Current Opinion: Scientists Must Oppose the Neutron Bomb and All Military Research

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Current Opinion: Scientists Must Oppose the Neutron Bomb and All Military Research

by Frank Rosenthal & Sadu Sadanand

‘Science for the People’ Vol. 9, No. 6, November-December 1977, p. 17

The production of the N-bomb (neutron bomb) by the U.S. following the development of the cruise missile is an indication of the arms race waged by the two super-powers despite endless disarmament talks. It brings forward once again the need and responsibility of all progressive-minded people in the scientific community to oppose and resist military research which is clearly directed towards another war, even a World War between the U.S. and U.S.S.R. The neutron bomb is a low-yield atomic device designed to be fired as 8-inch artillery projectiles or as warheads attached to the small Lance missile. The bomb is programmed to detonate 300 feet above ground. An average-sized N-bomb will produce an explosion the equivalent of 1000 tons of T.N.T., generate less heat and blast than other nuclear detonations but more neutrons and gamma radiation lethal to living matter in a radius of 1 mile plus. People in the immediate vicinity will become incapacitated instantaneously and die in less than a couple of days. Others outside this area who are exposed will be functionally impaired until death some weeks later. Suffering from radiation sickness will be intense and prolonged. Those on the periphery of the neutrons’ reach might develop cancers and eye cataracts. 

Advanced technology weaponry like theN-bomb has been primarily developed for a war in Europe, which, because of its highly developed industry, labor and market, is coveted by both the superpowers. In this context the N-bomb, lauded by its makers as being able to preserve property while destroying people and described as the ultimate capitalist weapon, would serve the interests of capitalism by helping maintain the highly profitable industrial capacity in Europe. One military spokesman, alluding to one of the more famous quotes of the Vietnam War, even stated that we will now be able to “save those cities without destroying them.” The N-bomb, like other anti-personnel weapons, can and will be used to quell a people fighting for independence and socialism. This is just how anti-personnel weapons were used in Vietnam. 

It is hard to see how nuclear confrontation with the N-bomb could be “limited.” Faced with a deteriorating economic and political situation at home, the growing struggles of working people for a decent life and the determined opposition from Third World people fighting for independence and socialism, those in power can be expected to use new technology to up their war preparations more than ever to safeguard their investments, profits, markets, raw materials and cheap labor around the world. 

The question that we in Science for the People should consider is what we as concerned scientists do to expose and oppose the increasing war preparations being made. Our organization has its origins in the anti-Vietnam war movement in this country and we should recognize the important role we, as scientists opposed to the war, played in exposing and opposing war research and war material production. The war which looms over the horizon is an inter-imperialist war between the two superpowers in which working people from both countries, and their “allies,” will be used as cannon fodder to defend the profits of the capitalists. We will be told that it is the Soviet Union which is preparing to attack us, and therefore we need to develop weaponry to defend ourselves. The rulers of the U.S.S.R. are telling their people likewise. Our task should be to expose and oppose—in writing and in action—military-oriented research and development and war preparations, recognizing that profit-motivated interests distort the purpose of science. While science research is being cut back as a whole, military-oriented research is being increased. We hope readers of Science for the People can respond to this issue in the context of work and action we can undertake.

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