The Threat of Nuclear Weapons to America

Sixty years ago, the Cuban Missile Crisis came close to ending in a world-changing nuclear attack. Fortunately, JFK stood up to his generals and found a way to compromise with the Soviet Union. He wasn’t “weak” in seeking a diplomatic way out: he was wise.

Today, Joe Biden is America’s president, and his talk of Armageddon is too glib to inspire confidence. Strangely, Americans now look to the military for cautious diplomacy, which is a contradiction in terms.

We seem to have forgotten how vitally important it is to limit nuclear weapons, and to work diplomatically to ensure they’re never used in war, as well as to downsize nuclear arsenals worldwide, starting with our own.

Hans Bethe, who worked on the Manhattan Project during World War II, put it best in the aftermath of Hiroshima and Nagasaki: Such attacks “should never be done again.”

Bracing Views

W.J. Astore

Did you know the U.S. has built nearly 70,000 nuclear weapons since 1945? Did you know the U.S. Air Force lost a B-52 and two hydrogen bombs in an accident over North Carolina in 1961, and that one of those H-bombs was a single safety-switch away from exploding with a blast equivalent to three or four million tons of TNT (roughly 200 Hiroshima-type bombs)?  Did you know a U.S. nuclear missile exploded in its silo in Arkansas in 1980, throwing its thermonuclear warhead into the countryside?

nuclear_explosion_AP On more the one occasion, the U.S. has come close to nuking itself

That last accident is the subject of a PBS American Experiencedocumentary that I watched last night, “Command and Control.”  I highly recommend it to all Americans, not just for what it reveals about nuclear accidents and the lack of safety, but for what it reveals about…

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33 thoughts on “The Threat of Nuclear Weapons to America

  1. On more than one occasion, the US has come close to nuking itself! Wow, if that is not scary!

    Is it correct that in all the IBM bunkers there are two guys who can launch the missile. Both armed with a side arm. One is to shoot his buddy if he goes off the rails.

    Per US Air Force Instruction (AFI) 91-104, “the two-person concept” is designed to prevent accidental or malicious launch of nuclear weapons by a single individual.

    In the case of Minuteman missile launch crews, once a launch order is received, both operators must agree that it is valid by comparing the authorization code in the order against a Sealed Authenticator, a special sealed envelope containing a verification code. These Sealed Authenticators are stored in a safe which has two separate locks. Each operator has the key to only one lock, so neither can open the safe alone. Also, each operator has one of two launch keys. And if one guy has a Dr. Strangelove flashback – Shoot him.

    I guess it has worked so far!


    1. Yes, crews of two for land-based ICBMs, which are not needed and should be eliminated. But politics and profit keep getting in the way of sanity. So new ICBMs are likely in the future, I suppose because we’re still worshipping the bomb …

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The Nuclear Triad. A three-sided military-force structure consisting of land-launched missiles, nuclear-missile-armed submarines, and strategic aircraft with nuclear bombs and missiles.

        Another huge MIC scam. Trident submarines, also known as Ohio-class SSBNs (Ships, Submersible, Ballistic, Nuclear) are the deadliest weapons systems in the world – and could destroy the whole World all by themselves. No assistance from ICBM’s, B52H’s and B2A’s needed thanks very much.


      2. Yes, of course. There was a time when “the Triad” made some sense. That time ended about 50 years ago. But the Air Force will not give up its nuclear bombers and its land-based ICBMs. And western states where those ICBMs are located fight incredibly hard in Congress to keep those bases open and humming. States like North Dakota and Wyoming, not otherwise know as garden spots.


        1. Government programs create their own constituency and so never die. If we had eight ways of delivering nukes it would be called an Octad and every method would be considered absolutely necessary.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. That time ended about 50 years ago….

    In my first few years working in the US in the early 70’s I worked with a grizzled old Construction hard hat Superintendent who had spent his life in North Dakota and Wyoming building those ICBM bunkers.

    I have often wondered if those missiles would actually work as intended if they were called on to be deployed! After all they were built when their electrical control circuits utilized cathode-ray tubes. Using mechanical computers using levers and gears rather than electronic components at the very beginning of the missile age.

