By | The New Mexican
Historic preservation is a Northern New
Mexican hallmark, and Santa Fe's reputation for carrying it out has
lots to do with our community's popularity as a place to visit. Given
our 400-year history, there has been plenty to preserve and
commemorate; scenes grand and humble, public and private, civilian
So are the editorial "we" being
shortsighted when, as we're about to, we raise our eyebrows over the
notion of establishing national parks at three locations crucial to
development of nuclear weapons?
Los Alamos, of course, is one
of them. Oak Ridge, Tenn., and Hanford, Wash., are the other two
places Interior Secretary Ken Salazar recently promoted as components
of a national historical park in honor of the atomic bomb.
wasn't new: New Mexico's Sen. Jeff Bingaman sponsored the Manhattan
Project National Historical Park Study Act back in 2004. In the House
of Representatives, Northern New Mexico's Tom Udall was a co-sponsor
of the bill. It was signed into law by President George W. Bush.
But with Secretary Salazar's appearance at the three sites in
recent days, the idea gained new traction. Opponents to development
of nuclear anything, especially bombs, went predictably ballistic:
The Los Alamos Study Group's Greg Mello, in prose overwrought
enough to make even this paper's purple-prose scribbler blush,
rhetorically asked, "Are we really poised to make a national
park out of a few shabby ruins where we built instruments of mass
murder, delivered to statesmen the instruments of universal
destruction, and destroyed the marriage between science and human
Bingaman and Udall are sticking to their guns,
or bombs: They're behind legislation Bingaman is drafting to follow
up the park-study measure with a bill to make the park(s) a reality.
Bingaman says it's important for us to acknowledge the legacy
of the Manhattan Project, which he characterizes as "one of the
most important events in our nation's history." Udall pronounced
himself "pleased that we are no taking the next important step
toward preserving this history for future generations."
There's no denying the importance of the Manhattan Project —
and if it saved so much as one American life among the many that
surely would have been lost if we'd invaded the Japanese mainland in
1945, we applaud its original goal. But it brought instant death and
long-term suffering to tens of thousands of Japanese civilians. And
it also opened a Pandora's box of evil in the wrong hands, where some
soon landed — or maybe even in the right ones; nearly seven
decades of global undiplomacy, and conventional wars touted as better
than nuclear ones, are only part of the project's horrific legacy.
Thus the hand-wringing by the anti-nuke activists around
here. And thus the vast public-relations challenge facing the
B-b-but what about Gettysburg? Pearl
Harbor? Ford's Theater? They're part of our history, and part of our
historical-park system, come arguments from the National Parks
True — but folks interested in the Manhattan
Project already may visit the excellent Bradbury Museum on "the
Besides, there's no money for such a new project
— and if there were, it should be put to use maintaining our
many down-at-the-heels national parks.
Our senators cite
"strong public support" that emerged in favor of their
proposal. Maybe there was some in 2004 — but that was when the
country still enjoyed a bit of prosperity; today, our government has
warred and tax-cut its way to the brink of financial disaster, if not
Whatever the merits of this tri-state project may
be, it belongs on the shelf.