Shattuck Hall was the site Saturday for a comprehensive community round table regarding nuclear weapons. In light of recent events, the forum was expanded to include international policy and America’s involvement in Afghanistan. Emotions often ran high, as both speakers and crowd members continually called into question U.S. foreign policy. The three-hour event was sponsored by the Portland Coalition Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space. A brief question and answer period followed 15-minute speeches by each of the four panel members. Finally, those in attendance broke into smaller groups to discuss the topics of the day.
Roughly half the auditorium was occupied to listen to a panel of speakers which featured Dr. Jon Mandeville, an internal studies professor at Portland State University. Other speakers included Dr.Martin Donohe from OHSU, Sister Jackie Hudson of the group “Ground Zero” and Bruce Gagnon of Florida. Topics varied from the effects of nuclear war on the human body to the possibilities of nuclear war in outer space.
The first to speak was Donohe, a medical doctor from OHSU. He claimed to have been inspired into activism at age 25, when he first learned of the effects radiation poisoning has on the human body.
He spent most of the time graphically explaining the horrors people suffer when exposed to radiation. The audience sat and listened in stunned silence as Donohe described what would happen to the people of the city of Portland in the event of a nuclear attack.
The effect of his presentation was gripping, and his depictions set the tone for the afternoon. There was a collective gasp from the crowd as the bitter realities of the result of nuclear war were carefully laid out.
The biggest reaction came when he detailed how impossible it would be to treat those who were “unfortunate enough to survive.” “Ninety percent of the medical field will be dead or dying. Water sources will all be contaminated and hospitals destroyed. The doctors remaining will be able to do little more than console victims as they die a horrible death.”
Donohoe was followed by a presentation by Mandeville. Mandeville grew up in Saudi Arabia and is a resident expert at Portland State in Middle East affairs. His lecture included a comprehensive overview of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, and he spoke to our history with this country and how it has led us to the point we find ourselves today. Mandeville avoided the subject of a nuclear holocaust early, saying, “We certainly will not use nuclear weapons in this war, although nuclear weapons remain a key element to the politics of this conflict.” Mandeville fielded many questions from the audience and used solid statistics to support all of his statements. He even seemed to be quite familiar with the cache of weapons being used by the people of Afghanistan, tracing them back to foreign trade.
“I am most concerned with the rifles” Mandeville said. “They have millions of them. Everybody seems to have an AK-47, and they fight to the death to defend their village.”
Hudson was next at the podium. She focused specifically on the eight trident submarines based outside of Seattle, and her peaceful policy which she called “non-violent direct action.” She described what she refers to as the “sea monsters,” painting a very vivid picture of the destruction these submarines are capable of facilitating. “These submarines are 560 feet long and four stories high, each carrying 192 nuclear warheads. Each warhead has a destructive capacity of 100 kilotons, eight times that of the atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima.”
The last to speak was Gagnon, an activist from Florida whose expertise lies in the militarization of outer space. The most animated and aggressive of all of the day’s speakers, Gagnon outlined what he believed to be an intricate plan by the United States government to achieve global domination by way of outer space. “Our Government is creating a weapons systems designed to knock out other satellites in order to deny foreign countries access to space,” Gagnon said. “With satellite domination, we will be able to coordinate all military action on Planet Earth.”
Those who attended the conference Saturday were treated to a well-rounded group of speakers, each with a different area of expertise and each with a different method of delivering their message. Donohoe was technical and methodical in describing what awaits us in the event of a nuclear incident.
Mandeville shed insight on historical facts and possible fall outs from our current conflict with Afghanistan. Sister Hudson made a passionate plea for peace and non-violent resolution, while educating the group about the nuclear submarines that are stationed in Kitsap County. Bruce Gagnon presented the fiery call to action, questioning the motives of our government and calling for an end to the militarization of outer space. Four different speakers appeared with four different messages, all extremely appropriate in the ever-changing climate of our world.