“A Saga Full of Adventure”
Interview with Dr. Bernard Lown
Conducted by Lawrence Wittner (State University of New York at Albany) Newton, MA, July 6, 1999
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Dr. Bernard Lown is a long time activist working to abolish nuclear weapons and promoting world peace. In 1962, he cofounded the Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) and served as its first president for the following decade. In 1980, he cofounded with Dr. Evgeny Chazov, of the former Soviet Union, the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), an organization based on the conviction that physicians should share a common commitment to the prevention of nuclear war and the education of the public about its dire consequences. Lown and Chazov served as IPPNW’s first Co-Presidents and received the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of IPPNW in 1985.
In this 1999 interview, Lown describes his lifelong activism in the peace movement and his work with PSR as well as IPPNW. Once he became aware of the gravity of the nuclear threat, Lown recalls, he realized that physicians in particular had a moral obligation to take a critical stance towards nuclear issues, “because if we physicians are committed to health, we are more committed to life […] And prevention of this [nuclear] holocaust to be was something that we had to commit our professional calling to.”
Lown details PSR’s early ways of informing the American public of the totality of destruction in the event of nuclear war and criticizes the late 1970’s revived PSR’s focus on opposition to nuclear energy production rather than opposition to nuclear weapons. He sees “this avoidance of confronting the American military and the nuclear bomb [as] a fatal flaw in PSR.”
In 1978, he remembers, he became conscious of the fact that a nuclear war brought about by an absence of substantial dialogue would ultimately be a shared catastrophe for both, the Soviet Union and the United States. This insight, that we are in “the same boat […] together [and that] we either sink or swim together.” led him to push for the founding of the IPPNW.
Dr. Lown details the myriad obstacles that had to be overcome to establish IPPNW as an international organization and the difficulties they experienced in organizing their conferences amid soviet political pressures and a neglectful American media. As the most important contribution of IPPNW to the end of the Cold War arms race, he sees the suggestion of a policy of “reciprocating initiatives,” which proved particularly influential during the nuclear test ban debate. Failures and successes of the organization in mind, Lown judges that “it was a saga full of adventure, full of interesting happenings. But we turned out a world movement.”
Background of Physicians for Social Responsibility: “It’s really a strange beginning. The year was 1961, and I was plunging ahead in a medical career, and had just discovered how to make an effective defibrillator, which is a resuscitator that revolutionized the practice of cardiology. So I knew I was on to a big thing. I was a fellow — that is, doing research — on the staff of the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital at the time. There was a young Quaker, Roy Menninger . . . and Roy urged me to go hear a fellow named Philip Noel-Baker. And I was not eager to go hear Philip Noel-Baker. But he said: `Well, but he’s a Nobel Prize winner.’ So I said: `No way, no way.’ But then he sort of got to me by my pretentious humanitarian interests. . . . So I invited, not to be lonely, one of my fellows. . . Sidney Alexander. . . . And the three of us went to a Cambridge fancy home, where Philip Noel-Baker was speaking. And it was a shock. Even to this day, nearly 40 years later, I still feel the horror of it, because he was an old sage, he was like a Hebraic prophet out of the Bible, and he was intoning the fact that humanity had no future. That the world would certainly not see the 21st century, in fact, that the nuclear weapons were the most awesome instruments of genocide yet devised, and there is an arms race, and arms race has no limits, and they are going to be used. And it was to me paradoxical because I was at the time working on sudden cardiac death, which is a leading cause of fatality in the industrialized, developing world. So there was one American dying every 60 seconds, and now I’m confronting a problem of sudden death with several orders of magnitude greater. And to me it was furthermore paradoxical that we were not investing any money in either kind of death-prevention.
So I went home and brooded about it for a few weeks, and then thought we ought to do something about it. Because if we physicians are committed to health, we are more committed to life, and if we’re committed to life, preventive medicine is where it should be. And prevention of this holocaust to be was something that we had to commit our professional calling to. So I invited a bunch of people — I would say mostly in their 30s — to come to my house, and about a dozen showed up. And they were doctors at the Brigham, at the Mass General, and at the Beth Israel — the three leading Harvard hospitals. They came really in a state of shock because: what do you expect us to do? The answer was: why don’t we study the issue? What are nuclear weapons? What will they do? What are the health consequences? And we began a series of meetings. We held them once every two weeks. And it was amazing, the religious hold on people once they comprehended the magnitude of the disaster that was to follow. And I was very restive, because by nature I’m an activist. All this intellectual [discussion] — how many megatons, kilotons would do this, whether the firestorm is worse than the shock wave or the radiation effect — didn’t interest me one bit. But these were academics, and what I’ve learned about academics is that the more trivial the detail the more heightened is the passion of their pursuit. . . .
It was about ten months into the process, I began to be very restive and saying: `We’ve got to do something.’ But nobody knew what we had to do. And, thereupon, I don’t know who suggested it, but: Why don’t we write a series of articles on the medical consequences of nuclear war, and lob the weapons on Boston, a city we know, the consequences of which we can extrapolate, and to all the effects of the nuclear bomb that are known at the time, and see what role remains for physicians under those circumstances, if any, and what training should they get, and what drugs should they stockpile. . . . The more we studied it, the more it seemed a will of the wisp, a futile pursuit, because it was clear there was no role for physicians. But we completed five or six articles. Then it was the purpose to have them published. Obviously, the New England Journal of Medicine would give it prestige and would make our voices listened to, perhaps even hearkened to, God knows. Remember the time was when the United States was about to go underground, with shelter madness going on at the time, where you find not only a shelter but a machine gun to keep your neighbors out. And get a Bible to pray over your mayhem you’ll be exacting on your next-door buddies. It was a brutally immoral period, in the sense that you can reconcile such evil.
And I was chosen as the senior guy to go and huxter the articles. And I went first to a fellow named Joseph Garlin, who will always be in my pantheon of heroic figures. When I came in to see him, he was an elderly editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, from a very distinguished Boston Brahmin family dating to the Revolutionary War. . . . I remember he was amused, bemused, sort of saying: `What does this silly young fellow want from me?’ I told him what it was all about, and he was not sympathetic one bit. He says: `Why would the New England Journal want to print anything like that? What has it got to do with medicine?’ I said: `Dr. Garlin, what do life and survival have to do with medicine?’ We went in this little jousting, friendly jousting. And this was Friday. I said: `Dr. Garlin, why don’t I leave the manuscripts with you. Look at it, and let me know.’ And he bemoaned the fact that, even if he was interested, he would be constrained by virtue of the fact that that was the Mass. Medical Society publication and, therefore, he was merely the editor, but they owned it. The property was theirs. . . . I didn’t expect to hear from him, ever. On Monday, I received a telephone call. He said: `Hey, hustle right over, I want to talk to you.’ He sounded stern. I said: `Boy, am I going to get a lecture. . . .’ So I raced over and he says: `I want to publish that.’ He says: `But you know what’s going to happen. I’m going to be fired. I said: `Don’t worry, Dr. Garlin, I’m going to give you a job.’ So he laughed. `You’re going to give me a job!’ . . .
