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(Article changed on March 23, 2014 at 15:46)

Fukushima and Crimea -- Crisis Mis-Management 101

By William Boardman  -- Reader Supported News  

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Governments find it hard to do the right thing for their people -- why? 

There are those who say that the idiots running western and allied governments (the "civilized" countries) are pitching the world towards a pair disasters, the full realization of either of which, in its most extreme form, would likely change life on earth for the worse for most folks, whether it's the continuing, unabated nuclear meltdowns in Fukushima or the continuing, unabated political meltdown over Ukraine that risks nuclear war. There are also those who don't say that these leaders are idiots. We'll see how things turn out.

As mid-March 2014 unfolds, neither Fukushima nor Crimea is yet at the brink of global catastrophe, apparently, but neither seems subject to safe and sane response from people in authority, either. That's not to predict an end-of-the-world scenario for either disaster, just to remind people that, at the extreme end of these uncontrolled events, there are horrendous logical risks that our leaders are amiably accepting (or urging) on behalf of the rest of us.  And they seem to expect our gratitude, for their efforts in Ukraine or their lack of efforts in Fukushima, more or less equally. 

Even though it's Japan's third largest prefecture, Fukushima is a relatively small place, as those things go: 5,321 square miles, a little smaller than the state of Connecticut. With a population of about two million, Fukushima is comparable to New Mexico (Connecticut has 3.6 million people). Fukushima is unique in the world in having suffered the March 11, 2011, earthquake/tsunami/triple meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station. This three-part event has so far killed some 20,000 people, with 2,600 more still missing, and it's turned another 300,000 people into internal refugees with little or no hope of returning home (terrible numbers that pale in comparison to Syria, whose disaster started about the same time). The world's response to Fukushima has, in all respects, been spotty and ineffective.  Japan's response to the needs of its own people has been spotty and ineffective, except for the robust insistence on re-starting all its nuclear reactors. 

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U.S. considered using radiation as a weapon in World War II

And of course the release of radioactive isotopes into the air and water around Fukushima continues, unevenly but without let up in its fourth year. In the run-up to the atomic bomb, physicist Robert Oppenheimer weighed the comparable effectiveness of just irradiating enemy populations, rather than obliterating them and their cities. There was little doubt that spreading plutonium on people would kill or injure them in effective numbers, but the dying might be too slow militarily and the ground would be poisoned against future occupation.  

One might think the unceasing release of radioactive substances that potentially threaten the health and safety of people around the globe to a greater or lesser extent might get more attention (at least as a health concern if not as an event tantamount to an act of war), but then one would not be thinking like an international leader.

In terms of geopolitical significance, it matters more to those in charge that people are living under their politically preferred ideology than if they're being exposed to excess radiation that will make them sick, give them cancers, or kill them. Fukushima is the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl (which just happens to be in Ukraine). The 1986 meltdown of just one nuclear reactor left a radioactively contaminated "dead zone" of more than 1,000 square miles from which evacuation was compulsory (although some 200, mostly elderly "samosely" are allowed to remain). Other danger zones, from which the government compels or assists resettlement, exist outside the "dead zone" and have yielded more than 100,000 nuclear refugees. [There is at least one other, 834 square mile "dead zone" in Belarus, which received an estimated 72% of the early heavy fallout from Chernobyl, contaminating 25% of the country. Additionally, more than two million people in Belarus still live in radioactively contaminated areas that have been made "safe" by the government's arbitrarily raising radiation limits. The Belarus and French governments, together with the United Nations and nuclear industry interests (including the IAEA), run a program (secret before 2004) to resettle people into radioactive areas. Reportedly, the Japanese government, TEPCO, and U.N. agencies are considering resettling Fukushima the same way, by defining danger away.] 

Crimea has NEVER been an integrated, satisfied part of Ukraine

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Almost twice as big as Fukushima, Crimea is still a relatively small place, but with a character all its own. Crimea's 10,404 square miles represent less than one-twentieth of Ukraine (233,000 square miles, bigger than California, smaller than Texas). Chernobyl, not that far from Kiev, has always been more or less part of Ukraine. By stark contrast, the history of Crimea's integration with Ukraine is all but non-existent in history.  In the mid-1400s, Crimea was a Tatar state founded by a descendant of Genghis Khan. In 1478, Crimea became a tributary of the Ottoman Empire until 1774, when it became an independent state, essentially liberated by Russia (until Russia annexed it in 1783). Crimea remained part of Russia until 1917, when it declared its independence again (which lasted about a year, before it was occupied by the Soviet Union, then the Germans, then the Soviet Union again).

In 1921, Crimea was granted "autonomy," which was interrupted by the German occupation (1941-43), then stripped by the Soviet Union in 1945.  Still part of the Soviet Union in 1954, Crimea was organizationally transferred to Ukraine, also part of the Soviet Union. In 1991, Crimea became the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, within the Soviet Union, followed by a power struggle with the Kiev government in the aftermath of the Soviet Union's break-up. In early 1992, the Crimean Parliament proclaimed its independence as the Republic of Crimea and adopted its first constitution (which it amended the same day to say Crimea was part of Ukraine); within weeks, Crimea dropped its proclamation of self-government in an apparent trade-off for greater autonomy from Kiev, but the dispute over the status of Crimea continued to feed political turmoil until Ukraine executed a constitutional coup. On March 17, 1995, the Kiev government scrapped the Crimean constitution, sacked the Crimean president and eventually established, with obvious irony, the "Autonomous Republic of Crimea" -- which still had periodic anti-Kiev eruptions and now (as of March 16) has voted to join the Russian Federation. 

Contrary to many media reports that the Crimean referendum offered no real choice, the actual ballot had two rather different and nuanced choices: 

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Vermonter living in Woodstock: elected to five terms (served 20 years) as side judge (sitting in Superior, Family, and Small Claims Courts); public radio producer, "The Panther Program" -- nationally distributed, three albums (at CD Baby), some (more...)

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