News Roundup: ICBM unlock code=00000000- a combo that an idiot would have to protect his luggage!
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Consider, for example, a fun Cold War-era fact from Bruce Blair, who is president of the Washington-based Center for Defense Information.
Blair was a Minuteman nuclear missile launch officer in the 1970s, and ran through simulations of about 100 nuclear wars -- deadly exchanges in which he and his colleagues fired up to 50 nuclear missiles at the Soviet Union.
To launch a Minuteman in those days, one had to "unlock" the missile by dialing in a code -- the equivalent of a safety catch on a handgun. However, Blair reports, the US Strategic Air Command was worried that a bunch of sissy safety features might slow things down. It ordered all locks set to 00000000 -- and in launch checklists, reminded all launch officers like Blair to keep the codes there. "So the 'secret unlock code' during the height of the nuclear crises of the Cold War," Blair says, "remained constant at 00000000."
Blair recently buttonholed Robert McNamara, the former US defense secretary best known for overseeing the escalation of our war in Vietnam.
It was McNamara who ordered that safety locks be put on Minuteman missiles, and he spoke with great pride of this as a reform crucial to preventing accidental nuclear war. So when Blair told him the code was fixed at a line of zeros, he flipped.
"I am shocked, absolutely shocked and outraged," McNamara said. "Who the hell authorized that?"
Hmmm. Now, how could anybody be shocked -- shocked! -- to find we weren't in control of our nuclear arsenals?
Salon.com News | "The truth has a force of its own":
"The Bush administration's 'arrogance' has 'cost Americans billions of dollars and too many lives,' Kerry says. Its deceptions about the war may have taken an even greater toll. Kerry says the White House lacks 'any credibility' at home or abroad; indeed, the Bush administration has misled the nation so often now that Kerry says he has no way to know whether the new terror threats John Ashcroft revealed this week represent legitimate national security concerns or simply a political ploy aimed at propping up a foundering president. "
Kerry Responded to whether he thought the Bush administration's "Kerry the flip-flopper" characature was intellectually dishonest:
"Of course it is. It's not only intellectually dishonest, it's shallow beyond belief. It's exactly what they said about Bill Clinton, it's exactly what they said about Al Gore, it's exactly what they said about John McCain. It is the standard operating approach of Republicans who have nothing to say for themselves, so all they do is try to brand somebody else."
Lech Walesa on the War on Terror:
We are struggling badly in the world, and we have not adopted a proper solution to our problems," he said. "In order to have a globally organized world, we also need global structures. The new era requires of us new framework to protect ourselves. We need to either create new organizations or reform the United Nations.
"We need a global parliament, we need to transfer the Security Council into a global government and NATO into a global Ministry of Defense. My suggestion 15 years ago and today is that we need real institutions to deal with all the border conflicts and address conflicts, anti-Semitism, territorial disputes ...
"We, the generation of the 21st Century, should show we will not allow anyone to violate the rules--or else the global forces will bring order. This is what is still needed."
"We are now in the European Union," he said. "But we have entered a new era with old thinking."
"Excited and animated, his arms waving to accentuate his points as he spoke to a small group in Warsaw's Royal Palace before the International Press Institute, Walesa then praised the United States for its "decisive action" immediately after Sept. 11, 2001.
"If we had waited then for the UN to act, the second target would have been Moscow, the third, Paris or London," he went on. "But the U.S. did react, and this is its glory.
"But when you move further along, you have to say that a superpower also has a responsibility toward the world. Once the situation moved on, the U.S. should have requested an empowerment from the world that focused on making the UN an effective organization. It should have grouped together all the European Union and NATO members. But they did not.
"In that," he added sadly, "the superpower failed."
For all his pro-Americanism, he seemed to be asking the United States, too, to think anew. "Many problems even a superpower can't deal with," he said finally, "if it doesn't have the empowerment of the world."
NYTIMES: By the Light of Other Wars
"Today, each generation looks back to its own war — World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the gulf war and Iraq. In each of those wars, a soldier's death was final, the sense of duty and service as acute as in any other war. In that sense, the meaning of those deaths has not changed over time. What is different, for each of those wars, is the sense of national necessity that lay behind them. Some of America's wars have truly been fought for the very principles that underpin this nation's existence. Others have not. But nothing can dishonor the dead, not even the failures of the living."