Beautiful place, isn’t it? It’s the quintessential tropical paradise. People were actually lucky enough to call this place home. Until the Americans came, named women’s bathing suits after the islands, and then “requested” that the inhabitants leave to so we could “conduct a few tests”.
You’ll have to pardon my little project here. I do have a sense of justice and I like to learn about cases of injustice and share them with others. One personal interest is in the injustices that are carried out in “our interests”. I know there are other countries that have poor human rights records. But we will never have the credibility to point our fingers at them until we look in the mirror and acknowledge our own human failures. Honesty and integrity are woefully lacking here. And we DO have the ability to effect change in our own land if enough of us cared about it. There’s nothing wrong with being an idealist. There IS something wrong with being a denialist. Anyway. On with the story.
We told the Bikinians that the move would be temporary and that we would take care of them. The people fully expected that we would perform a few tests and they could very soon return home. Little did they know that we would literally vaporize some of the islands into nonexistence. Little did they know that, even though we knew prevailing winds would be carried to their new “temporary” home, we went ahead with testing anyway, causing immediate radiation sickness, all manner of illnesses, miscarriages and stillbirths, and slowly lingering deaths. They could not conceive of our capacity to lie and ruin lives. To this day, residents of The Marshall Islands contend with very high rates of cancer in a sun-drenched location that should be virtually free of it.
“The promises [the Americans] made will always be remembered by our people. They told us . . . “Never mind if you are living on a sandbar or even adrift on a raft at sea. We will take care of you as if you are our very own children.” . . . We believed them, and in a way we were happy that they would be taking care of us. The world was a strange place for us then. We just couldn’t understand why they wanted our island, we just knew that we had to follow their requests.”
We placed them on an island that could not support them, so within months, Bikinians were starving to death.
“Many times even the ships refused to stop and unload supplies for the island. . . . The Americans . . . forgot about their responsibilities to us, and again we found ourselves starving. We were full of worry and near death. Their promises were once again not ringing true.”
“Our job [on Rongerik] was to go fishing . . . It was horrible. We’d get a few fish, then the entire community would have to share this meager amount. . . . The fish were not fit to eat there. They were poisonous because of what they ate on the reef. We got sick from them, like when your arms and legs fall asleep and you can’t feel anything. We’d get up in the morning to go to our canoes and fall over because we were so ill. . . . Then we started asking these men from America [to] bring us food. . . . We were dying, but they didn’t listen to us.”
The fallout wasn’t limited to the local population and food chain. Radioactive fallout was measured in cattle as far away as Tennessee. And this was no surprise to us. Documentation proves that we knew of the dangers.
It isn’t as though we didn’t know what was going on. But we didn’t do anything about it until we started to get bad press. A former secretary of the interior who became a newspaper columnist wrote about the Navy’s “arrogant injustice to a native people”. Can we come to any other conclusion other than the idea that we have a pathological tendency to view indigenous populations as being lesser people?
The harm and neglect isn’t limited to the Bikinians of course. Japanese fishermen and our very own servicemen were placed in harm’s way. This is typical of our neglectful treatment of servicemen though. It was our responsibility to — at the very least — monitor these men for signs of radiation poisoning in order to properly treat them. And of course, if we’re going to make human guinea pigs out of them, we could at least use the information to understand the pathologies of radiation poisoning such that we could help others.
People have to excuse me for my less-than-panicked reaction to illegal immigration. Part of it sort of has to do with the idea of hypocrisy. Of course, everyone knows what we did to Native Americans. “That was a long time ago” is the thought with which we assuage our guilty consciences. Well, what we did to these people goes far beyond any concept of illegal immigration because not only did we enter their country without any sort of proper paperwork or sense of legality or decency, but we kicked out the residents and destroyed it. We stole their homes and destroyed them. One of the world’s most glorious places of natural beauty. Bombed in our quest to come up with ways to kill as many people as we can.