    I suppose billions of dollars has been spent over the years by the Air Force keeping these weapons up to date as technology evolved. I do not know if one has been tested to see if it would actually track to its target as planned. Maybe their performance remains purely theoretical!


  3. “Moffett’s computer monitor—the one that enables him to keep watch on a fleet of 10 nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs)—has a flashing glitch on the bottom of the screen. His classified phone line has such a weak connection that he can barely hear fellow Air Force officers who are commanding more than 100 other nuclear missiles spread across 9,600 sq. mi. “You can hear them pretty clearly if you stand on an angle, on one leg, and jump up and down,” Moffett says, smiling…..

    Walking into Moffett’s capsule at Alpha-01 is like walking into the past. Banks of turquoise electronics racks, industrial cables, and analog controls have been down here since the U.S. military installed the equipment decades ago. Look closely at the machines and you’ll find names of manufacturers like Radio Corp. of America, defunct since 1987, and Hughes Aircraft Co., defunct since 1997. Some systems have been updated over the years, but these advances are unrecognizable to anyone who lived through the personal-computer revolution, let alone the internet age. The entire ICBM fleet runs on less computational power than what’s now found inside the smartphone in your pocket. When something breaks, the Air Force maintenance crews pull parts from warehouse shelves, pay a contractor to make them to specifications, or even occasionally scavenge them from military museums.

    If an order ever came for Moffett, 29, to unleash the missiles under his command, the directive—which only a U.S. President can give—would come in the form of what’s called an Emergency Action Message. The order would appear on Moffett’s glitching trichromatic monitor via a computer program that still relies on floppy disks, initiating a series of steps to launch the missiles. A terminal countdown sequence would begin after a machine translated the digital signal from the command hub into an analog signal that the 50-year-old receiver inside a missile silo could recognize.”

    Scary stuff eh Bill!


  4. “The U.S. needs to replace the aging missiles, Biden and the Defense Department brass have concluded, rather than continuing the struggle to sustain the current system.

    Critics say this thinking is antiquated Cold War dogma. The thermonuclear missiles carried on submarines and long-range bombers are more than enough to dissuade hostile nations from reaching for their own nukes, they say. What’s more, they worry, ICBMs could trigger an inadvertent nuclear disaster through a faulty launch warning, an adversary’s miscalculation over U.S. intentions, or some other blunder. There were multiple near misses during the Cold War, when the annihilation of much of the human race was averted thanks only to luck or the common sense of a low-level officer. In February, the Pentagon postponed a long-planned ICBM test launch to avoid escalating tensions with Russia amid its war in Ukraine. Antinuclear groups call that kind of precarious circumstance evidence that perhaps the weapons should be scrapped altogether.”


  5. The Administration’s unclassified nuclear review has not been fully released to the public, but an Administration official says that in the wake of these developments the Biden team has signed off on the full rebuilding of the nuclear triad.


      1. Only $1,000,000,000,000 – pretty soon we will be talking real money eh Bill!
        The Pentagon wants to spend $1 trillion or more in the coming decades to replace all three legs of the triad. When the concept of the “triad” with today’s weapon delivery systems makes zero sense militarily!


  6. Wow! the article you wrote several years ago is terrifying!! I hope everyone who logged in to this one today will click on the longer one written a few years ago (wish there was a date on it). They need to read it. The missile explosion in Nevada along with its aftermath for the people who were injured was bad enough, but then you tell us the Pentagon wanted to atom bomb the moon just for PR so show how powerful we are – good God it’s hard to believe we have morphed our military into generals and admirals who are not only total idiots, but also totally amoral!!! What can we do to get rid of people like that? Is there any way?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This doesn’t directly answer your question, but I found these words from Caitlin Johnstone to be reassuring:

      Don’t let anyone tell you your criticisms of US warmongering make no difference; if they didn’t, the empire wouldn’t work so hard to dissuade you from making them. They work so hard to manufacture public consent for their agendas because they absolutely require that consent.

      An entire globe-spanning empire rests on our closed eyelids. Depends on keeping us in a propaganda-induced coma. Circulating ideas and information which discredit and dispute that propaganda poses a direct threat to that empire. That’s what all the censorship of dissent is about.

