"You mean there's a catch?"
- Joseph Heller, Catch-22 (1961)
Joseph Heller, who died last December, held the admiration of many for the past four decades for his depiction of the stark irrationality of war and his exploration, in absurdly circular words, of the paradoxical power of language to misstate and obscure meaning.
Both aspects unfortunately remain relevant to the justifications offered for the retention of nuclear weapons and the promotion of nuclear power. The policy of deterrence absurdly asserts that the world is made safer by the threat of nuclear war. Article IV of the NPT provides for assistance to non-nuclear weapon states in the development of nuclear energy for "peaceful" purposes, thus perpetuating the myth of a distinction between the dangers of nuclear weapons and the "benefits" of nuclear power.
While Catch-22 was ostensibly about World War II, as the critic Alfred Kazin wrote, it "is really about the Next War, and thus about a war which will be without limits and without meaning, a war that will end when no one is alive to fight it". This is a precise description of nuclear war, with the unparalleled global ecocide that would result.
We shall miss hearing more of Heller's complex, ironic voice, but we need to heed his dark comic genius to overcome the impasse of Catch-2000.
- Elizabeth J. Shafer (New York lawyer and member of the LCNP Board)