Swickard: New Mexico Downwinder justice denied

© 2015 Michael Swickard, Ph.D. 
"Justice delayed is justice denied." William Gladstone
             A group of New Mexicans have a legitimate suspicion that they were injured by the actions of our government years ago but no one today cares. I am one of them. We are called Downwinders since the suspicion is that our injury is from the downwind residue from the first nuclear explosion.
            That twenty kiloton nuclear explosion was in a remote area of New Mexico seventy years ago this July 16th. The scientists wanted to be sure the device would explode correctly when dropped over a Japanese city.
            The implosion-design plutonium device at Trinity Site was similar to the bomb detonated over Nagasaki, Japan August 9, 1945. In the seventy years since that nuclear test our world has changed dramatically and yet some of that 1945 world perhaps stays with us Downwinders.
            We suspect we are survivors of invisible pollutants from that nuclear explosion leading to our health problems. For me it was an aggressive form of thyroid cancer. Around Chernobyl it is called Radiation Induced Thyroid Cancer.
            The 1986 Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident injured many people downwind of the area, however, there are robust efforts underway to identify and help those injured by the radiation. In our country our government has no interest in the radiation injury to New Mexico Downwinders. Does anyone doubt that the atomic explosion polluted New Mexico?
            Years ago one politician stated, "We beat the Japanese, what do you want?" He seemed mad that I was bringing up stuff from years ago. Politicians and journalists alike are not interested. I have written these issues in columns several times to the yawns of our leaders.
            Worse, we Downwinders are dying out. Our movement is like the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) founded in 1868 with their membership limited to Union military in the Civil War. Five US Presidents were GAR members. Then Albert Woolson, age 109, died in 1956 and then there were no longer any GAR members.
            The same will happen to the New Mexico Downwinders. One of us will be the last one alive and then the movement will end. Will we Downwinders find justice in our lifetime?
            The problem is we do not know for sure. Suspicion is not proof, but we have a right to be suspicious. Our government has not done what was done in Europe after Chernobyl where they studied carefully the people who thought they might have been sickened by the release of radiation.
            I appreciate that U. S. Senator Tom Udall held a meeting a couple weeks ago in Tularosa and New Mexico Representative Steve Pearce and I have spoken several times. But another day goes by, another week, another month, another year, and some more of us Downwinders have died.
            Why do I think it was the radiation release from the Trinity explosion that caused my cancer? Research is compelling around Chernobyl that a very aggressive form of thyroid cancer is tied to the radiation. I had that very aggressive form and was lucky that I noticed the tumor early and it was removed within ten days of diagnosis or perhaps I would not be here today.
            Again, suspicion is not proof but my government has not done anything to help Downwinders find out if our health maladies are tied to Trinity Site. These maladies are not cheap. We are out lots of money and there are quality of life issues.
            Our government is quick to throw money at other countries and other maladies in our country, why not this? Or even come up with the cost of looking at this issue. Because there is no political advantage and our people in government must always gain a political advantage.
            This issue will go away if politicians and government leaders can ignore us long enough. There is only one group who can bring justice to us if they will work at getting to the truth of the radiation.
            Journalists can continue to ignore us or they can put it on the front page until our government comes to its senses and acts responsibly. That is the role of the media in a perfect world. Justice delayed is justice denied.



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