      Is your one tweet, video or public demonstration going to bring the empire crashing down? Of course not. But it will spread awareness by that much. And all positive changes in human behavior are always preceded by an expansion of awareness. You’re nudging us all toward awakening to whatever extent you help expand awareness of truth and reality.

      We can’t be the Hollywood hero who single-handedly decapitates the machine, but we can all collectively throw sand in its gears, making it harder and harder for it to function. That’s what disrupting the imperial propaganda machine accomplishes, because that machine depends on propaganda. The weakest part of an empire that’s held together by lies and manipulation is its lies and manipulations; that’s why it’s such an aggressively protected aspect of its power. And it happens to be the one part that anyone with a voice can attack, and attack effectively.

      The nightmare scenario for our rulers is the same as the nightmare scenario for every ruler throughout history: that the masses will get sick of their rule and use the power of their numbers to get rid of them. That’s exactly what the propaganda matrix is designed to prevent.

      One aspect of this struggle that is a bit like a Hollywood movie is that it kind of is a struggle between light and darkness, because the empire depends on keeping its activities obfuscated and unseen while we’re all working to make its machinery visible and transparent. That’s why Assange is in prison. It’s also why internet censorship keeps ramping up, why propaganda is getting more and more blatant, and why online discussion is swarmed by astroturf trolling ops. Those in power are working against the people to keep things dark and unseen.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Hi RANNEY how about the Pentagon wanting to “let one off” – an ICBM that is. Just to see if it works! “Light the blue touch paper fuse Daddy”!!
    Their fireworks fun interrupted – “postponed a long-planned ICBM test launch to avoid escalating tensions with Russia amid its war in Ukraine.” Oh Golly – what spoil sports!


  8. I recall the movie Fail Safe in which the failure of the system designed to prevent it results in Moscow being destroyed with a nuke delivered by a US bomber. In a realistic scene, despite the horror of what is about to happen, a cheer goes up in the SAC control room when it is clear that a single US bomber has made it through all the USSR air defenses to reach Moscow despite the US advising the USSR on how best to bring the bombers down. The US President orders the USAF to similarly bomb NYC with no warning to the residents, a sacrifice to avoid total nuclear war. Though all of us have seen freeze frame video, at the time (1964) the effect had not been overused. Instead of NYC being shown destroyed, various scenes around the city were simply frozen. When the credits roll, included is a message from our military informing viewers that the situation depicted in the movie is not possible.

    I was fourteen when I saw it. The audience was completely silent when the movie ended.

    I’m sure nobody would have thought the accident at the silo in Arkansas was possible. Then a crewman dropped a wrench.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. On the subject of accidents with military munitions (not nuclear) I wonder how many young Americans are aware of two other huge accidents in the US.

    The T. A. Gillespie Company Shell Loading Plant explosion, occurred in October, 1918, at a World War I ammunition plant in the Morgan area of Sayreville, NJ. The initial explosion, generally believed to be accidental, triggered a fire and that continued for three days, killing about 100 people and injuring hundreds more. The facility, one of the largest in the world at the time, was destroyed along with more than 300 surrounding buildings, forcing the evacuation and reconstruction of Sayreville, South Amboy, and Laurence Harbor.

    The explosions scattered thousands of shells and components over a wide area, more than 1.2 miles in radius. Nearly a century later, unexploded ordnance from the facility was still being found in the surrounding area. In 1994 and again in 1997, the discovery of shells near Sayreville’s Dwight D. Eisenhower Elementary School spurred cleanup operations by the US Army Corps of Engineers, which collected and disposed of a combined total of 5,080 pieces of ordnance. And as recent as 2007, ordnance was discovered at Samsel Upper Elementary School while workers were grading an area for a playground.

    On the morning of July 20, 1944 Benicia n’s in Northern CA learned there had been a massive explosion at the Port Chicago Weapons Depot when the Victory Ship “E. A. Bryan” exploded while loaded with 10,000 tons of munitions.

    The City of Port Chicago was destroyed, and nearby Martinez also took a severe blow. So bad was the damage to the Martinez hospital that ambulances from Oakland were called, and the Oakland and Berkeley hospitals were soon full of injured military personnel and civilians from Port Chicago, and surrounding Martinez, Crockett, Concord and Walnut Creek. Concord and Walnut Creek had been nearly totally destroyed.

