"The next wave of bombs would have wiped out "economic targets", a euphemism for civilian populations – more than half the UK population would have died."
At this point in time, the village drums are banging constantly, and a tiny historical human interest story can wash across the internet and it quickly retreats to into obscurity, at times taking truly outrageously disturbing information with it. The stories and their revelations fade away from us, suppressed into the churning maelstrom, no longer making the top search results and eventually only echoes of old news that no one has time for. (See Trayvon Martin's case or the revelations of the Iraq War logs.)
An anniversary in time can bring forth such a story, and the journalist makes the obligatory modern connections. Even willing to include a weigh in comment by Chomsky, someone perceived to be of the most extreme "left". It's an astounding reality that we all can feel safe in our daily urban and suburban lives, in our small towns and farmlands, while knowing that the US Government military agencies have at various points been known to consider the loss of potentially millions of lives in Europe as acceptable collateral damage in a chess game of nuclear targets. As pawns.
"The fact that Britain and western Europe were regarded by some in the Pentagon as expendable pawn sacrifices was the great unmentionable of the cold war."
We learn about these death sentences from Cold War academics distilled through a news filter from the UK. I often wonder how someone could remain a quiet Cold War historian
spending so more time than any of us in constant contact with these truths. Confirming their validity, researching and analyzing unclassified information, then teaching it to the public with the appropriate gravity. Content to comment on chat shows, get book deals and go home and curl up in bed with their pets and their partner, dreaming of prestige, probably their tenure, and perhaps an expert interview credit for a documentary?
Historians are best suited to remind the public the depth of deception employed in the past by those with power, emphasize how close we have come to self-destruction, and analyse what circumstances made these possible. In a sane world I would expect to see them interviewed and listened to with reverence, as they warn us that we shouldn't be naive to assume the worst can't occur again. No doubt there are examples that will be immediately offered of a historian doing those very things, but those appearances are likely relegated to their usual sphere of media influence alone, and the content they have to offer isn't compatible with how the public has been taught to receive or process important information.
So the historian is just like most of us, they largely continue to muster a passive fascination to being confronted with historical accounts of the most calculating indifference. To grasp how the average person is regarded by the powerful and act to change this state of affairs becomes too great an affront to our privileged and docile lives. There has been change, but the vast majority seem to be held by a fear of upset, of risk, and a deeply ingrained faith that it is necessary to participate with a constant deference when faced with authority of almost any kind. Ultimately the results are that most of us actively participate in the systematic subjugation of our personal value, and the value of our fellow human beings. Like Cypher in the Matrix, after knowing what's behind the curtain, we still really love the steak.
Yet if we face even some of the truth, inevitably we generate more uncomfortable questions. Questions like, why should we expect that the military policy of any world power has somehow morally evolved since WWI, II, and the Cold War? Based on the current state of world affairs, do you trust that your best interests are under consideration? Most of the people who hold our lives in the balance believe the imperatives they are acting on are utterly universal truths, just like everyone else. Collateral damage and utilitarian decisions may be made on your behalf. Somewhere, in the most classified documents, I'm certain you and I are still completely expendable. Less expendable than middle-eastern persons, or other foreign persons, but expendable nonetheless.
Will there be another Arkhipov when the next hair-trigger showdown happens behind the veil of secret operations and a digital failure feeds false information to the fingers on the switches or to those who hold the ear of a leader? A voice of hesitation before striking, a cool head under pressure? We can only hope.
In related thought, can we deny that the prevailing media (including online) actively caricatures people who want to hesitate? Who protest against war, nuclear war and aggressive military action? Their favorite portrayals are as unemployed, unlawful idiots, and filthy radicals. They are dragged out of streets and pepper sprayed in the face, while Tea Party Patriots rally in huge numbers (often armed) without any intervention by local authorities. So we can conclude it will always be the easier choice to stay our of harms way, and speaking out of turn could reign down hell, breed lies, and devastate your reputation to the point that even those closest to you will begin to secretly doubt your integrity. Not so unlike Richard Nixon's approach to the discrediting Daniel Elsberg, the dissenter is may be mentally unstable, child-like, immature, and misbehaving in a world of responsible adults (who have come to see life as a bitter, gray-scaled, fluorescent-lit march to death - but that's another topic entirely).
Like the Christian view of human ignorance of "God's divine plan", a large portion of the populace (even identified liberals who might abhor torture) have learned to proudly defend their ignorance and easily call treason to people who upset the notion that we have any right to know what our government is doing. The cries of people who wish misery to Wikileaks Julian Assange and PFC Manning for exposing Collateral Murder, are the same that counsel their grief by believing "God moves in mysterious ways" when an innocent child suffers tragic undeserved suffering or death, but easily defend the choice to impose crippling sanctions on other countries, and keep the accounts of deaths and suffering of foreign children on the battlefield as classified for the sake of military strategy. There are questions about to what ends this kind of argument could go other than supporting a principle that secrecy must most obviously prevail to protect the interests of xenophobic patriotism.
People who desire peace and transparency are often confronted with the charge that they are too simplistic and idealistic, they "don't understand how the real world works" or the forces involved. Considering Cablegate, the answer is that they are angry precisely because they do understand. Funnily enough, the only reason any one of us isn't truly equipped to understand the inter-cultural, ideological, political, military and social state the world is in is due to the fact that the information is withheld from us for what we are taught is to be our own good.
(Cablegate Video Round-Up)
If the "real world" is on the verge of nuclear death, I would prefer not to bend my natural inclination to reject and change such a state of affairs. Why should any of us? What great understanding of mass devastation and death to we need to achieve in order to justify it? Are we meant to conclude that if only we knew what these Gods of war know in their classified operations, we too would continue to aim mass death at millions of people just like us in the name of peace. The message I receive is that is that if I disagree with modern nuclear warfare I should replace my discontent in favour of being patronized and placated into a simplistic manufactured understanding that I've been told I should aspire to. I believe I'll continue to prefer maladjustment (to nuclear proliferation, among many other things).
So it's not surprising I'm just like you, sitting here in front of my computer, guilty on this rainy Sunday afternoon.