Nuclear Free and Independent Pacific Day
On Monday it is the 50th anniversary of the day the US 'Bravo' nuclear bomb was detonated close to the surface of Bikini Atoll, Marshall Islands. The explosion created a fireball four miles wide that vaporized the entire 'test' island and parts of two others, leaving a hole in Bikini’s lagoon one mile wide and 200 feet deep. The fireball contained huge quantities of radioactive coral and water particles, which were sucked up with the force of the blast and distributed far and wide across the Pacific - the nuclear fallout covered an area of 7,000 square miles.
The island of Rongelap (100 miles away) was dusted with powdery radioactive particles to a depth of one and a half inches, and Utrik (300 miles away) was swathed in radioactive mist. The people of Rongelap and Utrik lived on their newly radioactive islands for three days, inhaling, touching and ingesting the fallout particles, until the US navy belatedly sent ships to evacuate them.
Just four months later the Utrik people were returned to their island, and in 1957 the Rongelap people were returned to theirs, after the US government claimed it had 'cleaned up' the radioactivity - subsequently proved to continue to persist at a high level.
Fifty years after 'Bravo', people whose parents and grandparents were directly exposed to the initial radioactive contamination continue to have radiation-linked health problems and genetic damage; and those who were not themselves directly exposed, but have lived on the contaminated islands, experience similar harm.
Classified US government documents released in 1994 indicate this radioactive contamination of the people and their environment was deliberate. For more information about 'Bravo' and Project 4.1, the project to study humans exposed to nuclear radiation, see this speech by Rongelap Mayor James Matayoshi.
This is but one example of the horrific racist experiments that colonising governments have inflicted on the peoples of the Pacific, used as human guinea pigs in the insane and pointless pursuit of nuclear weapons supremacy.
Nuclear Free and Independent Pacific Day is a day to remember that the arrogant colonialist mindset which allowed, indeed encouraged, the devastation mentioned above continues today - the Pacific is still neither nuclear free nor independent.
Pacific peoples have been, and continue to be, displaced from their homes and lands to make way for nuclear bomb explosions, missile testing ranges, military training, bombing ranges, strip mining, clear felling, factories, roads, hydro schemes, marinas, settlers and sheep ... dispossession, displacement, desecration of land and spirit, despair.
The cycle of destruction is clear - yet there is little willingness on the part of the settler peoples nor of the governments within (and outside) the Pacific to acknowledge it, let alone to work for positive solutions. Even were that willingness to be found, it is no longer clear that Pacific governments are in a position to exercise their, or acknowledge indigenous peoples, sovereignty because of the stranglehold of the TNCs and international financial institutions.
Monday is the day to acknowledge and remember those who have suffered and died in the struggle for independence around the Pacific; those who have opposed colonialism in its many forms and paid for their opposition with their health and life; and those who have suffered and died as a result of the nuclear weapons states' use of the Pacific for nuclear experimentation, uranium mining, nuclear weapons testing and nuclear waste dumping.
Monday is the day to celebrate the strength and endurance of Pacific peoples who have maintained and taken back control of their lives, languages and lands to ensure the ways of living and being handed down from their ancestors are passed on to future generations.
Monday is the day to pledge your support to continue the struggle for a nuclear free and independent Pacific - not just on Monday, but on every day of the year. As the theme of the 1999 Nuclear Free and Independent Pacific conference said:
No Te Parau Tia, No Te Parau Mau, No Te Tiamaraa - E Tu ... E Tu ...
Kia manawanui, kia u, kia kaha to all who are working for a nuclear free and independent Pacific.
If you are interested in more information about the Marshall Islands, see the Marshall Islands index. For an update on the impact of the 'Bravo' and other nuclear bomb detonations, see Marshall Islands Women's Health Issues. In addition to the horror of nuclear weapons 'testing', the US government continues to use Kwajalein (Marshall Islands) for ballistic missile 'testing', for more information see Weapons in space: the impact on the Pacific. If you are interested in finding out more about the Nuclear Free and Independent Pacific movement, see the 9th Triennial Conference Communique. Other index pages on this site relating to the Pacific can be reached via the Indigenous rights (Pacific) index page.
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