annals of heartlessness

Annals of Heartlessness (43): Operation Crossroads


Operation Crossroads was a series of nuclear weapon tests conducted by the United States at the Bikini Atoll in mid-1946. The purpose was to investigate the effect of nuclear weapons on naval ships. The US Navy was worried about its survival as a part of the US defense force in the atomic age, and the tests were set up to demonstrate that atomic explosions would not completely destroy war ships.

That was the purpose, and all other interests were deemed irrelevant. Bikini’s native residents agreed, after considerable pressure, to evacuate the island. The Crossroads tests and 21(!) subsequent nuclear explosions rendered Bikini unfit for human habitation. The 167 Bikini residents who were resettled were unable to gather sufficient food or catch enough fish to feed themselves in their new environment. Their new home also had inadequate water supply. The Navy left food and water for a few weeks and then failed to return in a timely manner. By January 1947, the islanders were suffering malnutrition, facing potential starvation by July, and were emaciated by January 1948. In March 1948 they were evacuated to yet another uninhabited island, Kili. With only one third of a square mile, Kili has one sixth the land area of Bikini and, more importantly, has no lagoon and no protected harbor. Unable to practice their native culture of lagoon fishing, they became dependent on food shipments. After their relocation to Kili, the Bikini residents continued to suffer from inadequate food supplies. US authorities were forced to start airdropping food onto Kili. Today, most of the four thousand descendants of the original Bikini residents are living elsewhere. No one was allowed to return to Bikini, and no one probably ever will. The atoll is still inhabitable today.

Some people even died as a direct result of the explosions. The horrible Edward Teller, father of the hydrogen bomb and architect of the Marshall Island tests, made himself immortal with the words: “It’s unreasonable to make such a big deal over the death of a fisherman.”

Admiral Blandy was in charge of Operation Crossroads. Blandy had reason to celebrate after the operation:

Admiral and Mrs. Blandy celebrate Operation Crossroads with an atomic cake, 1946

Admiral and Mrs. Blandy celebrate Operation Crossroads with an atomic cake, 1946

Why, by all means let’s have a cake in the shape of a mushroom cloud! It’s all in the best possible taste!

Blandy had been able to show that the US could still have a Navy in the atomic age and that atomic explosions do not completely destroy war ships. For him, this was reason enough to celebrate, never mind that the natives were starving in a strange land, and never mind the long term consequences of nuclear radiation.

And the heartlessness doesn’t stop there. It’s well-known that the name “Bikini” was adopted for bikini swimwear. Less well-known is the fact that the name “bikini” was reappropriated only days after Operation Crossroads and precisely because of it. The invention of the “bikini” was announced with the words: “like the bomb, the bikini is small and devastating”, and the “atom bombs reduce everybody to primitive costume” (source). LOL.

Ironically, the bikini’s design violates traditional Marshall Islander’s customs of modesty because it exposes the woman’s thighs and shoulders. Marshall Island women traditionally were topless and they don’t attach any social stigma to breasts common in much of Western society which the bikini does cover.

More in the annals of heartlessness here.

horror, human rights video, international relations, photography and journalism, war

Human Rights Video (23): Nuclear Explosions, 1945-1998

Starts a bit slow, but interesting nonetheless: the numbers and places of nuclear explosions throughout the years:

More on atomic weapons here and here. More on Hiroshima here. More human rights videos here.

data, horror, human rights maps, international relations, war

Human Rights Maps (143): Hiroshima Bomb Damage

Within the first two to four months of the bombings, the acute effects killed 90,000–166,000 people in Hiroshima and 60,000–80,000 in Nagasaki, with roughly half of the deaths in each city occurring on the first day. Of the people who died on the day of the explosion, 60% died from flash or flame burns, 30% from falling debris and 10% from other causes. During the following months, large numbers died from the effect of burns, radiation sickness, and other injuries, compounded by illness. In both cities, most of the dead were civilians.

In Hiroshima, the radius of total destruction was about one mile (1.6 km), with resulting fires across 4.4 square miles (11 square km). The residents of Hiroshima were given no notice of the atomic bomb.

Map Hiroshima Bomb Damage

Map of the damage inflicted by the nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima


japan map

Let’s focus on the area near ground zero, the hypocenter of the explosion, which is this part of the map above (the green lines are the rivers):

Map Hiroshima Bomb Damage

Below are a few 3D maps/maquettes of this area – which obviously suffered the most destruction – taken from an exhibition in the Hiroshima museum. They show the area before and after the explosion. In each one, you can see the famous dome structure which has become iconic for the event (I marked it on the images).



the red mark on the left is the impact spot

From another viewpoint:

hiroshima before and after

(source, source)

More on Hiroshima here, and on nuclear weapons here and here. More maps here.

aid, international relations, intervention, terror, war

Terrorism and Human Rights (30): “The U.S. Coming Home!” (Commemorative 9-11 Repost)

(On this 9th anniversary of the 9-11 attacks, here is a repost of a mock OpEd I wrote some years ago. It’s mocking only in its form, not in its intentions. I guess one day it will become prophetic, I’ll just have to repost it often enough. Warning: none of the opinions expressed here should be mistaken for my own).



