TCS Daily


Radioactive Lies

By Melana Zyla Vickers - April 25, 2006 12:00 AM

Twenty years ago the Chernobyl nuclear power plant exploded in the Soviet republic of Ukraine. It burned for ten days, spreading radioactive materials over neighboring Soviet republics and into Europe, and contaminated millions of adults and children.

How many millions were contaminated? Two decades after the fact, that answer is far from clear, with estimates ranging from one to five million. As for death tolls from related disease, those numbers are elusive, as well. That which ought to be medical fact is instead a mystery, because the Chernobyl accident took place when the totalitarian Communist party ruled the Soviet Union, and fabricated lies about the horrors, incompetencies, and evils within its borders. Need a reminder about the nature of that evil?

Five days after the Chernobyl accident, while the reactor was still burning and a radioactive cloud hung over much of the region, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine ordered thousands of school children in nearby Kiev to participate in an outdoor demonstration marking May Day and the glories of Communism. Meanwhile, the members of the same Communist Party, from Kiev to Minsk to Moscow, were quietly gathering their friends and family and warning them to flee the radioactivity. Medical data were fabricated. The well-connected apparatchiks got special treatment they didn't necessarily need. The poorly connected sick, meanwhile, got ignored.

Whether Chernobyl has led to a lot or just a little childhood cancer is not the enduring lesson here -- cancer, and particularly cancer caused by the state, is horrible no matter how you look at it. The global lesson from Chernobyl is that all information about things nuclear, when proffered by a criminal, one-party regime, is bathed in a heavy water of lies. That was true of Soviet Ukraine 20 years ago, and it is true of one-party Iran and North Korea today.

The trouble is the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and other UN agencies don't seem willing to accept that. UN bureaucrats sought gingerly and diplomatically to study Chernobyl after the explosion, relying on the information grudgingly provided by the Soviet state. The information was so thin that the actual sequence and nature of the explosions remains unclear to this day. As the UN itself mildly put it, though not until years later: "Reliable information about the accident and the resulting dispersion was initially unavailable to the affected people in what was then the Soviet Union and remained inadequate for years following the accident."

Since then, the IAEA has been the victim of many other state manipulations, notably those of Saddam Hussein in Iraq during the 1990s. Yet its bureaucrats sally forth, happy to have a global role and a chance to mug for the news cameras. Today, the IAEA continues to be manipulated by Pyongyang and Tehran. For example, the IAEA has in the recent past accepted both Tehran and Pyongyang's word on "voluntary" suspension of their nuclear activities. And the agency has said many times that it has had no indication that Iran intends to have a nuclear-weapons program. The IAEA may sound a little tougher on Iran these days, but another round of naïve statements is sure to come.

Nuclear manipulations are as dangerous as they ever were. So, 20 years after the fact, if one detail of Chernobyl's history can be clear, let it be the following: All information from a self-interested, one-party totalitarian state is, by its very nature, radioactive.

Melana Zyla Vickers is a TCS contributing writer.

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7 Comments

Lie perpetuated by Fumento?
So What Really Happened After Chernobyl?
by Michael Fumento
TCSDaily, September 19, 2005

"But a voluminous new report assembled by the Chernobyl Forum, comprising 8 UN agencies, shows not only that the accident's immediate impact was grossly exaggerated but that even delayed cancer deaths will prove miniscule compared to the outrageous predictions.

The actual number of immediate deaths? Not 30,000 but rather 47 says the report. All were among plant personnel and emergency workers, none among the general public."

...Indeed, "the largest public health problem created by the accident" is the "damaging psychological impact [due] to a lack of accurate information," the Chernobyl Forum found. "These problems manifest as negative self-assessments of health, belief in a shortened life expectancy, lack of initiative, and dependency on assistance from the state." As FDR might have put it, these poor people have nothing to fear but fear itself.

http://www.tcsdaily.com/article.aspx?id=091905D

What Vickers knows about Chernobyl
could be written on a postage stamp in four-inch block letters. The findings of the IAEA report were confirmed by at least two large medical studies from the international medical and scientific community, the International Chernobyl Project in 1990 and the UNSCEAR report in 2000. Doctors and scientists wrote these reports, not UN bureaucrats. I am willing to wager that Vickers never even read the report before condemning it out of hand.

It is fashionable among the right wing intelligentsia to condemn all things UN out of hand. You will get no defense from me of the UN as an institution here, but to condemn the IAEA expert report simply because it is affiliated with the UN is intellectual sloppiness of the first order. For Vickers to condemn a report without assessing its substance, a task she has demonstrated her incompetence to do, invalidates her critique.

Fumento
is correct.

The real cost
From my experience of 30 years in radiation therapy research, the number of confirmed thyroid cancer cases shows by how many orders of magnitude the wild claims of deaths were.

Sadly, the worst effect wasn't the radiation but the many children who were aborted because of an abject fear of radiation induced abnormalities. IAEA estimates between 100,000 and 200,000 babies were needlessly aborted between 1987 and 1988 on Chernobyl fears in Western Europe alone.

I lay all those deaths at the feet of the fearmongers.

Agreed
and what's even worse, I understand that even the excess may be in some doubt because of the lack of a reliable base line before the accident.

This is why I was so annoyed at Vickers. By indulging in her anti-UN rant, she is contributing to radiation fear-mongering.

The author merely stated the obvious without offering any course to a solution
It's obvious that regimes which are able to clamp down on press and speech freedom will inevitably learn to lie about everything that touches on their power. Fortunately they become so used to lying that eventually they put out pap so transparent it fools only fellow travelers, the gullible stupid and the oversophisticated intelligent.

The corrective is to cease paying respect to all self serving pronouncements of such regimes. Everything said by such regimes is by definition untrustworthy unless independently verified, and even then the Oil for Food spectacle reminds us that anybody and virtually everybody can be bought if there is enough liquid cash available.

In this regard it is hard to trust anything out of the U.N. in that it permits the spectacle of brutal police states on its human rights committees.

The UN
If you think that the UN of 2006 doesn't deserve to be dissed, read Kofi Annan's statement of yesterday.

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