Bloggers on the "Bent Spear" nuclear incident.

Bloggers on the "Bent Spear" nuclear incident.

Bloggers on the "Bent Spear" nuclear incident.

The latest chatter in cyberspace.
Sept. 24 2007 6:41 PM

Nuclear Reaction

Bloggers are shaken by an analysis of how six nuclear warheads went missing, pondering President Bush's comments on Hillary Clinton, and saying au revoir to famed mime Marcel Marceau.

Nuclear reaction: At the end of August, six cruise missiles loaded with nuclear warheads took an unplanned trip from North Dakota to Louisiana that escaped the notice of military personnel for 36 hours. The Washington Post concluded Sunday that event—designated as a "bent spear" incident—was a fluke caused by a failure of safeguards at multiple levels.

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"This really is one of those keep-you-up-at-night kind of stories," says liberal Steve Benen at the Carpetbagger Report. "The breathtaking incident raised questions about whether the flight was, in fact, an accident, or whether this might be part of some hyper-aggressive posturing towards the Middle East. How does a bomber inadvertently fly across the United States with six nuclear warheads? Was this human error? A bureaucratic mix-up? Or something more sinister?"

Liberal Bradford Plumer wonders how the missles slipped by multiple safeguards. "On the list of possible f'ups, this was a big one," he opines. "(The bombs weren't really at risk of detonating, but slip-ups like this one could very easily lead to them being stolen or damaged.)" The Post's reporting is top-notch, but it's still unclear how and why all of the safeguards failed—especially how the missiles made it from storage onto the plane. Amazingly, the Air Force seems to be focusing at this point on punishing individual airmen while assuring everyone that 'its security system is working.' Bad apples and all that." The Pennsylvanian at The Lady Speaks chastises the involved military men: "The whole system collapsed, and why? Because the first step was making sure you were grabbing conventional missiles. From the moment those airmen reached for the wrong ones, everyone involved simply assumed they were not nuclear-equipped. And what happens when we assume, boys and girls?

At progressive One Utah, Richard Warnick wonders if we are qualified to be stewards of nuclear safety anywhere: "Maybe we should ask how good a job our government is doing keeping track of nuclear weapons in places like the former Soviet Union, India, Pakistan and North Korea when our own can go missing like this."

Some military minds seem relatively undisturbed by the event. Gunner Mitchell, an Army retiree and conservative at Gunner's Blog, worries that the size of our nuclear arsenal could be reduced in reaction: "This one scares the hell out of me. Not for the reasons that one might immediately think. But rather, the potential for degrading our strategic and tactical nuclear capability." Mitchell also points to a list of more serious "broken arrow" nuclear incidents dating back to the 1950s. Progressive Jason Sigger at military-focused blog Armchair Generalist isn't hyperventilating, either: "[M]ost knowledgable people seem to agree that, while mistakes were made, there was never any real chance of the plane going 'Dr. Strangelove' or having an accident that might cause a significant impact in the nation's psyche," he writes.

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Read more about the "Bent Spear" incident.

Bush taps Hillary: President Bush believes that Sen. Hillary Clinton will win the Democratic nomination but lose the general election. Also, the Washington Examiner reports that a high-level White House official has panned Barack Obama, citing his "intellectual laziness" as a reason he would lose to Clinton.

"[E]ven though he has repeatedly forsworn playing 'prognosticator in chief,' Bush offered the broadcasters some assessment of the race to succeed him. … For a guy who says he doesn't want to dissect the campaign, Bush sounded a little like he was auditioning for a pundit job after his term ends," writes White House correspondent Peter Baker at the Washington Post's Trail. And Fungineer quips: "Bush is predicting that Hillary Clinton will win the Democratic Nomination. Thus, I can only conclude, given Bush's track record, that Obama is going to win the Democratic Nomination."

At the Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire,John McKinnon views Bush's prediction as more evidence he "is playing a little geopolitical footsy with Hillary Clinton." Former Bush assistant David Kuo at J-Walking is not floored by Bush's safe prediction: "Perhaps it is all the Welch's grape soda but I am not sure why it is a big deal that President Bush has reportedly said Sen. Clinton will win the Democratic nomination. ... Has anyone seen a poll lately? She's up by 20 points. She has been up from the get go. It isn't exactly a bold prediction to say she is going to win the nomination."

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Duke political science doctoral student Brendan Nyhan writes: "If anything, the Illinois senator comes across as too academic, not intellectually lazy. I'm also troubled by the use of 'laziness' as the grounds to attack the first serious black presidential contender. I assume it was unintentional, but can't we talk about Obama without language that echoes racist stereotypes?" [Clarification, Sept. 26: The article originally claimed that Nyhan saw racism in the White House official's remarks. As his post indicates, he thought the stereotyping was unintentional. We regret the confusion.]

Read more about Bush's predictions for 2008.

Silence: Bloggers call for a moment of noise to remember famed French mime Marcel Marceau, who died Saturday at age 84.

George Phenix mourns at Blog of Ages. "I saw Marcel Marceau's real face for the first time today. Sadly, it was in his obituary in the NY Times. Odd, isn't it, that his chalk-face was better known to the world than his real face."

"[I]t was only in reading about the 84 year old entertainer's death last night that I realized what a strange and wonderful life he led," pens Mangesh at Mental Floss. The tidbits about Marceau's life he dug up include Michael Jackson's cribbing the Moonwalk from the mime's "wind walk." (See the video here.)

"Marceau's dying words were: " ' ... '," cracks T. Nawrocki at One Poor Correspondent.

Read more about the silent life of Marcel Marceau. Watch him perform.

Sonia Smith is an associate editor at Texas Monthly.