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I just watched one of the most chilling documentaries ever

Discussion in 'Anything goes' started by Bubbler, Dec 21, 2007.

  1. Bubbler

    Bubbler Active Member

    Did you know that on Sept. 26, 1983 and Nov. 8, 1983, you almost died?

    You. Me. Damn near everyone on the planet. Those of you not born yet. Everyone.

    On those two days -- for different, but related reasons -- the Soviet Union was one button-push away from launching an all-out nuclear attack on the United States. Especially in the case of Nov. 8, the missiles were in their bunkers, submarines were off our coasts and under the polar ice, mobile SAM's were in position to strike western Europe from the Warsaw Pact nations. The most minor provocation was going to set off WWIII.

    It's a long story laid out in a two-hour documentary I DVR'd from the Discovery Channel last night called Soviet War Scare 1983. It was a uniformly excellent documentary, with most of the principles still alive involved wittingly or unwittingly involved in what was damn near nuclear armageddon.

    Long story short is that Soviet mistrust of the U.S. -- helped in a massively large part by Ronald Reagan's warmongering of his first term -- combined with a deeply flawed Soviet intelligence system, combined with the Soviets' then-octogenarian and paranoid Politburo, combined with the culture of the Russians themselves, who didn't want to be blindsided as they were in WWII, made the Soviets believe that NATO and the U.S. was going to launch a nuclear first strike against them in short order.

    The lack of communication between the nations at the time made the feeling unnecessarily deep-seeded. Ominously, the Soviet head of the KGB at the time would not accept any intelligence that suggested otherwise and the Soviets had no analytical apparatus within its intelligence culture.

    With tensions in late '83 very high because of American missile deployment in Europe, the Korean airline disaster in August (for those of you too young to remember, the Soviets accidentally shot down a Korean Airlines jet that strayed over Russia, believing it to be a spy plane), the American invasion of Grenada, the heightened alert of the American military after the Beirut bombing, among many other things, the Soviets talked themselves into the belief that invasion was imminent.

    When NATO announced war games for early Nov., called Able Archer, the Soviets believed it was cover for a real nuclear attack, despite the fact the Soviets knew Able Archer was a yearly exercise carried out by NATO that always ended with a fake massive nuclear strike. Such was the paranoia and the belief that Reagan was serious about launching a first-strike nuclear attack.

    Before that, however, the real thing nearly occurred by accident on Sept. 26. In an incident straight out of the movie WarGames, the Soviet early warning system detected what it believed was a missile launch from one of the U.S. midwestern silos. The Soviet Colonel in charge of that post, Stanislav Petrov, would not launch missiles without visual confirmation from the Soviet spy satellite, which didn't indicate any launch, despite pressure from the paranoid leadership above him.

    Petrov disabled the early warning system, only to have it go off twice more. The Soviets were on highest alert, ready to launch, but an ailing Yuri Andropov elected to trust Col. Petrov's judgement, and the system was disabled twice more. It turned out that the early warning system was picking up deflections from the sun off high-altitude clouds.

    Petrov probably saved us all (apparently, Petrov is the topic of a Cronkite documentary next year) from annihilation, but was later cashiered out of the Soviet military for exposing such a fundamental flaw.

    (continued ...)
  2. Bubbler

    Bubbler Active Member

    (continued ...)

    That incident didn't turn the temperature down for another, much more dangerous near-incident in November. Mistaken intelligence signals and misinterpreted intercepted NATO signals convinced the Soviets that Able Archer was a cover for a real invasion. The Soviets went on full nuclear alert on Nov. 8 and all of its missiles were mobilized to be launched if anything unusual happened during the course of Able Archer's final phase, which was an all-out nuclear attack on the Warsaw Pact. The Soviet Union was fully prepared to respond to what it thought was going to be an American nuclear invasion. The slightest deviation or provocative move born out of Able Archer -- intentional or not on NATO's part -- would have triggered a launch. Thankfully, nothing untoward happened and the Soviets climbed down.

    The U.S. and NATO were completely unaware on Nov. 8 they were on the brink of annihilation, only through a double-agent in London via the SIS, was the truth exposed some months later.

    There's a far more to the documentary than that, including how double agents on both sides helped avert disaster, the thought processes of the Politburo, etc.

    It was fascinating and scary as hell. For someone who grew up, or lived at all, through the early 80s, it touched a lot of raw nerves that had been dormant since the end of the Cold War.

    For starters, for all of our current fear of a terrorist attack, I still prefer living in the shadow of terrorism versus the shadow of nuclear armageddon, the palatable fear of which we seem to have forgotten about.

    There's almost this wistfulness for the Cold War, as if our collective memory has tricked us into thinking that the U.S. and Soviet Union both kind of winked at each other knowingly, because MAD was mad, all of the other nations fell in line, and all was right with the world. Sure it hotted up from time-to-time, most notably in the Cuban Missile Crisis, but for the most part, all was right with the world with both superpowers running the show, especially in light of what has emerged as a threat in the Cold War's place.

    History has never been more revisionist.

    We've forgotten that in '83, nuclear armageddon seemed a very real possibility, fear of nuclear destruction permeated every fiber of our lives.

