Dennis Nelson, Ph.D.
Utah Downwinder of the Nevada Test Site
When I was small, I did not hear about Hiroshima, I did not hear about Nagasaki, I did not hear much about a world-war which claimed over 40 million lives. I mostly heard how lucky I was to be a proud, patriotic American Citizen. I was small then, and had no idea what that war had really been like. I had no idea what terrible pain and suffering war causes and did not realize that most war heroes are usually dead heroes. I had a romantic view shaped largely by watching numerous Hollywood movies that glorified America's battles. Even today, over 50 years later, the valiant efforts, sacrifices and pain of American soldiers are still idealized in books and on the silver screen. As I grew older I began to realize that war is not a glamorous business at all. I realized that war is made by the rich, ruling class, for their sole benefit, but it is the ordinary people who do most of the suffering and dying. I also realized that the constant anticipation of, and preparation for war could do great moral, social, psychological and even physical damage to a nation, even in the absence of actual fighting.
Battles have raged for centuries, yet never has there been one so secretive, so elusive, so devastating and brutal as the current one which has continued since the end of World War II. This battle started in a place called Trinity, deep in the breathtakingly beautiful expanse of the American west, and it has not ended yet. This battle does not consist of fancy dress uniforms, trumpets, and the noise of swords, but it is fought between men in powerful places and the children of the world. If this battle is not won, there will be no future, there will not be a world we can live in, there will be no place to be safe.
The ongoing nuclear war, which started in on July 16, 1945, in the beautiful desert land of New Mexico claimed my mother, my father, and my youngest sister. This war still claims its victims every day. Among the tribes of naitive American peoples there are Uranium miners who's lungs are bleeding, in Kazakhstan women mourn the family members they have lost, in Iraq babies are born deformed and in Kiev exposed children have no hair. The best hospitals in the world cannot cure radiogenic cancers without inflicting further harm and suffering on the dying victims.
My father died of lung and bone cancer at age 62, my mother of a brain tumor at age 47, my sister died of colon cancer at age 40, my brother contracted lymphoma at age 19 and there have been bladder and skin cancers and thyroid disease in my family. My father knew of the atom bombs being detonated 120 miles from our home. What he did not know was that over twelve years there would be nearly 1000 bombs exploded in Nevada, and the fallout sent on its way to cover our roofs, fruit trees, vegetable gardens, and clothing drying on the line. It would get into our homes, our cars and our food. It would get into our water, and the grass the cows grazed on, and into the fresh milk we drank. My father did not know that it would eventually kill him, his wife and his youngest daughter, and cause the rest of the family to undergo operations, treatments and medication for the rest of their lives. It was secrecy that fed this war, it kept the fires of the "cold-war" burning. It allowed the rich men to get richer, making astronomical profits from war materials production long after the world-war was over. The "cold-war"was a very HOT one indeed!
My town was not very big, about 5000 women, men and children, not armed with any defense, not protected in shelters, not warned of the incoming deadly attack. We were victims of science gone wrong, of crazy men thinking that by creating genocidal weapons they could save lives and make us more "secure." There are no memorials for those of us who have been maimed and poisoned by today's nuclear battlefields. Thousands of women have lost their breasts, thousand of men have lost their ability to take a painless breath, and millions of children have been denied a carefree and happy childhood. My own children have been deprived of knowing their grandparents. They have become experts at handling the news of terminal diseases striking down people they know and love. They too have become survivors; they deserve our recognition, our respect and our help. We must teach our children well; about the history of what came before them. Not only should we share the beautiful memories of times gone by, but we also must teach our children about those unpleasant historical events which have so deeply affected all of mankind and should never be forgotten. Otherwise they will be condemned to relive them.
The horrible destruction, which took place in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, should be an everlasting reminder that nuclear weapons do not make the world a safer place and that possessing them does not make any nation more secure. The persistent illnesses and premature death experienced by the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the populations downwind from nuclear weapons facilities and bomb test sites are a sober reminder of how vulnerable we all are as human beings.
The fact is, that people are still dying today in a nuclear war which started in the New Mexico desert on the 16th of July, 1945, and continues to this day with the last sub critical test in Nevada just a few weeks ago. There is no reasonable excuse to explode nearly 1000 nuclear bombs in my own back yard or anywhere else. It can only mean that certain people, who made these grave decisions in secret, had absolutely no respect for their fellow human beings. We were considered expendable in the pursuit of the "greater good." We could be killed without consequences and it did not matter if we were Japanese or American. This is a war without borders. Radiation and Fallout cannot be stopped once released. The events at Sellafield in 1957, Three Mile Island in 1976, Chernobyl in 1986 and Tokaimura in 1999 have shown us that even the "friendly" use of the atom is full of problems and dangers.
Fifty-five years of continuing radiation assaults have killed and maimed
millions. Hiroshima was an attack not only on the people of Japan,
but on the people of the whole world. If that were not so, I would
not be standing here today! I am also Hibakusha, along with my brothers
and sisters here in Japan, in Kazakstan, in Australia, the Marshall islands
and the whole world. Suffering and horror has brought us together,
but it is our mutual love of peace that will be the torch leading us into
a nuclear free new millennium.
Go back to the Menu of the Conference