Um. . . Sorry About the Bomb

Joe Lavin's Humor Column

Um. . . Sorry About the Bomb

May 13, 1999


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So how about that new China policy of ours?

1. Give them all our nuclear secrets.
2. Bomb one of their embassies.

I'm just hoping there's not a step three that we don't know about yet. It makes one long for the good old days when the worst the President did was engage in "nappropriate behavior with an intern half his age. At least then, he was too occupied to cause any real problems.

Of course, I realize that dropping a bomb (I think we can officially call this one a dumb bomb, don't you think?) on the Chinese embassy in Belgrade was a mistake, but it still doesn't make one feel any better to realize that NATO made an error because they didn't have the right map. This is something that is supposed to happen to your Dad on a family vacation, not to a 19 nation unilateral force. I know that war doesn't always go according to plan, but still you'd like to think that NATO would at least know what they're trying to bomb. It's as if they're using some 1991 copy of Let's Go Yugoslavia with which to plan the campaign.

Actually, few now believe the faulty map theory, as the map that the CIA provided NATO showed the embassy to be a vacant lot. Unless NATO intended to bomb a vacant lot ("We must remove their capability to build vacant lots."), it appears this one is a giant screw-up involving many different people. Not that this is surprising. Human error has always played a major role in war, and just because this was advertised as an American casualty-free video game war doesn't mean everything will go smoothly. Still, NATO certainly has had its share of problems, hasn't it? Just a week before this, they even dropped a bomb on an empty house outside Sofia, Bulgaria. Yes, that's right. They somehow managed to bomb the wrong country. This time, it was only the wrong embassy, so at least their aim is getting better.

Meanwhile, as we piss off the Chinese, we also have to worry that China may have acquired many of our nuclear secrets. As you've probably heard by now, Wen Ho Lee, a Taiwanese-born scientist working at a federal nuclear lab in New Mexico, has quietly been downloading classified nuclear information to his own unclassified computer for over ten years now. And it appears that he has passed most of this information along to the Chinese government.

The amazing thing is that nobody bothered to stop him. He first failed a polygraph test in 1984 and has been under investigation since 1996, but it wasn't even until last year that he lost his access to the classified information. I suppose it's all right that they didn't fire him immediately, but maybe it might have been a good idea at least to give him some work that was -- oh I don't know -- UNclassified while they investigated. Apparently, the government was waiting for him to start a web site called www.usnuclearsecrets.com before being sure that he was really their guy.

At any rate, it's good for him that he hadn't been downloading pornography instead. He probably would have been fired years ago.

"Hey, you're not downloading naked pictures of Pamela Anderson, are you?"

"No, Sir, just US nuclear secrets that I'll later be sending off to China."

"Oh, well, okay. Carry on then."

Meanwhile, our esteemed President found out about this last November, and he did nothing either -- possibly because he was told right in the midst of all things Monica.

"Mr. President, we have an urgent problem. The Chinese have stolen many of our nuclear --"

"Mr. President, sorry to interrupt but your lawyer is on line two."

"Oh, sorry. I have to take this call." Oh, well, so much for compartmentalization.

Yes, we seem to be headed towards hell in a hand basket -- provided of course that we have the right maps with which to find hell and that we can get the hand basket over to our troops in time. Then again, maybe it will all be okay. After all, if our secret nuclear codes are anywhere near as accurate as our international maps, we should have nothing to worry about at all.


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