If You Love This Planet, Dr. Helen Caldicott

James Carroll on war, peace and the role of religion


James Carroll

James Carroll

James Carroll, columnist for the Boston Globe and former priest, is the author of Practicing Catholic, which Hans Kung calls “brilliantly written, passionate, and vivid.” Carroll is also the author of ten novels and five previous works of non-fiction, including the National Book Award-winning autobiography An American Requiem, and the New York Times bestselling Constantine’s Sword, also a documentary film. Carroll is Distinguished Scholar-in-Residence at Suffolk University in Boston. In this edifying interview with Dr. Caldicott he discusses war, peace and religion in the world today. At the top of the interview, Carroll tells Dr. Caldicott that she is “one of my great, long-time heroes.” Dr. Caldicott in turn praises Carroll for writing a column that tells the unflinching truth about the realities of our time. They then look at his background and how it influenced his writing.

Carroll describes his five years as a Catholic priest, and how the Vietnam-era antiwar movement helped form his values and inspired him to write about “the great question of war and peace.” Read his 2009 column McNamara and Our Nuclear Madness. Carroll, whose column has appeared in the Boston Globe for 20 years, says the U.S. has been defined in recent decades by “unnecessary war-making.” Read his January 2010 column Can the Human Race Outgrow War? He talks about the present state of the U.S. media and how the internet has affected major U.S. newspapers. Read the 2009 article in The Nation, The Death and Life of Great American Newspapers.
Dr. Caldicott recounts her briefing of the Washington Post staff about the dangers of nuclear war, how she almost debated Richard Perle, and her plans to write a book about the psychology of killing. She tells listeners that Carroll’s writings appear regularly on www.nuclearfreeplanet.org, the website of her new organization, The Helen Caldicott Foundation for a Nuclear-Free Planet.

Dr. Caldicott asks Carroll for his assessment of certain George W. Bush administration officials who promoted war. In his response, Carroll assesses the Obama team and tells listeners why citizens must confront the power structures that influence presidents to make war. Carroll elaborates on why the U.S. is particularly defined by its approach to nuclear weapons. Read Carroll’s April 2010 column Mortality, personal and global and Robert Jensen’s 2010 article No Nukes, No Empire: The Abolition of Nuclear Weapons Requires the End of the U.S. Empire. Dr. Caldicott points to the educational work she did in the 1980’s which helped mobilize a sea-change in public opinion against nuclear weapons, which Carroll then cites a “a great signal of hope” for what could still be achieved today. He talks about how President Ronald Reagan made significant peace-making gestures in his second term because of public pressure. Carroll lauds Dr. Caldicott for teaching Americans about the medical consequences of nuclear war in the Reagan years. Watch Dr. Caldicott give a speech about nuclear war in the Academy Award-winning film If You Love This Planet. Carroll responds to Dr. Caldicott’s inquiry about his perception of the end of the Cold War. He talks about the “golden moment” in the 1980’s when the world was turning away from violence, the “tragedy” of Bill Clinton’s presidency, and lost opportunities for world peace. Read Carroll’s March column The Deadly Current Toward Nuclear Arms. Dr. Caldicott and Carroll talk about what kind of leadership qualities are needed for Obama to stand up to the Pentagon. Dr. Caldicott talks about her one-hour meeting with Reagan in 1983, and her assessment of his personality. She states her belief that Obama understands the imminent threat posed by nuclear weapons. Carroll talks about the crucial importance of the November election.

James Carroll and Dr. Caldicott agree about the urgency of preventing nuclear war  (Image:  www.psysr.org)

James Carroll and Dr. Caldicott agree about the urgency of preventing nuclear war (Image: www.psysr.org)

Dr. Caldicott shifts the conversation to the American state of mind. Carroll provides an analysis of the percentage of voters in the U.S. and Europe who tend to vote for “frightening figures.” Read Carroll’s June 2010 column
A Nation Under Post-Traumatic Stress. Dr. Caldicott says the world is at a stark turning point be-
tween survival and “absolute catastrophe” and she explains why. She emphasizes how the media is not meeting its responsibility to educate. Next, they explore the warped thinking among millions of fundamentalist Christians who believe in “End Times” and a nuclear Armageddon. Read Carroll’s 2009 column The End Is Near and the June 2010 article by Chris Hedges,
The Christian Fascists Are Growing Stronger. How, Dr. Caldicott asks Carroll, can the U.S. public be mobilized toward sanity? Carroll provides a hopeful historic overview of how humanity has often corrected course. He reviews the many issues that Obama and the Ameican people must still deal with, including environmental collapse, and explains why a functioning political system can still solve most problems. Read Carroll’s June 2010 column
A Time for Self-Surpassing. Dr. Caldicott reemphasizes the importance of the media, and talks about the role of the Pentagon in dominating the U.S. political discourse. Dr. Caldicott’s 2004 book The New Nuclear Danger: George W. Bush’s Military-Industrial Complex addresses the role of corporations and weapons makers in managing public opinion. She says the recent Citizens United decision which allows unlimited election spending by corporations is extremely troubling. Read the August 2010 article Corporate Campaign Cash Floods US Elections: Conservative fundraising commitment has stunned Democrats and the January 2019 article by Ralph Nader, Corporate Personhood Should Be Banned, Once and For All. Carroll stresses the urgency of eliminating nuclear weapons, which represent the “power to make ourselves distinct.”

Dr. Caldicott then chats with Carroll about celibacy and the Catholic Church, and asks him where he sees the Catholic Church heading. Read Carroll’s May 2010 column Celibacy and the Catholic priest. Carroll talks about how the church’s recent scandals might signal a collapse of the more restrictive structures, and how people such as himself are trying to steer Catholicism back to its higher principles. Carrol mentions a book by Karen King,
The Gospel of Mary of Magdala, and how ancient scriptures with healthier views of women, the human body and sexuality are being uncovered. He says the Catholic Church is worth fighting for. At the close of the interview, he acknowledges Dr. Caldicott for her long-time commitment to world peace and disarmament.

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