whole areas and the genocide of the civilian population in Vietnam.
The events which lead to the closure of the school had to do with the presence, as an invited lecturer, of Professor Sidney Drell, from Stanford University. It is known that Prof. Drell was in 1970 a member of the Jason Division (of the Institute of Defense Analysis), a committee composed of eminent scientists. It is also known that Jason has done studies, and given advice to the Pentagon, on aspects of technological warfare.
In the week preceeding Prof. Drell’s first lecture, a declaration, the complete text of which appears below, was signed by 20 students (out of 30 present at the time) who thereby ” … protest against the presence of American scientists in the Jason Division, and more generally state their vigorous opposition to the action of scientists lending their contribution to military activities of massive destruction.”
Before the start of Prof. Drell’s first lecture, on July 24, a few students took the initiative to write on the blackboards the following sentence, which had appeared, in a form applying to Jason members in general, on a poster issued by the Collectif Intersyndical Universitaire d’Orsay “Vietnam-Laos-Cambodge”: “We shall not let the war professor S. Drell speak of “pure” physics until he has denounced his participation in Jason, and condemned publicly the American war crimes.” Another student then got up to read the above mentioned declaration, and Prof. Drell left the lecture hall. The director of the Summer School agreed with Prof. Drell to find it intolerable that the regular physics lecture should be proceeded by the discussion demanded by the students, arguing that this was a violation of academic freedom and he declared the school closed.
|Statement by a group of students of the 1972 Cargese summer school in theoretical physics:
We, as a group representing a majority of the students attending this school, protest against the authoritarian way in which it was terminated. We also state our belief that there can be no artificial separation between a scientist’s work in “pure” science and his contribution to activities related to the military, and we therefore deeply regret that no discussion of this most important issue develops between students as a group and the teaching members of the School.
At the present time, the United States armed forces in Indochina are conducting a war where the most refined techniques are extensively used resulting in the massive destruction of whole areas and in the genocide of the civilian population. The technological war, to be fought with a reduced personnel, is based on devices such as: defoliants, night-vision systems, acoustical detectors, emitters-receivers linked with computers located in Thailand, systems triggering bombing raids automatically, laser-guided bombs, etc…
Studies about the introduction of these techniques into actual warfare and about related strategical problems, have been conducted by the Pentagon with the help of the Jason Division, an advisory committee whose members are scientists considered as the
The under-signed participants to the 1972 Cargese Summer School of Theoretical Physics, protest against the presence of American scientists in the Jason Division; and more generally state their vigorous opposition to the action of scientists lending their contribution to military activities of massive destruction.
CARGESE July, 1972
From the 18th to the 25th of September there will be a meeting at ICTP (Trieste) on “Development of the Physical Conception of Nature”, sponsored by, among other organizations, NATO (see NATO 1972 list of NATO Advanced Study Institutes Program, N.44/72). The participants, selected by the traditional mysteries from the elite of the scientific community, will discuss the growth of physics in the last half century: the focus will be on the “world view” of the physicists, and on the way it has developed.
The distinguished physicists speaking will include Wheeler and Wigner, whose “world view” includes a view of the Vietnam war that permits them to serve on the Jason committee. This is a body that has, among other activities, advised on the development of plastic fragmentation bombs (rendering x-rays useless-an essentially antipersonnel device, aimed at producing cripples) and the laser guided bombs that are being used to destroy the North Vietnamese dikes, which if successful will kill two million civilians.
Many scientists find it no longer possible to distinguish their “purely scientific” activities from their institutional role; whether or not this distinction ever did mean anything, it is breaking down. In Paris, Gell-Mann (another Jason member) was to speak on a “purely scientific” subject but scientists who no longer held to the distinction attempted to question him on Vietnam—originally, with no intention of disruption; the feeling was that this was a matter on which the scientific community had the right to be informed about the activities of one of its principal representatives, which is one of the roles of Nobel prizewinners. Those who hold to the existence of the distinction may feel that the prevention of his announced talk, on his refusal to discuss Vietnam, was wrong in their terms.
However, concerning the Trieste meeting, there can be no such question: any physicist who does not include Vietnam in the world, when he is actively affecting that war by such institutions as Jason, is proclaiming a “world view” that has dropped all pretension to honesty. And the requirement of honesty is fundamental, on any view to science.
It is therefore essential that these matters should be discussed at the Trieste meeting: any attempt to prevent such discussion (and in particular the questioning of those who have taken a position on these issues by participating in Jason) is itself not so much a disruption as a rendering meaningless of the entire proceedings.
We thus demand that the meeting discuss the “neutrality” of science and the role of institutional science in the military-industrial complex of the big powers, taking advantage of the presence of the expert witnesses who have direct experience of this involvement.
If you agree with the above letter, please sign it and send it to:
Istituto di Fisica Teorica
Mostra d’Oltremare pad. 19
80125 Napoli — Italy
The signatures thus collected will be eventually sent to the Director of the Symposium and the Director of ICTP.
>> Back to Vol. 4, No. 6 <<
- “The primary group activity is an annual summer study in which the Jason members come together for seven weeks of intensive study of significant technical problems related to the national interest.” —current I.D.A. recruiting booklet.
- A list of the Jason members as of 1970 can be found in “The University-Military-Police Complex”: a directory and related documents, published by NACLA, Berkeley, California, 1970.
- cf. M. Bazin: “Science, Scientists, and the Third World”, in “Forum on Physics and Society”, American Physical Society, Jan. 31, 1972 (also in “Science for the People”, vol. IV no. 3, May, 1972).
- Remarks of M. Gell-Mann at the Jason “Thailand Study Group” in “The Student Mobilizer”, April, 1970.
- Jason: “Thailand Study Group” minutes.