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Nukes: Iran and North Korea are not the problem

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Thanks to the nuclear aspirations of North Korea and Iran, there's no shortage of rhetoric along these lines: "We can't let rogue nations have nukes. They might use them." Absent from the discussion are two elementary questions. First: What is the only nation to have used nuclear weapons (and have civilians been targeted)?

On August 6, 1945, the U.S. government ordered the dropping of an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. A Tokyo radio broadcast described how "the impact of the bomb was so terrific that practically all living things, human and animal, were seared to death by the tremendous heat and pressure engendered by the blast." Tokyo radio went on to call Hiroshima a city with corpses "too numerous to be counted...literally seared to death." It was impossible to "distinguish between men and women." The Associated Press carried the first eyewitness account: a Japanese solider who described the victims as "bloated and scorched-such an awesome sight-their legs and bodies stripped of clothes and burned with a huge blister." After visiting the devastated city, Australian war correspondent, Wilfred Burchett described Hiroshima as a "death-stricken alien planet" with patients presenting purple skin hemorrhages, hair loss, drastically reduced white blood cell counts, fever, nausea, gangrene, and other symptoms of a radiation disease he called an "atomic plague."

Shortly after Hiroshima (and Nagasaki), American nuclear researchers finally got around to examining the effects of plutonium on the human body. "There were two kinds of experiments," says Peter Montague, director of the Environmental Research Foundation. "In one kind, specific small groups (African-American prisoners, mentally retarded children, and others) were induced, by money or by verbal subterfuge, to submit to irradiation of one kind or another. In all, some 800 individuals participated in these 'guinea pig' trials. In the second kind, large civilian populations were exposed to intentional releases of radioactive isotopes into the atmosphere." Far from a momentary lapse amidst post-"Good War" paranoia, these U.S. radiation experiments have left a trail of declassified documents that stretches three miles long.

In Iraq (commencing in 1991), Afghanistan (since 2001), Yugoslavia (1999), and testing ground such as Vieques, Puerto Rico (only recently halted), the U.S. has continued to spread the radioactive aromatherapy via depleted uranium (DU) armor-piercing shells. "When fired, the uranium bursts into flame and all but liquifies, searing through steel armor like a white hot phosphorescent flare" explains James Ridgeway in the Village Voice. The heat of the shell causes any diesel fuel vapors in the enemy tank to explode, and the crew inside is burned alive. As grisly as that may sound, the effects of DU do not end with the scorched bodies of Iraqi "collateral damage." Anti-nuclear activist Dr Helen Caldicott explains that DU shells create "tiny aerosolized particles less than five microns in diameter, small enough to be inhaled" and can travel "long distances when airborne."

"There is no safe dose or dose rate below which dangers disappear," John Gofman, a former associate director of Livermore National Laboratory, one of the scientists who worked on the atomic bomb, and co-discoverer of uranium-233, reminds us. "Serious, lethal effects from minimal radiation doses are not 'hypothetical,' 'just theoretical,' or 'imaginary.' They are real."

Second elementary question: Who are the real rogues here?

Mickey Z. can be found on the Web at http://www.mickeyz.net.
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Mickey Z. can be found on the Web at http://www.mickeyz.net.
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