A job awaiting death

Image of Mess of Pottage

Today brought yet more insight on the dire state of the military personnel in charge of the American nuclear missiles stock. Investigations are looking into two officials suspected of possessing illegal drugs in Montana. Earlier the general in charge of the ICBM program had been sacked due tohard drinking, swearing, and spending time with “suspect” women on a trip to Russia.

The article points out the obvious things- the Cold War has been over for a generation. Nuclear treaties have reduced the number of facilities (and thus staff). It neglects to mention another aspect which I think is incredibly important.

Personnel in charge of nuclear weapons and the protocols for readying and launching them spend a lot of time sitting around, doing nothing. And if that dreary existence were to be interrupted by serious action, there’s a good chance that it would involve the destruction of a massive number of people. In an exchange with the Russian Federation, that could involve the deaths of the staff and everyone they’d ever known- it all would be over in a matter of minutes.

Why do we subject people to this- where any action of interest would prove destructive? That if they were ever to launch missiles from their given facility, it would kill huge amounts of people- including some great number of civilians? The whole nuclear weapons system has a foundation based on insanity- cloaked by a bit of game theory that justifies being armed to the teeth in the sea, on land, and through the air. The substance-using staff aren’t bad people, and coming down hard on them doesn’t change anything. It is all self-medication to deal with a job built upon death.

In the opening stages of the Holocaust, gas chambers weren’t always the means of extermination. In 1941 the invasion of Eastern Europe had units that shot Jews and other groups in huge numbers. Gassing “began after Einsatzgruppe members complained of battle fatigue and mental anguish caused by shooting large numbers of women and children.”

Any job where death and murder are inescapable will create the kind of problems seen at missile bases. Even when it’s not as personal as shooting someone in the head, it is still there. It’s a job nobody wants.

And it’s a job nobody should need to do.

Author: AJM

Writer, sociologist, Unitarian Universalist.

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