Reprinted from Paul Craig Roberts
Did you know that Washington keeps 450 nuclear ICBMs on "hair-trigger alert"? Washington thinks that this makes us "safe." The reasoning, if it can be called reason, is that by being able to launch in a few minutes, no one will try to attack the US with nuclear weapons. US missiles are able to get on their way before the enemy's missiles can reach the US to destroy ours.
If this makes you feel safe, you need to read Eric Schlosser's book, Command and Control.
The trouble with hair-triggers is that they make mistaken, accidental, and unauthorized launch more likely. Schlosser provides a history of almost launches that would have brought armageddon to the world.
In Catalyst, a publication of the Union of Concerned Scientists, Elliott Negin tells the story of Soviet Lt. Col. Stanislav Petrov. Just after midnight in 1983 the Soviet Union's early warning satellite system set off the alarm that five US ICBMs were headed for the Soviet Union.
Col. Petrov was supposed to inform the Soviet leader, who would have 8 to 10 minutes to decide whether to launch in retaliation. Who knows what he would have decided. Instead Col. Petrov used his judgment. There was no reason for the US to be attacking the Soviet Union. Moreover, Petrov reasoned that an American attack would involve hundreds of ICBMs, possibly thousands. He checked whether Soviet ground-based radar had detected incoming ICBMs, and it had not. Petrov decided it was a false alarm, and sat on it.
It turned out that the early warning system had mistaken a pattern of sunlight reflection on clouds as missiles. This was a close call, but Negin reports that "a failed computer chip, and an improperly installed circuit card are some of the culprits" that could initiate nuclear war. In other words, the sources of false alarms are numerous.
Fast forward to today. Imagine an American officer monitoring the US early warning system. This officer has been listening to 15 years of war propaganda accompanied by US invasions and bombings of eight countries. Terrorist warnings and security alerts abound, as do calls from American and Israeli politicians for nuking Iran. The media has convinced him that Russia has invaded Ukraine and is on the verge of invading the Baltics and Poland. American troops and tanks have been rushed to the Russian border. There is talk of arming Ukraine. Putin is dangerous and is threatening nuclear war, running his strategic bombers close to our borders and holding nuclear drills. The American officer has just heard a Fox News general again call for "killing Russians." The Republicans have convinced him that Obama is selling out America to Iran, with Senator Tom Cotton warning of nuclear war as a consequence. We will all be killed because there is a Muslim in the White House.
Why isn't anyone standing up for America, the patriotic American officer wonders, just as the alarm goes off: Incoming ICBMs. Are they Russian or Iranian? Was Israel right after all? A hidden Iranian nuclear weapons program? Or has Putin decided that the US is in the way of his reconstruction of the Soviet Empire, which the American media affirms is Putin's goal? There is no room for judgment in the American officer's mind. It has been set on hair-trigger by the incessant propaganda that Americans call news. He passes on the warning.
Obama's Russophobic neocon National Security Adviser is screaming: "You can't let Putin get away with this!" "It might be a false alarm," replies the nervous and agitated president. "You liberal p*ssy! Don't you know that Putin is dangerous!? Push the button!"
And there goes the world.
Considering the extreme Russophobia being created among Americans by the Ministry of Propaganda, the demonization of Vladimir Putin -- the "new Hitler," Vlad the Impaler -- the propagandistic creation of "the Russian threat," the crazed neocon desire for US world hegemony, the hatred of Russia and China as rising rivals capable of exercising independent power, the loss of American Uni-power status and unconstrained unilateral action. In the midst of these emotions and minds swayed not by facts but by propaganda, hubris, and ideology, there is a great chance that Washington's response to a false alarm will bring the end of life on earth.
How much confidence do you have in Washington? How many times has Washington -- especially the crazed neocons -- been wrong?
Remember the three-week "cakewalk" Iraq war that would cost $70 billion and be paid out of Iraqi oil revenues? Now the cost is $3,000 billion and rising, and after 12 years the radical Islamic State controls half of the country. To pay for the wars the Republicans want to "privatize," that is, take away, Social Security and Medicare.
Remember "Mission Accomplished" in Afghanistan? Twelve years later the Taliban again control the country and Washington, after murdering women, children, funerals, weddings, village elders, and kids' soccer games, has been driven out by a few thousand lightly armed Taliban.
The frustrations of these defeats have mounted in Washington and in the military. The myth is that we lost because we didn't use our full force. We were intimidated by world opinion or by those damn student protesters, or blocked from victory by some gutless president, a liberal p*ssy who wouldn't use all of our power. For the right-wing, rage is a way of life.