Magazine article New Internationalist

After the Bombs

Magazine article New Internationalist

After the Bombs

Article excerpt

Bikini Atoll is as close to the middle of nowhere as you can get. This is why the US tested its nuclear weapons there. Bikini Island, the largest in the atoll, is an eerie place. On a fragrant evening, beneath palms hurling coconuts to the ground in startling thuds, a concrete pad shines in the moonlight. It's all that remains of a church where the people of Bikini once worshipped. Then one fine morning in early 1946, US Commodore Ben Wyatt stood there and asked Bikini's 167 inhabitants to leave - 'for the good of mankind and to end all world wars' - so that the US could test nukes in their turquoise home.

Sixty-one years later and thousands of miles away, on 2 August the US Court of Federal Claims dismissed a lawsuit against the US on behalf of almost 4,000 survivors and descendants of those Bikinians. They are demanding that over a half billion dollars that was awarded in 2001 by the Majuro-based Nuclear Claims Tribunal (NCT) be paid. The NCT, created in 1986 between the US and Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI), has only been able to pay a fraction of that award. But the judge said it's a political issue, and that Bikinians should complain to the US Congress.

Bikinians are used to setbacks. They've suffered starvation and countless indignities. Some returned to Bikini in 1972, only to leave again in 1978 when told they were being poisoned by residual radiation. A1981 lawsuit was dismissed when the NCT was set up to adjudicate claims. But the NCT, under-funded by the US, has been swamped by claims from atolls across the northern Marshalls and has issued almost $2. …

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