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Boardman writes: "There are also those who don't say that these leaders are idiots. We'll see how things turn out."

This handout picture taken by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on November 27, 2013 shows review mission members of the IAEA inspecting the crippled Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in the town of Okuma in Fukushima prefecture. (photo: AFP/IAEA)
This handout picture taken by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on November 27, 2013 shows review mission members of the IAEA inspecting the crippled Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in the town of Okuma in Fukushima prefecture. (photo: AFP/IAEA)

Fukushima and Crimea: Crisis Mis-Management 101

By William Boardman, Reader Supported News

18 March 14


Governments find it hard to do the right thing for their people – why?

here are those who say that the idiots running Western and allied governments (the “civilized” countries) are pitching the world toward a pair disasters, the full realization of either of which, in its most extreme form, would likely change life on earth for the worse for most folks, whether it’s the continuing, unabated nuclear meltdowns in Fukushima or the continuing, unabated political meltdown over Ukraine that risks nuclear war. There are also those who don’t say that these leaders are idiots. We’ll see how things turn out.

As mid-March 2014 unfolds, neither Fukushima nor Crimea is yet at the brink of global catastrophe, apparently, but neither seems subject to safe and sane response from people in authority, either. That’s not to predict an end-of-the-world scenario for either disaster, just to remind people that, at the extreme end of these uncontrolled events, there are horrendous logical risks that our leaders are amiably accepting (or urging) on behalf of the rest of us. And they seem to expect our gratitude for their efforts in Ukraine or their lack of efforts in Fukushima, more or less equally.

Even though it’s Japan’s third largest prefecture, Fukushima is a relatively small place, as these things go: 5,321 square miles, a little smaller than the state of Connecticut. With a population of about two million, Fukushima is comparable to New Mexico (Connecticut has 3.6 million people). Fukushima is unique in the world in having suffered the March 11, 2011, earthquake/tsunami/triple meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station. This three-part event has so far killed some 20,000 people, with 2,600 more still missing, and it’s turned another 300,000 people into internal refugees with little or no hope of returning home (terrible numbers that pale in comparison to Syria, whose disaster started about the same time). The world’s response to Fukushima has, in all respects, been spotty and ineffective. Japan’s response to the needs of its own people has been spotty and ineffective, except for the robust insistence on re-starting all its nuclear reactors.

U.S. considered using radiation as a weapon in World War II

And of course the release of radioactive isotopes into the air and water around Fukushima continues, unevenly but without let-up in its fourth year. In the run-up to the atomic bomb, physicist Robert Oppenheimer weighed the comparable effectiveness of just irradiating enemy populations, rather than obliterating them and their cities. There was little doubt that spreading plutonium on people would kill or injure them in effective numbers, but the dying might be too slow militarily and the ground would be poisoned against future occupation.

One might think the unceasing release of radioactive substances that potentially threaten the health and safety of people around the globe to a greater or lesser extent might get more attention (at least as a health concern if not as an event tantamount to an act of war), but then one would not be thinking like an international leader.

In terms of geopolitical significance, it matters more to those in charge that people are living under their politically preferred ideology than if they’re being exposed to excess radiation that will make them sick, give them cancers, or kill them. Fukushima is the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl (which just happens to be in Ukraine). The 1986 meltdown of just one nuclear reactor left a radioactively contaminated “dead zone” of more than 1,000 square miles from which evacuation was compulsory (although some 200, mostly elderly “samosely,” are allowed to remain). Other danger zones, from which the government compels or assists resettlement, exist outside the “dead zone” and have yielded more than 100,000 nuclear refugees. [There is at least one other, 834 square mile “dead zone” in Belarus, which received an estimated 72% of the early heavy fallout from Chernobyl, contaminating 25% of the country. Additionally, more than two million people in Belarus still live in radioactively contaminated areas that have been made “safe” by the government’s arbitrarily raising radiation limits. The Belarus and French governments, together with the United Nations and nuclear industry interests (including the IAEA), run a program (secret before 2004) to resettle people into radioactive areas. Reportedly, the Japanese government, TEPCO, and U.N. agencies are considering resettling Fukushima the same way, by defining danger away.]

