Saturday, March 13, 2010

Imagine The Horror 2

These atrocities were the product of the bipartisan anti-Soviet war drive. O'Leary herself drove the point home at a San Francisco meeting with researchers from the University of California's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. O'Leary hailed "the science and the technology that built the bomb, that tested the bomb, that kept the bomb available to us" and declared, "I stand in support of that work and know that it was a good thing" (Oakland Tribune, 13 January).

Meanwhile, O'Leary has carefully steered away from the question of the massive radiation exposure in the nuclear weapons industry. Workers in these government-owned plants handle highly radioactive metals like uranium and plutonium, often with no more protection against radiation than if they worked in a steel plant. Plutonium wastes, which are both highly radioactive and extremely poisonous, are buried around these plants in unlined pits - often simply packed in cardboard boxes - and hundreds of tons of radioactive uranium dust has been released into the surrounding air and water. As one radiation specialist said of these installations: "the clinical study of the personnel is one vast experiment - never before has so large a collection of individuals been exposed to so much irradiation." (quoted in Barton Hacker, The Dragon's Tail [1987)).

O'Leary initially promised "compensation" to the victims of radiation experiments, which she grossly underestimated to be 800 people, but the White House quickly stepped in, saying that this was "premature." The US government actually pays all the legal fees ($47 million over a three-year period) for government contractors running nuclear weapons plants as they fight law suits by workers and neighboring residents. A federal program to compensate uranium miners and people living downwind from nuclear test sites has paid meager sums - often not even enough to cover medical bills - to only about 600 victims - and fewer than 500 soldiers who were exposed to atomic bomb tests have been able to get disability benefits for radiation-induced illness.

The victims of these Cold War horrors must receive proper medical care and finally be compensated for their injuries; they ought to be awarded punitive damages from the criminal government which caused their suffering, which no amount of money can undo. The government's massive files on the nuclear weapons program must be opened immediately - including giving workers in nuclear installations access to their now-classified medical records - before they are all censored or destroyed!

In justifying the unjustifiable, government "radiation specialists" tout the "critical, sometimes unique, data" the tests provided (New York Times, 1 January). In reality, these "medical experiments" were "critical" in order to scientifically plan mass murder. After unsuccessful attempts in the 1950s to simulate human radiation burns by placing animals near atomic bomb blasts (they dressed platoons of pigs in army uniforms, but their skin was too resistant; dogs were ruled out because of concern for the ASPCA), an Army doctor declared: "we decided it would be much better to start simulating these nuclear combat questions in laboratories, or to use human subjects when possible" (quoted in Roger Rapoport, The Great American Bomb Machine (1971)).

The macabre uses to which this "unique" data was to be put are reflected in the US Army's Handbook for Medical Service Personnel, which provides a guide for field commanders ordering troops into the blast area of an atomic bomb. It assures commanders that they will have "ample time to evaluate unit effectiveness as individuals become sick." The handbook counsels that, for example, at 200 rads of radiation, half the troops will experience nausea and vomiting, but "combat effectiveness" will remain 100 percent. At 600 rads (well over the lethal dose), troops will experience hemorrhage, and combat effectiveness will be cut to 50 percent. And at 1,000 rads, troops will experience convulsions and "progressive incapacitation" despite an "early capability for intermittent heroic response."

Most of the revelations now appearing in the press have been known for years. For example, a 1986 report by Representative Edward Markey's (Democrat, Massachusetts) House Subcommittee on Energy, Conservation and Power, titled "American Nuclear Guinea Pigs: Three Decades of Radiation Experiments on US Citizens," detailed 31 tests involving almost 700 people. But the report, coming in the middle of Reagan's Star Wars military buildup against the Soviet Union, was given short shrift in the corporate press.

The following are among the radiation experiments which have become public:

In the late 1940s, doctors fed radioactive iron - at doses 30 times higher than normal environmental radiation - to more than 800 pregnant women who sought free health care at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Their children were later found to suffer a high rate of cancer.

In December 1949, a huge cloud of radiation was deliberately released from the Hanford reactor in Washington, blanketing the Pacific Northwest with perhaps thousands of times more radiation than the 1979 Three Mile Island accident. The purpose was to test instruments designed to monitor the fallout from Soviet atomic bomb tests.

From 1946 to 1956, Harvard and MIT scientists fed breakfast cereal laced with radioactive calcium or iron - some doses were equivalent to 50 chest x-rays - to more than 120 adolescents at a school for the mentally retarded. Children were told they were joining a "science club" and got a free watch, while parents were assured the children would receive an improved "special diet."

In 1957, US Army doctors injected Eskimos and Athabascan's of northern Alaska with radioactive iodine. A few years later, scientists spread radioactive debris, brought from the Nevada atomic bomb test site, on the tundra where the Native Americans hunted, causing many of them to die of cancer.

