A half century ago on Monday, the United States conducted its largest nuclear test. Code-named Bravo, a 15-megaton hydrogen bomb detonated on Bikini Atoll, producing an intense fireball followed by a 20-mile-high mushroom cloud.
Radioactive fallout spread quickly, drifting toward Rongelap, an inhabited island nearby. Survivors remember the event vividly.
"It was the first time I saw the sun rise in the West," recalls Lemyo Enob, age 14 at the time. "At first, I did not know what it was, but then I understand it was a big bomb."
The 'sun' that day was a thousand times more powerful than the blast at Hiroshima, the Japanese city where the first atomic bomb was dropped and prompted the end of World War II.
She also remembers the effects of the fallout from the bomb: "Something like powder fell on us, Some of the people got nausea, some had diarrhea and they became red."
Under agreements between the United States and the Marshall Islands, a Nuclear Claims Tribunal was established to assess and award damages to victims of the nuclear tests. In 1999, the tribunal awarded more than $500 million to the people of Bikini and to complete its cleanup.
But the tribunal has never had the cash to fully compensate the Marshallese for the damage done, although a Bush administration official said U.S. assistance to the Marshall Islands is "one of the largest aid packages per capita in the world."
Officials in the Marshallese government say it would take $1.5 to $2.5 billion to complete the cleanup and to compensate the victims of the tests -- a fraction of the billions to be spent rebuilding Iraq.
Tomaki Juda, a Marshallese senator, notes the U.S. expenditures to help rebuild the infrastructure destroyed by the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. "Why won't they do the same for us?" he asks.
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A non-violent, counter-dominant, left-liberal, possibly charismatic, quasi anarcho-libertarian Quaker's take on politics, volleyball, and other esoterica.
Lo alecha ha-m'lacha ligmor, v'lo atah ben chorin l'hibateyl mimenah.