Tag Archives: chernobyl

“I am Death, the Destroyer Of Worlds” Hiroshima and the Genie that Will Not go Back in the Bottle at 74 years


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Seventy-four years ago the world changed. A remarkably destructive weapon was introduced in combat, a single bomb that annihilated the city of Hiroshima Japan. The effects were immediate, 70,000 to 100,000 people were killed, tens of thousands of others wounded, many of whom would suffer from the effects of radiation and radiation burns the rest of their lives. Within days a second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki with similar results, and Japan sued for peace. The Second World War was over and a new world was born, a world under the shadow of nuclear weapons.

The anniversary of that event today is something that all of us should ponder with great trepidation as the world seems to lurch towards a day when such a weapon will be used again. The question should not be one of mere military or tactical expediency, but must consider the moral dimension of the use of these weapons as well as the whole concept of total war.

In his book Hiroshima, John Hershey wrote:

“The crux of the matter is whether total war in its present form is justifiable, even when it serves a just purpose. Does it not have material and spiritual evil as its consequences which far exceed whatever good might result? When will our moralists give us an answer to this question?” 

His question is worth considering. It is no wonder that Robert Oppenheimer one of the members of the team that developed the bomb quoted a verse from the Bhagavad-Gita after he witnessed the test explosion “Trinity” on July 16th 1945: “Now, I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.” 

Up until April of 2017 I spend the last three and a half years teaching the ethics of war to senior military officers at a major U.S. Military Staff College. One of the things that we do in the class is to have the officers do presentations on different historical, or potential ethical problems faced by national policy makers, military commanders and planners. The goal was to have these men and women dig deep and examine the issues, and think about the implications of what they will do when they go back out to serve as commanders, staff officers, advisors to civilian leaders and planners. Sadly, in the gutting of that institution after I departed the Ethics elective and all other electives were eliminated. They also cut back the number of seminars from 13 to five and limited the students to O-5s and O-6s, with command experience, directly contravening the intentions of the Goldwater-Nichols Act which was designed to prevent repeats of Vietnam, the failed Iran hostage rescue attempt, and the invasion of Grenada. The intent of the legislation was to better coordinate the efforts of the services and inculturation of younger officers to understand the capabilities of their sister services, as well as teach history, strategy, and ethics to rising leaders in the Defense Department, State Department, CIA, DIA, and other agencies charged with our national security.

In each class that I taught, at least one student dealt with the use of the Atomic bombs.  Most were Air Force or Navy officers who have served with nuclear forces. Unlike the depiction in the classic movie Dr. Strangelove or other depictions that show officers in these forces as madmen, the fact is that I was always impressed with the thoughtfulness and introspective nature of these men and women. They sincerely wrestle with the implications of the use of these weapons, and many are critical of the use of them at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It is comforting to me to know that at least in the U.S. military that there are many who can reflect and do try to look at things not just from a purely military standpoint. Of course since I know humanity I figure that there are others in our ranks who are not so reflective or sensitive to the moral implications of the use of these weapons, among whom is our current President. The fact that President Trump acts on impulse and seems to have no moral compass, strategic sense, or anything apart than what benefits him causes me to shudder, especially when he has to actually confront North Korea on their ICBM and nuclear programs, not to mention the use of weapons of mass destruction by a terrorist group. As Barbara Tuchman wrote: “Strong prejudices and an ill-informed mind are hazardous to government, and when combined with a position of power even more so.”

I am no stranger to what these weapons, as well as chemical and biological weapons can do. Thirty-five years ago when I was a young Army Medical Service Corps lieutenant I was trained as a Nuclear, Chemical and Biological Defense Officer. I learned the physical effects of exposure to these weapons, how many Rads of radiation a person could receive before they became sick and died. I learned what radiation exposure does to people at each stage. We trained with maps to chart fallout patterns, and the maps had the cities and towns that we lived in, this was Cold War Germany and yes both NATO and the Warsaw Pact expected that tactical nuclear weapons and chemical weapons would be used and we had to be able to operate in contaminated environments. We operated under the idea of Mutual Assured Destruction or MAD as a deterrent to war. It was chilling and made me realize that the use of these weapons today would be suicidal. When Chernobyl melted down we were in the fallout zone and were given instructions on what we could and could not do in order to minimize any possible exposure to radiation poisoning.

