Living without The Labs



Despite the fact that we live in a world of increasing violence in every walk of life, humans still have not lost hope; they talk about peace as they have done since the beginning of time.

Some advocate peace by preparing for war; others advocate peace by preparing for peace.

I thought I could do peaceful work inside this nation’s nuclear weapons labs, but I learned I was wrong; so, I resigned, and now I urge others to do the same.

If scientists stop developing the instruments of mass destruction, the government will be powerless to continue developing them.

There are thousands upon thousands of reconciliations taking place among people everyday around the world, but the mainstream media never talk about them. Instead they talk about violence and its results.

Whether we like it or not, we cannot deny the fact that the magnitude of death and sorrow from a violent act is proportional to the degree of technological sophistication employed in the act: Wars with spears in the past cannot compare with the electronic, atomic wars of today. In past wars, mostly soldiers would die, but today mostly civilians die. The technology separates and dehumanizes us from the actual act of killing.

In the past, a soldier could see the expression on the face of his opponent as he died. Today, however, thousands of people can be vaporized instantly, while others can languish in pain for years, and future generations can be affected. But the person who launched the initial weapon will have seen nothing of this but possibly some words on a computer screen.

Scientists and engineers have always served society for the good, but we can not deny that scientists and engineers have also played the greatest role in violence committed against life, and this is true throughout history.

It was science and technology that contributed to the human tragedy of the past two world wars. It is science and technology that has prepared such an unthinkable war machine today, which, if used, will abolish it all. Scientists have penetrated the microcosm and the macrocosm to a great degree, but they have failed to penetrate the self.

Nuclear weaponeers

These days, more than ever, the scientists and engineers working at New Mexico’s Los Alamos National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories and at California’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory – and at all other Department of Energy research and manufacturing centers for weapons of mass destruction – are being called upon to re-evaluate their positions and beliefs.

The natures and roles of these laboratories is well hidden behind the names of the operators: the University of California and Lockheed Martin. The labs also hide their true natures behind an insignificantly small number of non-weapons research programs that are heavily promoted.

Almost everyone in these laboratories tries to put such facts in a dark corner of their consciences, as denial is the only way to live comfortably with this knowledge.

These laboratories have prepared and still are developing more nuclear weapons of indiscriminate death and suffering to all life. These weapons are so catastrophically potent that the only name appropriate for them should be “satanic weapons.”

I ask the scientists working on them to lift up their eyes from their books and take their hands away from their computers for awhile and look at the big picture – the big picture which most of them ignore.

The fact is that they work for a government that increasingly has isolated itself from the rest of the world, through a foreign policy that is despised by many other nations and that is destabilizing the world. It is a policy that aims to accomplish world domination, even if it is necessary to use weapons of mass destruction to achieve this goal.

We comfortably judge Hitler and his army of scientists and engineers

who brought blood and tragedy to the world, but we feel uncomfortable in judging our own leaders and scientists. Yet a miscalculation today by them would be the end of civilization, and, deep down, we know that.

A selfish foreign policy

Let us look at some of of the U.S. government’s recent actions for which no American citizen, and especially scientist, can be proud of:

The United States has rejected the Kyoto Protocol to start reducing the carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel burning that are responsible for global warming. On July 23, with the United States holding out, 178 countries negotiated rules for implementing the hallmark global greenhouse treaty within a United Nations framework to combat Climate Change. The United States meanwhile objected to the treaty’s possible impact on its economy and judged it “fatally flawed.” Yet other nations hailed this agreement as “a major breakthrough.”

The United States has rejected the germ-warfare accord, putting the entire agreement in peril. Negotiations had been ongoing for almost seven years to find a way to ban biological weapons, but the United States sent the effort into a tailspin because of “long-standing concerns.” The U.S. position has put the fate of future talks in doubt.