    Wartime censorship blacked out all news of the explosion. At the Depot, 320 servicemen were killed and 390 wounded. Many from crews of the ships in port. Unexploded ordnance was hurled in all directions, including across the strait toward Benicia.

    A month later the surviving black servicemen, many suffering from what was later known to be traumatic brain injury from the blast, refused to load more ships and were convicted of mutiny. The Port Chicago mutiny would later be seen as one of the first steps toward racial desegregation of the Armed Services.


    1. Don’t forget the explosion in Halifax harbour in 1917.

      The Mont-Blanc, laden with high explosives, caught fire and exploded, devastating the Richmond district of Halifax. 1,782 people were killed, largely in Halifax and Dartmouth, by the blast, debris, fires, or collapsed buildings, and an estimated 9,000 others were injured.


      1. Maybe it shows you how Americentric American is eh Ray, but in the 41-years I lived and worked in Seattle in the Marine Industry I never heard about this Canadian marine explosion

        As you say, the explosion involving the SS Mont-Blanc and the Norwegian SS Imo in Halifax, Nova Scotia, which occurred only a year apart during WW1, in Halifax, killed 1,782 (!) and injured 9,000! The explosion was the largest human-made explosion in the world at this time – dwarfing the Shell Loading Plant explosion in Morgan NJ in the US – which only killed about 100 people.

        Interestingly, showing that conspiracy theories of our time are not new, many people in Canada were convinced the explosion to be the result of a German attack. The Halifax Herald propagated this belief, reporting that Germans had mocked victims of the explosion.

        While John Johansen, the Norwegian helmsman of the SS Imo, was being treated for serious injuries sustained during the explosion, it was reported to the military police that he had been behaving suspiciously. He was arrested on suspicions of being a German spy when a search turned up a letter on his person purportedly written in German.

        It turned out later that the letter was actually written in Norwegian. Immediately following the explosion, the German survivors in Halifax were rounded up and imprisoned. Eventually the fear dissipated as the real cause of the explosion became known, although conspiracies of German involvement persist to this day.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I lived in Halifax as a Sales Representative for the US giant Ingersol-Rand Corp. in 1968 covering the 4 Atlantic Provinces.
          After being BORN AGAIN I revisited the City in 1986 and The Halifax Daily News wrote a report with the header, ‘Prophet sees CanaDa as the New Israel’

          Liked by 1 person

  10. I would have thought some things were self-evident, but I’ve certainly been wrong before:
    You can’t expect people to be outraged or scared silly by what almost or might have happened, even with nuclear weapons. The only time people DO care about what almost or might have happened is while watching instant replays or post-game highlights from sports.
    As regards dragging up that “the U.S. remains the only country to use nuclear weapons” … please. That falls firmly in the, “Yeah. Okay. So what?” column. 77 years ago and counting. In “The Making of the Atomic Bomb,” Richard Rhodes points out that both the Japanese and Germans were working on nuclear programs, but couldn’t get it together. For the U.S. to use them was a case of “Firstest with the Mostest,” which is how wars are often decided. Would it have been less of a moral outrage if Hiroshima and Nagasaki and other cities had been wiped out with incendiaries and “blockbusters.”? Dead is dead. No one weeps for Dresden anymore.
    As for why more people don’t listen to anyone’s favorite podcast or read their favorite blog (except, of course, Bracing Views), it might just be they aren’t interested. Blaming it on mainstream media is too easy. If Jimmy Dore announces next month he now has 50 million viewers/listeners, by sheer volume – and we all love tossing around big numbers and statistics – the definition of mainstream media changes somewhat, but it’s still one source saying “I got your Truth right here.”
    Finally, my reading of the Zodiac says there will be nuclear disarmament when they’ve all been used. No one will completely disarm while there is one left anywhere on the planet.
    The only hope is if Klaatu and Gort return.


  11. You have to subscribe to Elijah J Magnier to read his full articles after the intro.
    Obviously he thinks his latest is important enough to understand, he published the whole article for free.

    ‘The CIA’s invisible war on Russia: Who is winning in the bigger picture of the war?’