So when it comes to the first use of the Atomic bomb I am quite reflective. As a historian, military officer, chaplain and priest who has been trained on what these weapons can do I have a fairly unique perspective. Honestly, as a historian I can understand the reasons that President Truman ordered its use, and I can understand the objections of some of the bomb’s designers on why it should not be used. I’ve done the math and the estimates of casualties had there been an invasion of the Japanese home islands is in the millions, most of which would have been Japanese civilians.


My inner lawyer can argue either point well, that being said the manner in which it was used at Hiroshima and Nagasaki troubles me. Hiroshima did have military targets, but a big part of the choice was its location, surrounded by hills, which created a bowl that would focus the explosion and maximized its effect. Many of the larger military and industrial targets lay outside the kill zone. The designers and officers on the committee wanted to show the Japanese, as well as the world the destructive power of the weapon. Those who opposed its use hoped that it would convince the leaders of nations that war itself needed to be prevented. These men wrestled with the issue even as they prepared the first bombs for deployment against Japan. The recommendations of the committee can be found here:

http://www.atomicarchive.com/Docs/ManhattanProject/Interim.shtml
Of the 150 scientists who were part of the bomb’s design team only 15% recommended the military use without a demonstration to show the Japanese the destructive power of the bomb and a chance to end the war. The poll of the scientists can be found here:

http://www.atomicarchive.com/Docs/ManhattanProject/Poll.shtml
Leo Szilard wrote a letter to Edward Teller seeking his support in sending a petition to President Truman regarding his opposition to the use of the weapon based on purely moral considerations. Szilard wrote:

“However small the chance might be that our petition may influence the course of events, I personally feel that it would be a matter of importance if a large number of scientists who have worked in this field want clearly and unmistakably on record as to their opposition on moral grounds to the use of these bombs in the present phase of the war.

Many of us are inclined to say that individual Germans share the guilt for the acts which Germany committed during this war because they did not raise their voices in protest against those acts, Their defense that their protest would have been of no avail hardly seems acceptable even though these Germans could not have protested without running risks to life and liberty. We are in a position to raise our voices without incurring any such risks even though we might incur the displeasure of some of those who are at present in charge of controlling the work on “atomic power.”

The entire text of Szilard’s letter can be found here:

http://www.atomicarchive.com/Docs/ManhattanProject/SzilardTeller1.shtml
The two petitions of the scientists to the President are here, the second letter concludes with this recommendation:

“If after the war a situation is allowed to develop in the world which permits rival powers to be in uncontrolled possession of these new means of destruction, the cities of the United States as well as the cities of other nations will be continuous danger of sudden annihilation. All the resources of the United States, moral and material, may have to be mobilized to prevent the advent of such a world situation. Its prevention is at present the solemn responsibility of the United States–singled out by virtue of her lead in the field of atomic power.

The added material strength which this lead gives to the United States brings with it the obligation of restraint and if we were to violate this obligation our moral position would be weakened in the eyes of the world and in our own eyes. It would then be more difficult for us to live up to our responsibility of bringing the unloosened forces of destruction under control.

In view of the foregoing, we, the undersigned, respectfully petition: first, that you exercise your power as Commander-in-Chief to rule that the United States shall not resort to the use of atomic bombs in this war unless the terms which will be imposed upon Japan have been made public in detail and Japan knowing these terms has refused to surrender; second, that in such an event the question whether or not to use atomic bombs be decided by you in the light of the consideration presented in this petition as well as all the other moral responsibilities which are involved.”

http://www.atomicarchive.com/Docs/ManhattanProject/SzilardPetition.shtml

http://www.atomicarchive.com/Docs/ManhattanProject/Petition.shtml

Ralph Bard, Undersecretary of the Navy wrote to Secretary of War Stimson his opinion on July 17th 1945:

“Ever since I have been in touch with this program I have had a feeling that before the bomb is actually used against Japan that Japan should have some preliminary warning for say two or three days in advance of use. The position of the United States as a great humanitarian nation and the fair play attitude of our people generally is responsible in the main for this feeling.”

