by Devin Thomas

Last Saturday, the Vandenberg Peace Legal Defense Fund and local
activist MacGregor Eddy held a protest at Vandenberg Air Force Base
calling for an end to U.S. space domination and nuclear testing in
the North Pacific Ocean. Vandenberg — just north of Lompoc — is a
key player in aerospace technology and a launching site for
missiles landing in the Republic of the Marshall Islands. Between
1946 and 1958, the U.S. tested 67 nuclear weapons on the islands,
including the infamous Castle Bravo that resulted in the radiation
poisoning of 236 Marshallese. The islands achieved independence
from the U.S. in 1986, but the U.S. continues to operate the Ronald
Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site (RTS) on 11 of the 100
Marshall Islands in exchange for providing economic aid to the

The protest was staged at the front gate of the Vandenberg Air
Force Base and included testimony by three guest speakers — Medea
Benjamin of Global Exchange, Bill Mitchell of Gold Star Families
for Peace, and Marshall Islands native and activist Que Keju. Keju
lost both his father and sister to cancer derived from radiation
poisoning. Despite the devastating effects of U.S. nuclear weapons
on the island, many Marshallese support the RTS because they see
U.S. aid as the only way to keep the islands afloat economically.
Keju, however, advocates complete self-sufficiency for the islands.
He calls on the U.S. to “create an economic engine that will
sustain [the Marshallese] for years.” He also urges Marshallese who
consider relocating to the U.S. not to abandon the islands.
According to Keju, they must ask themselves, “Am I going to abandon
my home? Am I going to abandon my precious life?”


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