Government Report: Rich White Men Are Most Likely to Survive Nuclear Blast
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Why make such an assumption? I found a clue in my research on President Eisenhower's approach to nuclear danger. Ike was determined that in case of a nuclear attack the U.S. should be prepared for “digging ourselves out of ashes, starting again,” and winning a nuclear war. “If we assumed too much damage,” he told subordinates, “there would be little point in planning.” So he directed civil defense planners to keep their “assumptions as to the extent of damage within limits which provide a basis for feasible planning,” rather than dealing with what would really happen. Maybe the same unreality prevails in the Obama administration?
Today’s planners certainly sound a lot like Eisenhower, who wanted to teach Americans to be “resolute survivors… a concerted national effort at patriotic renewal and spiritual advance.” The big problem, in his view, was “how you get people to face such a possibility without getting hysterical.”
In 2010, the head of FEMA told the Times’ William Broad: “We have to get past the mental block that says it’s too terrible to think about. … We have to be ready to deal with it.” The director for preparedness policy at the National Security Council declared that the administration wants “to enhance national resilience --- to withstand disruption, adapt to change and rapidly recover.”
Broad seems eager to promote the upbeat message: “The big surprise was how taking shelter for as little as several hours made a huge difference in survival rates. ‘This has been a game changer,' Brooke Buddemeier, a Livermore health physicist, told a Los Angeles conference.” If everyone living a mile or more from ground zero of an attack took shelter “at the core of a big office building or in an underground garage, ‘We’d have no significant exposures,’ Mr. Buddemeier told the conference, and thus virtually no casualties from fallout.”
Of course they’d actually have to stay sheltered for at least 24 hours and maybe “several days,” according to the report -- without food, many bleeding from the flying glass, some blinded from seeing the flash. Then there would be all those women, ethnic minorities, and lower socioeconomic folks who would be going crazy. Oh, and did I mention that “many people will be relocated for months to years at great distances downwind?” The report mentions it only very incidentally. No worries, mate.
Reading this report reminded me of my days doing research in the Eisenhower Library, trying to master the art of laughing and crying at the same time. The tragedy of Eisenhower was that, as he created an image of a president pursuing peace, he blocked possibilities for disarmament and Cold War reconciliation at every turn. Instead he expanded the nuclearized military-industrial complex (and then on his last day in office fooled history into thinking he opposed it) while making fantasy plans for surviving and winning a nuclear war.
Now the Obama administration wants us to learn to accept the prospect of a major American city destroyed. Its report never even mentions the possibility of averting disaster by changing the U.S. policies that enrage people, whether abroad or at home. Maybe the administration has another interagency task force working on that problem.
But I doubt it. They would have to treat those who dream of using nukes as monstrous people who may nonetheless have rational grievances worth paying attention to.
Remember that our own government has reams of plans to use nukes in the worst-case scenario if its grievances are ignored. But the fundamental principle of U.S. foreign policy since World War II has been to divide all humanity into two groups: people like us, the good guys, who are by definition rational even when planning to use, or actually using, nuclear weapons; and the bad guys, the irrational evildoers bent on wreaking destruction for the sake of destruction. In that scenario, there’s no point in even thinking about the bad guys’ motivating grievances, much less trying to address them constructively.