Magazine article The Humanist

Ending the Fool's Game; Saving Civilization

Magazine article The Humanist

Ending the Fool's Game; Saving Civilization

Article excerpt

"A fool's game" is how retired General George Lee Butler, former head of the U.S. Strategic Air Command, refers to nuclear weapons. He says that these weapons offer no security and their complete elimination is "the only defensible goal."

A fool's game, indeed--and the United States is the biggest fool for allowing the power elite to maintain a stockpile of over thirty thousand nuclear weapons more than a decade after the end of the Cold War.

The ultimate absurdity is that thousands of U.S. and Russian nuclear warheads remain on hair-trigger alert and could be launched on a few minutes' notice, potentially destroying both countries in less than an hour. As Bruce Blair, head of the Center for Defense Information (CDI) and a former Minuteman Missile Launch officer states, "Both sides are cocked on hair-triggers ... and both sides can retarget a missile in seconds--just a few strokes on a keyboard."

The result is that the United States continues to be under the daily threat of nuclear incineration whether initiated by an accidental missile launch, miscalculation, or design. Regarding miscalculation, the United States and Soviet Union had come frighteningly close to nuclear war over the years, with mere luck playing a major role in averting disaster.

Robert McNamara, secretary of defense in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, acknowledges that during the Cuban missile crisis "we came within a hairbreadth of nuclear war without realizing it." He said, "It's no credit to us that we missed nuclear war--at least we had to be lucky as well as wise."

It can only be guessed how many other close calls there have been over the years but here are a few documented examples:

1979: A CNN Cold War program reported that a technician at the North American Air Defense Command mistakenly placed a training tape into the main systems at NORAD's Cheyenne Mountain Complex in Colorado. The tape caused NORAD's early-warning system computer to respond that the United States was undergoing a massive Soviet missile attack. NORAD officials were alerted but within minutes the error was discovered, ending the threat of launching U.S. missiles in retaliation. This incident was one of rive missile warning system failures that occurred over an eight-month period.

1980: In the August 14, 1983, issue of Parade, Jack Anderson reports that on November 19, 1980, two Air Force missile officers were conducting a drill of a simulated missile launch of their Titan missile at McConnell Air Force Base near Wichita, Kansas. When Captain Henry Winsett and First Lieutenant David Mosley turned the keys for the simulated launch, something went wrong. They received a message of "Launch Sequence Go" which means the real missile launch sequence is underway. Fortunately, Winsett had the good sense to shut the missile down before it could be launched. Mosley said it couldn't be determined whether the missile's guidance system would have steered the missile to a target in Russia, which would assuredly have resulted in Soviet retaliation. But, he said, it would have gone somewhere "north." This close call still gives him tremors.

1984: As reported on the CNN Cold War program, in August 1984 a low-ranking officer at Soviet Pacific fleet headquarters in Vladivostok broadcast a war alert to Soviet forces at sea. For thirty minutes, until it was determined that the alert was false, Soviet ship commanders sent back urgent inquiries about the alert as they prepared for combat. In the meantime, U.S. and Japanese forces also went to a higher alert status.

1995: The Center for Defense Information (CDI) and several other reliable sources report that in 1995 the monitors of the Russian Strategic Rocker Force at the Olengrosk early-warning radar site registered the launch of a U.S.-Norwegian research missile probe of the upper atmosphere. To the Russians, the missile's trajectory looked like a U.S. Trident missile, which carries multiple nuclear warheads. …

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