Garlin wrote an editorial, and the editorial was very powerful — it was brief and pungent, and really bound the whole thing together. We had a number of tactical articles on the meaning of radiation. . . what is this and what is that. But the series of articles had enormous consequences. Because all over the world, people began to bomb their own cities — Pittsburgh and San Francisco, the bombing run over this place in Seattle. . . . Most interesting to me was that we, as a small group, who were not into radiation biology, who were not military historians, and had little knowledge about this, felt that we would have our heads handed to us by the military. Because they will show so many flaws, so many discrepancies, so many contradictions. They will say: `These docs know nothing! They’re out to frighten the public.’ What it did immediately is really undermine the whole shelter program. Because the social consequence of these articles was, if you want to die, go into a shelter. Because with the firestorms that rage with the exhaustion of oxygen, being in a shelter you’ll be incinerated and suffocated at the same time, and suffocated probably before you’re incinerated. And this was the evidence that we gathered from Hamburg . . . and Dresden. . . .
The other consequence that was profound for me personally was distrust of specialists . . . and how special interests forget objective scientific reality to find the sophistry to justify anything at all, anything at all. Say it in reference to the military. Because we received shortly thereafter six hundred requests for articles, and they were nearly all from the military. . . . And, after that, an Assistant Secretary of Defense called me and said: `We’d like to get together. And he came to Boston. And we met at the Harvard Club, the ten good righteous men — they’re all men, no women at the time. We met with him, and he says: `This was a brilliant piece of research . . . unprecedented. And you people know more about the consequences of nuclear bombs.’ And we sit there in a fright, chilled to the bone. We know more about it! God damn it, you are about to lob these weapons, and we know more about it! And he went on to say that the Pentagon would like to employ us, doing research for them. And we jumped at that. Because he indicated, apparently the CIA or whoever, the FBI, told him we had no money, we had no secretary, we had no office. So he says: `All of this, you know, we have millions of dollars available for a group like you doing research on the health consequences and all that. The one fly in the ointment: it’s going to be classified.’ So we said: `What do you mean, classified?’ `Oh, nobody could read it except the military.’ So we bade him adieu, and we continued in our poverty . . . and continued our work.
The third consequence of this was the fact that it launched a movement, Physicians for Social Responsibility, of which I was the first president, for about ten years. And one of the major interests of ours was, of course, the nuclear test ban. And that was where we invested a lot of energy. And the medical information was extraordinarily valuable because we contributed to the St. Louis tooth campaign, which was a very effective piece of work. Barry Commoner played a critically important role. And we played a very important supportive role to that; we collected baby teeth all over, showing that strontium-90 was in babies’ teeth. I remember when we were buying milk at the time for our kids, and my wife was very avid on the subject. And the Hoods guy comes around trying to sell milk for daily delivery. She says: `Do you have strontium-90 in your milk.’ He says: `But lady, of course we have strontium-90. We have all those good things!’ Needless to say, we never bought Hoods milk.”
The revival of PSR: “I played a small role in that, not a major role. . . . A very signficant role, but a small one. In 1978, under the leadership of Helen Caldicott, there was a revival of PSR, at that time focused on nuclear energy production and the opposition to that, rather than to nuclear weapons. Because there was in America . . . a sort of religion which worships the Pentagon as the sacred cow. And this idolatry is really prevalent in liberal-radicals. . . . And this avoidance of confronting the American military and the nuclear bomb to me was a fatal flaw in PSR. And in 1978 I invited the old group of sixteen years earlier who wrote that report in the New England Journal of Medicine and the newer group of Helen Caldicott, and Jennifer Leaning [?], and Eric Chivian, and a lot of these people who played a key role in the renaissance of PSR. Now they, at that point, were brimming, blustering with success, because they took out an ad in the New England Journal of Medicine that nuclear facilities are unsafe and the ad appeared on the week of Three Mile Island. That was extraordinary timing, brilliant timing! When it occurred, of course the media turned to Helen, who’s a very effective spokesperson, very articulate, almost bordering at times on the hysteric, but very effective in a public outreach. And we sat here — right here — . . . and that very fateful meeting in 1978 took place here. There were about 20 people, and there was a very heated argument. I presented the past, to recall the record of what happened . . . and called for a refocusing on the nuclear issue, which to me was that the arms race had gone on and on and on and on. And, clear, in retrospect, that the peace movement made a terrible mistake in accepting the test ban agreement and, by being taken in by the health consequences, so it was merely an ecologic agreement. . . . So that, in a way, it hastened the development of advanced weaponry. So I felt very guilty . . . as part of a peace movement that did not have the statesmanship to look at issues without the subjectivity of the moment.
So we had this long discussion and, eventually, the majority were won over to the view that nuclear weapons are what PSR has to be all about. Helen was very incensed about it, but we decided then to have a big meeting, at Harvard . . . and she says: `Nobody will show up, because people are discouraged, not interested. They’re interested in nuclearism in their backyard.’ To our surprise and dismay, we had 1,200, 1,400 people turn out, and we couldn’t accommodate them. For a whole day symposium. And that launched an ad that appeared in the New York Times News of the Week in Review. It appealed to Carter and Brezhnev . . . to stop nuclear weapons, beginning a process of disarmament with a view to eliminating them. . . .
In 1978, I had been out of involvement with the antinuclear movement since 1970. . . . And my academic career took off. . . . But I felt very uneasy and unhappy about it because it seemed to me that Noel-Baker’s prediction was coming closer to being fulfilled. And, at that moment, I had a bizarre thought: If one of the fundamental driving issues is lack of mutual trust, and lack of deep dialogue that shows our shared destiny, and we are in the same boat if the hole develops in one or another and the Russian or American, it makes no a particle of difference, it’s our boat. The same boat. We’re in it together. We either sink or swim together. We can save each other or we can destroy each other. . . . This medical paradigm, to be revived within a Soviet-American movement. And I wrote to [Evgeny] Chazov. I happened to know Chazov rather well because we had collaborated on sudden cardiac death, as part of the National Institute of Health and the Soviet Ministry of Health-sponsored common work. So I wrote to Chazov, and I wrote to other Russians that I had known from these collaborations. . . . I picked Chazov for reasons that became clear to me: Unless you’re very high in the pecking order, there’s nothing you can do and there’s nothing you dare do. And Chazov at the time was the head . . . of the fourth directorate of the Kremlin doctors that took care of the Politburo. And Brezhnev was his patient, later Chernenko, and Andropov. . . . He was building at the time the big cardiology institute of the Soviet Union. . . . It was a huge thing. And he got a hundred million rubles to build it. So he had a lot of influence. And that became clear. At one time, somebody in the State Department called me, and asked me: `Who’s this guy Chazov?’ This would have been . . . twenty years ago. I said: `Why do you ask?’ And the fellow was quite open. He said: `Well, we know that Ambassador Dobrynin likes to sleep late. And when Gromyko comes, and important Russians come, they are driven to the airport. But when Chazov comes, Dobrynin drives him to the airport. So who in hell is Chazov?’ I say: `Well, I would surmise that Chazov is Dobrynin’s doctor.’ Which turned out to be the case.
