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Watchdogs applaud stalling of park bill

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By Arin McKenna

Not everyone was disappointed to hear about the Manhattan Project National Historical Park Act’s stall in the U.S. Senate.

Greg Mello, secretary and executive director for the Los Alamos Study Group, responded to the Los Alamos Monitor’s query by saying, “We are pleased that the proposed park was dropped from the defense bill and we will oppose it again next year.

“It’s basically a propaganda and lobbying initiative that will benefit nuclear weapons contractors. It is not now and will never be an objective interpretation of history. Creating such a park inherently endorses the Manhattan Project and its modern-day successor activities as positive national achievements. Indeed that is the purpose of the proposal.

“Supposedly ‘objective’ background materials supporting the Park proposal are already one-sided, significantly incomplete and historically incorrect.

“If the Park is established, we hope to help make it a Mecca for protest activity of all kinds. The Manhattan Project and the atomic bombing of Japan were national mistakes. Los Alamos has played, and continues to play, a heavy role in weakening U.S. national security and misdirecting national priorities.”

NPS officials strongly disagree that the park will be “a propaganda and lobbying initiative.” Park service governs several public lands that tell difficult and complex stories, such as the Gettysburg National Military Park and Manzanar National Historic Site in California, a World War II Japanese internment camp.

Bandelier National Monument Superintendent Jason Lott has repeatedly warned those who would like to propagandize the proposed park that NPS would not support that objective.

“When National Park Service goes in and takes over a site, we tell all the stories. We need to be prepared for that,” Lott said in an address to the Manhattan Project Communities Conference.

“We tell the stories that everyone in here wants to be told. We also tell the other side of the stories we may not necessarily want to be told, like the stories about the Japanese survivors of the bomb.

“But additionally what we can do as the National Park Service is we can discredit the bad information that’s out there. It needs to be a very evenly weighed thing. Our job is to tell the stories as accurately as we can.”

Nuclear Watch New Mexico’s Scott Kovac said he would not object to the establishment of the park if the story were truly objective.

“My big concern is that I think it is an important history, but the execution of the park is very important, how it happens,” Kovac said. “Personally, I fear that it may…you cannot glorify in any way atomic weapons. But as far as a piece of history, that’s a different matter, in my opinion.”

Kovac said if the park bill passes, NPS must incorporate public input into the story it tells.

“It can’t just be park service’s idea of a memorial,” Kovac said. “It has to be totally taken away from Los Alamos Laboratory. They need to not be in charge of it.”

Joni Arends, executive director of Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety, had another perspective.

“I think we need to take care of the people who were harmed by the Trinity test before we spend resources preserving the buildings. There are a lot of people in the Tularosa Basin who are dying of cancer, who have no medical care. We have so many uranium miners and millers. There are people who are suffering from the harm.
So I think if the Congress has energy to deal with the Manhattan Project, we need to make sure that there’s compensation for people who are suffering with rare forms of cancer all over the United States as the result of the above ground testing that’s been done, those living downwind and downstream of these nuclear facilities and protect the water; clean up the mess.

“It’s ironic that there’s more energy spent in preserving the buildings than taking care of the people.”