I think that those who debate the history of this need to look at the entire picture and read the letters, the documents and take into account everything. My hope is that leaders, policy makers, legislators and we the people continue to work to eliminate nuclear weapons. It is true that the nuclear stockpiles of the United States and Russia are significantly smaller than when the Cold War ended, but even so what remain are more than enough to extinguish human life on the planet. Add to these the Chinese, French, British, Indian, Pakistani and the hundreds of undeclared weapons of Israel the fact is that there remains the possibility that they could be used. Likewise there are nuclear programs in other nations, especially North Korea, which given enough time or believing them necessary could produce weapons. But the North Koreans are not alone, they could easily be joined by others including Iran and Saudi Arabia. Add to this the possibility of a terrorist group producing or acquiring a weapon the world is still a very dangerous place.

That is the world that we live in and the world in which policy makers, legislators and educated people who care about the world must attempt to make safe. If you asked me I would say outlaw them, but that will never happen. Edward Teller wrote Leon Szilard:

“First of all let me say that I have no hope of clearing my conscience. The things we are working on are so terrible that no amount of protesting or fiddling with politics will save our souls…. Our only hope is in getting the facts of our results before the people. This might help to convince everybody that the next war would be fatal. For this purpose actual combat use might even be the best thing…. But I feel that I should do the wrong thing if I tried to say how to tie the little toe of the ghost to the bottle from which we just helped it to escape…”

We are on the brink again. India and Pakistan are once again girding themselves up for nuclear war over Kashmir. Iran, after having ceased its production of enriched uranium, has resumed it following the Trump Administration voiding the nuclear nonproliferation agreement signed during the Obama administration. Despite its promises to President Trump, North Korea still seems intent on developing nuclear weapons and delivery systems. The Russians are developing hypersonic missiles and torpedoes which could deliver nuclear warheads against American targets, and the Chinese are increasing their nuclear capability. The United States is now embarked on a plan to modernize its nuclear arsenal and under the Trump administration loosen the restraints on the use of nuclear weapons.

The ghost is out of the bottle, and nothing can ever get it back in. We can only hope and pray that reasonable people prevent any of these weapons from ever being used and that war itself would end. But then, General Of the Army Omar Bradley said in 1948:

“Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war than we know about peace, more about killing than we know about living. If we continue to develop our technology without wisdom or prudence, our servant may prove to be our executioner.”

I think that the “soldier’s General” was correct. Too many people just don’t care about life, Ethics, or peace.

So, until tomorrow, I leave you with that less than cheerful thought.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under ethics, faith, Foreign Policy, History, leadership, middle east, Military, national security, News and current events, Political Commentary, world war two in the pacific

Remembering Chernobyl, a Divided Europe and Looking to a Greener Future

Chernobyl Burning 

I was in Germany this week to testify at a military court-martial but besides the obvious stress of travel and watching a friend go through hell up close and personal, it was also a time for remembering other things.

In the course of our lives that there are events that help define history. At the time when they occur most of us are oblivious to their full impact.  On April 26th 1986 I was a young Army officer in Germany.  On that day the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the city of Pripyat in the Ukraine which was then part of the Soviet Union experienced a catastrophic accident during a systems test.  The disaster is considered the worst in nuclear power disaster in history, only one of two to be rated as a 7 on the International Nuclear Event Scale.  31 deaths were directly caused by the mishap almost all of who were workers and emergency responders, another 50 emergency responders died of radiation exposure. Thousands of other incidents of death from cancers have been linked to the disaster.

Of course that was before there was the 24 hour cable news cycle so what little information we had was from newspapers and television. In Germany at that time we were pretty much dependent on the Stars and Stripes newspaper and news coverage from ABC, NBC, CBS and CNN provided by the one channel aired by the Armed Forces Network back then.  As such we knew that it was a bad situation but even with other coverage provided through German news sources, at least for us that red German our information was limited.  A lot was because of the fact that the incident occurred in the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Not much news got in or out of the USSR except that which was cleared by the Politburo itself.  Even Soviet citizens in the local area received little information, in fact no evacuation or alert was issued by Soviet authorities until April 28th.  We were advised to minimize outside exposure and keep our pets inside and out of grassy or wooded areas.

The Abandoned and Highly Radioactive City of Pripyat (Photo by Jason Minshull)

The disaster resulted in the evacuation of a 31 kilometer circumference around the reactor. This boundary still exists and the city of Pripyat remains an empty reminded of that day, abandoned and remaining much as it was that tragic day, a city frozen in time.  Ukrainian officials and scientists believe that the area will be uninhabitable for the next 20,000 years.  Effects are being felt in Belarus, Ukraine and many European countries to this day.

