Bob Hanson

Treasurer | Democratic World Federalists

When will we learn that old u.s. foreign policy doesn’t work

One of my earliest memories is of my mother telling me “Bobbie if you make a mess, you have to clean it up.”   I’ll bet most of you got the same message from your parents.  Too bad our national leaders don’t observe the same advice.

What immediately comes-to-mind is our recent adventures in Iraq and Libya.  Our attempts at regime change have left both nations messed up and in much worse shape than when we invaded. 

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Younger readers weren’t around in the 1950s when the developers of the atomic and hydrogen bombs were perfecting their product. In 1947, The U.N. gave the U.S. trusteeship over the 2,000   Micronesian islands.  Just five days later, the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission established what they called the Pacific Proving Grounds and shortly thereafter began testing nuclear weapons in the atmosphere and underwater across the region.  One of my cousins signed up to work out there for what seemed a high paying, adventuresome job.  He died several years ago of pancreatic cancer.  Coincidence?

Over a dozen years, 106 tests were conducted in an effort to stay ahead of the Soviet Union, which was busy testing its bombs in Siberia.  The biggest bomb detonated was called Bravo.  It alone was the equivalent of 1,000 Hiroshima-sized bombs.  Most of the Marshall Islands were impacted by the tests.   Many are contaminated to this day.  In the late 1990s, Cancer Magazine published an article stating that cancer rates in the islands were “alarming.”  One study found liver cancer rates in the islands to be 15 times as high for men and 40 times as high for women compared to those cancers’ rates in the U.S.  Similar high rates exist for leukemia, breast cancer, and thyroid cancer.

In addition to the radiation poisoning, the crops and fish were poisoned causing residents to rely on canned food which resulted in high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes.

Several of the islands were vaporized and many others will remain contaminated for thousands of years.  Facilities on the islands for treating cancer are very inadequate…not a single oncologist is practicing medicine in the small nation.

The just and ethical thing would have been for our country not to do the testing in the first place.  But since we did, how about an apology to the survivors along with a major effort to deal with the resulting health crisis?  The islands were under the control of the United States when the testing occurred.  Shouldn’t the folks who live there be entitled to as good care as they would have received living here?  If we can find a trillion dollars over the next 30 years for upgrading our nuclear weapons war chest, surely we can find a miserly 50 million or so to develop a good health system for the small nation which we messed-up so badly.

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Dr. Robert Hanson is emeritus Professor of Recreation at San Diego State University, where he was on the faculty for 23 years. He is and has been a leading member of many activist groups including the United Nations Association, Citizens for Global Solutions, Amnesty International, Peace Action West, Common Cause, United for Peace and Justice, and others. He is also a member of the Green Party. A World Federalist for over 40 years, he is also a contributor to DWF News.

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