Dec. 1, 2010
by Andrew Kishner
It took over three weeks for the peace-loving nation of Japan to find out that the publicity-shy U.S. Department of Energy had sneaked in a subcritical nuclear experiment (a type of dress rehearsal nuclear test) in mid-September 2010. The close-to-critical nuclear experiment was conducted on September 15, 2010 under the newly dubbed Nevada National Security Site, a Department of Energy facility formerly named the Nevada Test Site where over 1,000 nuclear tests were conducted from 1951 to 1992. The anger that hotly percolated as Japan's citizens' eyes opened to that headline news in a leading daily paper one morning in early October manifested in formidable public outcry. Formal letters of protest poured into U.S. embassies, near-spontaneous sit-ins occurred around Hiroshima's Peace Park, and strongly worded sound-bites by enraged Japanese atomic attack survivors and nuclear abolitionists dominated television news broadcasts. The greatest impact from Japan's angered reaction to the test, which was dubbed 'Bacchus,' came in the form of dozens of letters—riddled with outrage—penned by both angry mayors in Japan (and their mayor allies across the globe) and various trade organizations of the island nation.
Those letters (all received by the U.S. Department of State) might have been considered for a short time by the State Department as the early signs of a minor international diplomatic crisis. But then came October 22nd and its tantalizing story of the day: experts believed, based on clues gleaned from satellite imagery, that North Korea may be preparing for its third nuclear test. State Department officials tossed Japan's protest letters, one could surmise, into a file cabinet and opportunistically ran with the North Korea story, calling a press conference heavily attended by international reporters where a spokesperson's finger—which might have just touched a letter of protest against 'Bacchus' written by a crippled Japanese nuclear holocaust survivor—pointed straight at North Korea. Condemnation by the U.S. that North Korea's supposed nuclear test preparation was a 'provocative' act fueled hype and rage across thousands of newspapers in the West and the world hasn't looked back since.
This author has not forgotten about 'Bacchus' nor the hypocrisy surrounding it. 'Hypocrisy?' you ask. Perhaps you remember something about Obama mentioning something in front of a very large audience in Prague - in an internationally televised event - that America's commitment was 'to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.' Maybe you remember it? People believed him, as usual, but any cynic of the 'take things literally' mind-set would tell you that Obama's pledge was a carefully-crafted empty promise that he could weasel out of later (as usual) by simply saying 'I said it might not happen in MY lifetime.' And he actually said that in Prague. The hypocrisy wasn't lost on the Japanese public, whose early October media blitz about 'Bacchus' focused on just that point: that Obama can't be pushing a 'nuclear weapons free' agenda while also conducting a subcritical nuclear experiment.
The reason why it took over three weeks for Japan's media outlets to learn about Bacchus was that the Western press - and the U.S. DOE - felt that Bacchus wasn't a newsworthy event. The DOE didn't give its customary 48 hour notice to the press (a courtesy they began when their first subcrit test was conducted in 1997) and only one mainstream news story appeared in the Western press about 'Bacchus,' written by an Associated Press reporter who never mentioned Prague (that article failed to become syndicated outside of the State of Nevada). Outside of Japan and Nevada, 99% of the world still doesn't know Bacchus happened nor of Japan's near-statewide protest (if you didn't visit a Japanese news website or watch their news in October, you didn't hear about their collective anger).
The Western media didn't just fail, egregiously so, to report on Bacchus, and also an overseas nationwide protest. They never gave thought to another glaring contradiction regarding the hype over North Korea's test preparations. Had the experts who studied satellite imagery over North Korea looked at satellite imagery taken of central Nevada about five weeks earlier the same accusation might be made: that the U.S. DOE's National Nuclear Security Administration was prepping for a full-scale nuclear test since preparations as viewed from satellite of subcritical tests also can look like the real thing!
India and the European Union, among other entities, have argued since their introduction by the DOE (in 1997, just five short years after the U.S.'s last underground nuclear test in 1992) that subcritical tests can be used to advance weapons development or abused by a determined treaty violator to sneak in a small low-yield nuclear 'pop.' They have argued that subcritical tests are pro-proliferation activities, even though the CTBT would exempt subcritical tests because they technically belong to the zero-yield experiment category. The CTBT exemption has been used as the justification for the West's conduct of subcrits.
While most people would argue—and perhaps they're right—that the U.S. wouldn't ever cheat test-ban agreements by sneaking in a very small nuclear test underground, that is not the point (although the U.S. has broken arms treaties many times, like when U.S. Atomic Energy Commission officials failed to 'steer' fallout clouds that originated at the Nevada Test Site from crossing repeatedly into Canada or Mexico). The U.S. should not be setting a precedent by conducting subcritical tests (or conducting subcritical tests the way they're doing) because it would be easy for any other nation to 'cheat,' for the reason that detection would be near impossible; by norm, subcrits are conducted out of sight (underground) and aren't subject to international monitoring or independent review. It doesn't take much effort to imagine that global doubts as to the actual activities and yields of underground, unmonitored subcritical tests conducted by one or more dishonest nations might trigger a new arms race. Why the U.S. doesn't simply refrain entirely, or at least conduct subcrits in aboveground steel vessels like it does with similar zero-yield hydrodynamic tests - mock plutonium-core explosion experiments - at Los Alamos National Laboratory's DARHT facility, has stumped most experts.