Back in 1986 Europe was divided by the Iron Curtain. Then Germany was two countries, the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Democratic Republic. I made a number of trips to the inter-German border as part of my duties to know the terrain that we would fight on should war break out and in November 1986 Judy and I would make the trip via the Helmstedt Corridor through East Germany to Berlin.  I was reminded about the division of Europe, particularly Germany by two mementos displayed near the front gate of Kelley Barracks. One was a piece of the Berlin Wall, the other a sign warning people of their proximity to the inter-German border.

Since then Germany has been reunified and is a prosperous country without which the economy of much of Europe would collapse. It is also a leader in eliminating the need for nuclear power and is in the process of shutting down its nuclear plants. It is a leader in reliable public transportation and alternative energy. In fact some of those alternative energy projects including solar and wind are helping the German economy with high tech jobs and I have to admit that air quality is amazing. The country is becoming less dependent on fossil fuels and cleaner to boot.

There are many that continue to insist that we in the United States should double down on our use of fossil fuels and nuclear energy despite the real environmental dangers of both and the economic stranglehold of OPEC on the United States.  When I look at Germany I wonder why we don’t take our great technical ability, our tremendous capacity for innovation and our now underused industrial power to make the change secure our freedom from the tyranny of OPEC and protect the environment.  There has to be big money to be made, money that could make us much more prosperous and a world leader in something other than arms sales.

But now days in the minds of some you are a socialist if you believe in reducing dependance of fossil fuels, nuclear energy and want clean air and water. The truth is that throughout our industrial period we have done some terrible damage to our environment mostly preventable.  We have made a  lot of progress but we could do better.   Here’s to a greener and more prosperous future.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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29 Years in the Military and still Going Strong

“It’s a mere moment in a man’s life between the All-Star Game and an old timer’s game.” Vin Scully

Padre Steve in 1982

They say that “time flies when you’re having fun” and I cannot believe that I have been in the military now for 29 years. On August 25th 1981 a 21 year old college kid with long Southern California “surfer” hair walked into the California Army National Guard Armory on Van Nuys Boulevard to enlist in the National Guard after having just sworn into the Army ROTC program at UCLA.   Back then I enlisted in what was or is called the Simultaneous Membership Program or SMP program.  My initial military training came through the ROTC program as well as on the job training in the National Guard as a Field Artillery Forward Observer and Intelligence Specialist.

Like Cal Ripken Jr commenting about his career “So many good things have happened to me in the game of baseball. When I do allow myself a chance to think about it, it’s almost like a storybook career. You feel so blessed to have been able to compete this long.” I can say the same thing just substituting the words “military career” for “the game of baseball.”

On the day that I enlisted I met with Major Charles Armagost the S-1 of 3rd Battalion 144th Field Artillery and full time advisor for the battalion filled out my enlistment papers and raised my right hand. I still remember the day when I enlisted. It was a hot smoggy Los Angeles day where you could see the air.  I walked down the hall after I swore in to see the supply Sergeant who outfitted me with four sets of Olive Green fatigues and ordered me two sets of the brand new BDUs.  I was issued my TA-50 gear and taken to the motor pool where I was given cursory training on the M151A1 “Jeep” and issued a military drivers license.  The three weeks later I was driving one of those venerable machines to Fort Irwin on a Friday through Sunday drill with the advanced party. It was the beginning of a 29 year career spanning two services, the active and reserve components and now multiple trips to combat zones.

Army Captain 1987

It has to quote Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead “a long strange trip” spanning the Army and the Navy, active and reserve components as well as two tours with the Marine Corps while serving in the Navy and the beat goes on with my selection for promotion to Commander and my Senate nomination to that grade on August 21st.  I have served on the Fulda Gap in the Cold War, been to what was then East Berlin driving the Helmstedt-Berlin corridor sharing the road with Soviet armored columns.  I supported the Bosnia Operation in 1996-97 and the Korean DMZ with the Marines in 2001. I served in Operation Enduring Freedom and Southern Watch in 2002 where I was on a boarding team, boarding 75 Iraqi and other country smuggling ships while serving aboard the USS Hue City.  That was followed by multiple trips in and out of theater with the Marine Security Forces from 2003-2006 as well as time on the Cuban fence line at Guantanamo Bay before serving in Iraq with our Marine and Army advisors and their Iraqi Army and Security forces.  I’ve served with Infantry, Armor, Combat Engineer, Artillery, Medical and Ordnance units, Security forces, support elements, bases and training centers, hospitals and ships.

