The reported "loss" of six nuclear-armed stealthy advance cruise missiles (ACMs) flown on the wing pylons of a B-52 from Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota to Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana on August 30 would represent a complete and unprecedented breakdown in the command and control of nuclear weapons in the United States.
For that reason, there is a belief among many seasoned military experts that there is much more to this reported story than meets the eye.
The Defense Department is merely describing the nuclear missile flight as an "incident," because it is standard Pentagon policy to not comment on its nuclear weapons. However, the "incident" was serious enough that President Bush and Defense Secretary Robert Gates were both immediately informed of the so-called "mistake" in flying the weapons across several Midwestern states.
Missouri Representative Ike Skelton, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, called the incident "deeply disturbing."
The incident was first reported by three military officers, who remained anonymous, to Military Times, a newspaper that maintains good contacts within the military services.
The ACMs were armed with six W80-Mod 1 nuclear weapons, which pack a punch of between 5 and 150 kilotons each.
There is informed speculation that the movement of the nuclear weapons to Barksdale was leaked because the air force base is a staging area for deployment to the Middle East. The Pentagon recently drew up plans to hit 1200 targets inside Iran in a massive bombardment campaign aimed at destroying its military and overthrowing its government. The movement of the nuclear weapons may have been an alert to the public by disgruntled members of the military that such plans would include the pre-emptive use of nuclear weapons.
The report that the weapons were transferred to Barksdale for "decommissioning" appears to be a cover story concocted by Pentagon spinmeisters, since any movement of nuclear weapons is treated as highly-classified information.
The B-52 sat on a runway at Barksdale for a full 10 hours with the Air Force trying to have the public believe that no one noticed the nuclear missiles on board. The flight from Minot was three and a half hours. The only casualty: the munitions officer at Minot was relieved of his duties pending the outcome of an investigation.
There is also speculation that the war hawks in the administration may have flown the nuclear cruise missiles to Louisiana to send a message to Iran. The Defense Department remains a beehive of neocon activity even with Gates in charge. Three other recent incidents indicate the neocons are still employing their perception management campaigns. Cells of so-called "Al Qaeda" terrorists have been arrested in Denmark and Germany. Both countries have neocons embedded in their governments.
Those arrested include Danish and German nationals. In addition, the recent weapons of mass destruction "scare" at a United Nations office building in New York, where "phosgene" gas seized in Iraq after Desert Storm was reportedly found in a vial, turns out to have been a hoax. The substance was a non-toxic cleaning solvent. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has named a number of neocons to senior staff positions within the UN Secretariat.