Tag : war
Tag : war
An artisanal mustard retailer from Astoria finds herself in a strange realm with the ability to set things on fire. Meanwhile, Ed Champion continues his investigation into Miss Gaskell’s disappearance, meeting a woman in mourning who may hold the answer to his own strange curse. (Running time: 19 minutes)
Written and directed by Edward Champion
Maya: Noelle Lake
Fire: Samantha Cooper
The Knight in Several Universes: Austin Beach
The Disgraced Villager: Pete Lutz
The Vengeful Field Hand: Sarah Golding
Villagers: John Xavier Miller III, Michael Charles Foote, Hans Detle Sierck, Tao Yang, Jim Kampfil, Tim Torre, and Kilgore Lehrer
Ed Champion/Johnny: Edward Champion
Edited by Edward Champion
Special thanks to Sacha Arnold, Matthew Boudreau, Jason Boog, Richard Brooks, Christopher Byrd, Claudia Berenice Garza, Jen Elyse Feldman, Pam Getchell, Jen Halbert, Gabriella Jiminez, John Osborne, Rina Patel, Scott Phillips, Michael Saldate, Marc Anthony Stein, Fiona Thraille, That Podcast Girl, Georgette Thompson, Jack Ward, and many others I may have inadvertently forgotten for their invaluable help, feedback, kindness, inspiration, and support during the production of this episode.
Eric Schlosser is most recently the author of Command and Control.
Author: Eric Schlosser
Subject Discussed: The 1980 nuclear missile accident in Damascus, Arkansas, drug use among the military after the Vietnam War, the Titan II’s continuous deployment even after it was unsafe, Fred Iklé, efforts to point out safety shortfalls in the military, the lack of locks on nuclear weapons, Permissive Action Links, Robert Peurifoy, Curtis LeMay, the real-life inspiration for Dr. Strangelove, Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis, LeMay’s bellicose attitude, 1960s defense culture, alternative perceptions of LeMay, LeMay’s attention to detail, checklists and operating procedures, a giant nuclear arsenal intended as a deterrent, limited vs. total war, Theodore Roosevelt and the Rough Riders, the influence of male attitude on deterrents, what we needed from LeMay during the Cold War, the risks taken by Strategic Air Command officers, recent safety mishaps with U.S. nuclear missile units, responding to speculation that LeMay wanted to start World War III, the history of the the Strategic Air Command, why the Command and Control system couldn’t factor in human exhaustion, how the arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union caused unreasonable labor for servicemen, the difficulties of accounting for all nuclear weapons, Robert McNamara’s belief that mad decisions were logical at the time, the 1978 Titan II accident in Rock, Kansas, why there were so many mishaps with Titan II oxidizer, the RFHCO suits (and the astonishing wear-and-tear on this protection, which wasn’t replaced in many cases), blame directed at the workers, how systemic problems contributed to an unrealistic and bureaucratic view of Air Force servicemen, putting men into dangerous systems with defective gear, black electrical tape used to “secure” suits in missile silos, loose arming wires that permitted bombs to drop, an atomic bomb that nearly went off in North Carolina in 1961, the missing atomic bomb still entombed in Nahunta Swamp, the H-bomb accidentally dropped on Spain in 1966, why America’s military infrastructure still relies on aging B-52 bombers, the 1968 Thule Air Base B-52 crash, the importance of morale within workers who are tending to the most dangerous machines in the world, Kissinger’s efforts to get rid of the Titan II, the Single Integrated Operational Plan, Eisenhower’s deadly arbitration between the Air Force and the Navy, how the Strategic Air Command kept SIOP details away from Kissinger, bureaucratic rivalries, William Odom’s briefing on the SIOP, the interplay between Kennedy and Khrushchev, the lack of a direct line between the United States and the Soviet Union through the Cuban Missile Crisis, the effect of nuclear policy on diplomacy, miscommunication and unreliable back channels, the present nuclear risk in South Asia, the recent terrorist attack in Nairobi’s Westgate Mall, the Peshawar church attack, Edward Snowden’s findings about the United States’s lack of information about Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, conflict between India and Pakistan, why deterrence theory doesn’t apply to religious fanatics, how storage facilities are prime targets for adversaries and how this is a serious problem in Pakistan.
EXCERPT FROM SHOW:
Correspondent: Much of the missile culture that you describe in this book is, to say the least, remarkably unsafe. You have this Arkansas Titan II mishap at Launch Complex 374-7 — the so-called Damascus accident — that forms the backbone of this book. It all hinges on a socket wrench that is dropped down a silo and pierces this fuel tank. And if that isn’t enough, you have oxidizer that permeates around the station, causes 22-year-old David Livingston to die and several men to be severely wounded. You have procedures that aren’t followed. You have the Propellant Transfer System team violating this careful two man policy, where you have two keys turning at the same time. We often see that in the movies, but this was, in fact, the policy during the mid-20th century and onward to activate the missile. So this leads me to ask. How did the Launch Complex adopt such a far from cautious approach to daily maintenance duties? How much of this was systematic? And how much of this was human error?
