The father of the Hydrogen Bomb

September 11th.

Oh yeah, everyone made a big deal out of it, but I frankly don’t see the
point. Something far more important should be commemorated this week (and
never again): the death of Dr. Edward Teller.
Teller is credited as the father of the Hydrogen Bomb, but frankly, he
should be thought of as one of the fathers of the Nuclear Arms Race.

After Robert J. Oppenheimer and his brain trust successfully created the
atomic bomb, they were wracked with guilt. Although they had ended the
war, they experienced a first for scientists: the true guilt that they had
created something that could terminate the human race. While such moral
dilemnas existed for scientists before Oppenheimer, it was the Manhatten
project that made the debate real, instead of theoretical.

Once the Soviet Union had acquired their own atomic bomb, Oppenheimer
argued vociferously that the only moral course of action was to
immediately negotiate a treaty with the Soviets to end atomic bomb

Dr. Teller was not bothered by these reservations. He used his
connections with the Pentagon and the President to help stoke the fears
that fed the nuclear arms race. The bomb was built, and the nuclear arms
race began.

A final nail in the coffin, Teller eventually testified against
Oppenheimer in a witch-hunt that revoked his security clearance for
failure to support America’s nuclear program and because of his refusal to
renounce his Communist friends. The witch-hunt was not reserved to
Oppenheimer, and US Senators were known to frequently ask scientists,

“Have you as a citizen the right to interpose your political judgments on the matter and thereby frustrate the contribution that you as a citizen, particularly equipped by Almighty God and the great genius that you have, have you the moral right, I wonder, to withhold?”

One of Oppenheimer’s colleagues, Hans Bethe, answered,

“This, after all, is a free country… a country which prides itself on giving the right to the individual to decide his own actions. .. [The hydrogen bomb] will not do us any good and it will not win the war for us, nor the lack of it will not lose the war for us. If America is truly a free country, then it shouldn’t be treason.”

Bethe, a fallible human to the end, relented and worked on the hydrogen
bomb and subsequently condemned himself for this weakness, both in public and in private. As recently as 1995, he urged scientists to take a Hippocratic oath with the plea,

“I call on all scientists in all countries to cease and desist from work creating, developing, improving and manufacturing further nuclear weapons – and, for that matter, other weapons of potential mass destruction such as chemical and biological weapons.”