2011 Conference Against A & H BombsJanuary 5, 2012
Nuclear armament is a point of contention that has been historically pertinent and perilous to Oceania. Our region experienced its first encounter with nuclear testing on 1 July 1946. On this day the United States detonated two fission bombs in the Bikini Atoll of the Marshall Islands. Moreover, on 1 November 1952 the first hydrogen bomb was tested by the United States in the Marshall Islands. Between 1966 and 1974, France subjected Tahiti to radioactive fallout from atmospheric nuclear tests. Furthermore, France continued to marginalize Tahiti with underground nuclear tests in subsequent decades. The aftermath of these tests introduced radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean whilst simultaneously upsetting the natural ecology and destroying human life.
Sadly though, the plight only worsened for Oceania. Foreign powers such as the United States, the United Kingdom, and France have used Oceania as a guinea pig for countless nuclear tests. As a result of these horrendous experiments, the region was compelled to take action in order ensure its future safety. On 6 August 1985 South Pacific island countries came together to create what is widely known as the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty (also known as the Treaty of Raratonga). This treaty was established in order to set regional parameters against nuclear testing. The United States is the only nuclear weapon state that has failed to ratify the all protocols to the treaty.
Currently, the Treaty of Raratonga guarantees the prohibition of nuclear weapons in the South Pacific. Moreover, the treaty also prohibits the transportation of such weapons through this region. Unfortunately, though, the same cannot be said for the entire Oceania. The Compact of Free Association (COFA) undermines the goal for a nuclear weapon free Oceania. With this treaty the United States blackmails and manipulates the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau by making financial assistance contingent upon military access and expansion. In effect, this gesture allows these small island countries to fall under an unnecessary nuclear umbrella of the US. But who are the Marshall Islands or Micronesia or Palau going to war with? It is a joke and the United States knows it. The USA agenda is all about military domination. That is the name of the game.
But what do we see today?
There are individuals and organizations around the world calling for nuclear disarmament. There are countless people putting pressure on the nuclear weapon states by raising awareness and signing petitions. The quest for nuclear disarmament has become a grassroots movement at its finest. But the stories and voices of the Hibakusha, Pacific Islanders, and other nuclear victims around the world still must be heard in every land.
The disaster at the Fukashima Diiachi Plant was an unfortunate incident that leaves questions abound. The Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) recently stated that a plan to inject 16 tons of water into reactors 1, 2, and 3 every hour would allow the company to bring the plant to a “cold shutdown” by January 2012. But what happens to any leaking radioactive water in the meantime? Does it enter into the water supply? Will it affect other Pacific countries to the south?
One industrialized power, though, has decided to take a definitive stance in the wake of the Fukashima disaster. Germany’s coalition government has made plans to shut down all nuclear plants by 2022. Switzerland has plans in the works for a nuclear energy free world. Moreover, in a speech I attended on 6 August 2011 in Hiroshima, the Prime Minister Naoto Kan stated, “Japan will not be dependent of nuclear energy” moving forward. These are words. But the United States remains undeterred in advancing nuclear energy projects. In a CBS television interview on 15 March 2011, President Obama stated, “[It is] important for us to think through constantly, ‘How can we improve nuclear technologies?’” Moreover, instead of making plans to move away from nuclear energy, the US is proposing a new rule that would require nuclear plants to be capable of sustaining 72 hours of back-up power. Really? Is this all?
A famous American soul singer by the name of Edwin Starr once asked, “War! What is it good for? “ to which he quickly retorted, “Absolutely nothing”. Well, I say, “Nuclear weapons! What are they good for? Absolutely nothing!” To date, the nuclear complex has produced Hiroshima, Nagasaki, the Bikini island experiments, Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, Fukashima and countless more acts of inhumanity. Is this the peace and safety nuclear weapons and nuclear energy was supposed to provide? Any potential future atrocities must be thwarted. And if the United States is going to live up to its self-proclaimed title as the greatest nation in the world, then it had better take the lead in the nuclear disarmament.
We all have a vision for a nuclear-free world. But in order to bring that vision to fruition, we must begin to adjust our sight. We must open our eyes to the hypocrisy that allows the US, France, the UK, Russia, and China to advocate against nuclear weapons whilst they themselves simultaneously possess them. We must open our eyes to the unsettling paradox that the possession of a weapon that kills people inherently keeps people from killing. We must open our eyes to the fact that nuclear deterrence has only led to a domino effect in which other nations around the world seek to arm themselves with nuclear weapons. We must open our eyes to the fact that other issues are being ignored or underserved because nations rather spend time and resources on building bombs than feeding people, educating children, and creating new infrastructures and technologies.
Once we open our eyes to these realities, we will begin to see a world full of promise. We will see a new world in which nations utilize their resources and time to increasing the quality of human life. We will see a world where small nations are no longer manipulated by superpowers and nuclear conglomerates. We will see a world where words like “determent” are archaic and obsolete. We will see a world where the public does not blindly accept phrases like “cheap and safe energy”. Instead, we will see a world where words like “vitalization”, “innovation”, and “cooperation” are the norm. Furthermore, we will be able to celebrate the precedence of “no more Hiroshimas and Nagasakis” because there will be no more nuclear bombs. Thank you for your time.
Aaron Wiggins serves with the Pacific Christian Council located in Suva, Fiji. Aaron will serve as a program associate working with advocacy and justice issues related to global warming, nuclear testing, etc.
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