    In recent weeks, Russia was under a terrorist assassination attack in the heart of Moscow when a bomb exploded under Darya Dugina’s car, killing the daughter of the Russian philosopher Alexandre, known to be close to Russian President Vladimir Putin. The US intelligence officers claimed that elements of the Ukrainian security forces were behind the terrorist attack and authorised the assassination.
    Also, a few weeks later, the Russian pipeline that supplies Europe with gas and runs under the Baltic Sea in an area heavily monitored by NATO forces was blown up in different locations. US President Joe Biden had promised he “will be able to bring Nord Stream 2 to an end”.

    The consequences of the explosions in the gas pipeline fall in favour of the US’s policy. It closed the path for European leaders who might have weakened in front of their citizens if they had been willing to contemplate the return of the Russian gas flow to the continent due to the severe inflation and rising energy prices.
    Russia could regain the gas delivery to Europe if included in the investigation. Also, repairing the sabotaged lines can be helpful only if Europe wants to restore gas flow to the mainland, which is unlikely to occur unless Moscow shows more determination to win the war quickly and the US and its allies accept their defeat.

    Furthermore, last week, a truck with explosives blew up on the bridge linking Crimea with Russia at a perfectly organised time, during the crossing of a supply train to the Russian forces in the south of Ukraine. The international community never condemned the terrorist attack, but US and Ukrainian intelligence sources claimed that Ukraine was behind the attack. Russia responded by bombing selective targets in over twenty Ukrainian cities, re-establishing the moral balance on the battlefield and on social media among anti-US supporters…………………………………………………….

    Americans have been brainwashed to believe this is WAR between Ukraine and Russia. Russia knows it’s a US WAR against Russia using Ukrainians as the sacrificial lambs. We live in VERY DANGEROUS Times!

    Who’s winning? The Economist says Russia is coming out of Recession as NATO Europe and the US are entering recession.


  12. Responsible Statecraft’s Harry Kazianis discusses….in a recent article titled “Talking is not appeasement — it’s avoiding a nuclear armageddon“:

    “I have fought more than thirty combat simulations in wargames under my own direction for a private defense contract over the last several months, looking at various aspects of the Russia-Ukraine war, and one thing is clear: the chances of a nuclear war increase significantly every day that passes.

    In every scenario I tested, the Biden Administration slowly gives Ukraine ever more advanced weapons like ATACMS, F-16s, and other platforms that Russia has consistently warned pose a direct military threat. While each scenario has postulated a different point at which Moscow decides to use a tactical nuclear weapon in order to counter conventional platforms it can’t easily defeat, the chances that Russia uses nukes grow as new and more powerful military capabilities are introduced into the battlefield by the West.

    In fact, in 28 of the thirty scenarios I have run since the war began, some sort of nuclear exchange occurs.

    The good news is there is a way out of this crisis — however imperfect it may be. In the two scenarios where nuclear war was averted, direct negotiations led to a ceasefire.”


  13. Thank you for your response Bill, but my question was not so much about the weird people we now have running the Pentagon, I know we are stuck with them, but what I was trying to ask (obviously poorly) was how to prevent promoting these mindless war mongers to high positions like generals and admirals where their sloppy amoral thinking becomes part of our foreign affairs stance. Or will the next set of generals and admirals advising future presidents be like the ones we have now or possibly more so? It is a frightening thought. Maybe it begins in grade school, where kids can be taught that this country does not run the world and every culture has a right to its own way of living. But it will be a long time before anything like that happens – the propaganda and programming begins early these days.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. The way to prevent, as Ranney put it, “promoting these mindless war mongers to high positions like generals and admirals where their sloppy amoral thinking becomes part of our foreign affairs stance” is to get rid of the elected politicians, career civilian bureaucrats, and anointed political appointees who actually execute what their owners, operators, commanders, and controllers in the MICCMATT and Beyond who determine and decide what that stance on foreign affairs is going to be.

    And the only way that that is going to happen is when the American People DEMAND that those elected politicians make that happen.

    And that ain’t gonna happen anytime soon.

    It hasn’t happened in the 77 years since the end of World War II, all the way thru first Cold War I and then “The Forever War.” And it certainly isn’t going to happen now that Cold War II is upon us; what with a new Hitler on the loose in Europe, and a new Yellow Peril in the East.