So Chazov was it, and he didn’t answer me when I wrote him [late 1978]. The letter was: We’re both engaged in sudden death, the leading cause of fatality in the world today is nuclear, not cardiac. Let’s get on. We two, joining forces, can get rid of a lot of stereotypes and begin a serious dialogue. What is going on is too awesome to think. We cannot bequeath a world like this to our children. Something like that. It was a highly emotional letter. And I never heard. Now in June of 1979, a woman shows up at my office, and she is in cardiology. . . . I said: `Where do you work?’ She says: `Chazov’s institute.’ I said: `Hey, how about having brunch with me on Sunday.’ She said: `Yeah, I’d love to.’ And I wrote a letter to Chazov, and I gave it to her. I said: `Would you deliver this letter to Chazov?'” When she dropped it, he suddenly realized how sensitive her situation as courier might be. “I say: `Do me a favor, open the letter and read it.’ So she opened it and began to read it, and when read it, she started to cry. Soviets were very, very intense about this issue. . . . So she read it, and she said: `Yeah, I promise you, I’ll deliver it.’
Whereupon, about two months later, I get an answer from Chazov. And the answer says: `Great idea. But you have to address one important issue. And the important issue is that World War III is already here. We are paying with the lives of our children because we can’t provide them with health care, we can’t provide this, we can’t build hospitals, we can’t take care of this. There is an enormous glut of resources that is undermining the health of our peoples. And that is the price we are already paying, and that is what we have to address.’ Well, this was a very positive step. With that letter, I could go and begin to organize an American group. On the basis of that letter, I called a meeting — this would have been in June of 1979. What I’m talking about happened in 1978, then, because in June of 1979 I called this meeting here. And we invited leaders of medicine, about 30 or 35 of them assembled, outstanding personalities in health care, assembled in the Harvard School of Public Health. We discussed how to proceed.
At this point, a fly in the ointment entered. I asked Chazov to send a greeting to this meeting, to give an impetus. Because people in the medical profession had heard of Chazov in some way. . . . But . . . the letter was unbelievably bad. It starts out . . . positive — `yes, we have to address the nuclear threat; humanity is threatened’ — and then it went on with the usual Niagara of `we know well in the Soviet Union the meaning of peace. We know that global imperialism is trying to launch a nuclear war to help profiteering of munitions industries. In the forefront is the United States, which is trying to isolate the Soviet Union and trying to isolate the peace forces of the world and disrupt humanity’s quest for decency, and equity, whatever.’ Now this was devastating. And it was clear that there was a difference of opinion.
I left out one important episode. . . . In April of that year, 1979, I went to the Soviet Union to meet with Chazov. That was after his letter came. . . . You remember . . . we had the meeting in Boston at Harvard. . . . It was a very successful meeting. We had this advertisement in the New York Times. After that, I went off to lecture in Britain, in London. While lecturing there, the Herald Tribune had a big write-up of the fact that we had a response from Brezhnev to this big ad. And Brezhnev’s response was: `I’m ready to meet with the leaders of the medical peace movement any time.’ Well, the people here in the United States, in order to get publicity, said: `Our leader is already on the way to Moscow.’ I was on the way to Moscow? I didn’t even know about it! But the International Herald Tribune had a front-page article that said: `Bernard Lown of the Medical Tata is On His Way to Meet with Brezhnev.’ I swallowed hard. And, eventually . . . I ended up in Moscow. When I did come to Moscow, I met with Chazov. . . . I didn’t want to meet with Brezhnev. Chazov offered me a number of opportunities, but . . . we were being re-baited so massively that, for me to meet with Brezhnev without an analogous meeting with Reagan at the time would have made no sense. Because then we are stooges of the Soviet Union. See, Lown met with Brezhnev, but he never met with Reagan — not telling anybody that Reagan refused to meet with us. So I avoided that. . . . Chazov never pressured me. He said: `Any time you’d like to meet with Brezhnev, you can.’ So when I met with Chazov now, in March or April, and I raised with him that the movement has to move ahead, he was very reluctant. Evangelista describes the same thing. . . . And what Chazov said is the fact that what I’m asking him to do is to destroy his career, sacrifice the hospital that he’s building for the wellbeing of the Soviet people, and he felt we were going to Don Quixote-like fight windmills. It was not going to succeed. And I became very enraged, because here I had traveled all the way to Moscow, organized in America a group of leading physicians who were ready to back such a movement, and here he gives me the cold shoulder. And I called him an opportunist, and he walked out slamming the door of the hotel. I thought: `I’ll never see him again!’ And my wife was very critical of me. It was 11 o’clock at night, I was tired, we had just arrived in Moscow. . . .
In any case, the next morning, he called me again. He said: `Let’s get together and talk.’ And this was really the first time we had a serious talk about details. What happened — why he changed — I’m not clear. But he later on told me that he came home very upset, very tired. His daughter, who is also a physician, said: `Dad, you’re working too hard. You’re killing yourself.’ He says: `I just met an American who doesn’t think I’m working hard enough.’ So she says: `What did this American suggest, this crazy American?’ He said: `The crazy American’ suggests the outline to her. She thought a good deal, and then she says: `Dad, I think the crazy American is right.’ Whereupon she says: `Not because of me, not because of you, but because of your six month old grandson, you owe it to him.’ And he spent the whole night, he said, thinking of his career, his life’s work, what medicine is all about, what it meant to him. And he decided, what the hell, he’s going to go with me into this misadventure.
So then I come back to the meeting in June, of doctors where we got this terrible report from Chazov and signed with 65 Academicians, older Academicians in medicine, older heads of big hospital institutes. I was out of town when this emissary arrived from the Soviet embassy with Chazov’s letter, and he was met by a fellow named Herb Abrams. . . . He was working with us, in the IPPNW at the time. . . . When he saw the report he buried it. He called Time magazine, or Newsweek, I don’t know which, saying: `We have an important letter from the Soviets.’ . . . But he buried it. Even the group that met didn’t know about it, because if . . . they saw it, they would have….