From 1961 to 1963, over 100 people at the University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory were fed fallout from the Nevada test site or "simulated" fallout containing radioactive strontium, barium and cesium.

Over a period of five years starting in 1961, researchers at MIT injected 20 people with radioactive radium and thorium. The victims were retired MIT employees and other "apparently healthy men and women" drawn from the Age Center of New England, a group of Boston elderly who agreed to participate in a variety of "research projects on aging."

Human "Experiments" at Ground Zero

In addition to its Nazi-like medical "experiments," the US government exposed hundreds of thousands of soldiers to atomic bomb blasts to test whether they could, or would, follow orders to carry out "mopping up" operations after a nuclear blast. Entire infantry units, armored convoys and even paratroop battalions were used in these "war games" between 1946 and 1962. As they inhaled the toxic radioactive dust, the soldiers would quickly show symptoms of radiation sickness - nausea, vomiting, dizziness - while Army medical personnel jotted down their reactions. Today (1994), these veterans suffer epidemic rates of cancer, musculoskeletal deterioration, nervous disorders and other consequences of their massive exposure to radiation. And as was noted by Oscar Rosen, commander of the National Association of Atomic Veterans, "most of the atomic test survivors are working class people, poor people, who have nothing - they were used!" (People's Weekly World, 22 January).

Last fall, the media raised a hue and cry that in 1954 the Soviet Union carried out an atomic bomb test "near 45,000 Red Army troops" (New York Times, 7 November 1993). But the number of US servicemen exposed to radiation from nuclear explosions was more than ten times that number. Even the US government's Defense Nuclear Agency was forced to acknowledge in the mid-1980s that some 200,000 US servicemen were used in nuclear bomb tests. Veterans' groups have estimated that the number of troops exposed to the blasts was probably closer to 250,000 - in addition, another 240,000 US troops were sent in to occupy Hiroshima and Nagasaki shortly after those cities were reduced to irradiated rubble by the savage US atomic bombing. And these figures do not include the untold numbers of Japanese who were killed by nuclear blasts or later died from exposure to the radiation. The Defense Department's claim that only a tiny percentage were exposed to high dosages of radiation is patently absurd when compared to the stories related by the troops involved. Former Marine Fred Warehime (who later lost a lung to cancer) described a bomb test in 1953: "the fireball was right straight up above our heads, I mean right over our heads - we had to be in the stem of it - "we were only 300 yards from ground zero - I told my men to get out of the trench and move out... then we got a sunburn, and the guys all started throwing up in the truck going back - the guys in that bunker in front of us were sick as dogs, all of them." (quoted in Carole Gallagher, American Ground Zero (1993)).

There is also convincing evidence that during nuclear bomb tests US officials deliberately incinerated human beings by forcibly exposing them to the bomb's searing blast. Marine sergeant Israel Torres recalled his participation in the 1957 explosion of an H-bomb: "we'd only gone a short way when one of my men said, [expletive], look at that! I looked at where he was pointing, and what I saw horrified me - there were people in a stockade - a chain-link fence with barbed wire on top of it... their hair was falling out and their skin seemed to be peeling off - they were wearing blue denim trousers but no shirts - when we passed those people - there were ten or twelve - they tried to cover their faces with their hands... [expletive], it was scary." -- (Thomas Saffer and Orville Kelly, Countdown Zero (1982)).

When Torres told this to nurses at the hospital where he was treated for radiation sickness, he was turned over to military psychiatrists and intimidated into keeping silent. Torres' testimony was extensively quoted in a legal brief by attorney William Fletcher published in the Washington Law Review (April 1990) - and Carole Gallagher, in American Ground Zero, reports that in her interviews with victims of the nuclear tests she "came across the same story again and again" from men who participated in that test. They reported seeing animals burned to a crisp, humans handcuffed to fences. "When soldiers spoke of seeing the burned and shackled remains of humans on the nuclear battleground, they were submitted to the same psychiatric deprogramming."

Another group of human guinea pigs who were deliberately exposed to radiation were the "downwinders," residents of the towns downwind from the Nevada test site. Reassured by the government that they faced no danger, families had backyard picnics to watch the explosions, and children playfully shook the deadly fallout from the trees like snow. Entire families in these regions have been almost wiped out by leukemia and other cancers. It has been estimated that the fallout from nuclear testing will ultimately kill almost one million people worldwide from lung cancer alone.

Worst hit by the radiation from nuclear testing were the US subjects of the Marshall Islands, who were blasted with 66 nuclear test explosions - including all the most powerful hydrogen bomb tests. As a result, the Marshall Islanders have been ravaged by cancer and much of their islands rendered virtually uninhabitable. After a 1954 explosion, the deadly fallout was so thick that inhabitants of Rongelap Atoll, some 250 miles downwind from the blast, were severely burned by the radiation, and almost all the children later got thyroid tumors.


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