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Designed for Death, Helen Caldicott interviews Hugh Gusterson

Hugh Gusterson: In the last five or six years knowledgeable Americans have become more aware of how the rest of the world feels about them. As an anthropologist, I find it particularly offensive when you talk to weapons scientists, or to other kinds of nuclear weapons professionals, that there’s a uniform assumption that Americans are the only people who can be uniquely trusted with nuclear weapons in a way that black and brown people, non-Christians in particular, cannot. You hear it said that only Americans and Europeans have the strength required of people to have nuclear weapons. This flies in the face of the evidence, since the United States is the only country ever to abuse weapons.

Helen Caldicott: Is this the projection of the dark side by these Americans onto others?

Hugh Gusterson: All of this is a struggle with our unconscious persona that we find difficult to come to terms with, and then project onto other people. It’s been well established by psychologists as part of the process that makes it possible to wage war on other people. You don’t have to go to a nuclear weapons lab to find this kind of casual racism. You can open the opinion page of any American newspaper and find it there at least once a week, about Iraq or Iran or North Korea. It’s become something not even necessary to justify.

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