The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current, March 26, 1969, Page PAGE 2, Image 2

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Pie facts of
All of you know that In the
last couple of years there
"has been student unrest
breaking at times into
violence in many parts of the
; world: in England,
- Germany, Italy, p a 1 n ,
' Mexico and needless to say,
In many parts of this coun-
; try. There has been a great
deal of discussion as to what
It all means. Perfectly
clearly it means something
different in Mexico from
what it does in France, and
something different in
France from what it does in
Tokyo, and something dif-
Dr. George Wald is
for research in biological sciences. On
March 4 during a national day of "research
halt," he spoke extemporaneously to scien
tists concerned with the politicail misuses
of scientific advancement. His speech is re
printed here by permission of the Boston
ferent In Tokyo from what It
does in this country.
Yet unless we are to
assume that students have
.; gone crazy all over the
world, or that they have just
decided that it's the thing to
do, there must be some
common meaning.
I DON'T need to go so far
afield to look for that mean
' ing. I am a teacher.and at
Harvard, I have a class of
350 students men and
women most of them
freshmen and sophomores.
Over these past few years I
have felt increasingly that
something Is terribly wrong
and this year ever so
much more than last.
Something has gone sour, in
teaching and in learning. It's
almost as though there were
a widespread feeling that
education has become ir
relevant. A lecture is much more of
a dialogue than many of you
!robably appreciate. As you
ecture, you keep watching
the faces; and information
keeps coming back to you all
the time. I began to feel,
particularly this year, that I
was missing much of what
was coming back. I was
asking the students, but they
didn't help or couldn't help
jne very much.
But I think I know what's
the matter even a little bet
ter than they do. I think that
this whole generation of
students is beset with a pro
found uneasiness. I don't
think that they have yet quit
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defined its source, I think I
understand the reasons for
their uneasiness even better
than they do. What is more, I
share their uneasiness.
What's bothering those
students? Some of them tell
you it's the Vietnam war. I
think the Vietnam war is the
most shameful episode in the
whole of American history.
crimes is an American in
vention. We've committed
many war crimes in Viet
nam; but I'll tell you
a Nobel Prize winner
something interesting about
that. We were committing
war crimes in World War II,
even before Nuremburg
trials were held and the
principle of war crimes
started. The saturation
bombing of German cities
was a war crime and if we
had lost the war, some of our
leaders might have had to
answer for it.
I've gone through all of
that history lately, and I find
that there's a gimmick in it.
It isn't written out, but I
think we established it by
That gimmick Is that if one
can allege that one is
repelling or retaliating for
an aggression after that
everything goes. And you sea
we are living in a world in
which all wars are wars of
defense. All War
departments are now
Defense departments.
THIS IS ALL part of the
double talk of our time. The
aggressor is always on the
other side. And I suppose
this is why our ex-Secretary
of State, Dean Rusk a
man in whom repetition
takes the place of reason,
and stubbornness takes the
place of character went to
such pains to insist, as he
still insists, that In Vietnam
we are repelling ag
gression. I think we've lost that war,
as a lot of other people think,
too. The Vietnamese have a
secret weapon. It's their
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willingness to die, beyond
our willingness to kill. In ef
fect they've been saying, you
can kill us, but you'll have to
kill a lot of us, you may have
to kill all of us. And thank
heavens, we are not yet
ready to do that.
Yet we have come a long
way far enough to sicken
many Americans, far enough
even to sicken our fighting
men. Far enough so that our
national symbols have gone
WE BEGAN as a people
struggling for freedom
against oppression. Now we
are supporting real or thinly
disguised military dic
tatorships all over the world,
helping them to control and
repress peoples all over the
world, helping them to con
trol and repress peoples
struggling for their freedom.
But that Vietnam war,
thameful and terrible as it
is, seems to me only an im
mediate incident in a much
larger and more stubborn
Part of my trouble with
students is that almost all
the students I teach were
born since World War II.
Just after World War II, a
series of new and abnormal
procedures came into
American life. We regarded
them at the time as tem
porary aberrations. W e
thought we would get back
to normal American life
some day.