We, thereupon, decided to have a meeting with the Soviets in some neutral place. We selected Geneva. The time was December 1980. And three Americans and three Russians met. The three Americans were Jim Muller, Eric Chivian, and myself. . . . Chazov very carefully thought through who he should bring to protect himself because he was fighting — which Americans really didn’t understand, they thought he was merely the courier for the KGB and Politburo, but it wasn’t the case at all — he was fighting a complex battle in the Soviet Union, very adroitly. But, nonetheless, while it was in part congruent with Soviet policy, in part it was completely antithetical. And the simplistic Americans say: `He’s either for or against.’ There is no gray in American life. And there was a lot of gray there. My great strength in this was that, having dealt with him on cardiovascular business for a decade, I began to appreciate this difficulty, this tightrope walking that he had to do. And he was a consummate artist at that. So, by the time, he had risen very high in the echelons of power in the Soviet Union. Chazov was critical to the growth and development of IPPNW. . . . Though I was the key drive. . . . He brought two other people. One was a fellow names Mikhail Kuzin, who was the former dean of the first medical institute in Moscow and a very distinguished surgeon who was five years in the military during the war, was wounded, was exposed to radiation. He was very distinguished. You cannot be higher in the echelons of, at least, health. The second guy he brought was very interesting, Leonid Ilyin, and he was the head of radiation, biology, and nuclear safety. And he was a physicist and, thereby, must have had a lot of interaction with the military. . . .
What happened is the meeting took off on a bad start. It almost disrupted at the very outset because Jim Muller had handled some contact with the Russians, he traveled with the State Department to the Soviet Union, he went to Notre Dame, he spoke Russian fluently. And the Russians were suspicious of him. Who is he? What is he? He thought he knew them so well that he believed that if he laid out how negative the propaganda was of the Soviet Union in the United States he could give us more leverage in terms of saying to them: `We are beleaguered, even more than you are.’ But it didn’t work that way. The moment they began to read what Time magazine once said about the Soviet Union Kuzin walked out. He said: `I’m not coming here all the way from the Soviet Union to face anti-Soviet propaganda.’ Ilyin was chain-smoking away in the back. Chazov was white as a ghost. After a while, I said: `Hey, wait a minute, we are doctors together, let’s forget the politics, see the medical issue, and try it. It was very painful to restore a sense of harmony. Eventually, we reached agreement. And what we decided was to have an annual congress to launch the organization. (That was in December 1980.) And we decided to have our first congress in March, in 1981. . . . And what we discussed was who the organizations should constitute. Early on, our thinking was that it should be merely a Soviet-American organization. Jim Muller strongly urged that it should be also Japan, because they were the witnesses of what nuclearism can do. . . . I sort of argued that it should be the developing world participating, or it should be global, because . . . nuclear weapons are ultimately intended for the developing world, not for hitting Russians, or hitting Europeans. . . . We had a very long discussion with the Soviets, reached agreement on the nature of the movement, on its type, on national movements, and [on its] be[ing] an umbrella organization for national movements. And the next time we were going to meet was Airlie House, outside of Washington, in our first congress.
Asked about the most important activities of IPPNW in its early years, BL replied: “I think that the most important activities were educating the public on what we did 20 years earlier, the bombing run. Number 2, of getting the World Health Organization involved in this struggle, under Halfdan Mahler,
as director. Persuading him and bringing pressure to bear on health ministries for them to take it on as an issue of public health. Thirdly, with the annual congresses, which grew, and grew, and grew — because the first congress, in Airlie House, had 72 participants, the next one, in Cambridge, England, had 450, the next one, the third one, in Amsterdam had 900, the fourth one in Finland had about 900, the fifth one in Budapest had about 1,500, the sixth one in Cologne had 5,000, the seventh one in Moscow had about 6,000, etc. . . . Another aspect is we organized 80 national movements. Another aspect that was good is that we were a focused organization; we were not driven the way many non-governmental organizations are driven, by funders. In America, especially, the agendas of most do-gooders are shaped by funders who have a lot of money and, therefore, they create the agenda. The Ford Foundation, the Carnegies, the MacArthur, or whatever. And they decide this year it’s environment, so everybody, all the peace groups are suddenly environment. . . . This type of tendency IPPNW didn’t adopt. A sixth — or seventh, I don’t remember which — is bringing the developing world countries into the mainstream of this issue. And that was done under our fifth congress in Budapest, in 1985. A very important aspect of it was the fact of keeping the issue as simple and focused and involving the public in a way that the public could understand, and that is by going back to nuclear testing as an issue, and outlawing nuclear testing as our objective. And we made it a big campaign. Very effective. We used every resource possible.
What we faced is a paradox. The paradox was that, in the unfree, shackled societies of Communism, we had freedom of access to the media. In the free societies of capitalist industrial democracies, we were absolutely reclusive, we were lepers. We had no entry into public media. So it was a difficult struggle. I remember once talking to an editor of the Boston Globe. And I said: `Why don’t you cover this?’ She said: `Well, Lown, if you immolate yourself right here in Boston Common, we’ll give you front page coverage.’ We couldn’t break through. We couldn’t break through because it is a very strange phenomenon that our press isn’t really free. And that was a painful lesson for me.
I had a discussion with Gorbachev in 1985. It was December of 1985. That is perhaps the most important contribution — the fact that we initiated the policy which became the operative policy . . . which was reciprocating initiatives. And, with nuclear testing being a first of the reciprocating initiatives, our argument was very simple. If you leave disarmament to the experts, and the experts are frequently recruited from amidst those in the military and the military-industrial complex, they’re like getting boxing referees to outlaw boxing while in secret conclave. It’s not going to happen! Because it’s a train without a locomotive, and the locomotive are people. And unless you get people power to pressure, to understand the issues, you’re not going to get the train to move. That was very simple.” BL emphasized the importance of his speech on this subject at the fourth IPPNW congress, in Helsinki. “I realized that arms control is like the tortoise. It’s moving slowly, while the arms race is moving jet-propelled. . . . In 1984, we realized that we are never going to move forward unless a new paradigm is involved. That paradigm was: let one of the competing countries take an initiative, a momentous one. And then raise the ante with another initiative. Raise the ante with still another initiative. And the objective of the peace movements was to compel the opponent to at least confront this initiative and begin to deal with it. Then the other one will have to take a step. . . . And there are enormous things to be gained by indulging this reciprocating process. And that I presented in Helsinki.
