COMPENSATION DUE TO MARSHALLS NUKE TEST VICTIMS:

Open Letter

Fred J. Pedro V7Emon Radio FM Majuro, Marshall Islands July 4, 2007

Open letter to the U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Hon. Clyde Bishop, and to the American people.

Salutation and peace be upon Your Excellency, your Government and the esteemed people of the Great American Nation.

Emon FM, its friends and supporters extend their greetings, best wishes and congratulations on this joyous occasion, the 231st anniversary of American independence.

From the roots of humble beginnings, signified by the landing of the first non-native settlers in Jamestown, the subsequent declaration of independence in 1776, conceived in liberty and rooted in enduring principles, the American Nation has sprung forth, changed World history and now the pillar of liberty and justice, a symbol of hope, and force for good on the Planet.

Nestled in the comforts of its lofty habitat, the American Eagle welcomed all that flocked to its shores in search of freedom and opportunity. The rich and vast diversity of the American family is unrivaled and a mirror reflection of all races, tribes and nations on earth. Though relatively young, the American Nation has experienced unparalleled trials, sufferings, progress, prosperity and triumphs. Its vitality and ability to overcome titanic upheavals and challenges of unimaginable proportions, is grounded in the richness of its racial diversity, and its unshakeable commitment to enduring values, freedom, justice, compassion, generosity etc.

Americans families fought one another to uphold these values. When the fires of the Civil War were quenched, the American Nation grieved the immense loss of life, and humbly gave thanks for the survival of its House--not as one divided against itself, not half free and half slave--but united, whole and free. Through times of foreign entanglements and isolations, the American Nation has learned that for its ideals to spread and blossom, it must proactively engage the World as its own interests are inextricably tied to that of all nations

"We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and pursuit of happiness" have inspired and remains the animating impulse and impetus for the onward march of democracy everywhere. Americans soldiers have fallen on many a battlefield in defense of its noble ideals. Whether on the banks of the Rhine, the deserts of Africa, the beaches at Tarawa and Normandy, the hills of Saipan and Iwo Jima, the jungles of the Philippines and Viet Nam, the harsh environs of Afghanistan and Iraq, Americans blood had flowed and continuing to do so to water the seeds of freedom and justice.

Today, the America Nation is again at the forefront of another raging global conflagration, protecting its values against the forces of terrorism. At the same time, and thanks to Americans leadership, totalitarianism is all but moribund, communism has retreated to a small corner of the planet, while the hosts of democracy are multiplying and marching triumphantly lifting aloft the banner of freedom and justice

Whether by circumstances forced upon it, or by divine design, as I am inclined to believe, the American Nation has become the leading keeper of planetary peace, the promoter of democratic societies and defender of the oppressed, the champion of human rights and the righter of wrongs amongst nations. However, let me also add that in my view God did not favor some of the American Nation’s undertakings.

Nevertheless, as the sole superpower, the strongest economy, the most advanced in science and technology, the standard setter for space exploration and medicine, the trend-setter for the performing arts and other fields of human endeavors and the champion bearer of moral standards, the America Nation has indeed earned the distinction of being the "Great Society."

Let us acknowledge as well that the American Nation’s rise to its lofty perch has come at high costs, and at great sacrifices, not only to the American peoples themselves but, to their allies and friends. These include peoples, tribes and nations, young and old, whom have stood steadfastly by the American Nation in times of upheavals and turbulence and have thus earned the honor of being called America’s truest friends. Among these are the Marshallese people and their nation.

Within the span of 12 years, the American Nation detonated 67 nuclear and thermonuclear devices. "The total yield of all nuclear tests in the Marshall Islands is 108 megatons, which is 98 times greater than the total yield of all U.S. nuclear tests in Nevada. Put another way, the total yield of the tests in the Marshall Islands was equivalent to 7,200 Hiroshima bombs. This works out to an average of 1.6 Hiroshima bomb per day for the entire 12-year nuclear testing-program in the Marshalls."

The $150 million Nuclear Trust Fund established to provide compensation for past, present and future Marshallese claimants, has failed to satisfy the awards to thousands of Marshallese claimants for personal injury and land property damages. The Petition requesting adequate compensation has wondered alone and unaided in the halls of Washington for seven years and is now reduced to a state of comatose

Meanwhile, the Marshallese Nation is grappling with the mounting social ills and problems unleashed by the nuclear specter and missile--testing program. Many Marshallese are saddened by the eerie silence from Washington, which they view as a sign of ingratitude. To a growing number, the condescending sense of having been used, abused and relegated to the wayside is setting in.

For the Americans Nation to continue to deny Marshallese appeals for just compensation on the basis of an agreement which it fashioned and forced on a weak and injured people as a pre-condition for the right of that people to self-rule is an unworthy, un-American-like act, and a repudiation of the values on which the great American Nation was founded.

To a fair minded observer, the 177 agreement, is but an agreement fashioned around half truths and misrepresentations designed to protect an abusive parent from being sued by an injured child/ who has come of age, for the harm, psychological scars and physical damage caused to that child’s person and property at the time the child was supposed to have been under the loving-care of its parent/guardian.

That American officialdom remains deaf to Marshallese appeals for justice constitutes irrefutable proof that the American Nation has, in this instance, bartered away its high ideals to inferior forces that are at odd with its core values and national ethos.

We’re convinced that neither the Marshall Islands nor the United States wish to dwell on the events of the past. There is overwhelming goodwill and desire on both sides to start anew. There is however, recognition as well that to successfully move forward, both must set aside their narrow-mindedness and work on a just, and long-lasting successor agreement that would bring to a bright ending what has been a traumatic and sordid nuclear experience for the Marshallese people.

As is often asked: what is, and how much is fair compensation? How can one measure fairness and adequateness in this instance? How can one quantify or convert justice into dollar value? In the absence of a global standard for measuring just and fair compensation in this particular case, we can only offer some suggestions.

As a starting point, let us consider the awards of the Nuclear Claims Tribunal to date, which is approximately $2.5 billions in personal injury and land property damages to thousands of Marshallese claimants and that only about four percent of these awards has been paid out.

It is felt as well that consideration ought to be given to creating a truly self-sustaining Inter-generational Nuclear Trust Fund. Perhaps, a combination of compensation schemes including monetary, federal programs i.e. perpetual immigration access and provisions of education program and related services can also be explored.

For the Marshall Islands and the United States, the nuclear legacy and use of Kwajalein Missile Range has been and continuing to be very contentious and thorny issues. Without doubt these two matters combined is the Achilles heel of what was once considered a unique and special relationship. As we look to the future, let us ask: why is it difficult for American officialdom to address these matters in a praiseworthy manner?

Unless the nuclear compensation issues and use of Kwajalein Missile Range are dealt with in an open, fair and mutually satisfactory fashion, they stand as a challenge to the values, the purposes and meaning of the American nation.

As we reflect on the significance of this historic day, it is our fervent hope that the American Nation would recall and heed the words of President Lyndon B. Johnson, when at the height of civil rights demonstrations in Selma, he addressed both Chambers of Congress and said: "Our mission is at once the oldest and the most basic of this country: to right wrong, to do justice, to serve man" "…For outside this chamber is the outrage conscience of a nation, the grave concern of many nations and the harsh judgment of history on our acts."

Jeramon, and have a festive celebrations.

Fred J. Pedro is a former special assistant to three Marshall Islands Presidents. He resigned in 2003 and currently operates an FM radio station in Majuro.

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