Building Nukes "not as politically incorrect as it used to be."
(report from Matthew Behrens of Homes not Bombs)
TORONTO, June 11, 2003--"Does Canada contribute to nuclear weapons proliferation?" asks the Canadian Nuclear Association in one of its glossy fact sheets.
"NO," comes the emphatic response, adding that after World War II "the Canadian government renounced any interest in nuclear weapons."
While that statement might come as a surprise, for example, to partisans of Lester Pearson, the Liberal Prime Minister who ran on a platform of bringing nuclear weapons to Canada in the early 1960s, it is nonetheless part of official Canadian mythology.
It is a mythology which continues to be pierced, for example, by the writings of John Clearwater, who has written two excellent books on nuclear weapons in Canada.
It is also a mythology which falls apart with a quick tour of some of Canada's highest-tech companies, some of whom are very much involved in the production of new generations of nuclear warfare. Two companies in particular, Fakespace Systems in Waterloo, and Toronto's Platform Computing, are leading the way in technology which allows for the creation of new nuclear weapons and the maintenance of the "safety and reliability of the U.S. nuclear stockpile."
While ensuring the safety of the most unsafe "products" on the planet is surely a quirky goal--ensuring that no harm will come to weapons whose sole purpose is to deliver harm on a mass scale--it is one that is embraced with pride by both companies.
"We expect [Platform's] Grid computing infrastructures to become a backbone of national defense and security in the years to come, supporting a seamless, immediate flow of information among various government agencies for optimized security operations," crows Platform's President, Rene Copeland.
Both Platform and Fakespace contribute to the work of the U.S. Los Alamos National Laboratory, which has been developing nuclear weapons since the dawn of the atomic age. Los Alamos promises in an Orwellian fashion-- much like the U.S. Air Force's "peace is our profession" phrase--to develop and apply "the best science and technology to make the world a better and safer place."
Towards that end, the Lab hosts one of the largest computers on the planet, affectionately called Q. Q helps "maintain, monitor and assure the performance of the nation's nuclear weapons." In other words, this Viagra of the computer world is supposed to ensure middle aged and older nukes can get it up and out, and deliver their payload of wargasmic megatonnage anywhere on the planet. Some 300 nuclear weapons designers and other researchers work with Q in the Metropolis Centre for Modeling and Simulation, a building the size of six football fields with a 43,500-square foot computer room.
Q benefits from the work of Waterloo's Fakespace, which the day after Hiroshima Day, 2001, announced a $7 million contract for custom visualization systems at Los Alamos. A previous contract sought to use large-scale visualization "with the goal of providing better ways for scientists to understand nuclear weapons phenomena through immersive visualization."
On June 10, 2003, Platform Computing proudly announced that Los Alamos had selected Platform LSF, the foundation of Platform's Grid solutions, to "deliver the massive computer power needed to conduct predictive nuclear weapons simulations."
It is not known whether the shadows of people who would be incinerated by the use of these weapons is simulated. It is also unclear if the millions who are not vaporized in the initial blast but who will die slow, painful deaths from a multitude of cancers are represented in these calculations as well.
Indeed, war resister Dan Berrigan once posited that in any discussion of nuclear weapons, the term "nuclear weapon" should be replaced with the name "Auschwitz" in an effort to remind ourselves that in the nuclear age, terms such as megaton and stockpile stewardship completely whitewash the true purpose of these weapons: mass murder on a scale far beyond the imaginings of the Nazis.
But the excited press releases coming out of these Canadian companies, and the propaganda from Los Alamos, are all promoting the benign, almost kindly-sounding Stockpile Stewardship and Management Program (or its initials, which bear a striking resemblance to sexual sadomasochism, SS&M). According to anti-nuclear campaigner Helen Caldicott, SS&M is nicknamed Manhattan II (in reference to the original project to construct an atomic bomb during WWII), and is in fact a cover for the development and production of new nuclear weapons.
"Nuclear scientists are actually designing, developing, testing, and constructing new nuclear weapons at an annual cost of 5 billion dollars over the next ten to fifteen years," Calidcott writes in her latest (2002) book, The New Nuclear Danger. Indeed, a February 1996 Dept. of Energy document clearly states that an "ability to design new warheads will be retained by DOE at its defence programs (DP) laboratories," including Los Alamos, Sandia and Lawrence Livermore. Caldicott summarizes DOE goals with the conclusion that their efforts are designed "to refurbish and modernize all weapons in the stockpile by replacing components with updated versions and, in some cases, by designing and manufacturing completely new nuclear weapons."
It is unclear how this is not a violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty that Canada allegedly respects.