  15. RANNEY,
    The United States Needs a New Foreign Policy. Only a fool would argue against the notion that the global order is crumbling, domestic renewal is needed, and America must reinvent its role in the world.

    I’m a “retrenchmentist” – if there is such a word:

    “The U.S. may be first among unequals for now, but the notion that its leaders can resurrect the era of uncontested American primacy, prevent China’s rise, or will our diplomatic relationships and tools into exactly their pre-Trump, pre-pandemic shapes is a mirage.

    Retrenchment is easily distorted as a kind of nativist isolationism or pathological declinism. It is often portrayed as a Bannonite call to throw overboard a sense of enlightened self-interest, and focus at long last on the “self” part.

    The heart of the argument is far less radical; it’s about narrowing our concept of vital interests, sharply reducing global military deployments, shedding outdated alliances, and reining in our missionary zeal for democracy-building abroad.

    Retrenchment means jettisoning our arrogant dismissiveness of nationalism and sovereignty, and understanding that other powers will continue to pursue spheres of influence and defend them. And it means acknowledging that the U.S. can manage threats and adversaries more effectively than it can vanquish them.”

    My vision of this foreign affairs stance has a major component of, and concerted effort of, preventing promoting mindless war mongers to high positions like generals and admirals. My next set of generals and admirals advising future presidents will be focused on defense not offense.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. IF I WERE DICTATOR, I’D …; A Thought Experiment In Which You Become The Dictator of The United States of America, and Explain to the American People and the World What You intend to Do. And How and Why You intend to do it.

    “If this were a dictatorship, it would be a heck of a lot easier… as long as I’m the dictator.” – GW Bush
    “If I were King of the Forest… “ – the Cowardly Lion
    “If I only had a Brain… “ – the Scare Crow

    And he, Bush, is, of course, absolutely correct. A dictatorship is ALWAYS a heck of lot easier……, especially for the dictator. There are, always have been, and always will be any number of people who could and would testify to this: particularly among those with first-hand experience as either a dictator or a dictator’s functionary or beneficiary, from the highest to the lowest levels.

    For the sake of exploring possibilities, then, let us pretend for a moment that OPERATION SMEDLEY BUTLER is a complete and total success: ie, that a military coup spearheaded by the Walter E Kurtz Brigade overthrows the government of the United States, placing the entire Legislative branch and the entire senior leadership of the Executive and Judicial branches of that government under arrest for, among other things beyond mere dereliction of duty: incompetence, corruption, collusion, duplicity, and complicity, among other “high crimes and misdemeanors,” including above all, breach of trust. The coup occurs very late one Friday nite, and is completely bloodless.

    Early Saturday morning, a spokeswoman for The Coup, speaking from The White House, announces that: a temporary change in the government of this nation has indeed occurred; that the seizure of power by “The Walter E Kurtz Brigade” is total but temporary; and that the mission ~ and thus first order of business ~ of the new government is, quite simply, to fix the old one. Permanently.

    She explains that the Coup has complete and total control of all strategic and tactical space, air, sea, and land global, national, state, and local defense, security, intelligence, communications, transportation, and law enforcement assets and agencies.

    She explains further that all economic, social, financial, fiscal, and monetary policy and action agencies and offices of the Federal government (including all branches of The Federal Reserve) are also under Coup control.

    Next, she says that she will be followed by the individual who will explain exactly What the new government is going to do (and un-do), and How and Why it is going to do (and un-do) it; and, that this person will detail all of the Executive Orders that You just finished signing. She then introduces You …….

    What do You say?

    You’ve got 30 minutes.


  17. My vision of this foreign affairs stance would also see the US ceasing the role of playing the World’s Policeman, closing its 800 overseas military bases, and abandoning the concept of Naval power projection. One aircraft on each cost would suffice. Scrap the other ten. Space exploration would be given on up as an expensive lost cause. Instead spending the money saved on global warming initiatives and mitigation, future green energy generation and “Fair” Global Trade rather the “Free” Global Trade. This would involve tariffs where appropriate. in this respect isolationism would be avoided.


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