Crimea has NEVER been an integrated, satisfied part of Ukraine

Almost twice as big as Fukushima, Crimea is still a relatively small place, but with a character all its own. Crimea’s 10,404 square miles represent less than one-twentieth of Ukraine (233,000 square miles, bigger than California, smaller than Texas). Chernobyl, not that far from Kiev, has always been more or less part of Ukraine. By stark contrast, the history of Crimea’s integration with Ukraine is all but non-existent in history. In the mid-1400s, Crimea was a Tatar state founded by a descendant of Genghis Khan. In 1478, Crimea became a tributary of the Ottoman Empire until 1774, when it became an independent state, essentially liberated by Russia (until Russia annexed it in 1783). Crimea remained part of Russia until 1917, when it declared its independence again (which lasted about a year before it was occupied by the Soviet Union, then the Germans, then the Soviet Union again).

In 1921, Crimea was granted “autonomy,” which was interrupted by the German occupation (1941-1943), then stripped by the Soviet Union in 1945. Still part of the Soviet Union in 1954, Crimea was organizationally transferred to Ukraine, also part of the Soviet Union. In 1991, Crimea became the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, within the Soviet Union, followed by a power struggle with the Kiev government in the aftermath of the Soviet Union’s break-up. In early 1992, the Crimean Parliament proclaimed its independence as the Republic of Crimea and adopted its first constitution (which it amended the same day to say Crimea was part of Ukraine); within weeks, Crimea dropped its proclamation of self-government in an apparent trade-off for greater autonomy from Kiev, but the dispute over the status of Crimea continued to feed political turmoil until Ukraine executed a constitutional coup. On March 17, 1995, the Kiev government scrapped the Crimean constitution, sacked the Crimean president and eventually established, with obvious irony, the “Autonomous Republic of Crimea” – which still had periodic anti-Kiev eruptions and now (as of March 16) has voted to join the Russian Federation.

Contrary to many media reports that the Crimean referendum offered no real choice, the actual ballot had two rather different and nuanced choices:

1. “Do you support rejoining Crimea with Russia as a subject of the Russian Federation?”

2. “Do you support restoration of the 1992 Constitution of the Republic of Crimea and Crimea's status as a part of Ukraine?”

Stripped bare, the mainstream media typically say the referendum offers “no choice” because the media don’t like the actual choice offered: independence or join Russia. What the media don’t say is that they want Crimea to have a choice to remain under the thumb of Kiev with no greater “autonomy.” Of course that’s intellectually dishonest, but it does illuminate the absurdity of arguing about Ukraine’s “territorial integrity,” which has included Crimea for about twenty of the past 600 years. Most of that time Crimea seems to have been seeking independence from large countries that refused to leave it alone.

On March 17, Russian president Vladimir Putin declared Crimea’s sovereign independence, and of course there are reasons to think that won’t last. According to the Associated Press, this declaration is “a bold challenge to Washington that escalates one of Europe's worst security crises in years.” Well, no. It doesn’t –unless Washington wants it to, unless Washington demands that Crimea remain a vassal state to Ukraine, unless Washington wants another Crimean war. And that’s likely just what Washington wants as it exercises its usual mindless lack of creativity.

This is a crisis that has no useful purpose, a crisis that was manufactured in the West and lacks any easy definition (other than provoking Russia), a crisis that stands for no meaningful principle, a crisis in which the U.S. and Ukrainian neo-Nazis are on the same side, a crisis in which the U.S. has no vital interest (but Russia does), a crisis that is a stupid funhouse mirror of the Cuban missile crisis and has the same potential end point.

