Monday, 11 February 2008

A state without shame

Standing as a stark reminder of the foul nature of the British state is the plight of the ex-servicemen who were used as guinea pigs in the atomic bomb tests. These men, most of whom were conscripts, were intentionally exposed to radiation. Some of them made to crawl through radiactive dust, in order to ensure as much contamination as possible. Unsurprisingly, they have paid a terrible price.

Ken McGinley is one such man: in 1962, a 19 year-old sapper in the Royal Engineers, he was sent to the atomic bomb tests on Christmas Island. His health was wrecked, with skin disorders, internal bleeding, most of his stomach had to be removed in 1962 and chronic digestive problems mean he lives on porridge and soup. He was also made sterile by the radiation. It was Mr McGinley who founded the British Nuclear Test Veterans Association, representing hundreds of veterans and widows fighting for justice.

The Ministry of Defence, who are wholly aware that the manifold health problems of these men were caused by exposure to radiation. Nevertheless, they deny everything, and with utter callousness they are stringing out the compensation claims against them as long as possible. Now the case is unlikely to get into court until 2012. They hope, perhaps, to drag it out until all the veterans are dead.

Recently the government's lawyers have been pressurising another group of ex-servicemen, who they experimented on with nerve gas and various other poisons at Porton Down, to accept a few crumbs of compensation and shut up. Small beer indeed. But Ken McGinley and his comrades must fight on.

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