The United States has rejected the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, which it and its NATO partners had helped negotiate, to ban all nuclear test explosions and thereby prevent the development of new nuclear weapon types. Despite the rejection, NATO allies are urging the United States to continue to provide its share of financial support for treaty’s International Monitoring System, which is vital to U.S. national test-monitoring goals as well. However, the Bush administration continues to project a negative position: It will not seek Senate approval for U.S. ratification in its current session and, at the same time, wants the Nevada Nuclear Test Site readiness pushed up. Yet officially, “It does not see any need for a resumption of test explosions in the foreseeable future.”

Various government documents show that the United States plans to control the world militarily by 2020, specifically through the domination of space. War planners anticipate “conflict involving employment of strategic forces and weapons of mass destruction, major theatre wars, regional conflicts and smaller-scale contingencies.” U.S. military documents predict that “we will win – but we should not expect war in the future to be either easy or bloodless”

U.S. policy aims to deceive the world, its adversaries and allies alike, as well as its own citizens. In his commentary titled, “Media are sadly misguided in missile-defense tests,” in the Aug. 26 issue of The New York Times, Thomas A. Halsted writes: “For years, the Pentagon and its Ballistic Missile Defense Organization have engaged in a continuing effort to delude the public and Congress into believing the United States is well on its way to developing a workable defense against ballistic missiles.” He asks, “Who benefits from such a deception?” And he lists the missile-defense system’s principal contractors: Boeing Co., Raytheon Corp., TRW Inc. and Lockheed Martin Corp.

But scientists are the pillars for this deception, and MIT scientist-professor Ted Postol spoke about this fraud in CBS “60 MINUTES II” in an interview a year ago, saying: “When I talk fraud, I’m being careful about the use of the word. I’m not saying there are people who have made a mistake, and I disagree with them. . . . I’m saying that there are people who know that this system will not work and are trying to cover it up. That’s what I’m saying here. So I am making a serious charge; I know that.”

The scientist-government dealé

In all of these policies, the U.S. government derives power directly from science. It is the scientists and engineers who make itpossible for the government to act with such arrogance. Therefore, scientists could and should influence the government against these destabilizing policy choices, if not for the rest of the world, then for this country’s own sake.

Let us not forget Einstein’s words for Americans, which are still valid today. Speaking on his first impressions of the United Statesin 1921, the famous scientist described a state of affairs that is identical or perhaps even worse today. He said in a news interview for Nieuwe Rotterdamsche Courant: “The United States is the most powerful among the technically advanced countries in the world today. Its influence on the shaping of international relations is absolutely incalculable. But America is a large country, and its people have so far not shown much interest in great international problems, among which the problem of disarmament occupies first place today.

“This must be changed, if only in America’s own interest. The last war has shown that there are no longer any barriers between thecontinents and that the destinies of all countries are closely interwoven. The people of this country must realize that they have a great responsibility in the sphere of international politics. The part of passive spectator is unworthy of this country and is bound in the end to lead to disaster all round.”

Such is the case for nuclear weapons, because the American public has been totally and deliberately excluded from policy decisions,which are vital if we are to change.

Einstein said in 1947 that “unless Americans come to realize that they are not stronger in the world because they have the bomb butweaker because of their vulnerability to atomic attack, they are not likely to conduct their policy at the United Nations or in their relations with Russia in a spirit that furthers the arrival at an understanding.”

His words on Feb. 16, 1931, at the California Institute of Technology still echo true today: “If you want your life’s work to be useful to mankind, it is not enough that you understand applied science as such. Concern for man himself must always constitute the chief objective of all technological effort, in such a manner as to assure that the results of our scientific thinking may be a blessing to mankind, and not a curse. Never forget this when you are pondering over your diagrams and equations.”

A way out

Judging from my own experience at two U.S. laboratories of weapons of mass destruction, I know that many scientists desire to leavethese places of war science. However, they have been trapped by the attractive high salaries and benefits.

We Americans are paying high salaries to scientists and engineers to do what? To prepare for the death, even by mistake, of our wholeplanet. Now our government is taking away our taxes to put these weapons in space.

Therefore, here is a proposal to help scientists extricate themselves from this dilemma. I call it the “Help Scientists and Engineers for Peace Fund.” It would provide money, here and around the world, to help scientists and engineers give up war science for worthwhile civilian research.