Schlosser: You know, our military was in pretty rough shape after the Vietnam War. And it’s a forgotten fact now because we have our precision-guided munitions and we go to war with one country after another. And we seem so completely dominant. But after the Vietnam War, there was major underinvestment in the military. There were terrible morale problems. Huge percentages of our troops in the Army came back addicted to heroin. And there were remarkably high levels of illegal drug use even in the Air Force. So in the book, I write about guys smoking pot on the missile site. Launch officers who have responsibility for launching intercontinental ballistic missiles smoking pot. In the book, I go into guys who are busted with LSD and cocaine who had nuclear weapons responsibilities. And that was part of the bigger culture of the ’70s. There was really poor morale. The Titan II missile that’s at the heart of this story was obsolete. It was supposed to be taken out of service in the late 1960s. In 1980, it was still on alert. It was leaking all the time. They didn’t have spare parts. So the accident I write about is precipitated by somebody dropping a socket in a missile silo and the socket pierces the skin of the missile. But in many ways, this weapons system was an accident waiting to happen. And in my criticism of some of the procedures in the 1970s and early 1980s, I really don’t imply a criticism of the ordinary servicemen who worked on these weapons systems. On the contrary. The book is about the incredible heroism of ordinary guys put in custody of nuclear weapons at a remarkably young age. I’m getting old enough now. So when I think of a nineteen, twenty, twenty-one year old person having custody of a thermonuclear weapon, it takes me aback. And those guys again and again in the Cold War had this responsibility. Maybe some of them were smoking pot. But most of them were quite serious about not wanting these weapons to go off and about making sure that we were safe from attack from the Soviet Union.
Correspondent: What’s fascinating is why so many young and inexperienced greenhorns would be given such responsibility for these missiles. I mean, that’s what boggles the mind. Especially since there were several other accidents. The B-52s that you have dropping bombs that thankfully didn’t have charged warheads. I mean, this is very serious. This isn’t asking regular people to go ahead and mop up the floor of a hangar. This is our system. And I’m wondering what conditions allowed this to perpetuate for so long, notwithstanding the heroism that you depict in your book.
Schlosser: The accident that is the central narrative of the book — the Titan II accident in Damascus, Arkansas — was unquestionably linked to understaffing, to poorly trained personnel, shortage of spare parts, an obsolete weapons system. But I write about many other accidents in the book. And in those accidents, they had extremely well-trained personnel. They had the most modern weapons imaginable. The best systems in place imaginable. But one of the big themes of the book is that we’re a lot better at creating complex technologies than we are at controlling them or managing them. And it’s hard to think of a machine that doesn’t mess up. From your toaster oven to your laptop to commercial airliners to commercial nuclear power plants, no matter how sophisticated the people and no matter how well-trained, it’s just beyond fallible, imperfect human beings to create something that’s infallible and perfect. And when you’re talking about nuclear weapons, you’re talking about the most dangerous machines ever invented. So it makes sense that those machines and the complex technological systems that manage them would mess up occasionally. But the consequences of one of those things screwing up is a lot more than if your toaster oven freezes up and catches on fire in the kitchen. And one of the reasons I wrote the book was, firstly, I thought the story of this missile accident was just unbelievable. And I thought the heroism of the guys who tried to save the missile was unbelievable. But I’m just trying to remind people that these things are out there. There are thousands of nuclear weapons right now that are ready to go. And people my age — I’m 54; I grew up in the Cold War — remember what it was like to live with this dread that there might be an all-out nuclear war any day. But half the people who live in the United States either weren’t born yet or were small children when the Soviet Union vanished. And there’s a historical amnesia. And most people just don’t realize these weapons are there. Now I’m not trying to create an existential dread in anybody. I’m not trying to create late night anxiety. But this is really important information. And people need to know it.
Correspondent: Well, even in the 1950s, you have this guy named Fred Iklé. He disseminates this RAND report on nuclear weapon safety and he outlines all the motivations that would cause someone to disobey orders and set off a nuclear weapon. His reports were disseminated, as you point out in the book, to the highest levels of the Air Force and the Department of Defense. You’ve got this guy Bob Peurifoy. He points to numerous safety problems as well. Your book, as we have established, documents several incidents in which safety is sacrificed for ease of intercontinental ballistic missile use in retaliation. Why was the top brass so recalcitrant against safety? Why were they so interested in taking shortcuts? I mean, it seems to me that it goes beyond a cultural problem or an institutional problem and into just pure recklessness.
