My conversion on the road to “Damascus”
By Kary Love
I read a Good Book and now I believe In God.
Though my grandmother wanted me to be a preacher, I was educated as a scientist and along the way, any inclination I had towards believing in god became more and more reduced. Science kept pushing back the bounds of the unknown, as I studied it, and as I realized the power of science to reveal “mysteries” I found myself in agreement with science and opposed to “superstition” or religious explanations, especially where it required faith in miracles that violated the laws of nature.
I finally got to the point where I admitted, maybe there was room for god, but it was limited to before the Big Bang, as science seemed dominant everywhere else. When I got into debates about this with others, I would say: “I just don’t see any evidence of god. Wars, injustice, the bestial behavior of nations and of men, where is this good and just god in the world?”
This included many debates on the issue with people I had as clients in cases involving their peaceful protests against weapons of mass murder. These were thoughtful, people of faith, whom were themselves some of the best evidence for the existence of a just god. They not only talked the talk, they walked the walk. Mostly, they did the “perp walk” as the US Government prosecuted them unmercifully for trying to stop nuclear holocaust (often denying them trial by jury in process apparently fearing that if a jury heard all the evidence, they would acquit). But they were people of whom I often said, were Jesus to return to earth, he would hang around with them, because they lived in accord with his example and teaching, helping the poor and sick, feeding the hungry and visiting the imprisoned (sometimes, like Jesus, they were the imprisoned). As former Attorney General Ramsey Clark is reported to have said, having acted as an expert witness for the Defense on treaties and laws prohibiting nuclear weapons, “Our jails are filling up with Saints!”
As I saw more and more people living the teachings of Jesus going into US jails, I regarded this as more evidence that a just, loving god did not exist. Surely, a just god would not allow the law to be an instrument of injustice? The ultimate lawgiver, if one existed, would not tolerate the perversion of law into injustice. No, the more I experienced the world, the more I came to conclude, god does not exist.
Well, I was wrong. I just finished a Good Book and now I believe in god. The evidence is overwhelming. I just didn’t know about it, because my government kept it secret for years. But all the evidence is in the Good Book. Not that “Good Book”, the Bible. Rather, it was “Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety” by Eric Schlosser, published a few years ago (2013) but riveting in its relevance today. This book tells the story of America’s nuclear weapons and the miraculous fact we have not murdered ourselves, despite seemingly having been trying to do so over and over and over again. It turns out America has repeatedly dropped nuclear bombs on itself, had nuclear accidents that could have incinerated the “Homeland” and spread nukes around the world with similar episodes overseas! By some miracle, none of the nukes detonated. Yet, anyway.
In addition to a thriller like account of the “Damascus” Arkansas Titan ICBM silo accident (which almost got rid of Arkansas in 1980 while Bill Clinton was governor—the Titan was America’s most powerful nuke at the time), Schlosser interweaves the history of America’s “Strangelove” affair with nukes and the haphazard development of these criminal weapons while revealing a haphazard approach to “safety.”
For example, Schlosser tells the story of Bill Stevens, the head of the nuclear safety department at Sandia Nuclear Weapons lab, who got access to secret reports describing at least 1,200 nuclear weapons involved in “significant” incidents and accidents between 1950 and March 1968. During the same years, the official Department of Defense (War) and “Atomic Energy Department” (AED) reports described only 13 “Broken Arrows,” PentagonSpeak for an accident that causes the “unauthorized launch or jettison of a weapon, a fire, an explosion, a release of radioactivity, or a full-scale detonation” of a nuclear weapon.
Schlosser recounts how Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara was bedeviled by the reports of accidents involving nukes in a secret memo summarizing his views put together following the Cuban Missile Crises and the potential for errors that involved said:
[Mr. McNamara] went on to describe the crashes of US aircraft, one in North Carolina and one in Texas, where, by the slightest margin of chance, literally the failure of two wires to cross, a nuclear explosion was averted. [He] concluded that despite our best efforts the possibility of an accidental nuclear explosion still existed.
By 1968, Mr. McNamara, selected by President Kennedy for his cool, detached manner, was prone to bouts of sobbing in his office at the Pentagon. What a workman’s comp case that could have been!.
Schlosser tells how, on January 25, 1991, General George Lee Butler became head of SAC. The Cold War had ended and Gen Butler decided to look at the entire US nuclear targeting plan. He found that bridges and roads in the middle of nowhere in Russia were targeted with multiple warheads; hundreds of nukes would hit Moscow; there were in fact thousands of ground zeros. Following his review of the entire plan, Gen Butler later recalled, “I came to fully appreciate the truth…we escaped the Cold War without a nuclear holocaust by some combination of skill, luck, and divine intervention, and I suspect the latter in greatest proportion.”
Schlosser tells the story of many of the “accidents,” revealing how everything that could go wrong, did go wrong: radios not working, communications down, doors locking, radiation suits not working, control panels reading bizarrely, in a potentially tragic comedy of errors. These accidents are compelling accounts of what military grunts call “FUBAR” (F__ked Up Beyond All Recognition). It would be funny, and I actually laughed out loud while reading some of the screw-ups, until the fear of what the outcome could have been shivered up and down my spine. Schlosser also tells the story of real heroes, risking and losing their lives to courageously prevent accidents spinning out of control. You may owe your life to some of these guys. And that of your kids and grandkids. Military justice, like military intelligence, often falls short of the ideal, some even name them both oxymorons.
The most recent scientific analysis shows that 100 nukes of the size currently in the US arsenal would be sufficient to kill not only all America’s enemies, but due to blowback of the radioactive poisons, the nuclear winter resulting from the dust and debris following the mushroom clouds and atmospheric contamination, the starvation from food production decline, and the other wonders of the nuclear age, would result in the deaths of most Americans. Given we are still here, and the history of close calls, I concluded on the road to understanding the “Damascus” disaster, that only a loving god, watching out for drunkards and fools, can account for the many unexplainable “miracles” that have occurred along the way. As has been said, man has killed god, fortunately god is more merciful. Let us pray.