car·riage re·turn

n. the lever or mechanism on a typewriter that would cause the cylinder on which the paper was held (the carriage) to return to the left margin of the page


Where,oh where,has my little nuke gone? Oh where,oh where can it be?

The Washington Post ran a rather lengthy article two days ago which ran under the headline
“Missteps in the Bunker”in an attempt to demystify the US Air Force’s apparent misplacement of a few nuclear warheads. Written by Joby Warnick and Walter Pinkus,the gist of the piece is that the Bermuda Triangle descended upon Minot Air Force Base for 36 hours,and that after the jet stream finally managed to send the Triangle back into Condi Rice’s brainhousing,well,some nukes just happened to be missing.

Warnick and Pinkus give the Department of Defense every avenue available to explain away the incident. Most of them go down more cloyingly than a double-shot of Vicks 44.

A brief selection of the excuses:

The Air Force was utilizing its reptilian brain and/or muscle memory when handling the destructive power of ten SIXTY Hiroshimas.

“We had a continuous workload in maintaining”warheads,said Scott Vest,a former Air Force captain who spent time in Minot’s bunkers in the 1990s. “We had a stockpile of more than 400 . . . and some of them were always coming due”for service.

Last fall,after 17 years in the U.S. arsenal,the Air Force’s more than 400 AGM-129s were ordered into retirement by then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. Minot was told to begin shipping out the unarmed missiles in small groups to Barksdale Air Force Base near Shreveport,La.,for storage. By Aug. 29,its crews had already sent more than 200 missiles to Barksdale and knew the drill by heart.

Thanks to my years in the Marines I know how to handle the M16 family of assault rifles “by heart.”I can disassemble and assemble it blindfolded,and I can modulate the fire selector switch from Safe to Fire to Burst without needing to think about it. I always know what weapons condition my rifle –or my M240G machine gun,for that matter –is in because I’ve seen what can happen when a firearm is mishandled. I assume my weapon is loaded if I haven’t handled it in the last two minutes. If I’m that goddamn careful with something comparatively minor to a nuke,than the claim that the Air Force simply “knew the drill by heart”is completely bogus.

The “if it doesn’t smell it’s clean”excuse:

Just after 9 a.m. on Aug. 29,a group of U.S. airmen entered a sod-covered bunker on North Dakota’s Minot Air Force Base with orders to collect a set of unarmed cruise missiles bound for a weapons graveyard. They quickly pulled out a dozen cylinders,all of which appeared identical from a cursory glance,and hauled them along Bomber Boulevard to a waiting B-52 bomber.

A simple error in a missile storage room led to missteps at every turn,as ground crews failed to notice the warheads,and as security teams and flight crew members failed to provide adequate oversight and check the cargo thoroughly. An elaborate nuclear safeguard system,nurtured during the Cold War and infused with rigorous accounting and command procedures,was utterly debased,the investigation’s early results show.

Larry Johnson over at TPMCafe savages this oversimplification of the weapons check-out process.

Sorry boys and girls,but that is nonsense. You do not walk into an ammo/weapons bunker and sort thru a bunch a cruise missiles like a college freshman searching their laundry basket in the dark for a pair of matching socks.

Johnson’s right. I was on pretty good terms with my unit’s Ammo Chief,SSgt Williams. When we were scheduled to go out on a field op SSgt Williams and his ammo crew would spend a total of a week of time before and after the op securing and disposing of ordnance. We were merely shooting 155mm high explosive and white phosphorus artillery rounds,and I can guarantee SSgt Williams had a couple hundred hoops to jump through every step of the way. I can’t be 100% sure how the Air Force does it,but I can testify that the US Marine Corps just doesn’t let people haul around (even comparatively tiny) bombs without anyone under a full-bird Colonel in the know.

So,if it’s evident that this wasn’t just some rookie mistake on the Air Force’s part –I mean,hey,they’ve been handling nukes for over 60 years now,so presumably they’re seasoned vets –then what kind of explanation can we find for this “mistake”?

Well,it seems like one of the most logical explanations is that this wasn’t a mistake,not by far. Johnson asks the question we all should be asking:

Why are such weapons being taken to Barksdale,Louisiana,which is the jump off base for Middle East ops?

Maybe we should ask France’s Foreign Minister,Bernard Kouchner.

France’s foreign minister warned Sunday that the world should prepare for war if Iran obtains nuclear weapons and said European leaders were considering their own economic sanctions against the Islamic country.

“We will not accept that such a bomb is made. We must prepare ourselves for the worst,”he [Kouchner] said,specifying that could mean a war. He did not elaborate on what kind of preparations that would entail.

France is saying we might have to go to war in the Middle East to stop a country from securing the capability to produce WMDs? Kouchner probably means that oil-rich backwater controlled by the guy with the Tom Selleck mustache and not the one ran by a bunch of wack-job religious zealots and fronted by a guy who says the Holocaust was produced on the same sound stage as the Moon Landing,right?

Maybe we should as America’s Mayor Himmler for an explanation.

“I believe the United States and our allies should deliver a very clear message to Iran,very clear,very sober,very serious:They will not be allowed to become a nuclear power. It’s just not going to happen.

If they get to the point that they’re going to become a nuclear power,then we will set them back five or 10 years.

That is not a threat,that is a promise.”

The good news is that Giuliani isn’t in power yet. The bad news is that he might as well be. Johnson concludes his piece with the text of an email from a friend and former B-52 pilot:

Obviously there are two possibilities:1. this was an error and the events that occurred were a tragic mistake of far reaching proportions;and 2. the nuclear weapons were moved on purpose.

Then if the movement wasn’t a mistake,it obviously was done with some sort of purpose in mind.

The destination of the aircraft was Barksdale AFB,LA from which a number of the strikes on the Middle East have initiated. Speculation would lead us to believe the weapons were being stockpiled at this facility for a possible strike somewhere in the world. Additional speculation would also lead us to believe the strike was to occur in the very near future. Why else the need to forego the normal overland transportation procedures for nuclear weapons and risk flying them to their destination in violation of a treaty with the Russians. Also how is it the press was aware of this movement? After all who would be suspicious of a B-52 taking off from a B-52 base and a B-52 landing at a B-52 base. This event goes on many times each day for practice missions and training. Some one had to have leaked the information to the press that the U.S. was moving nuclear weapons by air in a treaty violation.

Hoo boy.

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