Now Chazov was vehemently opposed to that speech. . . . I was very angry because the Helsinki congress was the one that nearly broke the movement, because in February here [in this room] there were two Russians, leaders of the Soviet physicians’ movement, and I had the hare-brained idea of inviting Richard Perle. I said: `You invite somebody, and we’ll have a debate. We’ll have enormous publicity.’ . . . They said: `Great idea!’ I invite Richard Perle; he accepts. Upon this invitation, the Finns go gaga because Finland wants to be in the national limelight, in the Finnish fourth basket. The Helsinki fourth basket, what you call the human rights aspect. So the Finns immediately allocated, their government, $100,000 to this congress. And we were praised to the heavens, and the Finns wanted to participate, they’ll give us free this, free that, if we have it.
So I go on my usual April junket to Moscow to make sure that everything about the congress is right. And when Chazov meets me at the plane, I say to him: `You know, Richard Perle, you have somebody who’d be effective in debating him?’ He says: `Who is Richard Perle?’ I was taken aback because Chazov wasn’t really a political guy, in this sense. He was a doctor. What does he care about an American, Richard Perle? . . . I say: `Richard Perle is the architect of the current Cold War.’ And I briefed him on Richard Perle. And we went off. And the next day, we began to meet on the program. And I come in with my agenda of about 32 items, and Chazov says there is only one item. I say: `What do you mean there is only one item? We have to discuss financing, plenary sessions, workshops. . . .’ `No, no, no’ he says; `there is only one.’ `What’s that?’ He says: `Richard Perle. He cannot come.’ I say: `He cannot come? There is no way we can block him. He’s accepted, it has made headlines, the Finns have committed.’ He says: `No, he cannot come.’ . . . Then, after a while, we had a break, and Chazov says: `Hey, you want me to be the head of this movement? Insist on Richard Perle, and I’m out. The Soviets will either boycott the congress or walk out when Richard Perle speaks, at which time the consequences are going to be bloody. It’s going to disrupt this movement.’ . . . I said: `I can’t do that. What about freedom of speech, dah dah, dah dah, dah dah?’ `No,’ he says; `that’s your worry. That is a stupid thing, to invite Richard Perle.’ I said: `But here are the two guys of yours who approved it! The vice presidents of the IPPNW of the Soviet Union!’ He said: `No, it cannot be. No Soviet is going to come and debate with him.’
So the Finns threatened to pull out of it. The Finnish ambassador called me from Washington saying: `Why don’t you cancel this congress, forget about it, skip a year?’ And it was brutal. We held out. The Finns were absolutely irate; they threatened to quit the IPPNW. It was an enormous crisis. And, eventually, we had the congress. Richard Perle came to Helsinki and talked, not for us but on some other pretext, I think. And we had a lot of grief. The congress was nonetheless very successful. And at that congress I was going to speak about reciprocating initiatives. I showed Chazov the speech, and he says: `No.’ I say: `You disagree with it?’ He says: `No, I don’t disagree with it. But that’s not Soviet policy.’ I said: `Well, we are IPPNW, we’re not Soviet.’ He said: `But you don’t understand. IPPNW is perceived in the Soviet Union as representing a Soviet position. I am a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party. And there is democratic centralism. So look, buddy, if you give that speech, that means the Soviet Union has now made a 180 degree turn from a symmetry — saying if we disarm, the Americans have got to disarm, the Americans do, we do. . . . But there’s no initiatives. And where you are clearly putting the burden of that initiative is on us. Because the Americans won’t take such an initiative. So, essentially, what you are saying is we have to begin right now disarmament. When we know the Soviet people know damn well that what Hitler did to the Soviet Union was in part our silly notions about not being prepared.’ I said: `I’m going to give this speech anyway, whatever you say.’ He says: `OK, let’s make a compromise. You give it in the first session, which excludes the media.’ There was a session for IPPNW and then there was the open session where we had leaders of government. . . . I gave that speech in the first session.
Now that became IPPNW policy. Now what I did was something worse. I had that speech widely circulated after the speech as IPPNW policy. And then the executive director, Conn Nugent . . . circulated it, because he agreed vehemently with me. And Chazov went ballistic. We chided Conn Nugent for doing that. But it went out. That became our policy.
Now what happened then is fascinating. Because what Chazov did was really show his hand, in a way. He says: `Bernie, you ought to meet this guy while in Moscow.’ `Who’s he?’ `He’s the head of the Supreme Soviet’ or `He’s the head of the central committee.’ `What should I meet with him about?’ `Oh, talk to him. . . . Talk to him about your views. And to Velikhov, and Sagdeev, and Arbatov, and all these guys who by this time I knew very well.’ And I talked to them about it. They were won over already about it. They were won over. The only ones who weren’t won over were two guys — Evangelista mentioned them — Bessmyrtnikh, who was later on foreign minister for a while, and then some other who took very unkindly to it. But most of the intellectuals, most of the Andropov group, they were enthusiastic about it. They could see a Soviet policy that reversed the enormous drain on their limited resources and have a moral position to boot, galvanize the world community in their favor, and this was a very positive thing. This was something that we contributed.
On the basis of that, when I first met with Gorbachev, he already knew of my point of view. . . . After the receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize [by IPPNW], we sent a message to both Gorbachev and Reagan. Gorbachev I got an immediate response that next day. Reagan I’m still waiting. Gorbachev says: `Come any time, I’ll see you.’ I arrived in Moscow, we are going to meet in the Kremlin, and when I walked in with Chazov, Chazov said to me: `This is your show.’ Meaning Gorbachev’s a friend of mine, I know him well, I can see him any time, you can’t, so make the most of it. I say: `What do I talk about?’ He says: `Talk about anything you wish.’ I say: `I want to talk about Sakharov.’ He says: `Great idea!’ And I want to talk about the reciprocating initiatives, the nuclear testing stuff. And when I walked in, one of the aides says: `Dr. Lown, please spare Mikhail Sergeyevitch, `cause he has a COMECON meeting today, and it’s very important that he attend. It’s a one-day meeting.’ I said: `Surely, I’ll be short.’ I say: `How much?’ He said: `About ten minutes.’ So, as we walked in and sat down, it was 11 o’clock exactly on the dot, and there was an interpreter, Chazov, and myself, and Gorbachev. And, at that point, I began to outline to him what reciprocating initiatives is all about. And I kept on looking at my watch; 10 minutes is up, Lown, 10 minutes is up. And Gorbachev says to me, he looked with a smile, he says: `What’s the matter, Lown, you have some other meetings that are more urgent?’ He had a good sense of humor. And he made many jokes during that meeting. And once I started to talk to him, I said something very radical. And he says: `Excuse me, repeat that.’ And he didn’t have a piece of paper, so he wrote on a book. And what I said was: `The capitalist presses learn to lie by telling the truth once.’ And, in effect, this is what happened frequently; telling the truth once is not telling the truth. You have to hammer at the truth a thousand times before it is the truth. So he was impressed, and he wrote that down. So I was very impressed with him. Here I am a shmoe, a doctor. This big leader everybody wants to meet. So we met for three hours. And, during that time, we discussed the whole realm of issues. And Sakharov. Sakharov we talked about for an hour. And my argument was there are no secrets. And he doesn’t have to spend time in Gorky. And, essentially, we the peace movement have been put on the defensive because all we’re doing is arguing Sakharov, we’re not arguing nuclear issues, we’re arguing Sakharov. I said: `There are no secrets.’ He says: `You’re wrong. You stick to cardiology.’ And I said: `Well, I’m not wrong.’ And he hammered in typical Russian fashion, the ashtray bounced. And he says: `No, you don’t know anything. There are secrets, and Sakharov has `em.’ And I went tooth and nail at it. I said: `You’re wrong. The point of it is Sakharov has become a symbol and the West has exploited him to the fullest. And now humanism demands that a distinguished scientist, who has spoken out against the nuclear issue, is respected. Use him as an idol, rather than as a pariah.’ He says: `You don’t tell me what to do.’ And Chazov . . . said: `That was great! That was great!’ He didn’t mind it at all. He says: `It’s important for our leaders to hear the truth, `cause everybody comes in and kowtows and tells them what they want to hear. But if somebody comes in and talks to them like they were fellow human beings it is very good.’
