We Assholes were in the lovely town of Portsmouth, New Hampshire over the weekend for a film festival, but little did we know we’d be joined by a 4th on Saturday – the king of the assholes himself, Donald Trump. Don’t worry, we managed not to catch fleas or throw pies, and we did see plenty of great movies.
Command and Control was one of them, a super scary documentary about that one time in 1980 when American almost launched a nuclear weapon ON ITSELF. Well, scratch that: no “almost” about it – the bomb was in fact compromised, and it just luckily failed to obliterate humanity. This whole thing happened before I was born, when my mother was just a pixie-haired 19 year old – roughly the same age, incidentally, as the men charged with preventing the doom of civilization
Even the best-case scenario, which the military obviously deems adequate, sounds terrifying: the Titan II, a big-ass missile carrying the biggest warhead on the books, was bunkered in an underground silo manned by teenagers not skilled or disciplined enough to get a better posting. And why are we surprised that shit went down?
It was end of shift when two little words heard over the radio would change everything -“Uh oh!” – not words you want to hear when a weapon of mass destruction is at stake. Some kid used a ratchet rather than a wrench, and an 8 pound socket was dropped. Picture, for a moment, what this giant missile really looked like: from the bottom, you couldn’t even see the warhead, which was at the top, 8 stories up. The boys, working somewhere in the middle, dropped a big hunk of metal which made 1 bad bounce, tearing a chunk into the side of the missile which immediately began spurting oil. Nobody really wanted to own up to this possibly extinction-level fuck-up, so a half hour went by before anyone with any authority knew what was going on. And this being a government operation, a further 8-10 hours went by before anything was done about it. So the bottom fuel compartment was emptying quickly, which meant the top part was about to collapse in on itself at any moment, likely causing a huge-ass explosion even not counting the fact that a MOTHER FUCKING WMD WAS SITTING ON TOP!
Since I’m writing this and you’re reading this, we didn’t get wiped off the face of the earth, but the thing that saved us was dumb luck. The bile will rise in your throat watching this, knowing how close we came. The lady behind me uttered “Oh Jesus” 17 times before I lost count. But Command and Control, based on Eric Shlosser’s book of the same name, tells about that ONE time in 1980 when everything almost went black. That one time. This documentary lets us know that in fact, there have been hundreds, maybe thousands of accidents involving nuclear missiles. Every single day that some dopey American doesn’t accidentally kill us all is a miracle, and that reliance on constant miracles doesn’t exactly sit well with me. People with an awful lot of medals on their uniforms refer to the nuclear program as a “seat of the pants operation”; then-secretary of defense Harold Brown says about safety “we probably didn’t worry about it enough.” Gulp.
Today, in 2016, the U.S. still has 7000 nuclear weapons just waiting for an accident to happen. And to make matters worse, they’re threatening to elect a buffoon named Donald to hover his dumb little fingers over the big red button. So here’s the thing: accidents happen all the time. Most are covered up. American nuclear weapons have taken American life. But the bigger the accident, the more loss of life. And if there’s a big accident, there’s a mushroom cloud and ten million dead instantly. Who’s going to tell Donald to stand down, that this is “friendly fire” and not a button-pushing incident? No one. That guy will be dead. His superiors will be dead. It’ll just be Donald and his excellent decision making between us and all-out global war. Oh sweet Jesus – if this film isn’t another in a long list of compelling reasons not to vote for this guy, I don’t know what is.