If the whole Richard Blumenthal saga has taught us anything, it’s that the brazen mendacity of public figures is relatively easy to detect, provided that someone is willing to put a little elbow grease into the search. Of course, that search requires resources, specifically time and money. Microkhan is short on both, alas, so we can’t quite drop the investigatory bomb like the big boys of dead-tree journalism. But we’d still like to take a stab at debunking a claim put forth by a major historical figure: Sam Cohen, the man behind the neutron bomb.
Those already familiar with the history of nuclear weaponry will know that Cohen is quite a card—we very much doubt that his famous contemporaries would have had the gall to title their memoirs F*** You Mr. President! He also seems to harbor a deep sense of resentment against the military establishment for ignoring the neutron bomb’s tactical potential; as he made clear in this 2004 interview, Cohen believes that the weapon could have saved thousands of lives had it been used in Vietnam. He also insisted that the Vatican understood what the Pentagon could not:
I believe that the neutron bomb is a moral weapon: very discriminative and in accordance with the Christian just-war principle. And this was appreciated and recognised by the Vatican: in 1978, Paul VI gave me the Peace Medal.
Cohen repeats the claim in his memoirs, albeit a bit more colorfully:
Some weeks later I received a medal from his Holiness, Pope Paul VI. I doubt if I got it for stopping beating my wife.
While we don’t think it’s outside the realm of possibility that Cohen was so honored, a couple of things make us skeptical. First of all, try as we might, we’ve been unable to identify a “Medal of Peace” or “Peace Medal” among the Vatican’s long list of decorations. Furthermore, though The Tubes do not seem to offer a quick-and-easy compendium of living recipients of Vatican medals, news stores suggest that these honors are not handed out like lollipops—and certainly not without some degree of pomp. The fact that Cohen is Jewish should have certainly made waves at the time, since non-Catholic recipients of papal honors are a rare breed, indeed. Oh, and doesn’t it seem a wee bit unlikely that the Vatican would choose to honor a weapons creator?
An addendum to Cohen’s memoir claims that a photograph of his Medal of Peace exists. If anyone knows how we could dig that up, we’d be much in your debt. And if it turns out that Cohen’s honor is legit, we owe him a pint of airag.