In 1947, the United Nations included the Marshall Islands in a Trust Territory controlled by the U.S., whose obligations included the duty to "protect the inhabitants against the loss of their lands and resources." Later in the year the U.S. evacuated the entire population of Enewetak Atoll, where it would explode another 44 atomic weapons, the last series in 1958.
On March 1, 1954, the U.S. exploded its first deliverable hydrogen bomb that, at 15 megatons, was more than 1,000 times as powerful as the Hiroshima bomb of 1945. The official story, which the U.S. government still defends, is that it was an "accident" that the bomb dumped so much radiation on downwind populations, and that Project 4.1 was initiated after the blast in order to help the victims as well as study them.
The record includes one reference to Project 4.1 prior to March 1 [the government says someone put it there after the fact]. More troubling is the undisputed evidence that the U.S. was aware that the weather had changed, that the wind was blowing toward populated areas, but they went ahead with the test anyway. After the radiation came down like "snow" on Rongelap and other islands, the Navy evacuated American personnel quickly, but left the "happy, amenable savages" to absorb more radiation for another two days.
As early as 1956, the Atomic Energy Commission had characterized the Marshall Islands as "by far the most contaminated place in the world."
For the victor, justice is only optional, not enforceable
In 1979, the U.S. allowed the Marshall Islands to become "self-governing," while the U.S. reserved the sole control of military use and defense of the territory. In 1986 the U.S. granted the Republic of the Marshall Islands "sovereignty" under the Orwellian-named Compact of Free Association, which left the U.S. in military control and free to use Kwajalein Atoll as a missile testing range. Four years later the U.N. ended the "nation's" Trusteeship status. The CIA estimates that the Marshall Islands' GDP is $182 million, of which the U.S. provides $70 million in aid payments, according to the State Department . Both the CIA and State Department omit unpaid compensation from their public summaries of the Marshall Islands.
"Nuclear Savage" includes U.S. Ambassador Greta Morris making a wooden public statement of "deep regrets" for the "hardships" the Marshallese have suffered "as a result of the testing program, as well as the accidental downwind injuries caused by one test, Bravo" -- which is the official version of the 1954 H-bomb Castle Bravo. Later Greta Morris is asked at a public event to discuss U.S. "government policy" -- the ambassador refuses to talk on camera.
In March 2012, at an event commemorating the anniversary of the H-bomb test, Marshall Islands foreign minister Phillip Muller called on the U.S. to pay more than $2 billion in awards already made by the Nuclear Claims Tribunal, which was created and underwritten by the U.S. The U.S. moral and financial obligation continues to grow, as the Marshall Islands are reportedly seeing a continually rising cancer rate more than half a century later. An the same event, according to Overseas Territories Review :
"U.S. Ambassador to the Marshall Islands Martha Campbell told the event in Majuro Thursday evening that "the United States has provided nearly $600 million in compensation and assistance to the Republic of the Marshall Islands to help the affected communities overcome the effects of nuclear testing,' and noted that the U.S. and Marshall Islands governments had agreed to "a full and final settlement of all nuclear-related claims' in 1983" [an apparent reference to the Compact of Free Association and its side agreements].
In 1998, staff from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) made a comparison study to compare the amount of radioactive Iodine-131 at four different radiation-polluted sites, measured in curies (1,000 curies of Cesium-137, as found in a radiation therapy machine, could produce serious health effects in a direct exposure of just a few minutes). The CDC team reported its finding that the atmospheric release of curies of Iodine-137 at the Hanford nuclear processing plant was 739,000 curies; at Chernobyl the release was 40 million curies; at the Nevada bomb test site, 150 million curies; and in the Marshall Islands, 6.3 billion curies (more that 30 times as much radiation as the other three sites combined).
The Republic of the Marshall Islands is ranked #5 in the world among countries with the highest health costs as a percentage of GDP -- behind Liberia, Sierra Leone, Tuvalu, and the United States.
The history of the treatment of the radiation victims of the Marshall Islands is essentially a paradigm for the treatment of radiation victims everywhere. The perpetrators of radiation-exposure lose patience with the seemingly endless effects of their acts and so they tend to abandon all responsibility for them. So far at least, the Marshall Islands history appears to be foreshadowing Fukushima's future.
Given the unpalatibility this story might have for an American television audience, it's little wonder that public broadcasting executives are content to spend public money to keep the public under-informed.
"The term "savage" is used to refer to people from primitive cultures, but this documentary shows how savagery reaches new levels with the advent of advanced technology. In the 1950s, the U.S. conducted 67 nuclear tests in the Marshall Islands, vaporizing islands and exposing entire populations to fallout. The people of Rongelap received near fatal doses of radiation from one of these tests, and were then moved to a highly contaminated island to serve as guinea pigs to test the affects of radiation on humans for almost 30 years, where they suffered from recurring cancers and birth defects that have affected multiple generations. This cynical act by the U.S. government was conducted with such arrogant racism that without incredible archival footage and shocking secret documents, the story would seem unbelievable."
-- Film Society Lincoln Center , New York City, description of "Nuclear Savage: The Islands of Secret Project 4.1"