A major West German political figure has described Carter administration plans to produce a neutron bomb as "a symbol of mental perversion."
Egon Bahr, once chief strategist for former Chancellor Willy Brandt and now executive secretary of the ruling Social Democratic Party of Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, asked in today's edition of the weekly party newspaper Vorwaerts: "Is this supposed to be the latest progress?Is mankind going crazy?"
Bahr's comments are the first by a major political official within the ruling Bonn coalition to question openly the potential American deployment of missiles with neutron warheads on West German soil.
Chancellor Schmidt has said nothing publicly about the weapon and an aide said tonight that he did not know if the neutron bomb had come up in private discussions just completed between the chancellor and President Carter. Schmidt returned here tonight from Iceland after his North American trip.
Government sources say they do not know the chancellor's private views about such a weapon but acknowledge "a certain uneasiness" among those party officials who idd not know about the weapon until it was reported in the press several weeks ago.
"A number of them are somewhat astonished," an official said.
Although West German defense specialists - like most of those throughout the North Atlantic Treaty Organization - see important military advantages in such weapons, there has been surprisingly little discussion here concerning the political and philosophicl questions raised by a neutron bomb.
Bahrs's comments therefore could reflect the beginnings of serious political resistance in West Germany to the new weapon. The West Germans presumably would have to approve its future deployment here by U.S. forces.
Bahr, who was the minister for development aide in the Schmidt Cabinet before taking over the job of party manager, complained that the neutron weapon had "turned the scales of values upside down. The aim now," he said, "is to take a care of materials. Man has become second class."
The Social Democrat official asked: "What is it that we want to protect?"
The neutron bomb is an old idea that has been given new impetus by the Carter administration. The weapon is basically an atomic bomb, but one in which the killing is done mostly by radiation rather than by the blast, shock and heat of conventional atomic explosives.
The tactical significance is that the weapons could be used against enemy troops and tank concerntrations without necessarily demolishing nearby cities and towns.
NATO officials view the weapon as a major potential offset to Soviet numerical superiority in tanks and guns. For the weapon to be effective, however, it would habe to be used with short-range missiles and artillery relatively close to the front lines, and that means it would have to be based in West Germany.
Advocates contend tha the weapon would revolutionize Western defenses and be a major deterrent against Soviet attack but Bahr warned tht no nation has ever maintained a monopoly on a new weapon.
Critics argue that even though the neutron bomb is supposedly a "cleaner" nuclear weapon once it is used it will mean stepping over the threshold into uncontrollable atomic warefare. Critics also argue that such a weapon will blur the line in a commander's mind between conventional and atomic weapons and make easier a decision to use the nuclear arsenal.