Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Man Who Saved The World

50 years ago last month the fate of our species was in the hands of three men.  Soviet submarine commanders near Cuban shores that had been granted authority by their superiors at their own discretion to launch a first strike nuclear attack against the United States.  US bombers were in the air ready to launch an immediately and devastating nuclear retaliatory strike in Russia should the submarine fire and that would have triggered an additional devastating strike from Soviet missile sites in Cuba and elsewhere.  Kennedy had ordered depth charges be dropped to compel the submarine to surface.  Inside the submarine the men had been subjected to a full week of temperatures in excess of 120°F.  They were being blasted with sonar loudspeakers as a means of torture coming from US destroyers.  And they heard the depth charges exploding around them.  These combined factors compelled 2 of the 3 Soviet officers to initiate the nuclear strike, but they were resisted by one man.  Vasili Ahrkipov refused to agree to launch, calmed his fellow officers down, and convinced them to allow the submarine to surface.  An amazing and frightening story explained in more detail in this excellent PBS program that provides a re-enactment.  This is a man we should sing songs to every year at this time.  If not for him perhaps none of us would be here.

It's important to recognize that the threat of nuclear annihilation is not passed.  To understand why watch this 10 minute clip featuring Noam Chomsky and Daniel Ellsberg.


Jonathan said...

Interesting video, thanks for the post. I'm wondering - what's your view on the dropping on the nuclear bombs in WW2? Do you think that was the right thing to do? Not trying to tie that in to the video you posted other than they show a brief clip about two survivors....

Jon said...

As I understand there was a Congressional inquiry into whether the bomb was necessary for the ending of the war and the conclusion was that it wasn't at all. The terms of surrender that Japan offered prior to the dropping of the bomb didn't change a bit after the bomb was dropped, and the US accepted those terms (they wanted to keep their emperor). The bomb appears to have been intended to be just a show of force against the Soviets, which makes it an atrocious crime against humanity. Also it was done with the knowledge that American POW's would be killed with the second bomb on Nagasaki. I have a book by Howard Zinn called "The Bomb" that I intend to read and I understand it details these findings.

Examinator said...


Examinator said...

It has been argued that the dropping of the bomb was a demonstration of power to deter the USSR's (read Stalin’s). What followed WW2 were two clear prominent factors 'moments of national emergency ' brings unity of purpose and with that comes an opportunity for military based profits(wealth/growth). This was well demonstrated by the USA's domestic recovery from the Great Depression. On the back of profits from the then, war in Europe, later their involvement in WW2.

The PBS re-enactment clearly recaptured the idiocy of the US of that time. From the ducking under the desk as protection from a nuke attack... to the inane notion that Communism (sic) post Stalin was an existential threat.
BTW in the 1920 many US citizens went to Russia to help set up and work in industries. But with the advent of Stalin the US and USSR relationship soured and many US citizens were stranded thereby their own government.
Stalin had also shown himself to be a force to be reconned with during the war. See the strategy to allow soviet troops to 'liberate' what later became the iron curtained East as 'reward' for Stalin’s help in the War.
His expansionist policies and his tyrannical rule continued after and consolidated up until his death in 1953.

After the war US government and particularly its capitalist backers' natural instincts were opposed to any system that threatened their power and privilege. In the mix was a desire to maintain both the financial and Political world leadership. Stalin and Communism was a 'naturals' for the role of villain to sell to domestic USA politics and to make a claim for world dominance they played to the domestic public's emotions giving out the myth that the USA had virtually unaided, won the war proving that they wore the 'white hats' and as such they were naturally in the right for the duel role.
There are several movies that depicted Americans as the heroes but in real events they other nationalities.
In one outrageous rewriting of history the picture showed an American heroes when in truth the incident was the Brits and Aussies 18 months before US entry.

Keep in mind Cuba had been run by a corrupt US backed government and was a second home for US organised crime. When a popular uprising brought in Castro in addition to this 2 years earlier the Bay of pigs incident occurred.
Jon, Jonathan
This is some of the background
Most Americans still hail JFK handling of the Cuban missile rather it as always, came down to another (an evil communist) man who had the good sense JFK and his government didn't . If he had they wouldn't have positioned missiles in Turkey....That was the trigger for the “Cuba incident”. First from post Stalin USSR and blowback paranoia of the new Cuban government.

Examinator said...

part 2
An objective view of history would show that most if not all northern hemispherical wars since WW2 have had USA's 'elephant' stamp (foot print at its base), ( Elephant= Republican ... from the outbreak WW2 , Republican= heavy handed Capitalistic Nationalism regardless of the actual party in power.)
Like it or not even Vietnam was a war of USA making. So is the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, in which it is clear that It was/is US cover and support that is stopping a real resolution. Look at it's support involvement world wide the US is in practice Anti democracy in that it supports corrupt (Indonesia), tyrannical you pick the (Arabian emirate), repressive Theocratic regimes (Saudi Arabia) , military Juntas (Burma), Apartheid (Israel) and other assorted cesspits of anti democracy.

It should be noted that many strategists reason (alluded to in the Chomsky Video) that having nukes simply stops the US from attacking at will ...refer Nth Korea. Conversely it is argued this is one of the major reasons why the US wants to stop Iran ( a democratically elected government) from getting the Bomb. Also consider Pakistan, if it didn't have the bomb how long do you think it would be before the USA messed with them openly for inhibiting it's holy jihad against Afghanistan in the name of its resources?
Also keep in mind it was USA's bloody mindedness that started the war....the Taliban demanded that the US go through normal international extradition procedures for Osama, like make the case...THEY DIDN'T want him either and they didn't refuse. Also who armed the warlords to fight the USSR?
Through all this the US is selling arms to anyone with money friend or foe... and if they don't, well...”there are ways and means”.

All this boils down to the US public has been conditioned to be so nationalistically arrogant and to see anyone who doesn't support 'all the way with USA' as an existential threat. So Paranoid is the USA as a nation that it now jails, kills it's own citizens and others illegally regardless of actual proof.
And god help anyone who tries to do the most fundamental requirement of democracy, make the government's actions transparent.
And yet despite all this the US public believe the power drunk's lies, that there will a blowback?

I should admit That I remember the event and how it inspired the 'ban the bomb movement and later 'the love generation' I was involved in activism towards the end of that period and have continued since.

Jonathan said...


The problem with an "objective" view of situations like this in my eyes, is well, it's "objective". It's easy to sit back and be objective and say after the fact what we should or shouldn't have done, but when all the chips are on the table, I wonder if you and I could have risen above the situation and made any different choices. Not trying to defend one action over another, just think it's rather naive to think you and I would have done any different, or that anyone will act differently in the future in similar situations due to the sheer force of the time and historical climate.

Here's an interesting podcast by a rather liberal historian who has some interesting thoughts on the context of the time, and about how us humans make decisions when the world seems to be going to hell in a handbasket in general.