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Dream of a Nuclear Nightmare

Written for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer

I dreamed last night of blind horses with a white mane. Such an incident happened after the first test of a nuclear weapon at White Sands, N.M., on July 16, 1945. A rancher living in the blast pattern of the Trinity Test said that, afterward, some of his horses went blind. When they stumbled, fell and then rolled over – their backs and manes had gone white.

In my dream I am naked on the blind, white horse, and we are riding directly into the nuclear fire. No doubt my dream was influenced by two of Alfred Pinkham Ryder's paintings: "The Poet on Pegasus Entering the Realm of the Muses" (middle 1880s) and "The Race Track – Death on a Pale Horse" (late 1880s-early 1890s). The novelist and short story writer Katherine Anne Porter titled a novella, "Pale Horse, Pale Rider," after Ryder's racetrack painting, which shows Death riding a horse in the reverse direction around a track, a scythe in his right hand.

I have italicized reverse direction purposely, for we have not put an end to war since the end of World War II: Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, the War on Iraq, to name only the four most reported. Gen. Douglas MacArthur considered using a nuclear weapon in Korea. U.S. forces sprayed Agent Orange on Vietnam. Depleted uranium (DU) coats ammunition in the Iraq War arsenal and was also employed in the Gulf War.

Though poison gas grenades and shells were used in World War I, with the development of nuclear armaments mankind has created a weapon that not only kills enemy combatants but also poisons non-combatants, poisons soldiers in the field and poisons the workers who manufacture the nuclear components of the weaponry.

An atomic bomb or nuclear missile has more destructive power than so-called conventional bombs because those not killed by blast and heat may die of radiation poisoning. Propagandists for the atomic bomb, such as Gen. Leslie Groves, the military head of the Manhattan Project, and William L. Laurence, the science reporter for The New York Times, deliberately drew the curtain over the radioactive horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It has now been documented that Laurence was also on Groves' payroll, for PR purposes. Laurence was perhaps the main writer to glorify the atomic bombings. He once wrote of the mushroom cloud that it was as beautiful as a modernist sculpture.

This fact should be taught to all schoolchildren: On July 16, 1945, 05:29:45, Mountain War Time, at the Alamogordo Test Range, in the Jornada del Muerto desert (Journey of Death), the most murderous weapon in human history was tested. The scientists already knew that if the Trinity explosion was successful, it would also have radioactive fallout.

The rancher and his horses downwind from the blast were not warned of the test. Native Americans, ranchers and others in towns near the Trinity site are still dying of cancer. Workers, family members and downwinders in the Tri-Cities are dying of cancer and the Columbia River has nuclear contaminants in its gut.

I know Trinity personally. My father worked at Hanford, helping to manufacture the plutonium for the Trinity Test and for its nuclear twin, Fat Man. Dad died in 1988 from cancer, after 30 years of work at Hanford. A snapshot of my father, when he first came out to Hanford in 1944, shows him on a fake pony, and he has a cowboy hat on. My mother – the rest of the family was still in Kansas City – thought it was a real horse and wrote him "to please be careful!"

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