There are thousands of environmental and peace organizations around the world that can help make this happen. With the contribution ofan insignificant amount from each of their members and funding foundations, a fund of millions of dollars could be created to help scientists and engineers of conscience abandon the weapons work.

It is interesting to note that Einstein, in 1930, spoke on behalf of war resisters and said: “I suggest that pacifists of all countries start raising funds to support those who would want to refuse military service but who cannot actually do so for lack of financial means. I, therefore, advocate the establishment of an international organization and an international pacifist fund to support the active war resisters of our day.”

He did not only suggest this idea for war resisters, but also for German scientists, to help them leave Germany so that they would notserve in Hitler’s military preparations.

With the end of the Cold War, the time has arrived for such a fund to support scientists and engineers in disengaging themselves fromwar research and development.

We are running out of time. The atomic clock is always near midnight.

Organizations, such as the following, have advocated peace since their creation and have the resources and other capabilities to organize such a fund. They include:

Nuclear Watch of New Mexico at

Tri-Valley CARE (Communities Against a Radioactive Environment) at

Scientists at Los Alamos and the other nuclear weapons labs should be motivated to reconsider the culture of their own workplace, given the extraordinarily ill treatment and astonishing release from anine-month jail confinement of former Los Alamos Lab physicist Dr. Wen Ho Lee. The same can be said in regard to the proposed polygraphy testing and its disturbing history since it was proposed.

Humanity’s hope is that the scientists and engineers will be motivated by such a fund to take the courageous, principled path andto work on behalf of something they feel is meaningful, something that they believe in.

A hard path out

On the other hand, I feel morally and ethically bound to reveal to my weapons labs colleagues the risks inherent in following their conscience.

Many of these scientists did not have full and complete knowledge of the future use and results of their research on humanity and Earth at the time that were they were hired. It is appropriate that they have knowledge of the risks involved and make an informed decision before they take the principled path out of the labs.

Depending on their personal circumstances and their future plans, their economic security could be fleeting. It is possible that thescientist who will stand apart from the crowd could be abandoned and even attacked by friends and foes.

Scientists must examine their consciences, and only if the inner voice assures that they have the required strength to carry themthrough should they break away from war science, then and only then will their action bear fruit.

On Jan. 31 of 2000, I resigned from my permanent, highly paid, classified position at Livermore.

I went to Livermore believing that I would be useful in helping to dismantle nuclear weapons and in disposing of their deadly byproducts. That was my desire and intent.

Instead, I found myself expected to work on the maintenance of nuclear weapons as part of the Stockpile Stewardship program. I hadnot been informed properly about the nature of my future work because of security reasons.

When I realized that within the lab, environmental or non-proliferation work are illusions, I decided to resign. My conscience simply did not allow me to work for the development or maintenance of nuclear weapons. I believe that if a foundation or institution is corrupt, you must wash your hands and withdraw from it.

But to do so is not an easy matter. We all know deep in our hearts that the path we were meant to travel is the one that supports usnot just financially but also, most importantly, emotionally.

It has not been easy for my family and myself since my resignation. Circumstances have led us to virtually give away our house because of the present bad housing market and move to a different, less expensive city. If we do not do this, we will not be able to make mortgage payments.

This is not easy on the social lives of my children, who will be changing schools and friends.

The response of peace-seeking associations to the distresses of the future “breakaway” scientists will be an indication of whether they have a true desire to keep the peace message alive and to supply the logistical support necessary to promote it.

I believe it is the hope of most people of the Earth that scientists and engineers will be motivated to abandon their war-enabling ways before a world tragedy strikes.

We need to publicize and hold as role models future scientists who will renounce weapons work. Students at all levels of educationshould know about them. Let us start glorifying peace instead of war, to give a chance to our children to live their lives in peace and harmony.

They do not deserve what we have prepared for them. Being ten minutes away from a universal catastrophe at any given moment, we have an obligation not just to abolish weapons of mass destructionbut also to abolish war as a national policy.

Sites used in preparing this article include:  

Mr. Andreas Toupadakis, Ph.D. is a Former Research Scientist of Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories.