Preventing Doomsday

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I well recall walking in and out of this tunnel.  (You could take a bus too.)

W.J. Astore

It’s hard to think of a higher priority than the prevention of doomsday. Global catastrophe could strike in quick-time via nuclear war, or in slow-motion via global warming. Yet our leaders persist in rattling and sharpening the nuclear saber while denying the very reality of global warming (even as state-size chunks of ice break off from the polar ice caps).

Global catastrophe: What, me worry? It’s a MAD world indeed.

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Today at TomDispatch.com, I return to my days working in Cheyenne Mountain, America’s nuclear command and control center, tunneled out of a massive granite mountain in Colorado. I argue that it’s time to overcome our lockdown, shelter-in-place, mentality, before that fear-filled mindset leads us all to catastrophe. You can read the entire article here. What follows is an excerpt:

Duck and Cover, America!

Remember those old American Express card commercials with the tag line “Don’t leave home without it”?  If America’s Department of Homeland Security had its own card, its tag would be: “Don’t leave home.”

Consider the words of retired General John Kelly, the head of that department, who recently suggested that if Americans knew what he knew about the nasty terror threats facing this country, they’d “never leave the house.”  General Kelly, a big bad Marine, is a man who — one would think — does not frighten easily.  It’s unclear, however, whether he considers it best for us to “shelter in place” just for now (until he sends the all-clear signal) or for all eternity.

One thing is clear, however: Islamic terrorism, an exceedingly modest danger to Americans, has in these years become the excuse for the endless construction and funding of an increasingly powerful national security state (the Department of Homeland Security included), complete with a global surveillance system for the ages.  And with that, of course, goes the urge to demobilize the American people and put them in an eternal lockdown mode, while the warrior pros go about the business of keeping them “safe” and “secure.”

I have a few questions for General Kelly: Is closing our personal blast doors the answer to keeping our enemies and especially our fears at bay?  What does security really mean?  With respect to nuclear Armageddon, should the rich among us indeed start building personal bomb shelters again, while our government continues to perfect our nuclear arsenal by endlessly updating and “modernizing” it?  (Think: smart nukes and next generation delivery systems.)  Or should we work toward locking down and in the end eliminating our doomsday weaponry?  With respect to both terrorism and immigration, should we really hunker down in Homeland U.S.A., slamming shut our Trumpian blast door with Mexico (actually long under construction) and our immigration system, or should we be working to reduce the tensions of poverty and violence that generate both desperate immigrants and terrorist acts?

President Trump and “his” generals are plainly in favor of you and yours just hunkering down, even as they continue to lash out militarily around the globe.  The result so far: the worst of both worlds — a fortress America mentality of fear and passivity domestically and a kinetic, manic urge to surge, weapons in hand, across significant parts of the planet.

Call it a passive-aggressive policy.  We the people are told to remain passive, huddling in our respective home bunkers, sheltering in place, even as America’s finest aggressively strike out at those we fear most.  The common denominator of such a project is fear — a fear that breeds compliance at home and passivity before uniformed, if often uninformed, experts, even as it generates repetitive, seemingly endless, violence abroad.  In short, it’s the doomsday mentality applied every day in every way.

Returning to Cheyenne Mountain

Thirty years ago, as a young Air Force officer, Cheyenne Mountain played a memorable role in my life.  In 1988 I left that mountain redoubt behind, though I carried with me a small slab of granite from it with a souvenir pen attached.  Today, with greying hair and my very own time machine (my memories), I find myself returning regularly to Cheyenne Mountain, thinking over where we went wrong as a country in allowing a doomsday-lockdown mentality to get such a hold on us.

Amazingly, Barack Obama, the president who made high-minded pleas to put an end to nuclear weapons (and won a Nobel Prize for them), pleas supported by hard-headed realists like former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and George Shultz, gave his approval to a trillion-dollar renovation of America’s nuclear triad before leaving office.  That military-industrial boondoggle will now be carried forward by the Trump administration.  Though revealing complete ignorance about America’s nuclear triad during the 2016 election campaign, President Trump has nevertheless boasted that the U.S. will always be “at the top of the pack” when it comes to doomsday weaponry.  And whether with Iran or North Korea, he foolishly favors policies that rattle the nuclear saber.

In addition, recent reports indicate that America’s nuclear arsenal may be less than secure.  In fact, as of this March, inspection results for nuclear weapons safety and security, which had been shared freely with the American public, are now classified in what the Associated Press calls a “lockdown of information.”  Naturally, the Pentagon claims greater secrecy is needed to protect us against terrorism, but it serves another purpose: shielding incompetence and failing grades.  Given the U.S. military’s nightmarish history of major accidents with nuclear weapons, more secrecy and less accountability doesn’t exactly inspire greater confidence.

Today, the Cheyenne complex sits deactivated, buried inside its mountain, awaiting fresh purpose.  And I have one.  Let’s bring our collective fears there, America.  Let’s bury them under all that granite.  Let’s close the blast doors behind us as we walk out of that dark tunnel toward the light.  For sheltering in place shouldn’t be the American way.  Nor should we lock ourselves down for life.  It would be so much better to lockdown instead what should be truly unthinkable: doomsday itself, the mass murder of ourselves and the destruction of our planet.

9 thoughts on “Preventing Doomsday

  1. As always. A thoughtful, objective, fact based analysis. It appears, the way things are going, human race is pacing towards self destruction. Perhaps, the Almighty has had enough of our wickedness and goading us towards destruction! Hate to come to this conclusion, but it appears that way.

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  2. I came across an interesting PDF on line http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a227383.pdf Wartime press censorship, by US armed Forces a Historical Perspective. The author outlines the struggle from pre-revoultionary war times to 1990 and the invasion of Panama of censorship, either imposed by the State, or self censorship by the correspondence and news media.

    The reporting of censorship issues in war, break down into general categories: Actual descriptions of the units involved and being on the “team”. The Vietnam War brought this tectonic crack into the open. There were reports in near real time of battles and the assurances by the Political-Military establishment we have light at the end of the tunnel, or we have turned the corner. The official version (we are winning) was often at stark contrast with the actual situation.

    Today, the three main cable networks: CNN, MSNBC and FOX display self censorship, servile boot licking demonstrations by their “hosts and guests” when ever there is any discussion of our military. Mild criticism of the politics of deployment or re-deployment is permitted. No critique of the entire scope of operations is allowed. If someone in the McMega-Media would question the scope of operations, the heavy jack hammer of a lack of patriotism would fall on them.

    FDR once said, “The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself”. Fear of well anything has become an industry -Russians, Chinese, North Korea, Iran, Syria, ISIS, etc.

    By the way, victory in Mosul has been proclaimed. I read else where on the internet, the Battle of Mosul lasted longer than Stalingrad, with similar results to Mosul’s infrastructure.

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    1. Good call-out on the “liberation” of Mosul. Another village destroyed to save it. How come when the U.S. “saves” some foreign city (previously with some living foreigners in it) the place usually winds up looking like Hiroshima after the nuclear bomb blast in 1945? Jimmy Dore has a Youtube discussion of this travesty complete with pictures and a reminder of how U. S. Secretary of State (and former U.S. Army General) Colin Powell got the ball rolling fourteen years ago at the UN with “rock solid intelligence, not assertions” about all those Iraqi “Weapons of Mass Destruction” that Saddam Hussein didn’t have. The world can now see the results of those cynical and callous lies today in the flattened landscape of another Iraqi city. See: I-R-A-Q: This Is What Victory Looks Like.

      Meanwhile, with nothing much to do and all the taxpayer money in the world to waste doing it, the U.S. Air Force flies a couple of b-1 bombers 2,000 miles from Guam to the Korean border in order to drop some “dud” bombs in a “demonstration” of … just what, exactly? I guess the islanders living on Guam felt “threatened” by North Korea and just had to call in the U.S. Air Force to help them feel all-safe-and-stuff. I wonder what would have happened if the North Koreans, Chinese, or Russians had taken those bombers at face value? I smell “Gulf of Tonkin” all over again, only with mushroom clouds and millions of dead Koreans. Oh, yes, and we should probably add in 29,000 U.S. troops incinerated, too. It escapes me what business they have in Korea after 60+ years. Oh, yes. That “tripwire” thing. You know: “sacrificial hostage.” I don’t want to plug certain of the news outlets carrying this story because they contain loads of propaganda baggage from the U.S. military about “defending Alaska” and horseshit like that, but the interested person can do a quick internet search on “U.S. Air Force drops dummy bomb near Korean DMZ.” Whatever maniac — or “mad dog” — authorized this hair-raising stunt ought to find himself courts-martialled, reduced two ranks, and cashiered from the service without pay or benefits. It doesn’t take much imagination to picture Seoul and Pyongyang (and perhaps, Tokyo) looking like Mosul.

      I would add that President Trump, like President Obama before him, has “let slip the dogs of war” without even crying “Havoc!” but that would imply that the dogs had a leash on them in the first place, and what fool could believe a ludicrous assertion like that?

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  3. ” We the people are told to remain passive” is a point that has been intriguing me since quite some time. Apart from being told to hide under the desk when the big one falls and leave everything to experts, we have been increasingly ‘moronised’, first by TV, then internet and games. Life is being made to be all about fun & games, if not litterally then at least virtually for those who cannot afford any such luxuries in real life. Virtual reality in TV keeping us from getting involved with – let alone worry about – the true one, the state of the world and what our respective gorvenments are doing about it. Am I a delusional believer in conspiracy theories when I wonder whether there is a murky purpose in all this? Providing a Reader’s Digest version of proper education through internet and thus keeping as many as possible happy with 3-seconds-attention-span titbits of ‘knowledge’ about the world, without feeling any need to use their own brains & judgment?

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  4. I sincerely hope that the world’s leaders have a plan for the event of a single nuclear detonation, wherever it may occur and whether as an act of terror or an accident. Though the Cold War is over there are still plenty of nuclear weapons on land, at sea ready to go and probably some in the air at all times. With the proliferation of nuclear weapons there are more chances for an accident.

    9/11 showed how unprepared the U.S. was for that disaster. Imagine any city in the world being even partially vaporized and the instant need to pin the blame and punish without knowing what actually happened. Look at the eagerness to assign blame for the “chemical attacks” in Syria with still no conclusion on who did what.

    Whatever the cause of a nuclear detonation, it is hard to imagine responsibility being taken or a satisfactory offer of compensation if it is an accident. The book and movie Fail Safe provided a horrible “solution” but one easily imaginable as the only thing to do in that specific situation. It was quite plausible with a Henry Fonda as President. We have Trump.

    Given the fact that these weapons are not going to go away, one can’t say there will never be a nuclear detonation. It’s only a matter of time. The UN should be obsessed with the issue with the General Assembly demanding it be discussed.

    Can we at least hope that the U.S., Russia, China, Britain, France, Pakistan, India, Israel and North Korea have a joint plan for it? I seriously doubt they do.

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  5. Great post Mr. Astore.

    A recent post in the New Yorker applied this call for sanity you advocate to climate change. Within a week it has become the most-read New Yorker article ever.

    But the author has had to already post another article supporting his original one.

    And the fear in those reacting was something else (Don’t Worry, Be Happy – 3).

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  6. Having spent my Army service at Fort Carson at the foot of Cheyenne Mt.with full knowledge that I case of war a huge assault against the mountain would have been unleashed leaving us as blowing dust I have long questioned the sanity of our policies. Yours is a well reasoned call for us to another path.

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