Avoiding Armageddon
About the Series

Ted Turner Documentaries
Ted Turner
Robert J. Wussler
President and CEO
Suzanne Arden
Executive Vice President

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Ted Turner Interview
Question: Why did you fund the documentary "Avoiding Armageddon?"
Turner: The whole idea of television news or any kind of news is to inform people about things they need to know about. And [because] these weapons of mass destruction pose such a threat to the continued existence and well being of mankind, it's a program that needed to be done. ... I came up with the idea for this program, and committed to produce it, long before 9/11.
Question: Before 9/11 most people didn't think about or discuss these issues. Why were you were ahead of the curve on that?
Turner: I'm a student of history and a student of global affairs. ... I was just thinking, what topic hasn't been done that needs to be done... what subject hasn't been covered, and I thought of weapons of mass destruction. I've been concerned about them for a long time. I think that we were very fortunate to escape the Cold War without nuclear annihilation. Even though we've been at peace with the former Soviet Union - now Russia - for the last ten years and even though they're a democratic, Christian, capitalist country, we still have the nuclear weapons pointed at each other. If we didn't already have them pointed at each other we wouldn't put them in place now because we're friends... But we just don't have the mechanism and the imagination to figure out how to get out of this trap.
Question: At the end of the Cold War many people felt that the world was safer than it was before... What did you think at that time?
Turner: When the Cold War ended and the Berlin Wall came down, and Yeltsin was elected in Russia I thought the Cold War was over and I thought that when we got around to it - within the next year or two - we'd work towards nuclear disarmament because the weapons didn't make any sense then, and they don't make any sense now. But, as the years went by and nothing happened because of inertia and other problems with the economy, [it became clear that] dealing with weapons of mass destruction, particularly nuclear weapons, is very difficult for any administration to deal with. You could just look the way and pretend they don't exist and maybe they'll go away on their own, but they don't. They just sit there, like a rattlesnake, under your dining room table, coiled up and ready to strike.
Question: When you heard about 9/11, did you think about weapons of mass destruction?
Turner: On 9/11... I wished that we'd done the series several years before. I thought that maybe, it could have in some way helped prevent 9/11.

If the perpetrators of the World Trade Center plane crashes had a nuclear weapon, there's no doubt in my mind but that they would've detonated it in New York. And, probably a million people or more would've died, depending on the size of the weapon. Or [if they] could set it off in the air, ... there could've been millions of people killed. And, that could happen next time if these weapons fall into the wrong hands. Of course, a lot of the biological and chemical weapons can just be made in your kitchen. Timothy McVeigh blew up the Oklahoma City Municipal Building with fertilizer, and a delivery van. So, we live in very, very dangerous times.
Question: Many people called 9/11 a wake-up call. Do you at least think that people have listened to that wake-up call?
Turner: Well, 9/11 was definitely a wake up call because it showed what people can do with, [weapons that were] not even conventional weapons. [The terrorists] turned a commercial airliner into a gigantic bomb. And instead of hitting the World Trade Center, they could've crashed those planes into nuclear power plants, in which case it would be almost as bad as a nuclear explosion. Chernobyl had three reactors, and only one of them was partially destroyed by the meltdown... the other two were okay. But if one or two large, fully loaded jetliners crashed into a nuclear power plant it would be almost the same as a nuclear weapon. And that's what scares me the most.... This can happen without having any kind of weapon - not even a rifle.
Question: What do you hope will be the result of this series?
Turner: My hope for this series is that it will cause people to give more thought to the subject. And I'm really quite an optimist - I think you have to be to live. And I think that we can get rid of these weapons of mass destruction. ...The technology to build them again still exists all over [the world]. Chemical and biological weapons are very, very simple [to make] ... or much more simple, obviously, than the nuclear weapons. But they don't pose the same sort of ultimate destruction of the human race that the large nuclear arsenals of Russia and the United States do. So I'd like to see a world without these weapons. And I think that's possible. And if this program can contribute towards helping to increase resolve to rid the world of nuclear, biological and chemical [weapons] then the series will have been a success.
Question: What can individuals do?
Turner: Well, hopefully, when somebody sits through [all] 8 hours of this, they'll have a lot of ideas ... about what they should ask of and expect and demand from ... people in government. Because they're the only ones that can make these changes, and they work for us. The governments work for the people in most of the world. And we can have a tremendous influence on governments by demanding that they put this on the top of the agenda.
Question: You've given enormous amounts of money to United Nations, to the Nuclear Threat Initiative, to environmental issues, and to this series. Why?
Turner: Well, I have been making a lot of major contributions to various organizations, causes, and projects over the last several years. I made a lot of money. I earned a lot of money with CNN, and satellite and cable television. And you can't really spend large sums of money, intelligently, on buying things. So I thought the best thing I could do was put some of that money back to work - making an investment in the future of humanity. I wanted to invest in my [human] race, my family, and my friends. I love this planet... I want to see the environment preserved and I want to see the human race preserved. And I'd like to see everybody living decently in a more equitable, kind-hearted, thoughtful, generous world. That's why I did it.
Question: These are such daunting issues. What do you see that's encouraging?
Turner: Well, you know a lot of people say that you can't get rid of nuclear weapons. You just can't do it. We've got them and if we get rid of them, what about the other guys? ... Everyone ... is concerned about doing away with them all at once. So I came up with an idea for a phase-out program. All the countries that have nuclear weapons would agree to disarm on the following basis: They would agree that they were going to disarm over a 10-year period. And they would stop building any additional nuclear weapons. There'd be no additions. Then they would destroy 10 percent of the [existing stockpile of] weapons each year for the next ten years. If the United States had 3,000, they'd get rid of 300 a year. If Pakistan had 10, they'd get rid of one a year. But that way - for at least 10 years - everybody would [maintain] their relative position to everyone else - it would increase or decrease. Everybody would be reducing at the same rate, and there'd be plenty of time to feel good. You'd have to do this with a certain amount of international supervision - the International Atomic Energy Commission, for instance. During that time the people ... wouldn't feel insecure.
Question: Do you feel the United States bears a special responsibility of leadership?
Turner: Does the United States have a special position of responsibility in this area? Yes, I think so - because we're the sole superpower. I mean, we are the economic and military superpower in the world - and the only one. Now, when you get to nuclear weapons we are held in check by the Soviet nuclear arsenal. They can destroy the United States ten times over. But that's the only check to us at the current time. So, we have a special responsibility because of our power, which is unparalleled in the history of the human race. No country has ever been so powerful. Not Rome at the peak of the Roman Empire. ...We should take the leadership role. And, in fact, if we don't take a leadership role, it's very unlikely that [we can decrease this threat].
Question: Countries feel that possession of a nuclear weapon gives them power. The conflict between India and Pakistan is a good example. Because Indian could overwhelm Pakistan with conventional weapons, Pakistan felt that they needed nuclear weapons. How do we deal with that?
Turner: Well, it's a real problem. Basically, we have move to a world where human beings act intelligently - where we start acting like educated, civilized human beings.... We have to trust each other. I mean, you know, anybody can make anthrax and distribute that. It's easy to do. We saw that here in the United States. And it might have been just some nut that did it. But they've never been caught. So, the only way to [go forward] is to have faith in each other. We have faith in each other when we drive in a car. We have faith that the person is not going to cross the centerline and commit suicide and then crash into you. Anybody can get a knife or a gun and shoot their neighbor. You know, we all have faith in each other all the time.

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