Berlin Wall November 1986

When I enlisted I thought that once I was commissioned that I would serve my entire career in the Army and retire as a Lieutenant Colonel. I did not anticipate becoming a Chaplain nor leaving the Army for the Navy. When I am officially promoted to Commander it will be the first rank since I was an Army First Lieutenant that I have not held twice.  When I first enlisted and had no ribbons I used to look at wonderment at the Korea and Vietnam veterans who had tons of ribbons and tell Judy that I wish I had what they had. Now that I am working on 9 rows of the things I cringe every time I have to remount ribbons and ribbons and my wallet screams in agony.  Judy is quick to remind me of my whininess back then and tell me that I asked for it.

She didn’t know what she was getting into

As an Army and Navy Officer I have served or done some kind of military duty in Germany, France, Great Britain, Greece, Italy, Croatia and Turkey, Spain, Malta, Korea, Japan, Jordan, Bahrain, Kuwait and Iraq.  I’ve done what I call the “Commie Trifecta” the Berlin Wall, Korean DMZ and the Cuban Fence Line. At the same time I have spent 16 of 27 wedding anniversaries away from home and lost count of birthdays and other important occasions that I missed while serving the country.

Guantanamo Bay Cuba 2004

I have served 5 different Presidents. In that time I have seen changes in the political, social and economic conditions of the country and the world that I could not have imagined at the time of my enlistment.  The Soviet Union had just invaded Afghanistan and the Iranian hostage crisis had just ended but within the Soviet Union had been defeated the Berlin Wall taken down and collapse of the Soviet Union.  Twenty years after I enlisted the people that defeated the Soviets were attacking us on our own soil.

Boarding Party Arabian Gulf May 2002

I lived in Europe and went through the Chernobyl radiation cloud which is obviously the cause of my glowing personality.  While in Europe I ate enough beef to be labeled by the Red Cross as a potential carrier of Mad Cow disease. I worked on military personnel policies at the beginning of the AIDS epidemic and saw the beginning of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy.  I saw the Reagan build up and the post Cold War drawdown.  When I was a Company XO and Company Commander we had landlines and typewriters with carbon paper and did not get internet in my office until 1997.  It is hard to believe the changes even in the quantum leaps in computer and communication technology in the past few years where I can check e-mail on my Blackberry and work from almost anywhere with my laptop.

With Advisors and Bedouin on Iraqi-Syrian Border December 2007

Looking back here are some of the things that I have seen since I entered the military:

October 23rd 1983: Beirut Bombing: BLT 1/8 barracks and French 1st Parachute Regiment destroyed by suicide bombers 241 Americans and 58 French Paras killed.  I was at the Junior Officer Maintenance Course at Fort Knox watching CNN late at night when they broke the news.

December 12th 1985:  Arrow Air Charter Boeing 707 crashed in Gander Newfoundland killing 248 American Soldiers returning from Peacekeeping duty in Sinai Peninsula. Among the dead was Sergeant Charles Broncato who had been one of my Squad Leaders in 2nd Platoon 557th Medical Company Ambulance. I was then serving as the Company Commander.

January 28th 1986: The Space Shuttle Challenger blows up 73 seconds into flight killing 7 Astronauts.  I was in my office at the close of the day getting ready to adjudicate an Article 15 when my Charge-of Quarters SPC Lisa Dailey ran into my office and said “Lieutenant Dundas, the Space Shuttle just blew up!” My response was “Come on, Space Shuttles don’t blow up.”

February 15th 1988: The Soviet Union withdraws from Afghanistan. I was a National Guard Officer in Texas attending Seminary and thought this was a good thing.  Now I wish that they had done better and at least killed Osama Bin Laden, then a relatively minor commander.

December 21st 1988: Pan Am 103 downed by Libyan operatives over Lockerbie Scotland killing all 270 passengers and crew. The aircraft a Boeing 747 named the Maid of the Seas was the same aircraft that we had flown home from Germany on December 28th 1986.

October 17th 1989: the Loma Prieta Earthquake causes massive damage in San Francisco and Oakland. I was watching pregame activities of game 3 of the World Series between the A’s and Giants on television when it happened.

November 9th 1989: The Berlin Wall Fell. In November of 1986 we had been to East Berlin and like most Americans never thought that we would see this day.

