Fallout. Boy!

Ripped from the headlines, it’s Quiz Time, fellow Citizens.  Where did this quote originate? Is it a part of Donald Trump’s Ukraine Defense strategy? Executive order on Border Wall funding?

“That determination is a matter properly the subject of executive discretion,” maintained the Government’s attorneys in a statement submitted….”

Let me give you the beginning of the quote, to help:

”The United States denies that it had the responsibility of notifying its citizens of any potential health hazards. That determination is a matter properly the subject of executive discretion,”

Oh, c’mon that’s too easy.  It has to be the Trump EPA… for what, a leaky oil pipeline across a wildlife refuge? Lead released into Flint, Michigan’s water supply? You would be wrong, but I don’t want to demotivate you. Let’s try an easy one:

“That was one of the reasons he was so upset about this. And I have news for everybody. Get over it.”

That’s right. That is Mick Mulvaney, part-time White House Chief of Staff, moonlighting as Office of Management and Budget Quid Pro Quo Justifications Division head, justifying a self-dealing bribery/extortion racket between the US President, Ukraine, and a certain aging Italian lawyer.  Now that your confidence is up, let’s try a harder one in the same vein:

”People have got to learn to live with the facts of life,” he continued, ”and part of the facts of life are fallout.”

Testing is over. Let’s reveal the results.

The first excerpt is from a US Attorney’s defense brief, fighting back against the charge that the Federal government knew that open air Nuclear testing was dangerous to people living in the region.  That case began in 1979, and ultimately resulted in reparations being paid to citizens of Utah and Nevada who lost family members and ¼ of the sheep population of both states.  Mysterious cancers, “mysteriously” sprang up in the wake of the US’s above-ground Nuclear testing.  Weird. Who could possibly have anticipated?

And that last quote? Frank Libby, director of the US Atomic Energy Commission said this in 1955.

The US AEC knew atomic testing was deadly 24 years before citizens figured it out on their own and fought back. Well, that’s not quite right.  Citizens detected excess radiation as early as 1957 and fought to get the government to reduce the program’s impact.

The AEC thought about it, but goll-dang it, that would cost too much…

”If we continue to reduce the fraction [ of radiation ] we are willing to release, we eventually reach a cost of control which makes the operation prohibitive,” Gordon M. Dunning, 1957 Congressional Hearing[1]

So instead of fixing the problem, they sold it:

”You are in a very real sense active participants in the nation’s atomic test program,”
James E. Reeves, the Nevada Test Site, test manager

Truer words have perhaps never been spoken, before or since, by a Federal Government bureaucrat. Optimistic projections, justifying “progress” that, in 24 years, would rain grief and havoc on the lives of these lucky participants, in the form of melanomas; leukemia; vaginal, kidney, lung, and colon cancers.  And dead sheep, and shepherds.

“We liked to play under the trees and shake the fallout onto our heads and our bodies, thinking that we were playing in the snow.

I remember writing my name on the car because the fallout dust was so thick. Then I would go home and eat. If my mother caught me as a young child, I would wash my hands; if not, then I would eat with the fallout on my hands.”

Gloria Gregerson, 1982; testimony to Congress.

While the story I weave in my forthcoming memoir is only peripherally connected to Nevada’s Nuclear history, I think I have found the perfect Epigram for, “Downwinder: A Memoir of Fallout and Half-Lives” :

“People have got to learn to live with the facts of life, and part of the facts of life are fallout.”|
– Frank Libby, USAEC Director, 1955.

== == ==

[1] All quotations are excerpted from Howard Ball’s book, “JUSTICE DOWNWIND” as adapted for a New York Times article appearing in print on Feb. 9, 1986, Section 6, Page 33 of the National edition with the headline: DOWNWIND FROM THE BOMB.



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