Originally published at http://www.commondreams.org/views/2020/08/08/rehearsals-apocalypse-bomb-covid-19
“We”–some of us, anyway–have learned the lesson. Problem is, we have mob rule, headed up by sociopaths: Drumpf, Modi, Bolsonaro… what can we expect?
I was 10 years old and living in Oak Ridge, Tennessee during the Cuban Missile Crisis. I vividly recall my father scoffing at neighbors frantically digging “fallout shelters” in their backyards. “Damned fools! Do they really believe this town isn’t on the Ground Zero target list?”
THERE MUST BE NO “DAY”
Stephen M. Osborn
WHERE does one begin, in responding to The Day After? For me, it can have many beginnings. I remember, as a seven or eight year old boy, looking with awe at the Bikini battered ships at the Bremerton Navy Yard. Then, I grew up in the cold war rhetoric of the late forties and fifties.
** In 1956, as a young navy man, I was at the thermonuclear tests at Bikini, code named Operation Redwing. The first bomb exploded was, we were told, a twenty megaton thermonuclear device, to be detonated at an altitude of twenty thousand feet. Our observation point was to be aboard ship at a distance of thirty miles from ground zero. That is a long way; about, as far as the doctor was from Kansas City when the first bomb went off in the movie [The Day After, 1983, TV]. It is not far enough.
** Most of the crew was ranged on deck, wearing blast goggles and facing aft, away from the blast. I was not on deck as there were not enough goggles to go around. Instead, I picked a spot in a passageway, about thirty feet forward of a light well. Any light coming in would have to come from the direction away from the blast, down about a twenty foot well, then penetrate the passageway. I had my back to the well. During the final countdown, I wrapped both arms across my eyes, one over the other. I could hear the voice on the ship’s intercom; 5…4…3…2…1…ZERO.
** Suddenly, I could see light, right through my arms! The heat was intense, as though I had my back to an opened furnace door. The silence was deafening. After what seemed like minutes, but was probably a few seconds, the light began to fade. As it grew dark, I eased one arm away from the other and the light was back, but again fading. When it was gone, I moved my other arm. The light through my clenched eyelids was painful, but it continued to fade and I gradually opened my eyes and began backing toward the light well. As the light continued to decrease, it finally got to the point where I could squint up the light well at the sky. The light was brilliant, the sky an intense blue. I climbed out of the well and peeked forward around the shelter of the conning tower, directly at the cloud and the, now fading, fireball.
** My first impression was of a weird beauty. The cloud was sharply defined, like a thunderhead, and had a fluorescent; amethyst colored glow, which tinged toward a dark red. It is impossible to communicate the scale of the cloud. We were thirty miles away, yet the feeling was similar to when one stands beneath a huge redwood, watching the trunk taper away above you, to be surmounted by a crown of spreading branches far overhead. At thirty miles, it was as though we were right at the base of the cloud looking up, rather than out, at it.
** We stood there in silence, looking at the cloud and quietly commenting on the colors. On the right side, close to the cloud, we could see two bright, stationary lights. They were visible for a short while, then they faded.
** Over two minutes had passed, then the voice on the intercom began the countdown for the shock wave. 5…4…3…2…1…Zero. The pressure wave at that distance was not violent; there was an increase of about one atmosphere, enough to make your ears pop; the sound was a long low rumble lasting about thirty seconds.
** The sun began to rise, lighting the outside of the cloud and overpowering the internal glow. The cloud was identifiable for much of the day, with the. top being slowly torn to rags by the jet stream.
** We steamed back to the atoll, rather sobered by the experience. We were quite curious about the mysterious lights we saw beside the cloud. About a week or so after the shot, I was speaking to one of the scientists that had been aboard. He said they also had been puzzled by the appearance of the lights. They finally concluded that what we saw were two bright stars, essentially as we would have seen them from outer space. Apparently, the heat of the explosion was so great that it literally burned away the atmosphere around the fireball. As soon as the temperature dropped sufficiently, the air collapsed back around the envelope, the starlight was attenuated and they disappeared.
** We spent, if memory serves, about six months at Bikini. Every so often, we would steam out. for a shot. Frequently, we would go out, muster on deck in the pre-dawn, the countdown would proceed, then, “The shot for today has been canceled,” and we would steam back to the anchorage to try again the next morning. This might go on for ten days or more before they would finally set it off…
** Once, the wind shifted after a shot and we were battened below in the stifling heat while the ship tried to run from under the fallout. Personnel that had to go topside were decontaminated and their clothes were taken for disposal. After a couple of days, we headed for Kwajalein, some four hundred miles away, until it was “safe” to return to the atoll.
