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The legacy of colonialism casts a long shadow

We must never forget Remembrance Day in the Marshall Islands where the US carried out 67 nuclear tests in 12 years, says BILL KIDD MSP

YESTERDAY was Remembrance Day in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the small Pacific Ocean state which only became independent 35 years ago. 

It will forever carry the legacy of its colonial past due to the United States exploding 67 nuclear tests on its territory over a 12-year period following the second world war.

The strength of these tests was such that it was the equivalent of a Hiroshima explosion every day of those 12 years. 

The white snow-ash that fell on land and people during these tests burned the skin, caused hair to fall out and “jellyfish babies” have been born, with no bones and translucent skin which means that the brains can be seen inside.

The US government established a nuclear claims tribunal which promised $2 billion in damages, but only $4 million has been paid out and there’s no enforcement mechanism in place — so the abusive relationship continues. 

The US still holds itself out as the friend and supporter of the Marshallese people and is terrified that China is delivering aid and the prospect of economic growth to such states in the South Pacific. Warm words without actions are worthless.

Of course, colonialist attitudes are worldwide, with big boys’ nuclear toys being one of the symbols across the board. 

Unbelievably, this can be traced right to our own doorsteps — Westminster’s cunning plan to use Caithness in the north of Scotland as a nuclear test site in the early 1950s remained an official secret for 30 years.

As we know now, the only reason that this jolly jape didn’t go ahead was because of the inclemently wet weather conditions around Wick and John O’Groats. 

It seems that the delicate electronic measuring devices which would record the explosive power and radioactivity of test bombs were adversely affected by the heavy rain, so the project was halted. 

Not, then, because of the inherent frailty of the local populace, but because expensive electronics could be damaged.

So the nuclear explosions went to the hot and dry South Australian desert instead — after all, the Aboriginal people who called that area home are black and far away, so nobody cared. Except those who called that land home.

Nuclear weapons are weapons of mass murder and anyone who maintains that a nation state or a bloc such as Nato can and should maintain these as part of a system of national defence is perpetrating a continuing colonialist mindset which continues with the inhumane and criminal acts perpetrated on Marshall Islands, Kalgoorlie, Kazahkstan, Nevada and Hiroshima/Nagasaki in our recent past. 

Bill Kidd is SNP MSP for Glasgow Anniesland.


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