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moveon-warrecord-kerrybushThe excellent folks at MoveOn have another of their clever ads. It made me stop and think. About things that perhaps the ad makers hadn't considered.

This is surely the final major election for the Boomers. We are getting old now and newer cohorts of leaders have already taken our ground. I suspect this is one of the last elections in the U.S. when the Boomers will have a chance to vote for any of their own. From here on in the candidates just get younger than us by bigger and bigger margins. And it made me consider how my generation -- the idealistic and idealised 60's generation -- has done over the last twenty years or so when we've been in power. And frankly, it's kind of sad.

The ad itself is called "War Record" and it features lovingly portrayed images of "our man" fighting and killing in Vietnam. It contrasts the heroic Navy man with the rich man's son who bought his way out of danger, skipping out on the draft by playing the National Guard card with his Dad's connections. Remember, this time, Rambo is on our side. The fun-loving draft dodger is now the enemy.

Forgive me for not laughing out loud at the irony.

More generally, and leaving aside the personalities, it should surely appall beatniks and hippies and yippies and punks that the 2004 US Presidential election is entirely about the military and how it should be used for foreign policy purposes. Didn't we say "Fuck it!" to all that shit forty years ago? And what good did that do for us, eh?

We haven't even worked out the problems our parents left us! In the "LA Times" today I read in an important essay by Robert McNamara and Helen Caldicott that the US and Russia still have thousands of ICBMs pointed at each other, on hair-trigger alerts.

"According to a report on nuclear war planning by the National Resources Defense Council, Russia aims most of its 8,200 nuclear warheads at the U.S., and the U.S. maintains 7,000 offensive strategic warheads in its arsenal, most of which are targeted on Russian missile silos and command centers. Each of these warheads has roughly 20 times the destructive power of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

Of the 7,000 U.S. nuclear warheads, 2,500 are maintained on hair-trigger alert, ready for launching. In order to effectively retaliate, the commander of the Strategic Air Command has only three minutes to decide if a nuclear attack warning is valid. He has 10 minutes to find the president for a 30-second briefing on attack options. And the president has three minutes to decide whether to launch the warheads and at which targets, according to the Center for Defense Information. Once launched, the missiles would reach their Russian targets in 15 to 30 minutes.

A nearly identical situation prevails in Russia, except there the early warning system is decaying rapidly."

Unbelievable. This is the same nightmare I was waking up to every day in the 50s and 60s. What the hell have we been doing for forty years?

April 29, 2004 in Current Affairs | Permalink

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