** Following one, either underwater or surface burst, the cleanup crews told of fish falling out of the coconut palms. The swimming float that had been anchored with huge concrete blocks in the lagoon was found floating at sea. Two of the blocks were found in the middle of the island.
** The final shot of the series found us eighteen miles from ground zero. The heat was incredible; though this was a much smaller bomb, possibly a tactical warhead. The shockwave jolted the whole ship backwards several inches. It felt as though my whole body was struck by a sledge hammer. The sound was one sharp crack, as though a rifle or firecracker was fired off next to my ear.
** After a few days spent dismantling the establishment on Nan Island, Bikini Atoll, we steamed for home.
** In later years, I had nightmares of the bombs going off, where I would be standing, crying, realizing that some SOB had finally pushed the button and it was the end of all things. I would wake up covered with sweat, pulse racing and face wet with tears. Gradually, that dream receded, until I saw the rockets blasting out of their silos in The Day After. I was sitting with my arm around my son’s shoulder. Suddenly, I began to shake and my eyes filled with tears. Each time another took off, it got worse. I knew what was going to happen, I had been there!
** Since the program, it has been continually on my mind. Watching that reptilian Buckley, “Megadeath” Scowcroft and Kissinger sit there, speaking in Orwellian doublethink, explaining that more is less and death is peacekeeping, made me wonder how long these aging, frustrated cowboys are going to be allowed to determine how much youth and innocence is to die for this “ism” or that one, Weisel, Sagan, even McNamara, made sense. This is one fragile green and blue planet.
** Buckley and company brought to mind the lectures we got from some Bircher neighbors, when taking our children trick-or-treating. We shouldn’t trick-or-treat for UNICEF because UNICEF gave milk to “commie babies!”
** There are no “commie babies” or “free world babies.” There are just babies and children and youths and adults, all with their hopes and dreams. The man in the street in Moscow, London, Paris or Athens is no different from the one in New York or in Mill Valley. We are all frightened and we all simply wish to be left in peace. The Russian and the European may want it more, because they have been overrun by war at least twice this century. They know what war on the home front means, something no American has suffered on the mainland since the civil war.
** Every man, woman and child on this planet must let his government and political leaders know that nuclear terror must cease. It is no longer a viable option, if it ever was. The odds of a mistake are far too great and there is no way to retrieve the error, once an attack/counter-attack has been launched.
** By virtue of our alleged intelligence, we have assumed stewardship of this planet and all of the creatures upon it. We have shown great callousness and ignorance in the exploitation of earth’s natural resources, the casual dumping of toxic wastes and the wholesale slaughter of entire species. With wisdom and patience, some of these blunders can be retrieved, but with the development of nuclear technology, we have met our destroyer, one way or the other, if we do not call a halt to it. We cannot dispose of spent fuel and refining waste in a safe manner. The cancer and birth deformation rate has risen enormously since we began using it, there is no defense against nuclear attack or terrorism and there have been few signs of sanity or good judgement among those entrusted to do our thinking for us. Papers discussing an acceptable number of megadeaths in a nuclear exchange are not of strategic value, they are obscene, a visible manifestation of insanity and immorality.
** Mankind has always had a tendency for its technology to outstrip its moral growth, It is time we begin to slow down the technical race and begin to think, not of what is expedient, or will show the greatest short-term profit, but what will benefit the planet and ourselves in the long run. What kind of agriculture will leave the land fertile and productive for a thousand years and more? What processes can be used that will leave only biodegradable wastes? Does society’s existence depend on an endless flow of gadgets and novelties, designed to fall apart almost immediately? Must everything be designed to wear out in two or three years? Is it possible to recycle our mineral resources rather than continually mining more and allowing worn out products to decay, or simply rust in storage? Can’t we produce crops and see that they are distributed, rather than stored to rot? Why don’t we make a major effort to harness and use wind and solar energy for power and make a greater effort to reduce energy needs?
** Let us pledge to make a start by informing all world leaders that nuclear war is out. The people of this planet will take no more of fear and terror!
** Then, with this as a starting point, let us, as stewards of a fragile planet, begin the process of healing and growing, individually and as a species, to the point where all of this will seem an horrible, impossible nightmare. A lesson to be forever remembered, but never repeated. It is up to us.
Note: Read on the floor of the House of Representatives by Barbara Boxer on Hiroshima Day 1984.
