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  This was No Accident: Nuclear Weapons are Different
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This was No Accident: Nuclear Weapons are Different

by Dave Lindorff

The chances that those Advanced Cruise Missiles and their W80-1 nuclear warheads were loaded accidentally on that B-52 are exactly zero. So the question is: who ordered this flight, and why?
Nobody should fall for a story that those six (yeah, it was first reported as five, but now the original military whistleblowers have told Army Times it was six) nuclear-tipped cruise missiles that were flown in launch position on a B-52 from Minot, ND to Barksdale, LA, were put on there inadvertently.

I had some experience with the way nuclear weapons get handled, as compared to conventional weapons, and I can assure you that there is no way anyone would just “accidentally” pick up the wrong weapons.

Back in 1978, I was working as an investigative producer/reporter for the news program “28-Tonight” at KCET-TV in Los Angeles. I got word from some anti-nuke/peace organization that there were nuclear weapons being stored at the Seal Beach Naval Station south of Los Angeles. There was concern about this on two counts: first of all, it was a very densely populated urban area, and second, the weapons were allegedly being stored under the flight path of a busy civil airport, where a crash could easily happen.

Together with a cameraperson, I went down to the base. It was bisected by a highway. On either side of that two-lane road were big mesh wire fences. On the south side of the road, the fences were older, and topped with ordinary barbed wire. On the north side, there was a higher, new looking fence topped with coiled razor wire. There was then an interval of bare soil beyond which was a second fence, also topped with razor wire. Clearly, the security on the north side of the road was much greater.

Beyond the south fence were the weapons bunkers-long high mounds of earth, covered with parched sod. Each was perhaps 75 feet long, and 15 feet high. There was a concrete doorframe in the middle of each with an old iron door in the middle. No one was visible anywhere.

On the north side, however, where there were similar bunkers, but these mounds were bigger—perhaps 20 feet high and much longer. The piled up earth looked newer, and the entrances were much more solid looking. As well, the door to each had an armed guard standing in front of it.

Clearly whatever was being stored in the bunkers on the north side of the street were much more important than those on the south side.

We stopped our car and got out, and the photographer started snapping still photos of the scene.

Immediately there was commotion inside the compound. Within less than a minute, a jeep came roaring towards us, filled with marines who were armed to the teeth. Guns drawn they ordered us, from behind the fence, to stop photographing and to stand where we were. Moments later there were sirens, and more armed jeeps came towards us from both directions down the road. We were quickly surrounded by armed marines who asked us what we were doing.

We told them we were investigating the nuclear weapons storage at the base.

They told us we had to go to the base headquarters, and took the camera. (The photographer, a pro at this stuff, had already snapped a role and stashed it in her pocket, so when they later took out and exposed the roll of film in the camera, we still had our visual evidence).

At base headquarters, the commander grilled us. Our station was called, and after it was confirmed that we were indeed journalists, they took the film, chastised us for bothering them, and, refusing to comment on whether or not there were nukes on the base, sent us on our way.

My point in recounting this journalistic adventure is to note that nuclear weapons and warheads are not stored together with conventional weapons. They are also guarded much more tightly than are conventional weapons. There is simply no way that a ground crew could accidentally stroll into a weapons storage center and pick up the wrong missiles. (There's good reason for this, too, even aside from security issues: nuclear weapons have fail-safe triggers, and are not prone to just exploding on their own, but conventional weapons are different. They can and often do go off by accident, and if one were stored amidst nuclear weapons and this happened, it could shatter the nuke and spread dangerous nuclear material all over the place. As a result, whether at Seal Beach Naval Station or at Minot AFB, nuclear weapons are strictly segregated from other weapons materials.)

It's clear that so far, no one in Congress or in the corporate media is asking the hard questions about this very disturbing incident.

I would say that the chances that those Advanced Cruise Missiles and their W80-1 nuclear warheads were loaded accidentally on that B-52 are exactly zero. So the question is: who ordered this flight, and why?

Until we have answers to those questions, we have to assume the worst—that this was deliberate, and thus sinister in the extreme—not the best.

Lindorff speakingAbout the author: Philadelphia journalist Dave Lindorff is co-author, with Barbara Olshansky, of The Case for Impeachment. His work is available at

Copyright © 2007 The Baltimore Chronicle. All rights reserved.

Republication or redistribution of Baltimore Chronicle content is expressly prohibited without their prior written consent.

This story was published on September 10, 2007.

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