The film Nuclear Savage lays bare Marshalls "guinea pig" story
An American film maker is hoping his documentary will lay bare the extent of United States nuclear testing in the Marshall Islands.
An American film-maker is hoping his documentary will lay bare the extent of United States nuclear testing in the Marshall Islands.
Adam Horowitz won the special jury prize at last month's Pacific Documentary Film Festival for his film 'Nuclear Savage'.
The film includes archive footage and official documents which Mr Horowitz says show how the people of Rongelap Atoll were deliberately used as guinea pigs during and after the Bravo test sixty years ago.
Mr Horowitz told Sally Round he first heard the Rongalapese' story in the 1980s.
ADAM HOROWITZ: They told me at that time, in the 80s, they had been used as human experiments and that the Americans had deliberately exposed them to radiation to study them but it was anecdotal stories and there wasn't documentary proof at that time of what they were saying but it was definitely an important story that I included in the first film but I didn't have the proof and this time when I went back I was able to uncover actual documents that proved that people were deliberately exposed by the US Government in order to study them.
SALLY ROUND: How did you find those documents and what were they?
AH: They were classified documents. Some had been leaked and some had been released by the US government in the late 90s and after the governor of the Marshall Islands had assembled a trove of these classified documents and honestly I do not know precisely where they got them all but a lot of the documents - I got from the Marshall Islands Government or people connected with the Marshall Islands Government directly and then I also obtained some of these classified documents from private archives from individuals in the United States and the documents were from the Atomic Energy Commission of the United States, now known as the Department of Energy, and also from the US Department of Defence, Los Alamos laboratory, Brookhaven laboratory in Long Island, New York, and Argon laboratory in Chicago and they were all official US Government documents that outlined their premeditated intent to expose people in order to study them - expose them to radiation in direct fallout from nuclear tests and also expose them to food and water on contaminated islands.
SR: So it was in black and white that the Marshall Islanders were to be used as human guinea pigs?
AH: It was in black and white that the Marshall Islanders were to be used as human guinea pigs and in fact there are documents and films that refer to them as savages and that is where the name of the film comes from, Nuclear Savage, it actually comes from a US Government official source where they referred to the Marshall Islanders as savages but happy amenable savages and some of the language and the descriptions that come from these official Government sources are shocking and disgusting and it became really the basis of the film. In another document they discuss returning islanders to a highly contaminated island with the express purpose of seeing what happens when people eat contaminated food over a period of years and studying the long-term effects and that is what they did to the people of Rongelap. They purposely brought them to a highly contaminated island and left them there for three decades while they studied them.
SR: I watched the trailer which looks like official government footage, almost sort of a promo, where the so-called savages are shown being examined and so on and being referred to as savages - was that for public consumption?
AH: That footage is very interesting because I uncovered this footage during my years of research on this project but I have not been able to verify that 100 percent. It is very interesting because noone wants to take responsibility for that footage.
SR: Well, it would seem pretty damning then for officialdom if this indeed was what was happening. Did you manage to get any answers from the US Government?
AH: Well, the most damning material and the most incriminating, I should use that word, is actual written official documents and the film footage is shocking and disturbing but the real evidence is official written documents from US officials. It is in black and white - 'we are planning to move this entire population of people to this island contaminated with radiation' and the US scientists said in their documents 'this is probably the most contaminated place on earth and it will be very interesting to see the effects on human beings from living in this contaminated environment'. It doesn't leave any interpretation necessary because the wording of the documents is so concise and so precise that there is no explanation needed and I think that the US officials who I contacted were in a very difficult position because they know that the documents speak for themselves. There is really nothing for them to say.
The other thing is that the US Government's official position to this day is that no deliberate experimentation took place, people were not deliberately exposed and the officials who I dealt with and have dealt with are in the situation of having to explain documents that prove that the official position now is a lie and they don't know how to do that because there is no way to explain these documents other than to take them at face value. As a result, none of these officials wanted to speak on the record and they all ran away from me.
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