He [Chazov] called me a day later, and he says: `You’ve had a profound impact. Sakharov is going to be freed in a year. I know that now as a fact.’
Then, I was in Moscow in 1986, again April, and I was there several times, in December. But April of 1986 they gave me a big party, and I wondered what the party was all about. Here were important people, leaders of government, leaders of health care, the press, a very lovely party, about 50-60 people. And Velikhov comes up to me, and whispers, he says: `Congratulations.’ And Arbatov says: `Congratulations. You have been successful.’ I said: `What’s that? He says: `We’re stopping nuclear testing.’ I said: `When is that going to happen?’ He says: `Gorbachev’s going to announce it on Hiroshima Day, it’s going to occur in 1986.’ And, at this point, I stupidly got cold feet, and I say: `Don’t do that! It’s too soon. We haven’t developed the adequate public. . . .’ You know, to my mind, mobilizing the public. . . .
Bessmyrtnikh said to me. . . : `That is a cockeyed policy.’ And he knew America well. . . . He says: `The first time Gorbachev stops testing, the New York Times will have a headline: “Russians Stop Testing Because They Have to Change the Testing Ground, They Have Serious Problems. They’re using that as an excuse. They couldn’t test in any case.” Then you won’t hear anything again.’ I say: `You’re very cynical. There’s no way you can keep such a fact from the public.’ But he was right! There was absolutely nothing. And then, when I went back several times in 1986. And 1987, in February, where I met with Gorbachev again and I met with the former ambassador, Dobrynin, and Dobrynin said to me, privately: `The Soviet is going to resume testing.’ I said: `You can’t do that. You’re winning! The world is winning!’ And I gave him very angry talk. I said to him: `You’re not a Marxist.’ And Dobrynin burst out laughing. I said: `I thought Marxists believed in the power of the people. We’re slowly getting the people on our side.’ So he says: `You know what, Lown?’ He was a very cynical guy. He says: `I have an idea. I will persuade Mikhail Sergeyevich for you to be invited to the Politburo. And you give this argument that accuses our leaders of not being Marxists.’ He says: `That should be very interesting.’ He says: `Mikhail Sergeyevich needs support because he’s alone.’ That’s the first time I knew he was alone. Nobody supported him, because he wanted to continue the test ban. So I thought that Dobrynin was making it up.
But then, at the February  meeting that Gorbachev called together, the big cultural meeting in Moscow to support his policies, there were several thousand people there. . . . Chazov comes to me the night before, the way the Russians do it, the most screwed up way, at about 8:30, 9 o’clock at night, at a party, he says: `By the way, Bernie, tomorrow you are speaking in the Kremlin with Gorbachev.’ I said: `No, no, no, no. You want me to have a bleeding ulcer right here or a heart attack? . . . He says: `Oh, you can speak off the cuff, deal with 6,000 people, 1,500 media men.’ He says: `You speak.’ So I spend the night up, dictating to my poor wife, on a broken down typewriter . . . writing out a speech. And the speech was an avid appeal to Gorbachev to continue the test ban.
And then what happened is Gorbachev put me on his left. There were about ten, eleven intellectuals. And he was asking me to speak first. He said: `You speak first, and I’ll speak last.’ When I got through with my speech, he goes like that with his hand. What he is saying to me is: `Give me your speech.’ But I don’t speak Russian. And he doesn’t speak English. And we talked, and I didn’t know what he wanted. I said: `What do you want?’ He says: `Give me your speech.’ And he reached in my pocket and pulled it out and he wrote on it: `I agree with every word in your speech, Lown!’ And that proved to me that he was very avid on the issue, and he wanted to show in the most public way that he supported that. . . . When I got through, a lot of cameramen, television guys, came: `What were you and Gorbachev so heatedly discussing?’ I said: `Well, he signed this.’ . . .
So, in fact, we had an impact. We played an enormous role. And what I left out from this discussion is a major thing that Evangelista deals with, not in detail, our television appearance in Moscow. That occurred in 1982. The `82 television was a spectacular. In 1981, I went to Moscow and took Carl Sagan with me and a few others, and they wanted to connect up with the physicists’ community, with the Velikhov-Sagdeev crowd. We went to visit Ambassador Hartman. Ambassador Hartman was very critical of us, very critical of me. He says: `You are undermining democratic institutions by virtue of the fact that, in the Soviet Union, when you go they are free to deal with you and you aren’t scaring their public, `cause their public is not exposed to the issues. You are scaring the public in the West, and therefore undermining our resolve. But you’re not undermining their resolve. I said: `But look at the numerous publications — IPPNW material is published verbatim in the Soviet Union.’ He said: `You are naive. The major avenues — television, not media [?].’ So when I went back to the United States, when I said to Hartman: `Oh, well then we’ll appear on television,’ he laughed. He says: `You know, I appear on Soviet television once a year, on July 4, and two weeks before the event I have to submit my text. If they find anything out of order, then that’s the end of it. So I have to be very careful. If you think they’ll let you in a free-ranging program on television, you don’t understand the Soviet system.’ So I went back and met with Dobrynin. I represented to Dobrynin what the problem was, that we would have a lot more credibility in the West if we could appear on Soviet television. . . . He said: `Why are you coming to me? You have a more important connection in Chazov.’ So I asked Chazov about it, and after a while I heard from Chazov: `Yes!’ So at the time of the world congress of cardiology, in 1982, in Moscow, Chazov arranged for us to appear on all Soviet channels. And we appeared for one hour on Soviet television. And that was a broadcast that was watched by millions of viewers. The Soviets claimed 100 million people watched it. I don’t know. . . . We presented really factually the stupidity of civil defense, the fact that the Soviet Union would be a moonscape if nuclear war occurs, the fact that shelters are a ridiculous deception of the public, the fact that so much money is being invested with no reason. . . . It was the first time that that had occurred. And that made world headlines, at the time.