There a linkage between COVID19 and the dropping of Nuclear Bombs on Japan as well. While one did not necessarily lead to the other the US Military refused to prosecute members of Unit 731 after the war. The only members of this unit that paid for their crimes against humanity were the ones the Russians captured and tried.
The US took all of their research on biological warfare and adopted it into their own programs. They used some of what they learned on the peoples of North Korea. This not to suggest COVID man made but rather to suggest when the entire focus of a nation is on developing ever better ways to commit mass murder one should not be surprised when such epidemics occur. It rather ironic as well that after the close of WW1 and all of that mass slaughter , the Spanish Flu struck.
By definition the US is a serial killer. After WWII “the US planned for mass destruction on a scale previously unimagined, precision, and civilian bombing were soon considered an appropriate way to hurt morale.”
Rehearsals for Apocalypse …?
Nah, just business as usual …
There was a reason Adolf Hitler modeled “Lebensraum” on Manifest Destiny. He saw the genocide that the peoples of the USA exercised against the First Nations peoples as a template for his own plans for the “superior race”.
In the case of Lebensraum and the Nazis history has written those events as a wicked thing and evidence of the evils in Fascist governments .
In the case of “Manifest destiny” historians have written that its fruition due to the greatness of the American people in their pursuit of “Freedom and Liberty”.
Well said Stephen ~
Trump has now dismantled the Post Office, by the looks of it.
Every day a new horror show.
Thanks for your post !
Speaking of Modi:
"India plans to fell ancient forest to create 40 new coalfields
Narendra Modi’s dream of a ‘self-reliant India’ comes at a terrible price for its indigenous population"
Ok guys . . how the hell do we deal with this onslaught of horrific news daily?
Can’t these old sociopaths (all the men you mentioned are in the high risk category!) at least get covid and at a minimum be disabled or on a ventilator giving those of us who care, who feel compassion, who do our best to match our words/beliefs with our actions time to BREATH and figure out how to deal with the ongoing murder of life on earth by humans?
You’re really going to lay the genocide of Indigenous peoples in North America on just the good ole U.S.A., eh? The term ‘First Nations’ is strictly Canadian, by the way.
I refer you to my favorite book on this subject - The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America, by Thomas King, currently a professor of English at the University of Guelph in Ontario, CA.
No where did I state that Canada did not participate in a Genocide as well.
That said when all said and done .
Prior to contact the population of First Nations peoples in the lower 48 was about 20 to one when compared to those in Canada.
By 1900 there was an estimated First Nations population of 250000 in the USA. Canada had around 100000 or a ratio of 2.5 to one.
I refer to them as First Nations peoples because that is what those people prefer to be called.
None of this suggest there was no Genocide committed against the First Nations peoples in Canada. It well documented and while there were not all of those wars waged against them as occurred in the USA , the Residential schools and attempts to erase their Culture were acts of Genocide here in Canada.
Adolf Hitler did not model Lebensraum on what happened in Canada. He modeled it on the USA where some 98 percent of the first peoples were wiped out. The upper limit has the number of first Nations peoples in the USA at 6 million. The lower estimate is 3.5. In Canada (exclusive of the Metis) there close to 1 million.
In other words where the pre contact numbers in what become the USA were around 20 to one when compared to Canada, it now between 4 and 6 to one.
My logic of not wanting to build a fallout shelter is that even IF it would be possible to whether such an apocalypse, which frankly with the amount of nukes in the world it wouldn’t, the only thing that would await us is an inhospitable radioactive wasteland. Sorry but I think I would much prefer to be dead than have to experience that.
So presumably everyone on deck was incinerated.
“It is impossible to communicate the scale of the cloud. We were thirty miles away, yet the feeling was similar to when one stands beneath a huge redwood, watching the trunk taper away above you, to be surmounted by a crown of spreading branches far overhead. At thirty miles, it was as though we were right at the base of the cloud looking up, rather than out, at it.”
The sight slope to the top of the cloud would have been less than 5 degrees above horizontal at that point.
“On the right side, close to the cloud, we could see two bright, stationary lights. They were visible for a short while, then they faded. … We were quite curious about the mysterious lights we saw beside the cloud. About a week or so after the shot, I was speaking to one of the scientists that had been aboard. He said they also had been puzzled by the appearance of the lights. They finally concluded that what we saw were two bright stars, essentially as we would have seen them from outer space. Apparently, the heat of the explosion was so great that it literally burned away the atmosphere around the fireball.”
