Forget pictures of the 1945 Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bomb aftermath, today’s hydrogen warheads are thousands of times more destructive. A tiny few of them — and “small” nuclear bombs and “limited” nuclear war are gross fallacies — would in various ways and within 10 years or so, obliterate nearly all life on earth: 7.6 billion people (including you and me), their (and our) dogs, cats, birds, plants, and other life forms.
From 1977 through 1984 there were 2,598 warnings of incoming missile attacks received by system operators like those in Hawaii and Japan every year. Even prior to today’s cyber-hack/attack potential, we’ve escaped nuclear destruction from nearly-too-late-detected human and/or systems error by a hair’s breadth several times. And, now in place are “dead hand” systems that will automatically launch retaliatory nuclear weapons, even if an attack is launched in error or the target has already been destroyed. Error or no, some nuclear warheads, once launched, can never be stopped.
Today, Russia and the U.S. are revamping their nuclear arsenals; arms control negotiations are essentially dead. Nuclear war taunts from Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un are unnerving the world. Other nations have, or want, nuclear arsenals. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists just moved its Doomsday Clock once more to two minutes to midnight, last there in 1953. Two minutes is the closest it’s ever been.
I remember Cold War “duck and cover” drills and fear during the Cuban Missile Crisis. I’m disconcerted to learn that some of my younger friends know nothing about these things. For them, therefore, and all others who do not know or remember — and those, like Nicholl, who do — reading Daniel Ellsberg’s The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner is imperative. This is not a sci-fi novel. It is scary. Thanks to the movie The Post we’re reminded that Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers. We need to be reminded that he also planned nuclear wars for our government. Like Ellsberg, Nicholl, and many others, including me, we know “the one and only way to survive a nuclear war, is not to have one.”
— Jean Garren, Colorado Springs
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