Fallout From Fukushima: While U.S. Officials Twiddle Their Thumbs, Former Prime Minister Of Japan Weeps For Sickened U.S. Sailors
There is something so heartbreaking and infuriating about the way we treat veterans in the U.S. We trot out patriotic performances of songs on veteran-focused holidays, we see baseball and football players in specially made uniforms with camouflage hats or red, white and blue socks.
We get endless paeans from politicians thanking veterans for their service, and armed services members get to board airplanes early sometimes.
But once our veterans are sickened or wounded, we prefer to sweep them under the rug. There is ample evidence of hypocritical congress members playing up their military connections on one hand, and voting to cut veteran’s services with the other.
It is a disgusting and shameful national disgrace, and more light needs to be shed on the problem. Perhaps we can start with a recent example from Japan, in which a former prime minister of that country wept with shame and frustration over the way U.S. sailors have been sickened from proximity to the Fukushima nuclear plume.
The powerful video shows former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi breaking down in tears as he begs for support for U.S. Navy sailors who have been beleaguered by health problems following their exposure to the site in the wake of the meltdown.
“Those who gave their all to assist Japan are now suffering from serious illness… I learned that the number of sick people is still increasing, and their symptoms are worsening. U.S. military personnel who did their utmost in providing relief are now suffering from serious illnesses,” he said. “We cannot ignore the situation.”
Some 400 veterans who were part of Operation Tomodachi have filed suit against nuclear plant operator TEPCO over sicknesses they have suffered, including one sailor who died of synovial sarcoma at age 35, and another who has had four surgeries on his testicles due to swelling. Others suffer from leukemia and tumors, and according to lawyers for the group, seven have died so far.
Meanwhile, the U.S. department of Veteran’s Affairs put a stop to a study that was trying to determine a causal relationship between the illnesses and the radiation that leaked from the site in the wake of the accident.
Good men and women like the former prime minister understand that Japan owes a debt to these men and women who have sacrificed their health and in some cases their lives to help the people of Japan.
If only U.S. lawmakers were willing to do more than pin a flag to their lapel in “honor” of service members, or stand during the national anthem with a solemn look on their faces.
Our military deserves better if they are going to be asked to sacrifice for us. it’s time we sacrifice something for them in return, for instance real medical assistance.
Even if our sacrifice is woefully inadequate compared to theirs.