Schlosser: Yeah. And that top secret report by Iklé was really cool to read. I mean, it was looking into the ways that not only mechanically these weapons could go wrong, but I think in one section of the report there’s a catalog of derangement, which is looking at what sort of psychological problems airmen might have that would lead them to deliberately set off a weapon, deliberately steal a weapon. And at the time that Iklé was writing, literally there were no locks on our nuclear weapons. There were no coded switches. So a pilot who wanted to take a weapon could just fly to the target in the Soviet Union, in the Eastern Bloc, or even in the United States and just drop it, if he or she wanted to do that. And Iklé’s report was important in one respect. It really encouraged what you’d think would be a no brainer, but nobody had thought of doing. Putting locks on the weapons. The locks that were eventually put on them — these coded switches called Permissive Action Links — they were effective. But to someone who really understood the innards of the weapon, in a few hours, they could just disable it. Robert Peurifoy is one of the heroes of the book. He’s a weapons designer at one of the weapons labs: the Sandia National Laboratories. He realized in the late 1960s that our nuclear weapons just weren’t safe enough and that during what is called an “abnormal environment” — I mean, you could argue that the whole history that I write about in the book is an abnormal environment. But at the weapons labs, they refer to abnormal environments as a fire, a subversion of a weapon, a plane crash, a lightning strike.
Correspondent: Amazingly, no acronym.
Schlosser: Right. He realized that our weapons were not safe enough in these abnormal environments. But it took him like a twenty year bureaucratic battle to get modern safety devices put in the weapons, which we now have today. But you would never build a nuclear weapon today in the United States without these sorts of safety devices. Ultimately, at the heart of the problem, firstly is a sort of bureaucratic mentality. Someone said recently to me, “If you want to understand how bureaucracies work, it’s better to be wrong than be alone.” So it takes somebody with some personal courage to stand up, willing to buck the bureaucracy, and be alienated from everyone else as a result. And there also has been since the very first nuclear weapon was deployed an internal contradiction, a tension between wanting the weapons to be as safe as possible and wanting them to be as reliable as possible and available for immediate use. If you wanted the weapons to be totally safe, you would never fully assemble them until you’re about to use them. But if you want to use them within 45 seconds or a minute, you need to have them fully assembled on top of the missile or inside the bomber and ready to go. So in the book, I talk about this internal tension between always wanting to be able to use the weapon and never wanting it to go out by accident. And again and again, throughout our nuclear history, the military preferred always to never. And some of it I can understand. These bomber pilots knew that if they got the order to go bomb the Soviet Union, they would be flying into an environment that no pilot had ever flown into before. Missiles would probably have already hit the Soviet Union. They would be flying into this atomic wasteland, in many ways, to drop their bombs and they were probably on one-way suicide missions to do so. And yet they were willing to do it. And it would be a bummer for them if they risked everything to take out a Soviet Union airfield and that weapon turned out to be a dud because there were too many safety devices on it. Having said that, I would have voted for greater safety. Robert Peurifoy, the Sandia engineer, felt like we could make the weapons reliable enough and still make them much safer. And eventually his view prevailed. But it took…
Schlosser: Almost two decades. And I think it really hurt his career. He wound up being a vice president at this weapons lab. But he was ostracized. It hurt his career. And I think it was enormously stressful for him to live with this constant knowledge that one of our weapons might detonate and be trying to fight the system to make them safe. And he prevailed. But it was a pretty stressful job.
Senator Mike Gravel and Joe Lauria are the co-authors of A Political Odyssey. Gravel was a candidate for the 2008 U.S. presidential race. Lauria is an investigative journalist who writes for The Sunday Times.
Condition of the Show: Delving into the complexities of the military industrial complex.
Subjects Discussed: Whether Sen. Gravel and Joe Lauria share the same brain, The National Initiative for Democracy, Article VII of the Constitution, rules that prevent people from participating in the electoral process, the military industrial complex, the Civil War and the defense budget, Eisenhower’s transportation system, Harry Truman and Communists, Iran’s missile defense, living in a culture of fear and a culture of information, X-ray machines at airports, Gravel’s involvement in the celebrity culture of politics, “Rock,” involvement with Obama Girl, whether or not Senator Obama or any of the Democratic presidential candidates have been in touch with Gravel since the debates, whether or not Gravel is done with electoral politics, leaving out details of Gravel’s life between 1981-2006 in A Political Odyssey, political visibility, balancing substance and celebrity, the semiotics and audience reaction to “Rock,” the “unnecessary” nature of war, Woodrow Wilson, war as an endless continuum, whether or not Americans deserve the government that currently represents them, Colin Powell and false threats, Daniel Ellsberg, Dick Durbin, Frank Wuterich and Murtha’s defamation suit, the Speech or Debate Clause, morality and collateral damage, Scoop Jackson, Gravel standing up against the ABM, working with hawkish Senators, and political peer pressure.
