"There's been a good deal of talk in Washington this last week about fig leaves, baloney, and SALT," said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), who then gestured at PepsiCo chairman Donald M. Kendall. "Now with Pepsi-Cola here it seems like we're almost opening a delicatessen."
But this was not a joking occasion, as Sen. Kennedy went on to make abundantly clear. This was a time to talk about nuclear holocausts and why the SALT II treaty should be signed. Kennedy and other pro-SALT leaders such as W. Averell Harriman, John Kenneth Galbraith, and former ambassador to the Soviet Union George Kennan gathered under the aegis of the American Committee on East-West Accord at the National Academy of Sciences building last evening.
The purpose of the occasion was to view a 24-minute, $70,000 film the committee has made to combat the "unbalanced point of view" presented in an anti-SALT film made by the American Security Council, according to Jeanne Mattison, who is the new film's producer and the committee's co-director. The committee is challenging 70 TV stations which showed the anti-SALT film to air its film as well, under the Fairness Doctrine.
As those uniquely American forces-special interest groups-rally their arsenals for the battle over signing or rejecting the treaty, one weapon readied by each side is what is called "public education". This consists of films and publications produced by the tax-exempt organization intended to sway the American public to one side or another and thus to influence their senators.
"Sixty-seven senators will decide the fate of this treaty," the film's narrator intones at one point, adding that every citizen is represented by two of them.
"I don't think we doubt the power of the opposition," said Galbraith in his brief speech following Kennedy's. He went on to say that a serious nuclear incident would make "the worst case in Pennsylvania look like a brawl between two Boy Scouts."
Galbraith said the economic interest in the arms race should be fully recognized and honestly acknowledged. He also said there is a "countervailing economic interest in peace. There is both a political and economic interest in survival."
Kennedy said that President Carter "deserves great credit" for the treaty agreement announced this week. "I'm hopeful this film will remind us of the human dimension" of the nuclear arms race, he said.
At hearings this month in Utah, Kennedy said, " . . . we met sheepherders that saw their wives perish and die because of leukemia. To the people of Utah the issues of nuclear confrontation are very real . . . those of us who support this agreement want the issues in this debate decided on a rational level. But I don't think we should remove ourselves from the extraordinary implications of what this treaty means." Kennedy slipped out before the film was over.
PepsiCo chairman Kendall, who warned that failure to sign the treaty as it is would "weaken the hand of those who are for detente," also took the opportunity to criticize the 1974 Jackson-Vanik amendment which linked Soviet trade privileges to a lifting of restrictions on emigration. "To be against human rights is like being against motherhood," Kendall said. "But to try to legislate social change in another country I don't think is really right." PepsiCo sells and bottles its soft drinks in the Soviet Union.
The film's title makes its point of view clear: "Survival or Suicide." It opens with a picture of a missile taking off and a deep voice saying. "This is an ICBM . . . powerful enough to wipe out a city of 10 million."
It goes on to say that both the U.S. and Russia have missiles "aimed at each other" at all times and that they would take only 30 minutes to reach their destinations. It shows graphic footage of victims of the Nagasaki and Hiroshima atomic blasts, contrasted with scenes of American children frolicking on a playground.
"I loved it because it made me resentful ," said Joel Brooke, current president of the Fund For Peace, after the movie.
"I thought it was very good," said Galbraith as he headed for the Great Hall where New Yord champagne was being served. "I admired the skill with which they got every president since Eisenhower in the movie." CAPTION: Picture, Donald Kendall and Jeanne Mattison, by Harry Naltchayan-The Washington Post