Saturday, May 21, 2016

PHOENIX and GOLDEN RULE (3): The facts

     With his usual thoroughness, Skipper went right to the library and started researching everything pertinent to our return to Japan.
     He started by examining the Atomic Energy Commission's injunction against entering the test zone. In The Forbidden Voyage, he writes, "The regulation is clear enough--stay out or take the consequences (up to twenty years in prison), but of course a departmental regulation has to be based on existing law, it can't just be pulled out of a hat. . ." The existing law, U.S. Code Title 42, Section 2201 (i) had to do with preventing the misuse of nuclear materials by outside agencies. "The law has absolutely nothing to do, as far as I can see, with the high seas, nuclear testing, the Trust Territories, or trespass of any kind. . .
     "One more point: Departmental regulations, by law, require a public hearing, and period of waiting, before becoming legally binding. The AEC seems to have waived these two requirements. The reason evidently was that there was no time to follow legal processes, since the Golden Rule was already on the way to the test zone. On the other hand, the AEC has been testing in the Bikini area for about twelve years now."
     But all that was beside the point, in a practical sense. The injunction had been passed and would keep us out of a large chunk of the Pacific Ocean for the foreseeable future--unless--
     Unless we wanted to challenge its legality by deliberately entering the zone. Most nations claimed jurisdiction over a three-mile area of ocean off their shores; at that time the USSR claimed a 12-mile limit. But no nation--no legal entity, only pirates--had ever before claimed jurisdiction over the high seas. And in our opinion, no nation had the right to do so.
     My father had a very American sense of justice. He was indignant at the unwarranted abridgment of his rights. And he was equally indignant at the unwarranted abridgment of the rights of minorities. In this case, the minority was a group of people on a remote archipelago called the Marshall Islands.
     What did the Marshallese have to do with whether we sailed into the forbidden zone or not? Their islands were within that zone. Our government was arbitrarily moving these people from their home islands--Bikini, Eniwetok--so it could detonate atmospheric weapons which would render these islands uninhabitable for decades, if not centuries.
     Worse, the Marshall Islands were a Trust Territory, entrusted to the protection of the United States. Rather than protecting the people, we were victimizing them. They needed protection from us.
     Not only did Skipper feel, "The AEC can't do this to me, to us," but "They can't do this to them--these people who have no voice and no recourse to justice."   
    Then there was the serendipitous timing of it all.

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