COUNTDOWN TO ZERO — 2010
This documentary is based and constructed around one quote by John Fitzgerald Kennedy in his address before the General Assembly of the United Nations on September 25, 1961:
“Today, every inhabitant of this planet must contemplate the day when this planet may no longer be habitable. Every man, woman and child lives under a nuclear sword of Damocles, hanging by the slenderest of threads, capable of being cut at any moment by accident, or miscalculation, or by madness. The weapons of war must be abolished before they abolish us.”
The logic of the film is simple. We have’ more than twenty thousand nuclear devices in the world in the hands of a very small number of countries and thus in the hands of machines that control them, military personnel that manages the machine and political personnel that controls the military personnel that controls the machines that control the nuclear devices. All along that command line individuals can make the wrong evaluation of a situation, take the wrong decision on the basis of that wrong evaluation and within 20 to 30 minutes it will have happened: one city or more will have been destroyed, and within a few more minutes, retaliation will come. And once it is started it cannot be stopped. There is no comeback, no turn-back, nor step-back.
In that command line we just need an accident caused by some mechanical failure, or some miscalculation brought up by the misinterpretation of some data provided by the machines, or some madness, or let’s say some mental derangement of one actor in that chain of command. The film provides several instances of close to the brink situations that occurred over the years. Evaluation of the damage in the case of one nuclear weapon on one big city in the world is just over-dramatic and seems to only play on fear in the audience. If the public is only motivated by fear, then there is no hope.
Hope can only come if the public, the vast wide general public is convinced we have to get rid of nuclear weapons not because they are afraid but because of positive reasons like the fact humanity means life, means creative development, means continued progress, and nuclear weapons, both possession and use, are none of these, not life, not creative development, not continued progress. We could also develop some positive ethical arguments going the same way, provided we clearly see the difference between nuclear energy and nuclear weapons. Just like nuclear power can be used in nuclear submarines or in nuclear ships it may have one day to be used in space travel, and not fission but fusion. Not using nuclear energy for weapons is definitely nothing but an ethical decision and the mark of ethical human control of humanity. It is not because the internal combustion engine was used in tanks that we are supposed to ban the internal combustion engine, all cars and many other applications. It is not because some planes are military bombers that we are supposed to ban air travel.
That’s the first shortcoming of this film: nuclear energy is not clearly differentiated from nuclear weapons and yet only the French images project the confusion by stating “NON AU NUCLÉAIRE” [No Nuclear] meaning the rejection of both nuclear energy and weapons, though in fact in the mind of the French people who put forward this motto (the Greens), it is nuclear energy they have in mind. The images from all other countries and the interviews always target nuclear weapons. But it would be clear to say that nuclear energy is another can of worms and these worms might be earth worms, very useful worms for agriculture, gardening and hence surviving hunger.
The second shortcoming is the very ambiguous message about terrorism and about proliferation. The film insists with images and long sequences on the Islamic danger of Pakistan who has nuclear weapons — supposedly thanks to the Chinese, though we do not know where the Chinese got the technology, from the Soviets maybe? — and who sells the blue print as much as the technology to anyone who wants to pay. The Pakistani bomb is called the Islamic Nuclear Bomb and it is at once connected to Al Qaeda and Iran, and allusions to more Muslim countries in the Middle East or the Arab world are added. Nothing is said about the proliferation of nuclear weapons to India, the Hindu Bomb, etc., and where it could have come from — the Soviets I guess? And still along that line there are a few elements about North Korea, still under the rule of Kim the Second, not yet Kim the Third. This presentation is absolutely biased and debatable. And what about France, Great Britain and Israel?
Terrorism is a problem but we have other forms of terrorism than Islamic terrorism, even today. Terrorism has causes and to only speak of containing and controlling it is a waste of time since it will bring no solution to the real causes. And by the way how did the apartheid South Africa manage to get nuclear fuel to be able to build nuclear weapons at a time when a total embargo was imposed onto this country for anything military? And the film is a little bit short on the fact that there are an unevaluated and definitely uncontrolled amount of Highly Enriched Uranium and Plutonium running loose on the planet’s black market, enough to produce thousands of nuclear weapons of various categories from a dirty bomb to a real nuclear weapon. And this black market can only exist because of the diamond and other gems black market, because of the uncontrolled speculative financial market and the vast international financial laundering machine through and via the various fiscal paradises and tax havens.
Altogether this film is essential because of the data it contains but it is not enough because of what I have just said and the main shortcoming is that it does not at all tackle the causes of such paranoid attitudes at the level of the various states that control nuclear weapons, or want to, and of the development of terrorism in this world of ours. As long as we will not be able to integrate in the global community the Muslim world, which is not the Arab world, which is a lot more than just the Arab world and even the Middle East which is mainly not Arab, or even Semitic, but Turkic or Indo European or Indo-Aryan. We are today manipulated by life, by social media and by various political social climbers who want to make us be afraid of something, anything in order to feed their commerce, be it economic, political or social, with paranoia and to lead us to some adventurous violent attitude against some presumed dangers who are in many ways considered as having no causes, as coming out of nothing, as being the pure creation of some religious vision of a god from the past. That’s so limited, I mean mentally limited.
To be seen, widened and discussed as much as possible.
Dr. Jacques COULARDEAU