    For example, The Day After movie -- which half-coincidentally, made it TV movie debut during the height of all of this, and which was mentioned in the documentary as influential to Reagan's thinking -- didn't seem quaint in '83 as it does now, it was scary as hell, because a significant amount of us felt that movie portrayed our eventual fate.

    I remember in '84, when Reagan did his now infamous, "I've signed legislation outlawing Russia, we'll begin bombing in five minutes" radio fuck-up, I literally had nightmares about it. Granted, I was 13-years-old, but I'll bet if you did a poll in the mid 80s and asked whether you thought you'd die in a nuclear conflagration, it would have been close or even topped 50 percent.

    We talk of Iran now as if they're a threat on the level of a Soviet Union from that era. Even the worst-case nuclear Iran scenarios are a laughable drop of piss in the bucket compared to what the Soviets had aimed at us, which makes our current warmongering and talk of WWIII all the more ridiculous.

    On the other hand, Bush may be playing a dangerous and idiotic game with Iran, et al, especially with the world economy much more entwined that it was in the 80s, but Reagan damn near killed us with his first-term rhetoric. Bush does heaps of stupid shit, but he'd be hard-pressed to put us as close to the brink as Reagan did.

    The documentary said that once Reagan learned just how close his rhetoric came to real destruction, he began the steps that led to the U.S.-Soviet summits of his second term. Unlike Bush, at least he had some sense of the damage his saber-rattling was doing.

    And the last montage they show is chilling as it relates to today. Much of the atmosphere of mistrust which nearly led to our annihilation was due solely to lack of communication between the two cold-warring states. The last interview of the show is with former CIA director Robert Gates, who said we haven't learned the lessons of '83. He said it's folly to not talk to your adversaries, specifically mentioning Iran and North Korea, because the most rudimentary differences can at least be understood through dialogue, and it's usually rudimentary differences that lead to mistakes the likes of which nearly wiped us off the map in '83.

    I can't recommend this documentary enough. Check it out if they re-air it.
  3. Bad Guy Zero

    Bad Guy Zero Active Member

    I think it would take less time to watch the documentary than read your posts.
  4. pallister

    pallister Guest

    You ruined the best parts!
  5. Bubbler

    Bubbler Active Member

    Oh cry me a fucking river jagoff. If you can't handle a lengthier post, go read fucking USA Today or Highlights or something.

    I'm so tired of people pissing and moaning about the length of stories, posts, etc. If you don't like it, don't fucking read it.

    But don't shit all over the people who have the patience and/or intelligence to stick with something that's a little longer, or especially, those who take the time to write it.

    There are some who thinks it's some damn high accomplishment to break everything down into something that is summarized for us in two graphs, as if we're all oatmeal-sucking 5-year-olds who can't sit still for more than two seconds.

    Granted, in a newspaper format, brevity matters, but in a blog or message board, it means fuck all.

    Double Down and Ragu get the same shit around here sometimes for writing long and it's bullshit. If you don't like to read, why the fuck are you hanging around a message board at all?

    And if what I wrote sucked, fine, but if it didn't, who gives a flying fuck how long it is?

    Rant over.
  6. sportschick

    sportschick Active Member

    Yea, but Ragu gets bullshit cause he's got no sense of humor in his posts half the time, and I get the feeling he's not nearly as humorless in real life.

    Otherwise, you're spot on. I think too many of us equate long with JDV and RokSki style, well, shit, and don't bother reading ones that are truly interesting.

    (Although, I was using my phone to read this site today, and good lord, the long posts were awful.)
  7. pallister

    pallister Guest

    Bubs, what you wrote sucked.
  8. mike311gd

    mike311gd Active Member

    That description makes me want to see the Scare. I was only a few months old then, so I "missed" damn near all of the tension, so to speak. I had no idea we were that close to exchanging bombs with the Soviet Union. I knew the tensions were high, but wow.

    Thank you, sir.
  9. Bubbler

    Bubbler Active Member

    From someone who follows the Bears and White Sox, I defer to your knowledge of suck. :D

    I have to admit, my indignation was cracking me up as I finished that. Oatmeal-sucking 5-year-old? WTF?
  10. imjustagirl2

    imjustagirl2 New Member

    I was reading Bubbs' post, but then something shiny caught my attention.
  11. Bad Guy Zero

    Bad Guy Zero Active Member

    Wow...now I'm afraid to watch the documentary as it appears it will remove one's sense of humor.
  12. Bubbler

    Bubbler Active Member

    Mike ... none of us had any idea we were that close.

    We all had the fear in the back of our minds, getting nuked is probably the central tenet of our collective psyche to this day, which is one reason the lesser lights of our nation are continually on the lookout for real or imagined bogeymen, but it still freaked me out to hear I was that close to getting vaporized 24 years after the fact.

    I lived in Milwaukee in '83 and I stood no chance. I remember the Milwaukee Journal did a story in that period about what would happen if Milwaukee got hit by a nuke. I lived just north of County Stadium and I was in the Probable Vaporization-to-Burning To Death zone if the nuke was dropped downtown. I remember when that came out, my buddies and I hoped to God we just got vaporized.

    That's what it was like if you were younger. The early 80s were not unlike the early 50s in that regard.
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