Friday, August 5, 2011

Imperial Insanity

This morning over breakfast, my younger brother Simon once again recommended Joseph Heller's classic novel Catch-22 to me. (Is breakfast too early in the day for literary philosophy? Not in my family.) He explained, "The Catch-22 in the book is, you can only get a discharge from the frontlines of the war and go home if you're insane - but no sane person would WANT to stay, so your desire to go home is proof of your sanity."

The United States has 5,113 nuclear warheads in its operational arsenal. There are only 3,158 cities in the world with more than 100,000 inhabitants.

But all of those weapons mean nothing if you don't actually have flesh-and-blood people ready to push the button. Not pick up a phone and tell someone else to push the button. Actually push the button that will send a nuclear warhead flying through space to the other side of the world to vaporize and sicken millions of people.

Where do those people come from? And how does the U.S. military train them to do their jobs?

Last week, we got a partial answer.

Apparently, the U.S. Air Force enrolls its nuclear missile launch officers in a training course on war ethics. The course uses many different sources to justify the U.S.'s nuclear arsenal, including St. Augustine and the Bible. By way of explanation, David Smith, a spokesman for the Air Force’s Air Education and Training Command, told the Washington Post that the program's purpose was to “help folks understand why we’re doing what we’re doing. In the missile launch industry, it takes a certain mindset to be able to walk in the door and say, yes, I can do that.”

Yes, I suppose that goes without saying.

But don't worry. American civil society is all over this one.

Concerned about the content of the course, a group of 30 Protestant and Catholic military officers took a powerpoint from the training course to an organization called the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, which then released it to the public. The Air Force quickly announced that the course was being redesigned, presumably to remove religious references, or at least supplement the course with teachings from Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism and secular humanism that justify maintaining a standing threat to murder millions of human beings. That way, our country's precious wall between church and state will remain intact.

Mikey Weinstein, president of the foundation, wants to reassure us that he isn't anti-Christian. “This isn’t about attacking someone’s faith,” he told the Post. “What it’s about is remembering that in this country … we separate church and state. They don’t do that in other countries. We do that here.”

There. Feel better now?

Jesus-free since 2011.


  1. Am I right to assume from your calculations that a town as small as Cumming, IA is not nuke-worthy?

    By the way:
    Happy 66-Year-Anniversary of Hiroshima! :)

  2. You are right. However, I doubt we would survive a direct hit on Des Moines (population approx. 125,000).

    Dude...that totally escaped me. Good call!