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25 June 2008 @ 05:11 pm
Nucular Misunderestimations  
Well, this is good...10 days and not one post. Brilliant start this journal's gotten off to, wouldn't you say? Partly the delay in posting is because of the fact that I missed the podcast last week, so the stuff I was going to upload for that is going to have to wait. Also, finding interesting material and the time to digest and write something about it isn't something I'm particularly good at yet. So to anyone reading (and judging by the current watch list, that's a grand total of zero people...), hang in there, I'm working on it. Slowly.

Anyway, to the news of the day:

June 19th: Hundreds of nuclear components lost, Pentagon admits to weakness in nuclear records.

In a recent report released by the Pentagon, the US military is unable to account for anywhere up to 1,000 nuclear weapons components, after an inventory ordered by Admiral Kirkland Donald showed up large discrepancies between records and stock actually stored at various US bases. This follows an incident in late 2006 where four fuses used to trigger nuclear warheads were accidentally shipped to Taiwan as helicopter batteries. In an excerpt from USA Today:

"The Pentagon report, by Adm. Kirkland Donald, concluded that both incidents had a “common origin” which was “the gradual erosion of nuclear standards and a lack of effective oversight by air force leadership.”

The FT quotes a military official as saying that the report had “identified issues about record keeping,” but that there was no suggestion that components had ended up in the hands of countries that should not have received them."

Yeah, I guess they just rolled behind the sofa...

The story originally broke via the online edition of the UK Financial Times, of all places, and slowly disseminated across various news websites. I tried (and am still trying) to find a copy of the report in question, but so far the Department of Defense's homepage (www.defenselink.mil) isn't making things easy. I mean, the frontpage is literally dripping with spin, with links to special reports on "heroes" and how the US military is making the world a better place, how we're winning the war in Iraq, all that sort of stuff. No mention of the number of dead, military or civilian...and any page bearing the phrase "weapon of mass destruction" has probably been purged from the server by now... scanning their news page too reveals almost complete positivity, with any possibly negative story thrown into the nicest light possible.

Sorry, I'm probably being extremely cynical. But taking as rational and as objective a stance as I can, the distortion on that page is something of the like I've never seen before.

Now, the fact that this has happened, and these nuclear missile components could potentially be anywhere, isn't actually that disturbing, because it's sort of old news. Rogue nuclear components have been out on the black market for years now, and besides that, if someone wants to build themselves a nuclear bomb, they don't need sophisticated components to do it - you can build a crude nuclear device with stuff you've got lying around the house at home. However, this slip-up by the US will certainly make things easier, if indeed the parts are actually missing (they might be behind the sofa, you never know). But more than that, it's the attitude. This is the world's nuclear superpower, and although the presidential finger is no longer on the button as it was in the days of the Cold War, they're got more than enough nukes to blow anyone they want off the face of the planet. This technology needs to be taken extremely seriously, but as this latest demonstration shows, that extra level of care is being forgotten more and more. And Russia is guilty of this too - their nuclear facilities are even less secure. But even worse than that, instead of just saying, "right, we screwed up, now let's see if we can find any of these parts and fix the problem", so far the only response has been to fire two staffers and play the whole thing down.

So yeah, that's my say, such as it is. I find it hard to write my opinions down, and I find it even harder to have an opinion that means something useful. I'm working on it :) 

EDIT - Well what do you know, there are 2 people watching this journal other than myself. My bad, I thought my email got notified in the event of a new watcher, apparently it doesn't.