Minot Incidents Re-Raise ‘Command and Control’ Questions
We make jokes about it, but there are times when it's no laughing matter. This is a story that every American - especially in North Dakota - needs to see.
This week, we reported two separate stories involving "misplaced" items from Minot Air Force Base: first a carton of grenades that apparently fell from a Humvee and have yet to be found (as of Friday); and the Thursday report of a missing 7.62 machine gun following an inventory check.
This brings the question of "quality control" back to the forefront. If the military can mishandle such mundane weaponry, what does this tell us about the potential mishandling of our nation's deadly nuclear arsenal?
Technical glitches that may bring about a thermonuclear Armageddon (at least for some), have long been the subject of movies, both serious and sardonic.
But seriously, how concerned should we be about this - especially living so close to a number of "strategic" bases and missile silos, armed with weapons of "unthinkable" power?
For one answer: the documentary Command and Control (which was screened in Bismarck a few months ago). This documentary, based on a book by historian Eric Schlosser, is a sobering look at the history of "quality control" management - and mismanagement - of weapons of mass destruction.
The linchpin of the film is the story of the incident at a missile silo near Damascus, Arkansas in 1980, when a minor accident set in motion a chain of events that resulted in a massive (albeit non-nuclear) explosion at the site.
The 20mt warhead did not detonate, and failed to produce what the Pentagon called a nuclear "event." But it could have, taking the silo, the town, and a large percentage of the state of Arkansas with it.
We've had a number of close calls over the years, including Damascus. We've been lucky. But the thing about luck is that it eventually runs out.
Command and Control is currently available on Netflix and PBS.