But we couldn’t show that show in the United States. Until much later, six months later, NPR (national public radio) showed it, but in an edited version, with commentators to make sure that we are shown up as stooges of the Soviet Union. . . .”
Lown retired from active leadership in IPPNW in 1993. Chazov has also left his leadership role.
On his relationship with Chazov: “Several times when we had a vehement argument about issues, he would really point out that I thought it was a bowl of cherries for him because, after all, the Soviet Union is peace-oriented . . . . And he felt that I didn’t understand the fact that there was a military-industrial complex in the Soviet Union, and that didn’t take kindly at all to Chazov’s position. And only by virtue of the fact that he was the doctor of these people, that they felt he was indispensable, could he get away with a lot of things. Otherwise, he would have been thrown to the wolves long ago. And this I learned painfully on a host of issues. Though he was curiously attacked by the United States, oh, you can’t imagine the viciousness.
At the meeting of the Nobel committee, of the Nobel prize, the time when we had our first press conference in Oslo, the attack on Chazov was — I was sitting there absolutely dismayed — like [that upon] Al Capone himself. They brought out a letter that he signed against Sakharov, signed by about 25 intellectuals — it was probably in the 1970s — . . . when Americans were developing advanced MX missiles or something, Sakharov came out in their support. . . . Chazov signed it, and probably was pressured to do so, and probably he believed in it, deeply — that any Russian who says let America develop MX missiles that will destroy Pushkin and the Tretyakov Gallery and . . . all the heritage of Russia . . . [is] a traitor. So I did not have the view of horror: `Chazov signed this letter!’ But it came as a ultimate betrayal. And what I learned later . . . is that this was orchestrated by NATO. I know it as a fact. The Germans were put in charge of it by NATO, and Kohl called the leaders of the Nobel Committee to rescind. Never before were they asked to rescind a Nobel. Fortunately, the head of the Nobel Committee was a very clever guy. Asked by German television: `Did it ever happen in history of the Nobel Peace Prize that any national leader asked for a rescinding,’ he thought for a long while, and he said: `Oh, yes, Adolf Hitler, regarding Carl von Ossietzky.’ . . . And he created a riot in Germany. So the Germans laid low after that! But, at that meeting that we called, and the attack against Chazov was as vituperative as ever I heard — `You scum, you this, you gangster, you in charge of the psychiatric hospitals’; what did Chazov have to do with that, I don’t know — at that point, a Russian correspondent stood up to defend him, because Chazov was a hero to them. And he fell over dead. A cardiac arrest. That made headlines all over the world. Because we began to resuscitate him. . . . He recovered. And when I held the press conference, during that press conference I said: `What the world is seeing is in miniature a threat to the world. But instead of the lives of all of us, the life of a single person. And we did not ask the political ideology, the religious belief, the social standing of the doctors. But they worked all together to save this life, as we are trying to save the world.’ The impact was enormous. `Cause the next day, the leading newspaper in Norway, which came out against us, had a headline: `We should honor these doctors, because they are above politics.’
When I met with Gorbachev the first time, he said to me, as we walked in: `You know, watching television, I saw that you guys were not only great professors, but you were even good doctors!’ . . . So it was a saga full of adventure, full of interesting happenings. But we turned out a world movement.”
Asked about impact on the US government: “After the Perle episode, when Perle said the United States government will never deal with you again, forever, you’re on our blacklist — he said it to me over the telephone — . . . what happened is, in [June] 1984, [at] the very same meeting in Helsinki, Reagan sent a message and the message was: `Nuclear war can never be won and must never be fought.’ That phrase came from Reagan. . . . I was sitting at the podium, chairing the first open plenary session, and at that plenary session I got called out by the American ambassador, somebody from the American embassy, saying: `We have a greeting from President Reagan.’ So, in fact, the political surround of Reagan at the White House realized that doctors should not be ignored. . . .
We always had some avenue of entry. . . . One of them was the State Department, where some of our people met with them. And one who was in good graces was a fellow named John Pastore, whose father was the Senator Pastore. Another was Jim Muller. And I think we also had entry — and I say that without certainty — in the CIA. Because clearly some of the leaders of our movement were communicating with them, and for them it was an important source of information. We were not red-baited in the United States, as we could have been. And I think there was a calculated conclusion that IPPNW, by virtue of heavy entry to the ultimate echelons of power in the Soviet Union, was an important vehicle for communication and contact and insight that should not be scotched. So there was an ambivalent attitude. On the one hand, they hated the message, but liked our connectivities. And, of course, this was going on quite avidly on the other side. We accept that. But on the American side? Really? Well . . . I knew of people who were always being debriefed in Virginia. So we found ourselves at the vortex of history, in a strange way, and I think we gave a good account of ourselves. . . .
In my early speeches, I would always come back to the moral dimension, and that’s what gave IPPNW so much clout. We weren’t nitty-gritty technocrats . . . but we pointed to the moral fact that there was Hitler’s legacy we picked up, the legacy of genocide,” which had become “politically acceptable in some circumstances, and that was evil beyond any measure. And the degradation of international politics flows from that.”
“We were kept out of the press very effectively. When I met with Gorbachev. . . . I meet with him for three hours. I’m the first American ever to meet with him for that duration. This is 1985. . . . Gorbachev was an unknown. So I call a press conference in Moscow. Who shows up? Three hundred people. Everybody in the American press corps is there. And they’re interested. Because, look, he talked about this, he talked about that. And the Americans asked me, from CNN, from the New York Times: `When are you going to the United States?’ I say: `Tomorrow.’ `What flight? Where are you landing?’ And they write it all down. . . . We arrive at Kennedy. There’s nobody there. . . . We arrive at Logan. There’s nobody there. We come back on a Wednesday. On Thursday, I see a patient. The patient is Jean Mayer. He was the president of Tufts then. And Jean says to me: `Bernard, you look so tired.’ I say: `Well, I just returned from Moscow.’ He says: `What were you doing in Moscow?’ I say: `I saw Gorbachev.’ He says: `Yes, and I just saw the Pope.’ I said: `Now, Jean, please. I did.’ I relayed to him what happened. He picks up the receiver and he calls Sulzberger. He calls Taylor of the Globe. He calls CBS. Pretty soon I get a call from Fox Butterfield, of the New York Times. . . . He says: `We’ve got to meet.’ Somebody calls me from the Globe. Now I have a conflict. . . . I meet with Fox Butterfield for two hours . . . and he says: `That’s a great story.’ And I look for it. And in the next few weeks there’s nothing. Two weeks later I call Fox Butterfield, and I say: `Hey, what happened?’ He says: `I wish you didn’t call me. I feel embarrassed. My story was yanked.’ I say: `Did that happen to you before?’ He says: `Not really. I’ve been on the Times for seventeen years and I can’t recall that happening.’. . . Nothing appeared in the U.S. press! The Soviets didn’t have that power! Their samizdat would have covered it! . . . There was nothing of my meeting with Gorbachev covered. How do you explain that? You ask me about government. . . . Something was going on. . . .
