Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Holy Moly, Batman!

We all tend to be a bit naive about our world and our circumstances in it. We put a lot of faith in others, when we delegate responsibilities for our safety and security. The dialogue below from the old Batman television series which aired between 1966 and 1968, describes the situation aptly:

Robin: "Boy! That was our closest call ever! I have to admit that I was pretty scared!"

Batman: "I wasn't scared in the least."

Robin: "Not at all?"

Batman: "Haven't you noticed how we always escape the vicious ensnarements of our enemies?"

Robin: "Yeah, because we're smarter than they are!"

Batman: "I like to think it's because our hearts are pure."

Yep, that is pretty much the way it is. We're smarter than 'they' are and our hearts are pure. But... consider the exerpt below, from today's Whiskey and Gunpowder newsletter:

"... a recent posting from Moscow News, which is of such interest that I will copy it in its entirety:

"20.01.2006 13:18 MSK (GMT +3), Updated: 13:18 MSK -- Retired Russian colonel Stanislav Petrov received a special World Citizen Award at a UN meeting in New York on Thursday. Petrov was honored as the 'Man Who Averted Nuclear War.' In a meeting held at the UN's Dag Hammarskjold Auditorium on Jan. 19, the Association of World Citizens (AWC) presented the retired officer with his award.

"The inscription on the award, which has a granite base with a solid glass hand holding the earth, read: 'The single hand that holds the earth symbolizes your heroic deed on September 26, 1983 that earned you the title: The Man Who Averted Nuclear War.' The back of the award read: 'May the hand now symbolize humanity united to save our world by eliminating nuclear weapons from the face of the earth.'

"Back in 1983 Petrov made a decision that prevented a war that could have destroyed the planet. He was the duty officer at Russia's main nuclear command center in September 1983 when the system indicated a nuclear missile attack was launched by the U.S. on Russia. It was just after midnight, Sept. 26, and 120 staff were working the graveyard shift in Serpukhov-15, the secret USSR command bunker hidden in a forest 30 miles northeast of Moscow. In the commander's chair was Lt. Col. Stanislav Petrov, 44, looking down from his mezzanine desk to the gymnasium-sized main floor filled with military officers and technicians charged with monitoring any U.S. missiles and retaliating instantly.

"Petrov was highly aware that Cold War tensions were acute, as USSR fighters had shot down a Korean airliner on Sept. 1, 1983. But he was completely shocked when the warning siren began to wail and two lights on his desk console began flashing MISSILE ATTACK and START. 'Start' was the instruction to launch, irreversibly, all 5,000 or so Soviet missiles and obliterate America.

"A new, unproven Soviet satellite system had picked up a flash in Montana near a Minuteman II silo. Then another - five, all told. Petrov recalls his legs were 'like cotton,' as they say in Russian. He stared at the huge electronic wall map of the United States in terror and disbelief. As his staff gawked upward at him from the floor, he had the thought, 'Who would order an attack with only five missiles? That big an idiot has not been born yet, not even in the U.S.'

"The Soviet procedure manual was inflexible, and it demanded he notify his superiors of the attack immediately. But relying on his intuition, Petrov disobeyed. For almost five minutes, he stalled, holding his hotline phone in one hand and his intercom in the other, barking orders to his personnel to get back to their desks.

"Then he made the decision that saved the world. Summoning up his firmest voice, he called his Kremlin liaison and said it was a false alarm. But today he admits, 'I wasn't 100 percent sure. Not even close to 100 percent.'

"Months later, it was determined that sunlight reflecting off clouds in Montana had caused a faulty satellite computer assembly to report a missile launch flash. But by that time, Petrov's excellent military career had been sidetracked. He wasn't fired, but he was transferred - and never got any medals or recognition. When his wife was found to have a brain tumor in 1993, he retired to take care of her. When she died, he borrowed money to give her a funeral. Today, Petrov, 67, lives in Moscow on a monthly pension of less than $200."

That kinda makes you think, doesn't it? The bigger our governments, the more sophisticated the weaponry used to 'protect' us, the more dangerous and unpredictable is the world we all live in. And ultimately, the decision whether or not to obliterate the planet falls back on one individual person anyway. Wouldn't it be better if we would each simply take responsibility for ourselves and our families and not delegate it to others who are, in all likelihood, no smarter nor more prescient than are we? But that would mean that individuals elsewhere would have to do the same and therein lies the problem. Too many of us think that human beings can only survive under the guidance of leaders imbued with some magical power that the rest of don't have. I really can't imagine what that power might be. The fact that most of our so-called leaders are blithering idiots seems to be lost on us.

I'm amazed the human race has lasted as long as it has.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent post!
    Isn't it amazing how fear-mongers with broadcasting/publishing facilities scare-tactic the masses into following morons over the cliff?
    After two terms of Clinton and Bush, I grow more convinced the only thing saving America from complete oblivion is the grace of God, and a lot of bailing wire, chewing gum and duck tape stuck in place at the right time by underlings with a much better understanding of what the hell's actually going on than their "superiors"!