So, while in September 2010 the U.S. D.O.E. was likely moving around a similar quantity of cable, trailers and trucks as North Korea in October 2010, no one in the world seemed to care, or was watching. It was all about what North Korea may be doing. So when the news of 'Bacchus' crept around the world and reached North Korea, that government took the opportunity to point out a cousin of hypocrisy: the double standard. As transcribed by BBC Monitoring News service, an October 26th report from North Korea's state run news agency noted, regarding the U.S. subcritical test: 'The "threat" from 'someone' oft-repeated by the US while openly conducting sub-critical nuclear tests...is nothing but sheer sophism...The US asserts that...nuclear test[s] conducted by them are not problematic while terming even the peaceful nuclear activities of the anti-imperialist independent countries unpardonable "crimes". This is a brigandish logic.'
When the news of Bacchus reached Iran, the theme of hypocrisy heard across Japan was repeated in a letter of objection to Bacchus printed in Iran's conservative daily newspaper 'Resalat' (on October 20, 2010), which read: 'On the one hand, Obama stresses upon the US commitments to the reduction of the weapons of mass destruction, while on the other, by carrying out banned nuclear tests, he is paving the way for greater production and stockpiling of these weapons. This is the sort of dichotomy that has repeatedly been observed in the words and deeds of the US echelons...It is obvious that the perpetrator of a nuclear crime cannot talk of limiting the production and use of banned weapons in the world!'
Although neither country has received peace prizes in recent times, Iran and North Korea are actually trying to rightfully point out the contradictions of those "someones" in the world who allegedly should be setting the example for a nuclear-free world, but aren't. Contrary opinions coming from North Korea, Iran, and even Japan, however, have not been republished, mentioned or considered for consumption by news-hungry Westerners.
99% of us don't know that Japan, Iran and North Korea all have a good point: we started the fire and we keep reigniting it whenever nuclear abolition comes closer to becoming a reality!
That is the horrid truth, friends: our leaders—in politics, business and science—do not want nuclear abolition yet love to be posers for the disarmament cause! The U.S., with its latest subcritical test, is playing a cunning game with very self-serving ends: it can carry out just about any nuclear act it wants, then point attention to the defensive reactions by those who legitimately fear us (the victims) and we manage to convince the global majority that the Irans and North Koreas of the world are the madmen. We do this even while 'looking good' the whole time: the U.S. can conduct an underground, unmonitored nuclear experiment and remain portrayed as the champion of peace! The West's inept and backbone-less media fully and regularly neglects what harm the U.S. does (and has done) with its nuclear weapons development activities and, instead, they focus on how the 'madman' (aka true victim) reacts with their puny advances in nuclear energy and military infrastructure. With eyes set on the mad people, 'nuclear deterrence' becomes the justification in the U.S. once again for all the abolition-posers, and the game is won again: bureaucrats keep their jobs, the contractors stay in business, and we get to maintain our place in the world as bullies by waving our bolt of nuclear might whenever needed.
Ordinarily, my opinion would be that if nations' leaders want to mess around and play diplomatic chess, then let them play. But this game can, and does, dangerously affect human lives. Radioactive fallout will emanate—and travel globally—from any form of bunker buster attack on Iran's nuclear facilities, or an accidental vent of a radioactive cloud from a North Korean underground nuclear test, or a U.S. radiation-involved nuclear simulation test like 'Divine Strake' in the American West. All three events almost happened over the past few years. And all events could happen, and happen soon, potentially endangering the lives of thousands or millions of innocent persons. Presently, these radioactive dangers are downplayed or neglected altogether by the very entities we have actually entrusted with maintaining our security and our safety. This is not an oversight. It is a pattern of deception that originated in our early atomic past when radioactive events linked to U.S. nuclear weapons development were deliberately and criminally suppressed and covered up by such entities as part of an effort to keep the nuclear game going. By keeping the American public from knowing their true exposures which our leaders feared would lead us to rise up and ultimately bring about the abolishment of nuclear weapons, they could keep playing their game. That the victims of global nuclear arms development, production and testing remain forgotten and neglected is not an oversight. It is part of the game. It is part of the cover-up.
It is high time for us to evolve and grow up. Our leaders need to set the example and stop playing these games. But it is the citizens who are the key to the solution. We need to stop being naïve when it comes to the promises and intentions of our leaders and also our respective nations' so-called unblemished nuclear past. Unlearning and correcting the oft-revisionist history of the West's atomic age and the public health damage it did (each one of us was poisoned) is an excruciating experience especially for Americans for the plain reasons that our nuclear past is rife with un-American, immoral and criminal governmental and corporate practices and also woefully unstudied and unmonitored biological exposures to a litany of radioactive fallout chemicals that entered into our 1950s through 1970s' diets from nuclear testing conducted in Nevada, the Pacific, and by the Chinese, the Russians, etc...The group International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) asserted in a 1980s study that about 2 million cancer fatalities after the year 2000 will come as a result of the ingestion or inhalation of all that atmospheric global nuclear testing fallout that poisoned the Earth during the 20th century. IPPNW's death tally had been dwarfed decades prior by predictions by the two most prominent atomic testing experts-cum-dissenters of the 1950s, Linus Pauling and Andrei Sakharov (their calculations would put the death toll from global fallout in the 20th century into the many, many millions, with 4.4 million cancer deaths at the lowest part of the range).
The game must end before more of us get hurt.
So, let's pack up our toys and I have a new game we can play for a change. Peace.