At the Board meeting of Science for Peace held July 14 1982 an ordinary member, Dr. Dimitrios G. Oreopoulos introduced a motion in the following letter:
“When I first joined the organization “Science for Peace”, I did it because, as probably did many of you, I believe that I had to do something to stop an atomic war. By joining an organization of scientists, I felt that my voice would be stronger and might be heard by the strong ones who decide our futures.
“Ironically, only a few months after I joined Science for Peace, two local but bloody wars erupted, namely the Falkland Islands war and the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. On a daily basis, my children and I could see young men being drowned or burned to death, and young children who should have been enjoying the sun and their innocent games, being killed or burned or seriously wounded. On television this has become such a common sight that it is difficult to distinguish the scenes of war from the movies depicting violent crime.
“The first war finished and the second is coming to an end with the victorious celebrations of the strong and feelings of extreme humiliation on the weak side. The anger and hatred between the opposing people is greatly increased over that which existed before the war. As far as the “Science for Peace” movement is concerned, we can thank God that we did not have to use science to prevent an atomic war, since one of the two sides in both wars did not have atomic weapons. However, it should require only a little imagination to visualize how the humiliated parties would have reacted if they had atomic weapons in their possession!! This brings forward the question whether we, as scientists and as members of the “Science for Peace” organization should concentrate on preventing atomic war or rather should increase our efforts for peace in general irrespective of the type of weapons used to break the peace.
“I do not think that we can avoid atomic war, if we do not try to improve the understanding between people; if we don’t try to make people feel proud of being citizens of this planet, rather than of their own nations.
“We should make it known that we oppose every type of aggression, every type of war, irrespective of the weapons used. We should make sure that the public opinion operates as a critical and important “weapon” that no political power can ignore.
“I would like to move that even with a delay, we should take a stand on both wars. We oppose the mindless action of the Argentinians, and at the same time we oppose the counterattack by the British. Public pressure could have brought the same results, perhaps a little later, but definitely with less loss of life and less humiliation. We oppose the terrorist actions of the PLO and the shelling and killing of Israeli civilians, but also we oppose the Israeli invasion and the indiscriminate bombing of cities with the consequent suffering of women and young children. Their suffering is our suffering.
“Our goal is to prevent atomic war. The time has come for us to realize that we cannot prevent it unless we oppose all wars. The time has come to make our views known. I think it was Dante who said that the worst place in hell is reserved for those who could have done something but did not.”
There was vigorous discussion of the motion in which ordinary and Board members participated. The arguments indicated two positions which can be broad-ly summarised:
- Science for Peace should restrict itself to technical matters in which scientists have expertise: we lose credibility if we make statements on purely political matters.
- Science for Peace has a primary objective of averting the threat of war waged with weapons of mass destruction; either the Falklands war or the Israeli invasion of Lebanon has the potential to escalate into nuclear war (unlike for example the civil war in El Salvador) and therefore they are a proper concern of Science for Peace.
We should like to know the views of members and we suggest they write directly to:
Dr. Dimitrios G. Oreopoulos, Toronto Western Hospital 399 Bathurst Street Toronto M5T 2S8
Dr. Oreopoulos is a University of Toronto Professor of Medicine and Director of the Peritoneal Dialysis Unit at Toronto Western Hospital.