samedi 7 juin 2008

Yee haaar

Two top airforce commanders got fired on Wednesday because of 'mistakes' they'd been responsible for. Not the kind of mistakes you or I would make - leaving the iron on, forgetting to turn up, being late, sending emails to the wrong address, that sort of thing. These guys (or their representatives) accidentally sent ballistic missile fuses to Taiwan (a country in dispute with, er, China) and allowed six nuclear missiles à la Dr. Strangelove, to go awol over the USA itself. The details of the episode are classified due to 'national security' reasons, ironically enough.

There are two traditional ways to approach these types of strange stories. The cock up or the conspiracy. Yet these are more postmodern times and these dualisms don't give anymore. The cock-up explanation has been on the internet since the missiles went astray lasy Autumn. Someone called "V/rSSgt" (they wanted to remain anonymous) laughed it all of as just one of those things. It's a longish mail, that dismisses the conspiracy stories surrounding the story (the idea that the awol bombs were part of a plot hatched by rogue elements in the US high command to bomb Iran, the idea that there is still yet a bomb missing. . .) but who knows perhaps he/she is telling the truth:

"Hello there,I’m a Staff Sergeant in the US Air Force. I do network security, so, that’s why I’m emailing anonymously, even though I really don’t feel it’s necessary. I’m just paranoid like that, which is why I’m pretty good at my job. ;) Also, parts of what I’m putting in here are probably classified, which is the primary reason I’m sending this anonymously."

1. This sounds plausible enough. 'Staff Sargeant' 'network security' - but why say you're emailing anonymously if it wasn't really necessary and then say ". . .parts of what I'm putting in here are probably classified. . .". And the emoticon - why put one there? You'd put one if you were tryng to convince someone of the opposite of what was the case - but then again the writer may just be like that :-). So let us assume, for the moment, the writer is what they say they are.

"Anyway, I see a lot of people posting on Reddit about government conspiracies about nukes and things like this. It’s frustrating for me because it’s really very silly. Please, let me explain some background, to help you all understand what’s going on in the background for the Air Force:"

2. "Frustrating" and "very silly". Would someone in an organisation who'd just fckd up royally want to come out with something that? There are safeguards after safeguards to prevent this type of thing from happening - saying, in effect, "Don't worry your pretty head about it. . ." rather than "You're right to be worried this is a major lapse. . . " it suggests something of a covering up exercise on behalf of somebody - an ambiguous sign but not an unamiguously clear sign of something being honeslty dealt with.

The next section of the article presents the idea that the Minot base is being decomissioned and, so, everyone who works there just doesn't give a damn. Plus there's a load of nuclear missiles that need moving - since there is no Soviet enemy anymore to drop them on - but no one wants the responsibility (the Dept. of Energy, Congress, the Air Force. . .) and that people just got careless.

3. Again, plausible enough. It hardly reassures that people in charge of nuclear weapons are so lackadaisical but ok, one might think. The key point is "The mistake, and the reason everyone now knows about this, is that the warheads weren’t removed from the missiles being moved to Barksdale. I bet the guys on the ground in Barksdale were sure as shit surprised when they cracked the payload open and saw a warhead. ;)" Again, for me, this second emoticon doesn't give the impression of someone taking the reader that seriously. It's hardly proof of a conspiracy, but for me it's just about enough, taken together with the attempted humour "Sorry to kill your confidence in the military."

The next section further undermines confidence that this email is authentic. "I’ve seen too much crazy stuff to believe in some massive conspiracy, there’s too many people involved. You’d have to kill like 50 people to “cover up” moving nukes to Barksdale. Plus, what would it achieve? There’s already more than enough nukes at Barksdale to blow the world up 3x over. Who needs 6 more? Seriously? Plus, more accidents occur with conventional than nukes, since nukes are computerized and designed to be super-duper safe. Conventional weapons are built by the lowest bidder. [Yikes!] I’d be more worried about a fully-loaded F16 flying around NYC after 9/11 sucking up a bird than a B52 with nukes flying around without anyone knowing it was loaded with nukes. The pilots couldn’t "secretly" be in on it and launch them, the interface wouldn’t be installed, the COMSEC material wouldn’t be available, etc. You’d have to kill half the base to hide the paper trail necessary to give the pilots the ability to launch."

4. Ah yes, the mysterious deaths. There have been 12 deaths associated with this incident. Pilots and staff have been dying in accidents etc. Part of a conspiracy or just coincidence. . . As for the interface not being installed - hmm... would that really matter if you wanted to get your hands on a usable warhead? "crazy stuff happens"

So, to conclude, just chill out a bit about the conspiracy, it’s kinda silly. Plus, again, what would be the point? It’s not a big deal to authorize a nuke mission. After 9/11 the entire Barksdale arsenal was loaded and on the flightline ready to fly. I wouldn’t sweat 6 who someone forgot to unload.
Feel free to republish, maybe it'll educate a few people.

5. I wouldn't be worried about six going missing?!? The conspiracies centre on the thought that there is more to this episode than just a simple mistake. Right at the top - there's the idea that this was a foiled plot by a faction within the US military to export six nuclear weapons to Iraq so to nuke Iran and plunge the US into a military dictatorship thus cancelling the election. Second, there's the idea that this was part of a plan to accidentally on purpose smuggle out nuclear warheads to 'terror' organisations and given the lax security at the base that doesn't seem totally ridiculous. Third - there's the idea that this was part of a plot to oust the Air Force command in revenge for their criticisms of the Iraq fiasco.

As put it,"Was there more to the unauthorized flight of a nuclear-armed bomber last August than the government dares reveal to the American people?
Are the Air Force chiefs being sacked in preparation for using America’s airpower in another criminal war of aggression, potentially against Iran, under conditions in which the Pentagon’s uniformed command is already deeply dissatisfied with the over-extension of US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan?
Had the near mutiny over military procurements, which apparently enjoyed the backing of powerful financial interests, gone further than has been revealed? Were they forced out to avoid a more open challenge to the civilian control of the military?
The answers to these and other crucial questions remained hidden behind a veil of “national security.” Clearly, however, under conditions of a protracted decay of basic institutions of bourgeois democracy in America, the ever-increasing power of the military poses the most fundamental threat to the basic democratic rights of American working people."

It was a cocked up conspiracy stemming from a lot of genuine and conspiratorial cock ups. Given that a day after this incident Israel bombed a bunker in Syria, these dark thoughts are not all that tinhatty.

P.S. - Why are these nuclear weapons still around? They were always unnecessary and mad during the cold war - now they're just accidents waiting to happen.