“The date is October the 1st, 2011, exactly 20 days after the worst terrorist attack in US history, an attack in which Muslim extremists used nuclear bombs to inflict heavy damage on 3 American cities, embarrassing the security forces who were on high alert on the 10th anniversary of 9-11.

Today, the whole world was listening to President Obama’s first policy speech after the events. The most shocking announcement was undoubtedly the decision to no longer deploy US troops abroad. The President defended this “Coming Home” decision by the failure of 10 years of military actions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Somalia, the Middle East, Nigeria and Indonesia to bring about more security for the American people. Evidence has shown that US involvement abroad, even peaceful and objectively beneficial involvement, rather than promoting US security, actually fosters hate, resentment and fanaticism. The objects of American involvement, even if this involvement means billions of dollars of aid, seem to think that it is fundamentally a ploy to “imperialize” them, a crusade to take away their identity, religion and wealth. Independence, national pride and Allah is what counts for them.

It has also become clear that the US was wrong to think in terms of “frontlines” in its war with Muslim terrorists. The strategy to try to attack the enemy in their homelands, the “first frontline”, rather than wait till they get on American soil, has proven to be ineffective militarily, and possibly even counter-effective psychologically: it has provided fuel for anti-crusader and anti-colonialist rhetoric, convincing ever more young Muslim martyrs and extremist Muslim regimes of the anti-Muslim and hence satanic nature of the Christian unbelievers.

Hercules and Hydra

Hercules and Hydra

Unlike an enemy army in a classical 20th century war, this enemy cannot be defeated by an overpowering military attack. The strongest military in the world cannot defeat a relatively small group of undoubting and unthinking amateurs ready to die with a makeshift bomb in their hands. With every amateur it kills it only produces more evidence of the presence of Satan on holy soil. Hence, the more it tries to root out the enemy, the more enemies it creates. The President therefore, wisely in our view, decided to shift focus from the attack to the defensive. Bringing our boys back home to defend the American border, effectively turning the army into a super coastguard and border patrol, should not be viewed as giving in to the enemy, a retreat or a Last Stand. That would only be a return to an inadequate and outdated military logic, useless given the kind of enemy we are dealing with.

Together with measures to prevent homegrown terrorism – which, fortunately, has been a limited phenomenon until now – a relentless border control should indeed be able to offer protection. The borders must, of course, include the entrances of airplanes and ships heading for the US. In order to be independent from foreign security services, the President has asked for legislation allowing only US aircraft and ship to enter the US. If economically necessary, the US will acquire a larger fleet. Anyway, unnecessary travel to the US will be discouraged.

border fence


The economic drawbacks of rigorous border controls will be countered by technological innovations funded by army budgets which become available when budgets for overseas operations start to diminish. The President also asked the citizens to prepare for the possibility of a certain number of years of economic depression. Energy supplies may also suffer as a consequence of the US drawback. Traditional allies will be disappointed by their abandonment. The loss of US military assistance will even endanger the existence of some regimes. Those which are also oil suppliers will resent the US and will disrupt the supply. The President is conscious of the economic impact this will have but asks the scientific community to tackle the problem of oil dependence. Existing alternatives, including nuclear energy, will be developed. Repatriated nuclear warheads, if not necessary for domestic security, will be recycled in the energy industry.

Some allies which are important for the US domestically, such as Israel, will not be abandoned without continued support. Military equipment not necessary for border control and security on US soil, will be handed over to them after they loose the protective umbrella of a US presence in their region. Financial assistance will continue to be possible.

Because US troops will no longer be stationed abroad, US expats can become easy targets for terrorists. The President therefore advises them to make plans to return home as soon as possible. The government will establish funds to incite people to come home and to compensate for damages they will incur. US multinationals will be legally forced to employ local people only for their foreign affiliates. The US government will immediately cease to employ its citizens in development projects in Africa and elsewhere. To alleviate the economic shock this will produce in developing countries, the US will double its funds for development aid for a period of 5 years. These funds, however, will be spend entirely by third parties. No US agencies will be active abroad. The US will also withdraw from NATO, the UN, and all other international institutions.

May God be with us, since it’s excessively clear that nobody else will.”

More on terrorism.