That is not even remotely a scientifically-plausible explanation. It also ignores the fact that you would have been looking through 30 miles of atmosphere between you and the blast, and presumably another 30 or more behind the blast to the upper reaches of the atmosphere on the other side.
“As soon as the temperature dropped sufficiently, the air collapsed back around the envelope, the starlight was attenuated and they disappeared.”
Even if you could somehow evacuate a sphere of air a mile in diameter, that would reduce atmospheric dimming by less than 2%. That would be about about the same amount of reduction you’d get by raising your sight-line by one-tenth of a degree–an angle a rising star would traverse in about 24 seconds.
“with the development of nuclear technology, we have met our destroyer, one way or the other, if we do not call a halt to it.”
The global arsenal of nuclear bombs is a danger to our very existence. (arguably true) Nuclear bombs are a kind of nuclear technology. (also true) Therefore, some kinds of nuclear technology are a danger to our very existence. (logical inference) Therefore, every kind of nuclear technology is a danger to our very existence. Logic error. (composition fallacy) It’s like saying some mammals are aardvarks, therefore all mammals are aardvarks. Most nuclear technologies do not threaten our existence.
“We cannot dispose of spent fuel and refining waste in a safe manner.”
Spent fuel storage has a better safety record and a much lower death toll than many things in your house. Also safer than many things in Nature. The notion that spent fuel threatens our very existence is at least as absurd as the notion that nuclear medicine threatens our very existence. Also, the history of technology is littered with examples of things we have done after some people proclaimed them impossible to do.
“The cancer and birth deformation rate has risen enormously since we began using it”
Correlation does not equal causation. Obesity has also increased enormously during that time. Are you going to blame nuclear power and nuclear medicine for that as well?
“Mankind has always had a tendency for its technology to outstrip its moral growth”
We usually work out the moral implications of something after we develop it. We are still working out the moral implications of having religions and how many thousands of years have we had religions?
“It is time we begin to slow down the technical race”
Nuclear medicine has saved a great many lives. So has nuclear power. Nuclear power has also been a leading destroyer of nuclear bomb fuel. Slowing down or preventing the development of beneficial technologies has moral implications too.
“Let us pledge to make a start by informing all world leaders that nuclear war is out.”
Presumably, all the ban-the-bomb protests and demonstrations over the years have made it clear that a fraction of the population does not approve, and the effect from this has been small to negligible. Are you proposing doing anything that hasn’t already been done?
In te 80s they realized that with all the plastics the firestorms that would be started in cities would suck out all the air and there would be no survivors. Plus the land would become so toxic for hundreds oif miles around any of these fires (plastics are endocrine disruptors) the EDCs would make it impossible to reproduce. Even if we survived and attepted to grow food on it we would be killed by the cancers, etc.
Thats gradually happening now from pollution, no wars necessary.
Also, even if we have no wars, every decade there is a one in eight (Estimate!) chance of a huge solar flare like the one in 1859 that would wipe out the energy grid and send hundreds of nuclear power plants into meltdown all at the same time. We actually had one in 2012 but the flare missed Earth by a few days and a space probe managed to measure it. Literally the earth missed this coronal mass ejection that almost certainly would have destroyed the whole planet by this little known or understood danger by the skin of our teeth,
just a few days.
Just goes to show that we need to treat everyday as best we can and be kind to each other. Seriously with all the processes of the universes that can destroy us at any time why do humans feel the need to further increase the odds of our destruction by building things like nukes?
Obvious question, how are you imagining that the endocrine disruptor molecules found in some plastics would survive nuclear incineration?
“Also, even if we have no wars, every decade there is a one in eight (Estimate!) chance of a huge solar flare like the one in 1859 that would wipe out the energy grid and send hundreds of nuclear power plants into meltdown all at the same time.”
Do you have a source for this theory that these mass meltdowns would be the result?
Well that one seems easy - wouldn’t there be some function of radius from detonation where inside a given radius every molecule is ripped to atoms or small fragments but in some band you could have whatever temperature you deem to be bad for plastic conversion. Not that I think this is a significant issue when it comes to nuclear war which is a huge fucking mess and I find just the nuclear winter argument alone grounds for disarmament.
Military anything is very profitable. Thats why.
Give it a break. tell your sock puppet buddies you are moving on. There are other better ways to earn a living.
Sock puppet buddies? Who else here do you think is actually me?
“There are other better ways to earn a living.”
In the meantime, I’m going to assume the real reason you ducked those questions was because you had no answer for them.