August 2nd 1990: Iraq Invades Kuwait: At time few people believe it well end in war. I was deputy course leader for Army Chaplain Officer Basic Course, tell my classmates to get ready to go to war.

December 31st 1991: The Soviet Union is dissolved.

April 19th 1993: FBI and other Federal Law Enforcement personnel using Combat Engineering Vehicles from the 111th Engineer Battalion, the unit that I serve as a Chaplain assault the Branch Davidian compound outside Waco Texas. Davidian leader David Koresh and dozens of followers die in fire and shoot out.

June 17th 1994:  Police arrest O. J. Simpson after nationally televised low speed chase charging him with murder in the death of his wife Nicole and Ronald Goldman. NBC splits screen between NBA championship series game between Houston Rockets and New York Knicks and the chase. I watch in back of M577 Command Vehicle on 9 inch television in the field at Fort Hood.

August 12th 1994: Baseball strike cancels season, playoffs and Worlds Series.

April 19th 1995: Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols blow up Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building

January 26th 1998: Bill Clinton states that “I want you to listen to me. I’m going to say this again: I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.”

December 31st 1999: The world awaits the end of life as we know it due to the Y2K flaw sthat supposedly causes computers to malfunction and bring calamity to the earth.

January 1st 2000:  People including me wake up from hangovers to find that computers still work.

September 11th 2001: Al Qaeda terrorists hijack four commercial airliners crashing two into the World Trade Center Towers in New York collapsing them and one into the Pentagon. A fourth is brought down by passengers before it can reach Washington DC and its target, the US Capital killing 2976 people and injuring another 6000+. I am at Camp LeJeune North Carolina and remained locked down on base the next 4 days.

March 19th 2003: US and Allies launch attack on Iraq known as Operation Iraqi Freedom to remove Saddam Hussein from power and disarm his stocks of weapons of mass destruction. I am assigned to USS Hue City and the ship is in dry dock. The rest is history.

I also saw a lot of baseball mostly from afar, Pete Rose’s epic hit, Cal Ripken’s consecutive games record, Nolan Ryan’s 5000th strike out and 7th no-hitter as well as all of the now steroid tainted home run records including Barry Bond’s 756th home run which I saw live in a chow hall in Baghdad.

Somehow it is all worth it. Judy has not divorced me although I have probably given her reason on more than one occasion to do so and I love what I do and the people that I get to serve. It really is amazing to look back and think about all the events that I have either witnessed or been a part of in the military as well as all of the great people that I have been associated with. Those friendships and relationships mean more than about anything to me and I am grateful to God and to Judy, my family and all of my friends who have helped me, sometimes in very dark times to go as far and as long as I have in both the Army and Navy.

I was selected for promotion to Commander in June and confirmed by the Senate on August 23rd. I now am about to enter a new phase of life, military service and ministry as the supervisory Chaplain at Naval Hospital Camp LeJeune North Carolina.  Lord knows what the future hold, but whatever happens I feel that things will be fine.

I hope that whatever you do that you will experience good things and be able to look back in life and say “wow that was something else.” So here is to all of us and the long strange trips that we embark upon in life.  In the words of Lou Gehrig, “I am the luckiest man alive.”

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Filed under Baseball, History, Military, Tour in Iraq, US Navy

Going Nuclear….Kim Jung Il, Carlos Zambrano and Padre Steve get Sporty

This week we witnessed a couple of big explosions, that of a nuclear test conducted by North Korea and one at Wrigley Field conducted by Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano.  Both were pretty sporty.  However, there the difference is more than one being the test of a weapon of mass destruction and the other an emotional response after a close play at home.   One was a deliberate premeditated act and the other in some sense a “crime of passion.”  They are very different types of acts.

