Nuclear Survivors Remembrance Day
Tuesday, 02 March 2010 03:26 by Sen. Ben Pangelinan
March 1, 2010 marks the 56th year of the explosion of the most devastating instrument of mass destruction of its time and for many decades to come, the nuclear bomb, Code named “Bravo” on the peoples of the Pacific. It was detonated by the United States on the Pacific atoll of Bikini causing unforeseen but not unhoped results on the people and the environment of the Pacific peoples, including the people of Guam.
In a triumph of science for the United States, the bomb, 1000 times more powerful than the bombs dropped on the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki propelled the United States as the undisputed world power being the only nation to possess and use such an incredibly and indiscriminately destructive force.
We commemorate the people and remember their suffering who live each day of their lives, diminished in its quality from the long term effects of radiation sickness, a multitude of cancers now left to fend for themselves after the destruction of their island homes and dislocated from their ability to survive from the bounties of their oceans.
The explosion vaporized the coral, the land and the water. This toxic mix mushroomed into the atmosphere, traveled and fell upon the islands of Rongelap 100 miles away and Utirik over 300 miles away, buried beneath the radioactive fallout.
To this day, the United States professes it needed the development of such weapons of mass destruction for “the good of mankind and to end all world wars.”
While it has succeeded in the development of the bombs, what it has failed to do is to make good to mankind its promise to take care of the people who lived it, utterly disrupted and destroyed. Nor has it owned up to its responsibility and acknowledge that the debilitating effects of the test reached our shores as well.
Instead, what we have reaped from this policy of nuclear armament and development is a community that struggles to cope with the ill health effects on the child bearing women whose babies are still born, born without limbs, heads and skeletons. In the ensuing years, survivors of the testing are ravaged with cancers at rates beyond existence anywhere else and the people of Guam have not been spared.
The struggle continues for the survivors of ERUB—the islands of Enewetak, Rongelap, Utirik and Bikini, who have become nuclear nomads, looking for a habitable and hospitable place to make their lives whole. It is no coincidence that “erub” in the Marshallese language means broken or shattered. They continue their efforts to mend their lives as they pursue greater compensation from the United States that has underfunded their radiation compensation programs.
Next month, Guam’s community of radiation exposure victims will go before the US Congress to present their own case for inclusion in the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA). It is a struggle, long and hard, emotional and draining, bolstered by the United States’ own panel of scientific experts, who unequivocally stated that Guam received significant radioactive fallout for the atom bomb tests and should be eligible for compensation under RECA. I hope to be presented the opportunity to continue assisting them in their efforts.
The following month, the Non-proliferation Treaty Review Conference will convene in New York. It is our hope that our President will lead the nations of the world and unite towards an agreement that will rid the world of nuclear arms.
Let the destruction of the past, guide us in our efforts to heal the world and its peoples. Let this day of remembrance of nuclear survivors set our moral compass on the path of justice.
Ben Pangelinan is a Senator in the 30th Guam Legislature and a former Speaker now serving his eighth term in the Guam Legislature. E-mail comments or suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com