John Burns, who covered Moscow for the New York Times, covered India for the New York Times, covered China for the New York Times . . . was a senior head of the bureau. We are at a party, in Moscow, given for us by . . . the head of the Washington Post bureau in Moscow. He gives a party for Louise and me and he invites some correspondents, one of them is John Burns. And I really am, at this point, frustrated as all hell — the year is 1987 or thereabouts — and the Russians have resumed testing. And I turn to John Burns and I say: `If there’s a nuclear war, there may be a Nuremburg-type trial afterwards . . . and you will be tried and hanged and you will deserve it.’ He was absolutely dismayed at this assault. He was beside himself, I could see. And we left. The next day, I get a call from John Burns. He says: `Dr. Lown, I want to meet with you. I’m that racist, militarist, ugly American from the New York Times. I want to interview you for a magazine article, in the New York Times Magazine.’ So I say: `Well, you know, it’s not going to be printed.’ He says: `Come on, get off it, you’re talking now like the Soviet apparatchiki with whom you’ve been dealing too much.’ I say: `OK, come over.’ . . . It took two or three hours,” and then he insisted upon taking pictures of Lown in Red Square. “He says: . . . `There’s going to be an article two weeks from now, and I’m writing it. It’s an exciting story.’ . . . I’m still waiting. I’m still waiting. Nothing, nothing appeared.
The American people have no concept how controlled the press is, in relation to critical issues. . . . The way you deal with news is you print it all. But then, if you don’t reprint it, it’s washed away. . . . And this they have learned very cleverly: we can cover everything and it doesn’t make a particle of difference. . . . But when they want you to know . . . you can’t miss it! And that they have never permitted the peace movement. If they’d given a fraction of exposure to . . . nuclear weapons, we wouldn’t have any nuclear weapons.”
“I think we [IPPNW] have had an important impact in France, in terms of nuclear testing in the Pacific, and we helped mobilize enormous opposition in Australia and New Zealand. And the New Zealand policy of no nukes visiting them, which made New Zealand the mouse that roared, IPPNW was not a leader but was an important contributor. . . . We created a climate of opinion, and that climate of opinion played a role in the Pacific, played a role in France, played a role in Italy — because early on IPPNW had enormous meetings in Rome, and helped set Europe on edge more than the United States, because the press is less controlled in Europe than it is in this country. By the press I mean the media. . . . There was a big constituency that we helped to organize in Italy. We had the most successful groups of all in the Scandinavian countries. Sweden was the one country where we reached 40 percent of the health professionals. In the United States, at best, we were 5 percent. And we were no better than 5 percent in any country in the world except for Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Norway. And we had an impact. The peace movement is still a significant force in Finland, a very powerful force. . . .”
Asked about sympathetic allies in the executive branch or Congress, BL responded: “I would say that the most sympathetic people were erstwhile military, especially the Navy. . . . The Navy was more than any other branch of the service, and the reason for it . . . is that a Navy is most vulnerable to nuclear weapons. You drop a nuclear bomb and their aircraft carrier disappears. . . . It is most threatened. Admiral Carroll, Admiral LaRocque, Admiral Noel Gaylor. Noel Gaylor was very effective and helpful to me, and he was a four star admiral. Now General Butler is a key guy in the campaign for nuclear abolition. Britain likewise. We had the head of the general staff join up. What we did very cleverly — and already at Cambridge — was to get the military to engage in debates. So we got a Soviet general, a British general, and Admiral Gaylor to have a debate in 1982, in Cambridge, and that debate was great! And Carl Sagan chaired it. It was marvelous. General Milstein was the Soviet. The head of the British general staff, he was there, he was very good. And Admiral Gaylor was brilliant. He was very handsome, he was like a movie star of an admiral. . . . And talking with a certainty that he was god’s representative on earth, that he knew the facts — and he did! . . . We had a number of other military who played a key role in all our congresses. So the military, interestingly enough, they were all emeriti. . . .
Congressional leaders. . . . Kennedy was good, friendly to us. . . . Generally, the Massachusetts Congressional delegation was quite sympathetic to us. We had a few — but not many — because so powerful is the military-industrial complex. . . . So if you are looking for a deep connection to the establishment, we did not have it, we did not have it in the United States. We had more ready entry to prime ministers of Scandinavian countries, even Germany. . . . But I couldn’t meet with an American President. . . . This piece of sculpture was a rock that occurs in one stream in Kazakhstan. . . . This is from ivory of a mammoth. This is to `President of the United States, George Bush,’ for me to deliver to him, for me to deliver this remarkable sculpture that the Kazakhs did. And in May 1990, they asked me to deliver it to Bush. And I called the White House. I sent a note, I have this, and Bush declined the pleasure to accept it. . . . He answered, though, which Reagan wouldn’t have done. He answered saying: `Thank you very much. The President asked me to convey his regrets. He’s too busy.’ It was Semipalatinsk, a huge testing area. It says: `Long live peace without violence. Electors of Yakutya,’ where Semipalatinsk is located. Here’s an American Indian and a Kazakh, exchanging peace pipes. . . .
The falling off [of IPPNW membership and activism] began with the disappearance of the Soviet Union. The reasons are obvious — the Cold War ceased, the reason for the confrontation disappeared, the nuclear stalemate ended (there was one superpower), and the world wasn’t threatened with extinction. So doctors who always had a premium on leisure time, devotion to extracurricular activities, decided to address other issues. And, furthermore, you have hit your head against a wall, and Americans don’t like to be unpatriotic, and to question the Pentagon — you could accuse your mother of being a whore much more readily. To question the Pentagon in the United States, believe me, you don’t do that, if you don’t want to be bashed in and be regarded as an irrelevant idiot. Because so much does the economy depend on this pump-priming of the Pentagon . . . that in fact it is something that nobody raises.”