North Korea under the despotic Kim Jung Il decided to give the big fat flying middle finger to the United States, South Korea, Japan, China and Russia.  It is interesting that even the Russians and Chinese seem kind of pissed about what the boy named Kim did.  Kim now known as the “Great Leader” having been promoted from simply the “Dear Leader” is kind of wacky but in a dangerous sort of way.  The surly North Koreans then decided that they no longer considered the 1954 armistice valid.  This of course raised the pucker factor on the Korean peninsula and Japan.  Nukes are serious stuff, ask the Japanese.  I remember back in 2002 when my ship, the USS Hue City was deployed supporting Operation Enduring Freedom the Indians and Pakistanis came perilously close to a nuclear confrontation.  We were in between the Indian and Pakistani fleets and their patrol aircraft buzzed us frequently.  It was as my Captain said “A bit sporty.”   Back in my days as a Company XO and Company Commander in Cold War Germany we waited for the day that the Russian would come across the Fulda Gap.  While there I was trained as a Nuclear, Biological and Chemical (NBC) Defense Officer.  The training was kind of cool.  We got to learn how much radiation, measured in “Rads” that we could take and live.  We learned about blast effects, fallout patterns and decoding EAM’s.  The really cool yet scary thing was that the 1:50,000 maps we used to plot the fallout patterns showed our housing areas.  It really brought home that this was not a game.  When the nuclear plant at Chernobyl had its little meltdown the radiation cloud actually went over where we lived.  I think this is why some people refer to me having a “glowing” personality.  So what the nutty North Koreans have done is kind of serious.  Of course they do crazy stuff all the time, but this appears to be their first successful nuke test and significantly raises the stakes.  Of course I want this to pass as it is baseball season and for the first time I have season tickets.  I don’t want a huge war to screw this up.  Of course I want it to not happen at all, but if it does I would prefer it to wait until after the baseball season is over.

Speaking of baseball, Cubs ace Carlos Zambrano was suspended for six games following this meltdown.

http://cubs.fandome.com/video/112492/Carlos-Zambrano-Tantrum-May-27-2009/

Now I will not cast stones at Zambrano.  He plays with passionate fire and really strives for excellence. I have seen him pitch and he is amazing.  I love to watch him and only wished that he pitched for the Giants.  I have a passion for what I do and want to be the best at that I can.  Like Zambrano I have had similar meltdowns when I have felt like I was getting screwed, be it by an umpire or someone else.  I have been tossed from church softball games, pulled aside by coaches and when I watch Zambrano doing his thing I want to hide because I have done this before…well I didn’t take a bat to a Gatorade cooler, but had we had one I might have.  I have thrown things, kicked dirt on umpires and got in people’s faces.  As noted in a previous post when I was in the Army I got thrown out of the officer advanced course and did not help myself by having a Zambrano like meltdown in the process.  I was so lucky to have Chaplain Rich Whaley save me on several occasions both when I got thrown out and when I was the assistance course leader of my Chaplain Officer Basic Course.  With my PTSD I had a number of meltdowns at the tail end of my Iraq tour, before I knew I was whacked out, and have had my moments since I came home.

Now to be fair to me, I am not proud of those kind of outbursts. I usually feel worse afterward because I don’t like being out of control.  I like to control my emotions and stay calm.  I am like a Romulan in that aspect.  I try to keep myself in perfect control but can blow it big, unlike my Vulcan cousins.  I have been fortunate.  First I had people who helped ensure that I did not destroy my Army career.  Likewise, I have had a number of people in my life since I have come back from Iraq help me learn to manage this.  In fact I was able to step back from the brink at one Chaplain Conference where I thought the main presenter had ambushed me and violated essential facets of how cases are presented. I discussed the matter with my colleagues and run a plan by my Department Head on how to publicly address the situation, get my point across and not look like an ass in doing so.  It was like doing a “brush back” pitch rather than a “bean ball.”  I was controlled and afterward got out before I could do anything stupid while department head smoothed ruffled feathers.  The audience was pretty much in a state of shock when I did this, many in sat in silence as I finished and a number of my colleagues who felt the same way as I applauded when I finished.  I left the room and a colleague came out with me and walked with me for a while to make sure that I was okay.  I avoided going nuclear.  I didn’t get tossed this time.  It was a victory.  At the same time I know that when I start playing softball or old man baseball again I will get fired up, and probably like Zambrano tossed out.  If I go into coaching I will probably have arguments with the umpires and hopefully they will not be like this classic Minor League blow up…talk about nukes.  This one is for the ages:

http://www.fandome.com/video/102293/Mississippi-Braves-Manager-Goes-Crazy/

Anyway, I do thank the Deity Herself from keeping me safe from my own tirades and am glad for all those who help me stay in the game and keep my head now.  Because of them and others who have both helped and protected me in the past I hope to be able to mentor and teach others.

Peace, Steve+

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Filed under Baseball, Foreign Policy, Loose thoughts and musings, Military, PTSD