BUT THOSE procedures
have stayed with us now for
more than 20 years, and
those students of mine have
never known anything else.
They think those things are
normal. They think we've
always had a Pentagon, that
we have always had a big
army, and that we have
always had a draft. But
those are all new things in
American life; and I think
that they are Incompatible
with what America meant
How many of you realize
that just before World War
II the entire American army
Including the Air Force
numbered 139,000 men? Then
World War II started, but
we weren't yet in it; and
seeing that there was great
trouble in the world, we
doubled this army to 268,000
Then In World War II It got
to be 8 million. And then
World War II came to an
end, and we prepared to go
back to a peacetime army
somewhat as the American
army had always been
And indeed in 1930 you
think about 1950, our in
ternational commitments,
the Cold War, the Truman
Doctrine, end all the rest of
it In 1950 we got down to
600,000 men.
NOW WE have 3.5 million
men under arms; about
600,000 in Vietnam, about
300,000 In "support areas"
elsewhere ki the Pacific
about 250,000 In Germany.
And there are a tot at home.
Some months ago we were
told that 300,000 National
Guardsmen and 2 00.000
reservists had been specially
trained for riot duty in the
I say the Vietnam war is
Just an immediate incident,
because so long as we keep
that big army, ft will always
find things to do. If the
Vietnam war stopped
tomorrow with that big a
tni'itary establishment, the
chances are that we would
be in another such adventure
abroad or at home before
you knew It.
As for the draft: Don't
reform the draft get rid of
A peacetime draft is the
most un-American thing I
know. All the time I was
growing up I was told about
oppressive Central European
countries and Russia, where
young men were forced into
the army; and I was told
what they did about it.
-- little
finger, or shot off a couple of
toes; or better still, if they
could manage it, they came
to this country. And we
understood that, and sym
pathized, and were glad to
welcome them.
Now by present estimates
four to six thousand
Americans of draft age have
left this country for Canada,
another two or three
thousand have gone to
Europe, and it looks as
though many more are
preparing to emigrate.
A few months ago I"
received a letter from the
Harvard "Alumni Bulletin"
posing a series of questions
that students might ask a
professor involving what to
do about the draft, I was
asked to write what' I would
tell those students.
All I had to say to those
students was this: If any of
them had decided to evade
the draft and asked my help,
I would help him in any way
I could. I would feel as I
suppose members of the
underground railway felt in
pre-Civil War days, helping
runaway slaves to get to
Canada. It wasn't altogether
a popular position then; but
what do you think of it
. AND INDEED there are
choices in getting rid of the
draft. I think that when we
get rid of the draft, we must
also cut back the size of the
armed forces. It seems to
me that in peacetime a total
of one million men is surely
enough: If there is an argu
ment for American military
forces of more than one
million mean in peacetime, I
shouid like to hear that argu
ment debate.
But there is something
ever so much bigger tand
more important than the
draft. The bigger thing, of
course, is what ex-President
Eisenhower warned us of,
calling it the military-industrial
I am sad to say that we
must begin to think of it now
as the military-industrial-labor
union complex. What
happened under the plea of
the Cold War was not alone
that we built up the first big
peacetime army in our
history, but we institu
tionalized it. We built, I
suppose, the biggest
government building in our
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history to run it, and we in
stitutionalized it.
I DON'T think we can live
with the p r e s e n t military
establishment and its $80-100
billion a year budget, and
keep America anything like
we have known it in the past.
It is corrupting the life of the
whole country. It is buying
up everything in sight: in
dustries, banks, investors,
universities; and lately it
seems also to have bought up
the labor unions.
The Defense department is
always broke; but some of
the things they do with that
$80 billion a year would
make Buck Rogers envious.
For example the Rocky
Mountain a r s e n a 1 on the
outskirts of Denver was
manufacturing a deadly
nerve poison on such a scale
that there was a problem of
waste disposal.
Nothing daunted, they dug
a tunnel two miles deep
under Denver, into which
they have Injected so much
poisoned water that begin
ning a couple of years ago
Denver began to experience
a series of earth tremors of
increasingly severity. Now
there is a grave fear of a
major earthquake. An in
teresting debate is in pro
gress as to whether Denver
will be safer if that lake of
poisoned water is removed
or left In place.
