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Maralinga

a murderous experiment

Picture the scene. In several obscure institutions staff are readying a large number of people with demanding physical impairments for the trip of a lifetime. They number enough to fill two planes and they don’t carry much luggage. The destination for these intrepid travellers is Maralinga, South Australia. For the truth of the story thus far we have the word of one of the pilots and the eyewitness accounts of a couple of Australian soldiers. This tale is fifty years old.

Around departure time for the disabled travellers, white people living near Maralinga were being evacuated from their homes. The Aboriginal people continued to live as they had always done. There was no instruction given to them.


Maralinga was a nuclear test site. The experiments carried out there were considered necessary for the survival of a nation. Which nation though? Anyway, back to the story, the whites were shipped out; the Aboriginals were left there; the disabled people were flown in; the bombs were detonated. The actual detail of what took place is somewhat hazy. What we do know is that the pilots were not required to fly our tourists home afterwards. We know that soldiers from the experimenting nation were instructed to visit the site immediately after detonations took place. The scientists wanted to see how soldiers’ clothing was affected by radiation. The scientists also

 
‘The scientists meticulously counted the bodies of dead kangeroos and sheep. No count was ever made of the Aboriginal dead.’
   

meticulously counted the bodies of dead kangaroos and sheep.

No count was ever made of the Aboriginal dead. I know this because I have an Australian friend in his 60’s who, although he is white, has been accepted as a brother by many Aboriginal tribes. He has sat by a fire listening, whilst this painful story was voiced by the tribal elders who survived. The spirit of the tribe was destroyed by this murderous experiment and alcoholism is a major feature of its existence nowadays.

Weapons of empire

So what abominably heinous country treated its disabled community as disposable, its service personnel as lab rats and considered value of the indigenous community of its host nation to be less than that of a sheep? I’m afraid it was us.

This took place within 10 years of the end of the Second World War, where we saw some devastating “science” emanating from Nazi Germany. The quest for humanperfection had quite a cost. The first gas chambers were actually built for disabled people, which is still news to some. My question though is whether the British were any more humane than the Nazis in their experimentation? And I think not. Let’s not kid ourselves that this was ever a nobler cause. We wanted the power to annihilate en masse and at will. These were and still are the weapons of empire.

This particular piece of our history is not commonly known – and where it’s known it’s often denied. It serves us well to remember our past though, as our dalliance with all things nuclear seems far from over. The only reason, and it’s far from an acceptable one, that I can think up for keeping the genocidal technology to hand is so we can blackmail our way into an unfair share of the planet’s finite resources. The rest of the rhetoric is purely a smokescreen. The empire strikes back.

In February, this year, the US and UK embarked on further nuclear testing. This test was of a “subcritical” type and not designed to provoke an explosion. It took place 1000 feet below the Nevada Desert. The information they hoped to glean concerned the effects of aging in nuclear materials such as uranium. We are told that the information was required in order for us to take proper care of our existing nuclear stockpile. And if they happen to stumble upon something useful for the next bomb, all well and good!

Morag Balfour


 

 

 

 
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