Essay: Neither politics nor religion

I had started a different essay for this post when my wife informed me that our 43-year-old daughter asked this question. “How can these people talk so calmly about nuclear war?” Calmly? I needed to get caught up on the news. Who is calm?

As we discussed our distant past, Yolonda said, “You know, when you would go for a week of nuclear alert, I never thought much about it. It was your job. Nuclear war was simply your job.” She’s right. I was the Radar Navigator (bombardier) on a nuclear armed B-52D either at Carswell Air Force Base (AFB), Texas, or later at Andersen AFB, Guam (and at other “satellite” locations).

At that time, we were in the midst of the “Cold War.” If Russia (or any country) launched a nuclear attack against the United States, my crew would be in the air within minutes, turning north to strike pre-determined targets in the Soviet Union. Basically, WWIII.

I told her, “I know exactly what damage nuclear bombs (or missiles) can do.” For eight years, it was my profession. For one week each month, it was my life: 24/7. The concept of nuclear war was real, possible, conceivable, but even then, somehow unthinkable. We did not believe it would happen because we would retaliate in kind. That was called second strike and we had plans for a third. The strategy was called mutually assure destruction (MAD). It was real. It was then.

Through my elementary and high school years (Cuban Missile Crises), through Viet Nam, and on up until my first day of pre-flighting and “cocking” a loaded B-52, the threat of nuclear war was impressed upon me repeatedly. Doomsday was both a reality and a joke.

Today I read that Vlad P. has threatened the world with nukes if anyone interferes with his war on Ukraine. The no love lost between Russia and Ukraine goes way back, but the point is the threat. He could nuke any nation in the world—and certainly in Europe.

I’ve also read that Russia may use nukes against Ukrainian resistance. These people are fighting for their right to exist. The only thing Ukrainians want from Russia is to be left alone and to live in peace. But Russia does not care. Their excuse? The Ukrainians don’t like them. Dah?

While it would be unprecedented for nukes to be used in such a limited conflict/war, Ukraine lacks the wherewithal to assure Russia’s destruction. We, on the other hand, in conjunction with our allies could provide such assurance. I would like them all, especially Vlad P., to believe we would.

On the lighter side, in 1964 (age 18), I sat in a theater on a Strategic Air Command base, and I watched this movie (Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb). Little did I know my future would not be so funny, although I confess, I did my best to make it so.

Look both ways and take a side.
Mind the gaps between the wars and push for peace.
Morality is not a spectator sport.

These four clips from he movie are short.

22 thoughts on “Essay: Neither politics nor religion

  1. Boy oh boy… Vlad has lost his mind. There is no real reason to attack Ukraine. He is a mad man and I should love for him to fear retaliation enough to NOT nuke. Trouble when dealing with someone who is mad, is there is little reasoning with them.
    As for your clips.. Man oh man, what a young James Earl Jones in the second one!
    1964… a vintage year… 😉

    Liked by 2 people

  2. well, I thought I’d be in the last generation to worry about nukes. Sad that I’m not. Now we have a loonie KBG agent who wants to relive his glory days with his hand on the button. Hopefully there are some Vasili Arkhipovs still in the Russian armed forces. (fyi, he was the guy who *didn’t* launch during the cuban missile crisis)

    I finally got my folks to watch Dr. Strangelove. Haven’t had a chance to discuss it with my dad who was a missileman back in the 60s in the US and Germany.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Dear Bill,

    I was when I saw Dr. Strangelove. At the time it scared me to pieces. I’d be lying if I said Madman Putin doesn’t scare me. Slim Pickins riding the bomb is a classic scene. I think it’s time to watch the movie again. Thanks for sharing the clips, your thoughts and your service.



    Liked by 1 person

  4. I too was a MAD serviceman during the second half of the 60’s, into the 70’s and 80’s and still have a little of the phlegmatic attitude that was required then. Putin is a very clever man using all sorts of subterfuge to try to further his aims. Let’s hope he is not as deranged as he appears to be.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Wow….What a sweat of one’s bow BIO, Bill. Gives one pause for the cause of a desire for a cool one after work. But hey, back in the day…right. Hats off.

    It was a given, that with enough time, some ideological lunacy would tigger some atomistic political grievance that everyday political holism couldn’t parse.

    Is Putin playing the whole of the West like Nixon reportedly tried to ruse China vis-à-vis Hanoi with a tricky dick ploy; Kissinger playing bagman to Nixon’s dropping the big one Madman. Who the hell knows.

    Don’t read this as any sympathy with or for Putin. I have none, and would like to see him spend his latter days in the Hague .

    Yes, the West won the Cold War but were too damn greedy, given the rise of Neoliberalism, to win the peace. And it could have be had on the cheap.

    Great post. Thanks for it.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. had to pop in again since I recently watched a special on Tom Lehrer on the local PBS station.

    So long, mom!
    I’m off to drop the Bomb
    So don’t wait up for me
    But while you swelter
    Down there in your shelter
    You can see me
    On your TV

    While we’re attacking frontally
    Watch Brin-k-ley and Hun-t-ley
    Describing contrapuntally
    The cities we have lost
    No need for you to miss a minute
    Of the agonizing holocaust

    Little Johnny Jones
    He was a US pilot
    And no shrinking violet
    Was he, he was mighty proud
    When World War III was declared
    He wasn’t scared
    No siree!

    And this is what he said on
    His way to Armageddon:

    So long, mom!
    I’m off to drop the Bomb
    So don’t wait up for me
    But though I may roam
    I’ll come back to my home
    Although it may be
    A pile of debris

    Remember, mommy!
    I’m off to get a commie
    So send me a salami
    And try to smile somehow
    I’ll look for you
    When the war is over
    An hour and a half from now!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. May I use your short story for my blog, the Flensburg Files? I’m doing a series on War and Peace and am collecting poems stories and the like in connection with this topic. This would fit the series. Let me know if this is ok. Thanks! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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