Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Let's Hope Trump's Trigger Finger Isn't Itchy

I spent a chilling 45 minutes Wednesday afternoon listening to the author of Raven Rock: The Story of the U.S. Government’s Secret Plan to Save Itself—While the Rest of Us Die be interviewed by Terry Gross of NPR’s Fresh Air.

Garrett Graff’s book fills in the details on what most of us have taken for granted, namely, that in the event of a nuclear holocaust a few chosen elites from government and business will be whisked to impregnable fortresses  to survive and keep our country functioning with, for example, a stash of $2 billion, mostly in $2 bills the public rejected when re-introduced back in 1976 but will have little choice but to use in the absence of most other legal tender. The Federal Reserve, Graff reports, estimates it would take about 18 months to produce more currency.

Sounds funny but it’s a deadly serious book. Here’s the part that really shook me to the bone: According to Graff, there is no one who stands between a president and an order to launch a nuclear strike. No secretary of state or secretary of defense, no chairman of the joint chiefs of staff. No one is needed to validate, confirm, authorize an order. No one can counterman it.

It is not like in the movies. The “nuclear football” carried by a military aide is always near the president. “Contrary to pop culture or public perception, there is no such thing as the red phone or the nuclear button,” said Graff. “What the nuclear football entails is basically a bunch of binders with different plans. One military aide compared it to a Denny’s menu. You can go through and point at different pictures and that’s the type of nuclear war you would order.” 

When asked why and when safeguards from a would-be mad-bombing president were stripped from the protocol, Graff said, “The way that these procedures have evolved over the years is to remove any middlemen that could slow the process down, because the decision-making window would be so short as it is. The president might only have 8 to 10 to 12 minutes to make a decision about launching a nuclear weapon. There wouldn’t be any time to double check with someone else, so we have very carefully crafted a system that ensures that there’s nothing that slows down a presidential launch order. 

“Those plans were always predicated upon the idea that the person giving the launch order is the most thoughtful, most intelligent, most sober-minded individual that you could possibly imagine atop the nuclear command and control system.”

Not once did Donald Trump’s name get mentioned. But the more than 240-pound orangutan in the room could not have been far away from any listener’s thoughts. 

Located in Waynesboro, PA, not far from Camp David, Raven Rock is but one of many havens hollowed out of mountains. Some 5,000 “lucky” personnel would be assigned sanctuary there. 

I’m not sure how comforting it might be to you, but Graff said even after Doomsday the IRS would continue to collect taxes. How would it know from whom to collect? Apparently the Postal Service would be charged with compiling lists of who died and who survived.

For those who would like to hear the Fresh Air interview, including the ability of a president to declare a state of emergency that would suspend many rights and permit the state to incarcerate anyone the president judges to be a dissident, here’s a link:

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