Washington needs to back off, for the sake of the world. Washington needs to save peace, not face. Pushing Russia on Crimea is perversely more likely to enable a Russian incursion into eastern Ukraine. That would hardly be an improvement. Ukraine has plenty to do to fix itself without worrying about Crimea, which isn’t that much bigger than the Chernobyl dead zone. Standing for the territorial independence of Crimea is something reasonable people could (but probably won’t, and who’s reasonable here anyway?) agree on.

The real stakes here are tiny. Crimea is the size of Vermont taking a deep breath. Crimea is smaller than Haiti, Burundi, Equatorial Guinea, Albania, or the Solomon Islands, and commands about the same geopolitical attention in the real world. Crimea is larger than Rwanda, Macedonia, Belize, El Salvador, or Israel.

Granted, the U.S. has gone irrational over El Salvador in the recent past, but that was a function of geography and Reaganism, and there was no serious opposition. On the other hand, the U.S. has treated Haiti worse and for longer than anyone has treated Crimea. So what on earth is making the U.S. react to Crimea as if it were Israel? That would be crazy, too, but at least it would be understandable in its way.

The good news, such as it is, is that if Western leaders pursue their Crimean obsession to its worst conclusion, then the problems of Chernobyl and Fukushima won’t seem nearly so important any more.

William M. Boardman has over 40 years experience in theatre, radio, TV, print journalism, and non-fiction, including 20 years in the Vermont judiciary. He has received honors from Writers Guild of America, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Vermont Life magazine, and an Emmy Award nomination from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News. your social media marketing partner


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+17 # Adoregon 2014-03-18 13:58
Why support a government that doesn't support you?
+6 # jdd 2014-03-18 13:58
While 20,000 people died due to the impact of the tsunami, as of right now, not a single radiation death has been attributed to the Fukushima meltdown, which released far less radiation the Chernoby. But if you want a truly frightening scenario, consider the fact that the neo-Nazis in Kiev are seeking to restore the Ukraine nuclear arsenal, and even have supporters (John McCain) for such insanity in the U.S. Ukraine has 14 functioning nuclear plants.
-1 # moonrigger 2014-03-19 15:19
Glad to see you refer to the honest facts here. There is so much anti-nuke hysteria to overcome, that it's difficult to have a level-headed discussion about Fukushima or Chernobyl. Both are disasters that happened due to out and out stupidity and hubris. TEPCO was advised by our NRC not to build their plant where they did, but if they did because it was known to get tsunamis and earthquakes; if they did, to pulleeze install a sea wall to break the impact of a tsunami; to install backup generators in case power was disrupted. Guess what? Japanese hubris got in the way. Too bad Japan is paying for this, not to mention other places where they really really need nuclear power, because the only alternative is coal or oil powered plants, regardless of how many renewable facilities they're able to build in the next ten years. So, although we'd all prefer the world to go solar, wind, etc. it's just not realistic, especially if we'd like people to drive electric cars and eliminate smog. Re Chernobyl, that disaster was caused by some idiots who thought it would be ok to run an experiment at the plant, and turn off the cooling system. Oh, and then of course the plant wasn't built with a containment device, so when things got hot, it blew its top. We don't have plants like that here in the US, nor are they being built anywhere else.
+6 # WBoardman 2014-03-20 09:14
moonrigger may well be right in his history
(sources for the anecdotes would help),
but the focus on the OPERATION of nuclear power
plants is a standard industry tactic for avoiding
the impacts of the full nuclear fuel cycle,
which is unhealthy/letha l from mining to "disposal."

And while jdd is right (as the article says) that
the 20,000 deaths were from the complete disaster,
the phrasing
"not a single radiation death has been attributed"
is standard nuclear industry doublespeak,
starting with the passive voice (by whom?)
and including the evasive "attributed" as well as
"radiation death" -- which is hardly a concrete event,
nor has the lethal radiation effect period run its course.

Arguably, the Fukushima dead zone and the suicides
it has led to are deaths attributable directly to
Fukushima radiation even though not to direct exposure.