EXCERPT FROM SHOW:
Correspondent: A question to both of you. The modifier that frequently ripples, so to speak, throughout this book in relation to war is “unnecessary.” You question Woodrow Wilson’s motives for getting us into World War I, writing that America was not threatened. Yet I must bring up the bombing of the Lusitania. And I must also point out that there was the Kingsland Explosion. The Zimmerman telegram. I mean, what is a necessary war? Was America really not at threat in World War I? Is this what you’re saying?
Gravel: Of course it was not.
Lauria: Well, I’ll just say briefly that the idea of the Zimmerman telegram was absolute nonsense. Why did Wilson send ships into the areas where they could be sunk?
Gravel: Right. And there was an argument that it had munitions. I mean, Woodrow Wilson didn’t have to go into the First World War at all. In fact, had he not gone in, there’s a chance that we never would have had the Second World War. Had we let them, that was their war, bleed themselves out. Well, you realize that after the First World War, the democracies of the world were in command of the world. And who screwed up the 20th century but the democracies? Clemenceau and the British and ourselves were the ones that set up the tobacco of the 20th century. Does it get any worse than that?
Correspondent: Okay, that clarifies…
Lauria: There wouldn’t have been Versailles. There wouldn’t have been a settlement to the war.
Gravel: There wouldn’t. Because…
Lauria: You would not have had Hitler.
Gravel: No, you wouldn’t have had Hitler. Because the Germans could not have refielded their armies that had left. The French could not have refielded their armies. So there would not have been Versailles. This was like the movie, The Last Man Standing. Well, the American troops! The British were not standing. The French were not standing. The Germans were not standing. So there we were. The Americans were standing. And we were the heroes. And old Woodrow Wilson was basking in this light. Woodrow Wilson was not the great President we made him out to be. Believe me, he was not.
Correspondent: I thank you for the clarification, but back to the other question. Is war necessary in any sense? Can you cite specific conflicts? Specific battles?
Gravel: I know of no war in history that did not beget more war.
Correspondent: But that kind of dodges the question very skillfully.
Gravel: No, that doesn’t dodge the question. I know of no war that has not begotten more war.
Correspondent: Is it necessary though?
Gravel: I don’t know if it’s necessary. I don’t know if it’s necessary. You attack me. I gotta kill you. Then your brother says, “Well, you killed me.” It’s the famous American cowboy story. You know, vengeance wreaks more vengeance. What kind of question is it? Maybe the question you ought to ask is to take the question from Jesus. Turn the other cheek and maybe you won’t get the other cheek lopped off.
Terry Sanders is most recently the director of Fighting for Life, which opens in New York and Los Angeles on March 7th.
Condition of Mr. Segundo: Convinced that he is fighting for his life.
Guest: Terry Sanders
Subjects Discussed: Maintaining an apolitical tone, whether being a military doctor involves politics, apolitical semiotics, how much reality offers to a documentary filmmaker, military reenactments in Antietam, capturing the historical trajectory of military doctors, Errol Morris, conducting interviews close to the camera, the decision to feature an American soldier determined to live while including an Iraqi captain who doesn’t want to live after being paralyzed, remaining open to symbols, Crystal Davis and Tigger, depicting military medical students from an everyman’s perspective, the economics of caring for the wounded, uninsured health care, splitting the narrative focus between the doctors and the wounded, hospital organizational systems, medical school field exercises, training for mass casualties, whether or not schools can truly prepare medical doctors for the realities of war, obtaining cooperation from the military, getting consent from soldiers to film, and subjective vs. objective documentaries.
EXCERPT FROM SHOW:
Correspondent: You mentioned Errol Morris earlier. And this is interesting to me because there’s one moment where you have Crystal’s father staring directly into the camera and I kept thinking to myself, “Oh, is he doing that Errol Morris situation in which Morris projects his image of his face right where the camera is?” And it’s only in that particular instance. And I wanted to ask you about that.
Sanders: Actually, no, I would not — I mean, it’s interesting what Errol Morris uses and he certainly uses it well. It seems to me a contraption that would take time to set up and maybe produce some self-consciousness, maybe, in the person. I try to minimize the equipment as much as possible. And in fact, Crystal’s father is not looking directly into the lens. Because I actually instruct people, “Look at me. Don’t look at the lens.” Because looking into a piece of glass immediately breaks the connection between the human connection.
Correspondent: I guess you must have been sitting really close to the camera. Because his eyeline was…
Sanders: I was. I always sit very, very — technically, I mean over the years, my technique is — I want it to seem like they are looking into the camera. But in fact, they’re probably looking at my right eye, which is right next to the lens of the camera.
Correspondent: How close do you sit to the camera? I’m curious. Are you within inches?
Sanders: Within a half inch.