Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety
by Eric Schlosser
Penguin, 2013. 632 pgs, including notes and indexing. Nonfiction.
When I was a kid we trooped out into the halls of our elementary school several times a year, and crouched against the wall with our faces on the floor and our hands over our heads to practice saving ourselves in the event of a nuclear blast. As if. The same false sense of security that our bomb drills gave us then seems to have suffused the American public. Little did we know that we were probably safer from a Soviet attack than we were from our own munitions. Eric Schlosser's encyclopedic, extraordinary new book shows us how much danger we were in then, and how scary things may still be, here and in countries like India, Pakistan, China, North Korea, and Iran. Focusing on the deadly accident at a Titan II missile silo in Damascus, Arkansas, Schlosser explains in chilling detail how terribly things can go wrong, and how quickly. The entire development and dispersion of nuclear armaments as part of the Cold War is laid out here in fascinating, frightening detail. Schlosser, as the New Yorker magazine reviewer suggests, "writes nonfiction as it ought to be written." Amen.