We may never know how many clean-up workers will die
as the result of radiation over-exposure.
Not only is that hard to measure, the odds are
that the Japanese aren't even trying to keep track
comprehensively and longitudinally.
0 # John S. Browne 2014-03-23 20:48

...(A)nd are seeking to cover it up; as well as many other things about the unmitigated disaster that it was and continues to be.

+32 # jsluka 2014-03-18 14:31
Its really too bad that almost no one reads these stories only published on RSN or Truthout except the "already converted." There's nothing like this in the conventional media that 99% of people solely rely on. This needs to be published in the major newspapers, but that will never happen because their corporate masters will never allow it.
+10 # rossignol 2014-03-18 16:01
This entirely reasonable and rational article starkly contradicts the intense propagandists on say,CNN and the mainstream press. One has to wonder,what level of indoctrination is general public willing to swallow? This hate and hystery campaign towards Russia from a bit afar has very little substance, just an emotional brainwashing to call the black white and vice-versa. Everyone could have seen it live,"peaceful protesters" turning into an army and effecting a "coup d´Etat" is now the "legitimate" government protesting the "illegitimate" one in Crimea.. When obscene "Pussy Riot" girls represent freedom, dancing on the church altar,imagine that in the US.. The Goebbels has been outlied and outdone. Anyway,the teacher is the same, Edward Bernays,his jewish blood Goebbels didn´t mind and had his "Propaganda" on his night table..
+11 # Anarchist 23 2014-03-18 16:17
As historical events seem to have become a series of ledger-du-main. ..they get you looking here so you don't see what is happening there, I think this crises is very much a manufactured crises by the usual suspects that brought us coups in Guatemala, Iran, chile, Haiti, Honduras, Indonesia to why..perhaps as a distraction from real problems here at home as this country becomes a Fascist state with all the trappings (foreign policy has preferred authoritarian Fascists to any other form since the end of WWII) or perhaps the inevitable vast changes in the climate that cannot be averted and will destroy many,many, many people's very existence...the Crazies have wanted nuclear exchange ever since the first bomb was dropped...perha ps they will get their wish...Reality increasingly has become a surrealistic novel. Luckily I read quite a few of them in past years so nothing at all surprises me.
+14 # spercepolnes 2014-03-18 17:57
Anarchist 23, perhaps a diversion from the attempts to re-assert US hegemony over Venezuela?
0 # mdfdayagain 2014-03-19 04:00
I think the point most often overlooked in political debate(?) is that political opinions do not exist on a horizontal left-to-right continuum. They exist as stages in human intellectual/mo ral development. They also exist as products of left-brain versus right-brain thinking. I believe that as god or whatever gave every on of us access to both types of thinking (by giving us tao physiological halves of the brain, with different reasoning styles)
that possibly we are intended to use both types of thinking together in each new situation in order to let us reach a sensible solution to each new problem we (inevitably) encounter in the course of human DEVELOPMENT. As the purpose o f a developmental process is to go forward and develop to full potential, not to regress to a less mature state, I think this implies; "Come, let us reason together". Also, as I have only known time to go forward, I think we should too.
+3 # bmiluski 2014-03-19 14:17
It is hard to move forward with your proposed way of thinking when the right-brain ones rule the world.
+4 # wrknight 2014-03-19 19:38
How can we believe all this shit about democracy when we don't honor the outcome of democratic elections?
+3 # WBoardman 2014-03-20 09:17
You mean 2000 US Pres elec?

Or Ukraine 2010 Pres elec?
0 # John S. Browne 2014-03-23 20:53

What "democratic" elections?! With electronic voting machines that can be and are hacked, votes switched to the opposing party, and no verifiable paper trail, where's the "democracy" in that?? Anywhere and everywhere that voting is tabulated and calculated by electronic means, shows that none of those elections are to be trusted whatsoever.


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