Doctor Atomic, Mohamed ElBaradei and the Bunker Buster


In the last couple of weeks there have been two widely examined events related to the recent 60th anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. First, Bay Area residents have been filling up Doctor Atomic, an edgy opera focusing on scientists' moral agony during the build up to the first atomic bomb test. Second, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and its director general, Mohamed ElBaradei, jointly won the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize for their work to inhibit the spread of nuclear weapons.

Much has been written about the meaning of both events. Critics have wondered whether opera is capable of taking on a topic of the bomb's magnitude. Are the overwhelming issues too simplified? Does the image of the bomb hovering over a baby carriage become too familiar by the end of Act Two? In the case of ElBaradei and the IAEA, is the award a slap to the Bush administration and its attempts to oust ElBaradei? Among other critical stances, he has called the administration on claiming to support nonproliferation while simultaneously itching to produce the inevitably environmentally devastating "bunker busting" "mini nukes".

The average person may not be an opera aficionado or be up on the nuanced meanings of Nobel Prize picks. However, U.S. residents who haven't learned to stop worrying and love the bomb can encourage their senators to eliminate bunker buster funding. In the coming weeks, the Senate will decide whether to include their development as part of the 2006 defense bill. Senator Kennedy (MA) will offer an amendment to eliminate the funding.