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Nations must not ignore the weak when testing new technology

In a recent column Matthew H. Hersch '94 defends the Timberwind nuclear rocket propulsion program ["Some really bad ideas deserve a second chance," April 12]. While I have no arguments against his support of the Timberwind program, I am saddened by a statement he makes which reflects American attitudes towards small, unpowerful countries.

He says, "The only advice I have for the government is to shift the launch operations to the Pacific or another secluded area." The United States, France, and other large powers have a long history of using (and abusing) the Pacific without consultation of the local inhabitants.

Having grown up in Hawaii, I have seen countless examples of the colonial powers using their weight thoughtlessly in the Pacific. In the 1940s and '50s, the United States took several islands from the native residents, including Bikini Atoll, and turned them into radioactive wastelands with nuclear bomb tests. Though US Pacific tests stopped with the 1963 test ban treaty, France continues this practice.

More recently, the United States and Germany agreed to destroy nerve gas supplies in the Pacific. This made a lot of people on the US mainland and Europe very happy. However, no residents of the Pacific were consulted. Only after nerve gas was already being burned on Johnson Atoll did the US military send a representative to justify their actions to the residents of the Pacific islands.

It is increasingly clear that pollutants dumped in the Pacific affect everyone who lives there -- they are carried by winds, water and marine life. Anyone who eats Pacific tuna is endangered by such thoughtless practices.

My main point, however, is not that we need to think about the global environment, but that we, as a world power, need to consult the weaker, less vocal peoples before forcing our decisions on them.

Eugene A. Magnier G->