Atheists in Bomb Shelters?

While politicians whip up their designer audiences  with border bluster, and billionaire bashing, they are valiantly working to hide from their voters the awful  facts and videos that inspired the Dr. Strangelove parody.

On October 27 1962, off the coast of Cuba, when American forces dropped practice depth charges to force a Soviet submarine to the surface, two of the three officers in charge of the sub voted to respond by firing nuclear weapons. They mistakenly believed the submarine was under attack. Vasili Arkhipov, the second-in-command, refused to authorise the use of nuclear weapons, and the vote to do so had to be unanimous. Arkhipov’s refusal prevented the world’s first nuclear war.

A recent book edited by Tertrais and Henry Sokolski, a former Pentagon official, describes how a group of French generals plotting a coup against President De Gaulle in the spring of 1961 tried to obtain a nuclear device that France was about to test in the Algerian desert. “Refrain from detonating your little bomb,” one of the generals told the commander in charge of the test. “Keep it for us, it will always be useful.” De Gaulle ordered the device to be set off earlier than planned, and the coup was unsuccessful.

During the Cultural Revolution in China, members of the red guards launched a missile with a nuclear warhead on a flight path over populated areas – an extremely risky and perhaps unauthorised launch. For a few days in the summer of 1991, all three “chegets”, the small handheld devices that controlled the Soviet Union’s nuclear arsenal, were in the hands of military officials trying to seize power and overthrow President Mikhail Gorbachev. And Pakistan, the nation with the world’s fastest-growing nuclear arsenal, has had three military coups since the late 1960s, four prime ministers removed from power since the late 1980s, and an Islamist insurgency determined to topple the government.

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