Losing The Nukes

I seldom talk about my military service, for two — no, make that three — reasons. First: it was more than fifty years ago. Second: most of it was stupefyingly dull. Third: I was in military intelligence, so whatever was not dull tended to be classified, and still is, at least technically.

But this evolving story, about nuclear warheads flown north to south across the country, poked loose an MI story which I feel safe in repeating. It’s not really classified information, and I think it provides some insight into the “missing nukes” story.

Part of our job was to send classified material from Germany to the US. We packaged it, and an armed guard took it to an armed courier, who took it to Washington. Very secret stuff.

But as I suggested above, we were bored much of the time. One overnight crew, to relieve the boredom and to amuse the folks back in DC, brought in an individual-size box of cereal from the mess hall, wrapped it according to specifications, mocked up a “NOT TO BE OPENED UNTIL BREAKFAST” label, and tucked it into the courier bag.

Neat trick, we all thought. Going to be lots of laughs.

It was not.

There would likely have been courts-martial but for the intercession of a senior officer who suggested they would look pretty silly when someone found out it was all over a handful of Rice Krispies.

Now then, to the “missing nukes” story. Six warheads were involved, each with an explosive force (potential) about ten times that of the Hiroshima bomb. So we’re talking about — possibly — the equivalent of sixty Hiroshimas. That much nuclear destructive force was careering over the countryside and nobody — so the story goes — realized it.

The current official line of explanation is that it was the result of an unlikely mix of carelessness and mistakes. The commander of the base where the plane took off faces some sort of (so far unspecified) discipline.

So. It’s all cleared up. Nothing to look at here, folks. Just keep moving along.

Does anyone detect a strange odor here? A box of cereal shows up in a classified courier bag, and the shit hits the fan. The ingredients for Armageddon get misplaced, and it’s simply an unfortunate mishap.

I see two possibilities, and I don’t like either one of them.

One is that it really was a series of potentially-catastrophic blunders and ineptitude. This gang not only can’t shoot straight, they can’t tell the live ammo from the blanks. Hitch that front end to a rear end which never acknowledges mistakes and therefore never is obligated to apologize, or to kick the incompetent ass, and you pretty much have the Bush Administration.

The other is that this was not a mistake. I won’t go into the details, which you can get here and here, but let me summarize.

A B-52 which in normal service would take off and land from its home base flies instead to another base. The home base is where nuclear warheads are stored. The other base is the one from which materiel is routinely transported to the Middle East. This at a time when the Cheney faction of the Administration is pushing ever harder for a confrontation with Iran.

The story became public, as far as I can determine, only because someone involved in the incident leaked the news to military newspapers, from where it’s been picked up and followed by the mainstream press.

And if you need a quick fix for your conspiracy jones, here’s a sidebar story to consider.

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