Monday, May 16, 2016

PHOENIX and GOLDEN RULE (8) Ted's perspective

    "Why did we do it?" Ted, then 20, wrote after the fact in a broadside, Voyage of Protest. "In a letter, written to our friends, we listed briefly the following reasons for action:
     "1. As a moral protest against nuclear testing.
     "2. As a defense of the freedom of the seas.
     "3. As a test of the legality of the AEC ruling, prohibiting entry into the test zone.
     "I would like to share with you some of the thinking which led the five of us to risk the hazards of radiation exposure, the ire of the military, and the slur of the name 'lawbreakers'. . .
     "Following are seven statements which the crew of the Phoenix believe to be correct.
     "1. Nuclear testing causes a certain number of deaths in the world through the medium of radioactive fallout. The most authoritative report on the subject is that released last summer by the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation . . . praised by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Federation of American Scientists, the National Academy of Sciences and the AEC [Atomic Energy Commission]. No one has challenged its accuracy.
     "Now, the report says: 'Exposure of gonads to even the smallest doses of ionizing radiation can give rise to mutant genes which accumulate, are transmissable to progeny and are considered to be, in general, harmful to the human race. . . It is important to minimize undue exposure of populations to such radiation and so to safeguard the well-being of those who are still unborn." And again: "Besides increasing the incidence of easily discernible disorders . . increased mutation may affect. . .characters such as intelligence and life-span."
    "The report says that, even if no more tests are made, there will be from 400-2,000 cases of leukemia yearly, from tests already made. The Committee concludes that all steps designed to minimize irradiation of human populations will act to the benefit of human health. "Such steps include. . . the cessation of contamination of the environment by explosions of nuclear weapons."
    "Even Dr. Edward Teller, 'father of the H-Bomb', and the world's most impassioned advocate of continued testing, admits that from 200-1,000 people might die from each megaton of fission exploded. . . At this rate, a single bomb estimated at about 30 megatons. . . means the eventual death of between 6,000 and 30,000 human beings.
    "2. The very testing of nuclear weapons not only violates international law, but also the basic principles of the United States. The Trust Territory agreement, under which we are entrusted with the Marshall Islands, states unequivocally that the welfare of the natives is paramount. For example their health is to be protected, and they are not to be moved from their homes. Our government has broken these agreements, in order to facilitate its testing program. This is a clear-cut violation of international law, against which the Marshallese natives themselves have petitioned the United Nations for redress.
     "3. Our allies desire us to stop nuclear testing. In a 1958 Gallup poll, the question asked in the capitals of the free world was, 'Do you think the United States should stop making tests with nuclear weapons?' The results expressed as percentages [Ted gives each one, a range of 53% to 90% in 15 polled capitals].
     "The military has said that stopping the tests would be 'betraying our free world allies.' Actually, it seems clear that the continuation of such tests is the true betrayal.
     "4. The Atomic Energy Commission has consistently sought to misinform the public, as a matter of policy. Dr. Charles Price, in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists for June, 1958, lists clear-cut instances in which the Atomic Energy Commission has been caught in its deception of the public.
     "All activities of the AEC are directed toward the continuation of nuclear testing, under their direction, come what may, and consequently, the playing down of any possible danger to mankind from fall-out.
     "5. Our present policy of nuclear deterrence is both useless and dangerous. The methods meant to protect our country are hastening the day of its possible destruction. Articles published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists show how superficial are the treatments given in popular magazines. . .on a policy which, if mistaken, could result in a nuclear cataclysm.
     "6.  The usual democratic means of protest to the government are vanishing. A petition to stop atomic testing, signed by thousands of American citizens, was refused admittance to the White House. The petitioners were told they could 'leave it with the policeman outside.'
     "Again, our family cabled President Eisenhower, strongly protesting the actions of AEC. We received a mimeographed form from the head of AEC itself, the very man we were complaining of, stating that there was no danger from testing.
     "The judge who convicted the captain of the Phoenix, commenting on the question of United States violations of Trusteeship Agreements, said, "If they are being violated, it doesn't become American citizens to tell their own country that they are being violated."
     "Our country is in a dangerous condition, when an American citizen is not permitted to criticize his country, even if it is admittedly in the wrong.    
     7. We were justified in breaking the regulations of the AEC, proclaiming 390,000 square miles of high seas out of bounds. I quote from Justice William O. Douglas: "An unconstitutional act is a lawless act by the legislature. The humblest citizen, confronted by all the forces of the state which insist that he obey the law, may take matters into his own hands, defy an unconstitutional statute, and risk the outcome on the ultimate decision of the courts. He may forsake the orderly processes of society and proceed as if the statute does not exist."
     These are some of the beliefs which the crew of the yacht Phoenix carried with them into the nuclear test zone. Do you believe my argument incomplete? It is to your vital interest to complete it. Do you believe I have left more questions unanswered than answered? It is to your vital interest to find the answers. Do you feel my conclusions are not valid? It is to your vital interest to prove or to disprove them.
     If anyone agrees with me solely on the basis of what I have said here--I cannot accept such easy compliance. I am pointing to a signpost--where it points is for you to say. Never again will there be an excuse for giving the answers of other men.

(Condensed; Published in full in Scribble, Winter, 1959)

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