Monday, March 03, 2014

Nuclear catastrophes for dummies: I’m talking to you, Lindsay Graham

Required reading for
Republicans and Tea
Party stalwarts

Let me start out with a small dose of whatever the opposite of nostalgia is.

I’m talking about when I was in the fifth grade, or maybe it was the fourth grade, back in Nineteen F….well, nevermind the year. What I have in mind is a day when my teacher, complying with instructions from the New York City Board of Education, which in turn was complying with orders from whatever department ran something called Civil Defense, taught us a life-saving drill.

The drill went like this. Out of the blue, the teacher would shout, “Take cover!” And we nine- and ten-year olds would dive under our wooden desks and cover our heads with our arms. It may have looked silly, but this was going to protect us from a nuclear blast and nuclear radiation. Don’t ask me how. I still haven’t figured it out.

Black and blue under
my old school desk

Drills like this continued through high school. I have to tell you that as we grew older, the desks – the old fashioned kind, standing on wrought iron legs that were screwed to the floor ­ – the desks seemed to grow smaller a. A number of times I banged myself up pretty badly, knocking a knee against the wooden seat, or banging an elbow or a forearm or my head against the wrought iron legs. I had angry black and blue bruises from practicing safety.

And the beauty part was, none of it was worth a tinker’s damn. You can’t protect yourself from nuclear radiation by hiding under a wooden desk and putting your arms over your head like a puppy who’s afraid he’s going to get swatted with a newspaper. What you can do in this position is, you can get very nasty radiation burns on your forearms and eyelids before you go blind and you die vomiting from radiation sickness.

Had war ever broken out, the United States and Russia  would have been as done as a porkchop broiled down to ashes and a charred bone on a barbecue grill. We had something called MAD, which stood not for Mother’s Against Drunks, or something having to do with Madison Avenue and advertising, but for Mutually Assured Destruction.

The ultimate MAD men

MAD was kind of a lunatic deal between the United States and the then Soviet Union: you can launch a hail of nukes at us and kill us all, but before we’re all dead, we’ll do the same to you. The beauty part of the deal was, it worked both in forward and reverse. Whether you were an American or a Russian, the warning was the same: don’t start up or somebody’s going to roast your hide even if you roast theirs.

Eventually, somebody realized that given the inevitability of Murphy’s Law, if we kept relying on MAD, something was going to go wrong, go wrong, go…well, you know. A piece of radar would read an aluminum foil pie plate tossed like a frisbee as an incoming nuke. Or some bored-to-insanity soldier in a silo would press a red button just to break up the day and see what happens. Instantly, somebody would launch a counter-strike. And them…kaboom!

So eventually, we learned to live without worrying much about the Russians, and they, without worrying much about us. It was just too MAD. We instead spent our time invading small Asian and middle-eastern nations instead, and later sending home only the dead bodies of our volunteers because, after Viet Nam, we finally eliminated the draft. 

Smart, brutal gangsters

The Russians, meanwhile starting acting like American gangsters with bigger-than-normal brains. They stole natural resources. They stole entire companies, and when the lawyer for one of those companies, a man named Sergei Magnitsky protested, they arrested him and beat him to death in prison.

Sitting on top of this festering heap of corruption and violence is what I can best describe as a crooked ex-cop, Vladimir Putin, former head of the KGB, or whatever they call it now. Putin has a rogue cop’s mentality. If you want it, grab it. If somebody protests, tune him up ‘till he dies. You want the Ukraine back? Send in the troops.

Putin is a very dangerous excuse for a human being, and what he wants now more than anything is to bring the Ukraine, historically a Soviet republic, back under the control of Moscow. So while his troops in the Ukraine might (or might not) be committing an act of sheer brazen theft, the last thing you want to do is walk up to him and tell him his mother is a diseased hooker, and furthermore he can go pound sand up his butt. 

This is a delicate situation. Mistakes happen. And mistakes breed automatic counter-mistakes, thanks to the MAD system left over from the cold war.

Enter Lindsay Graham,
high as a kite on stupid pills

Senator Lindsay Graham has seized on the current situation in the Ukraine like a fifteen year old juvenile delinquent, trying to find out if it’s really true what they say about gasoline and matches. He’s actually only trying to make President Obama look bad now that Obamacare is starting to work, taking a Let’s-you-and-Putin-Fight stance. But he’s holding a lighted match while standing over an open container of gasoline, and anything explosive can happen.

On CNN recently, Graham declared:

“Putin's on the wrong side of history. He's on the wrong side of the law. Make him pay a price. The Ukrainian people are dying for their freedom. I hope we will stand with them. Not just in words, but in deeds.

Stand with them and 
do what, die with them?

Even if you’re not really talking about military action, Lindsay, one thing has a way, as they say, of leading to another. Some homicidal yutz assassinated the crown prince of Sarajevo, and the next thing you know, we had World War I. Somebody today blockades Russia and the next  thing you know…kaboom!

Well, the good news is that if people like Lindsay Graham have their way, we can fan the nearly-dead embers of the Cold War back into a nice crackling campfire. In order to arm for that, we’d have to reinstitute the draft. And once the lives of virtually every American son and daughter are at stake, you can bet the voters won’t be putting up with bullshit like Dick Chaney's Iraq invasion again.

However, a warning. One of these days, just by accident, a cold war across a now-rusty iron curtain could get red hot. And if that happens with Russia, happy Nukeday.

I’d like to leave you with with the heartwarming conversation between a young infantry private in training at Fort Dix, New Jersey, and a grizzled old training sergeant, back in 1962. It was during a lesson  on something called CBR – Chemical, Biological and Radiological warfare. And here, I swear, is precisely how it went.

PRIVATE: Sergeant, what do you do if a nuke goes off say, within walking distance? 
SERGEANT: Son, let me teach you what to do by the numbers. One: Ten-hut! Two: At ease. Three: with your feet spaced eighteen to twenty-four inches apart, do a deep knee bend. Four: stick your head between your legs and push it as far back as it can go. And five: kiss your ass goodbye.


Comrade Misfit said...

If Lindsey Graham was any dumber, he could be a stand-in for Sarah Palin.

Patricia said...

Lindsey Graham and maybe John "Anger Management McCain" aren't going to get anywhere. The American people have no appetite for war. We've had enough. After our military mistakes, the idea that we've got anything to say about Russia or anyone else is laughable. It's more hare-brained wars.