Perhaps you have read
also of those 6000 sheep that
suddenly died in Skull
Valley, Utah, killed by
another nerve poison a
strange and, I believe, still
unexplained accident, since
the nearest testing seems to
have been 30 miles away.
AS FOR Vietnam, the ex
penditure of fire power has
been frightening. Some of
you may still remember Khe
Sanh, a hamlet just south of
the demilitarized zone,
where a force of U.S.
Marines was beleaguered for
a time.
During that period we
dropped on the perimeter of
Khe Sanh more explosives
than fell on Japan
throughout World War II,
and more than fell on the
whole of Europe during the
years 1942 and 1943.
One of the officers there
was quoted as having said
afterward, "It looks like the
for a
world caught smallpox and
The only point of govern
ment is to safeguard and
foster life. Our sovernment
has become preoccupied
with death, with the business
of killing and being killed,
so-called defense now
absorbs 60 per cent of the
national budget, and about 12
per cent of the Gross Na
tional Product.
A lively debate is beginn
ing again on whether or not
we. should deploy an
tiballistic missiles, the
ABM. I don't have to talk
about them, everyone else
here is doing that. But an
ABM is a nuclear weapon. It
takes a nuclear weapon to
stop a nuclear weapon. And
our concern must be with the
whole issue of nuclear
There is an entire seman
tics ready to deal with the
sort of thing I am about to
say. It involves such phrases
as "those are the facts of
life." No these are the
facts of death.
We are told that the United
States and Russia between
them have by now stockpiles
In nuclear weapons approx
imately the explosive power
of 15 tons of TNT for every
man, woman and child on
earth. And now it is sug
gested that we must make
more. All very regrettable,
of course; but those are "the
facts of life."
a a a
WE REALLY would like to
disarm; but our new
Secretary of Defense has
made the ingenious proposal
that one must be practical.
Now is the time to greatly
increase our nuclear
armaments so that we can
disarm from a position of
I think all of you know
there is no adequate defense
against massive nuclear at
tack. It is both easier and
cheaper to circumvent any
known nuclear defense
system than to provide it.
It's all pretty crazy.
At the very moment we
talk of deploying ABM's, we
are also building the MIRV,
the weapon to circumvent
So far as I know, with
everything working as well
as can be hoped and
foresee able precautions
taken, the most conservative
estimates of Americans kill
ed in a major nuclear attack
run to about 50 million.
We have become callous to
gruesome statistics, and this
seems at first to be only
another gruesome statistic.
You think, Bang! and next
morning, if you're still there,
you read in the newspapers
that 50 million people were
HOW REAL is the threat
of full seal nuclear war? I
have my own very inexpert
idea, but realizing how littla
I know and fearful that I
may be a little paranoid on
this subject, I take every
opportunity to ask reputed
I asked that question of a
very distinguished professor
of government at Harvard
about a month ago. I asked
him what sort of odds he
would lay on the possibility
of full-scale nuclear war
within the foreseeable
"Oh," he said comfortably,
"I think I can give you a
pretty good answer to that
question. I estimate the prob
ability of full-scale nuclear
war provided that the situa
tion remains about as it is
now, at two per cent per
Anybody can do the simple
calculation that shows that
two per cent per year means
that the chance of having
that full-scale nuclear war
by 1990 Is about one in three,
and by 2000 it is about 50-50.
I think I know what is
bothering the students. I
think that what we are up
against is a generation that
is by no means sure that it
has a future.
a a a
ARE WE to have a chance
to live? We don't ask for
prosperity or security only
for a reasonable chance to
live, to work out our destiny
in peace and decency. Not to
go down in history as the
apocalyptic generation.
That is the problem.
Unless we can be surer than
we now are that this
generation has a 1 future,
nothing else matters. It's not
good enough to give It tender
loving care, to supply it with
breakfast foods, to buy it
expensive education. Those
things don't mean anything
unless this generation has a
future. And we're not sura
that it does.