Caldicott points out that ensuring the safety of weapons is a smokescreen, for "weapons actually become safer as they age because the metals corrode, adhesives degrade, and component parts crack, making them less likely to explode by accident." Rather, SS&M is designed, in the words of the Dept. of Energy, to "maintain a surge capability to rebuild a larger stockpile."
Calidcott summarizes the work of the Q (also known as ASCI-Q, for Accelerated Strategic Computing Initiative) as follows: "The computers will be used to model precisely the behavior of an exploding nuclear weapons through all its stages in order to develop extremely complex nuclear weapons codes for virtual testing of nuclear weapons. They will be used for weapons design, production, accident analysis, for certification, and for the prototyping of manufacturing techniques."
A Platform company spokesperson--who asked not to be named--, said the company is unable to answer questions about the specific uses of the company's application. Thje spokesperson is asked whether there was any concern about the fact that the company's technology is involved in the production of new nuclear weapons.
"We haven't heard any sort of feedback of a negative or positive nature," The spokesperson states. "We have been involved in weapons related research so it's not exactly a new space for us. It's not as politically incorrect a topic as it used to be."
The spokesperson acknowledged that the company does not always know the ultimate use of its technology, given confidentiality agreements it must honour when it engages in this work.
But what about moral concerns about the nature of their work? The spokesperson says I'll likely get a response to this query later in the day, which arrives by e-mail. As you read the statement, contrast it with the images of human devastation at Hirsohima and Nagasaki, the miles of depleted-uranium wasteland in Yugoslavia, Vieques, Iraq, and Afghanistan, and the millions of victims of the nuclear war obsession.
"As a corporation, Platform Computing considers moral and ethical issues to be of paramount importance. We are committed to being a good corporate citizen in all of the communities worldwide in which we have a presence. Our technologies are designed to free thinkers from constraint and allow our customers to maximize their technology investments in order to solve problems in new ways. None of our customers, to our knowledge, use our technology for any unethical purposes and we do not participate in, nor endorse such use of our technology. We are quite pleased to be able to work with Los Alamos National Labs to enable 3D simulations that eliminate the need for nuclear testing."
Robert Jay Lifton, who with Richard Falk wrote the landmark book Indefensible Weapons, notes that within nuclearism there is not only a genocidal system but a "genocidal mentality" which "can be defined as a mind-set that includes individual and collective willingness to produce, deploy, and, according to certain standards of necessity, use weapons known to destroy entire human populations--millions, or tens or hundreds of millions, of people. And that genocidal mentality can become bound up with the institutional arrangements necessary for the genocidal act."
This helps explain how a company like Platform can separate itself from the moral and ethical end result of their work. As Lifton points out, "Both Nazi and nuclear narratives are crucially sustained by certain psychological mechanisms that protect individual people from inwardly experiencing the harmful effects, immediate or potential, of their own actions on others. These mechanisms, all of which blunt human feelings, include dissociation or splitting, psychic numbing, brutalization and doubling. 'Dissociation,' or 'splitting,' is the separation of a portion of the mind from the whole, so that each portion may act in some degree separately from other.
'Psychic numbing' is a form of dissociation characterized by the diminished capacity or inclination to feel, and usually includes separation of thought from feeling. 'Doubling' carries the dissociative process still further with the formation of a functional second self, related to but more or less autonomous from the prior self. When numbing or doubling enables one, with relatively little psychological cost, to engage in sustained actions that cause harm to others, may we speak of 'brutalization.'...In the nuclear case, the domination of technology makes the numbing all the easier. Patterns of doubling are observable in certain physicists and strategists, including the formation of a 'nuclear weapons self,' but in a much less extreme psychological form than in the Nazi situation. They also undergo what could be called 'silent technological brutalization,' an increasing capacity to take actions that could result in enormous destruction, the entire process so distanced by the technology that one must assert one's moral imagination to reconnect cause and effect."
If you would like to reconnect the cause and effect mechanism that seems to be miossing in the employees of these corporations, please take some time and get to know them. Perhaps you could arrange a weapons inspections of the facilities sooner rather than later, seeing as how the U.N. is unlikely to make that vist any time soon. You might also write to and initiate dialogue with the executives who profit from armageddon:
809 Wellington Street North
Kitchener, Ontario N2G 4J6
Fax: (519) 749-3151
Platform Computing Inc.
3760 14th Avenue
Markham, ON L3R 3T7
Fax: (905) 948-9975
TOLL-FREE (Use this one as much as you like, because they pay for it), 1-87-PLATFORM
Homes not Bombs, Because
Canada should build homes, not blow them up
PO Box 73620, 509 St,. Clair Ave. West, Toronto, ON M6C 1C0
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