The Consequential Damages of Nuclear War: The Rongelap Report

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The hydrogen test-bomb Bravo, dropped on the Marshall Islands in 1954, had enormous consequences for the Rongelap people. Anthropologists Barbara Rose Johnston and Holly Barker provide incontrovertible evidence of physical and financial damages to individuals and cultural and psycho-social damages to the community through use of declassified government documents, oral histories and ethnographic research, conducted with the Marshallese community within a unique collaborative framework. Their work helped produce a $1 billion award by the Nuclear Claims Tribunal and raises issues of bioethics, government secrecy, human rights, military testing, and academic activism. The report, reproduced here with accompanying materials, should be read by everyone concerned with the effects of nuclear war and is an essential text for courses in history, environmental studies, bioethics, human rights, and related subjects.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“When I began to read this book, I found I could not put it away. In this gripping story, Johnston and Barker make a persuasive argument for redefining the compensation principle to include community damages associated with the loss of a way of life. Contending with the classification and reclassification of key government documents, and incorporating persuasive evidence from oral histories, archival research, and cultural landscape mapping, they render in powerful detail." —Edward Liebow, Battelle Centers for Public Health Research and Evaluation

"This powerful, sad, outrageous, important, spellbinding book is a dramatic history of America's second nuclear war, the one the United States Government waged with nuclear weapons tests in the Pacific against the Marshallese people, and with our own military personnel—the Atomic Veterans, who were ordered to participate in the atomic and hydrogen bomb tests of the postwar years. The consequences were devastating for both the natives and the service personnel, the cover-ups were criminal, and the lessons are palpable and relevant today. The Rongelap Report is at the top of my 2008 required reading list for both candidates and voters. That includes you!" —Martin J. Sherwin, PhD, Pulitzer Prize winning author (with Kai Bird) of American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer

"Consequential Damages of Nuclear War lays bare one of the cruelest chapters in modern history, where the people of the Marshall Islands were used as unwitting human guinea pigs for 67 nuclear blasts in the South Pacific, their homelands drenched by wave after wave of radioactive fallout and its deadly legacy of cancers, birth defects and infertility. Here is a disturbing and unflinching chronicle of offiecial lies, broken promises and felonious governmental indifference to horrific human suffering, cultural genocide and environmental ruin. Yet this terrifying story is not entirely grim. The pages pulse with the defiant voices of the Marshallese people themselves, who courageously refuse to play the passive role of atomic victims. At last, Johnston and Barker have given us a transcendent tribute to the heroic resistance of these nuclear nomads." —Jeffrey St. Clair, co-editor of CounterPunch; author, Born Under a Bad Sky

"In this riveting study, Johnston and Barker show what happens when a defenseless population is exposed to radiation from a bomb 1000 times as large as the one that destroyed Hiroshima. The 1954 Bravo test in the Marshall Islands damaged not only people’s bodies but the way of life of entire communities as well as the natural environment. Following the bomb test, the U.S. government subjected the victims to decades of medical testing as part of a secret military research project—even going so far as to deliberately put evacuees back into harm’s way for further exposure. With extraordinary sensitivity and insight, the authors draw upon extensive scientific and medical research but do so in a way that allows the Marshallese to tell their own story. The experience of those exposed is sadly reminiscent of that of survivors in Hiroshima and Nagasaki who were also studied but not treated by U.S. occupation authorities, and who suffered from recurrent health concerns, psychological damage, social ostracism, sexual humiliation, miscarriages and birth defects, and perpetual worries about the well-being of future generations. The Consequential Damages of Nuclear War is not only a model community study; it is a must read for anyone interested in the impact of nuclear weapons’ use upon any human society." —Peter J. Kuznick, Professor of History and Director, Nuclear Studies Institute, American University

"Consequential Damages of Nuclear War is a testament to why anthropology matters. Barbara Rose Johnston and Holly Barker bring heart, mind, memory and conscience to document a tragic past that many would have preferred be forgotten. Their careful scholarship and representative activism boldly declares the promise of engaged applied anthropology." —David Price, Saint Martin's University

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781598743463
  • Publisher: Left Coast Press
  • Publication date: 7/31/2008
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 312
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Barbara Rose Johnston is Senior Research Scholar at the Center for Political Ecology and winner of the Lourdes Arizpe Award, presented by the American Anthropological Association’s Anthropology & Environment Section, for her outstanding contributions in the application of anthropology to environmental issues and discourse. Among her recent publications are Disappearing Peoples: Indigenous Groups and Ethnic Minorities in South and Central Asia (ed., with Barbara Brower, 2007); Half Lives & Half Truths: Confronting the Radioactive Legacies of the Cold War (ed., 2007), Consequential Damages of Nuclear War: The Rongelap Report (with Holly Barker, 2008), and Waging War, Making Peace: Reparations and Human Rights (ed., with Susan Slyomovics, 2008). Holly M. Barker is the former senior advisor to the Republic of the Marshall Islands Ambassador to the United States, and now teaches in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Washington. She is author of Bravo for the Marshallese: Regaining Control in a Post-Nuclear, Post-Colonial World (Wadsworth 2004).

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Table of Contents

Prologue Consequential damages of nuclear war 11

The Rongelap report : hardships and consequential damages from radioactive contamination, denied use, exile, and human subject experimentation experienced by the people of Rongelap, Rongerik, and Ailinginae atolls

Pt. 1 Introduction 43

Pt. 2 Loss of a healthy, sustainable way of life 57

Pt. 3 Chain of events and critical issues of concern 89

Pt. 4 Summary of damages, needs, and compensation concerns 173

Pt. 5 Conclusions and recommendations 195

Epilogue Seeking meaningful remedy 225

Appendix 249

Glossary 260

Index 287

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