Tucked away, almost hidden like a fragile Easter Egg, on page A3 in the Sept. 19, 2017 issue of the Mpls StarTribune is an article written by Sewell Chan of the NY Times, that dropped my jaw, flabbergasted me, whatever….I don’t know if this is an overreaction on my part, but you tell me: is the wall between peace and war really this fragile?
I wonder, it seemed so inconspicuous, how many people saw the article, took the time to read it. The title of the article: “In close call, Soviet officer helped avert nuclear war.” I almost didn’t read it because it seemed like fake news, especially when, although it did give credence to the story, the article was accompanied by a photo of what the Soviet officer, Stanislav Petrov, looked like in May of this year: an old fart with a shit-eating grin on his face.
The gist of the article: Early on the morning of Sept. 26, 1983, 44 year old lieutenant colonial Petrov held a phone in his hand that would have launched a NUCLEAR retaliatory attack against the U.S. An alarm had gone off in the secret command center outside Moscow where the Soviets monitored its early warning satellites. It’s worth noting the Soviet leader at the time, Yuri Andropov, was obsessed by fears of a U.S. attack, stoked likely by President Reagan rejecting calls to freeze the arms race.
The computers in front of Petrov were screaming an alarm that a missile strike was imminent and that the reliability of the information was at the “highest level.” There was no time for a “fail-safe” as he felt he had minutes if not seconds to react, that five missiles were on their way.
As it fortunately turned out, it was a false alarm triggered when the satellites mistook the sun’s reflection off the clouds for a missile launch. Petrov had the wherewithal to stay calm. He has said he saw it as a 50/50 call, but rationalized, thankfully, that an all-out offensive would involve more than five missiles.
Reminiscent of “Hal” in “2001 Space Odyssey,” Petrov was quoted in the German magazine, “Der Spiegel:” “We are wiser than the computers. We created them.”
Assuming this was not fake news containing alternate facts, so many questions are raised: Today, do we feel we are wiser (smarter) than computers? Have we so removed ourselves from the possibility and fear of nuclear holocaust that it doesn’t seem real…when our Commander in Chief of the “armed” forces has threatened to annihilate an entire country? In a storm of Twitter demagoguery, I’m sure many in this Commander in Chief’s “base” would get a hard-on with this kind of bullying bluster, but this is not fiction or a reality show. Would this impetuous Commander in Chief remain calm in order to make a rational decision affecting the lives of potentially millions of people? I mean, think: the destruction of 9/11 pales in comparison to the fall-out from nuclear attacks. Nukes are serious shit.
I’m certainly not condoning North Korea’s foolish bluster…who would? But to get into a spitting contest with a country because our spit is bigger? What about China and Russia. Will they spit back? We’re talking radioactive spit. This is beyond foolish.
The same paper reported that our Commander in Chief is proposing a military parade next Fourth of July involving tanks…of course to demonstrate our power this would involve or imply our immense nuclear capability. What the F? The same paper (on 9/17/17) reported: “Sweden, one of the last neutral states in Europe, launched its biggest military exercise in more than 20 years. Joined by troops from the U.S. and other NATO countries, the drills took place just as Russia carried out its biggest war games in the Baltic region since 2013.”
Like the direction this is taking? We escaped a “bullet” in the Cuban missile crisis. What if Russia had called our bluff…if that’s what it was. A world at peace? NOT! Maybe if we obliterate each other it will be? America first and last? We are the only country to have unleashed a nuclear bomb and saw firsthand its merciless consequence to humanity. Shouldn’t we now, with that decision behind us, be stewards of avoidance not threats?
Maybe I am over-reacting. But what if Mr. Petrov had made that call?