Editorial - Pushing buttons

Dianne St. Jean

Of course we are all familiar with the incident this month of the false alarm of a nuclear missile flying toward Hawaii and causing panic among the population. Then, only about a week or so later, a similar incident took place in Japan. That one was retracted quickly and therefore did not cause as much panic as the incident in Hawaii.

Both were deemed to be caused by an employee accidentally pushing a wrong button.

While human error does occur, when it comes to something as serious as people even thinking that they are possibly going to be blown up, there needs to be some improvement or better training, and, perhaps, even consequences for such an error.

But here is the rhetorical question: What’s worse - panicking a population by a false alarm, or a population not being warned or prepared at all for an attack?

That statement is by no means meant to downplay or disregard the sheer panic Hawaiians must have felt for over half an hour wondering if they were going to die; and while many of us may think that the haphazard employees should face more severe consequences for their error, the situation I believe has raised awareness on a subject that we, especially in North America, need to be more aware of – that there is always the possibility, even slight, that one day we may face an attack.

I especially became aware of the reality of what others around the globe have had to learn to live with some years ago when my niece went to Israel to work in a lab at the Weizmann Institute analyzing samples of pollen, etc. from archaeological excavations.

Having been raised around Red Deer, AB, being awoken by sirens and having to suddenly take shelter from incoming rockets at two in the morning was not something she was used to, but eventually became familiar with as a part of life. Having lived an idyllic life in Canada, she said she was amazed at how ignorant she had been of this reality, and wondered why these incidents are not heard of on the news. Around that time over 4,500 rockets and mortar attacks had been recorded, and it was normal for attacks to occur on a monthly basis.

That is why several years ago Israel instituted its Iron Dome defense system, which manages to intercept and destroy short-range rockets and artillery shells from distances of up to 70 kilometres away, and whose trajectory would take them to a populated area where most of these are aimed at. Thank goodness none of those attacks were nuclear, but that takes us back to our original question – what if they were?

That is the one main reason why certain states or nations are prohibited from gaining access to nuclear weapons - they are more likely to use them because they are convinced in their ideology that such use is totally justified, as in the case of North Korea.

I think the general population of the world, especially in the west, has been ignorant for far too long. Ignoring the bully in the schoolyard will not make him just ‘go away.’ Some people just like to push buttons, so to speak.

At this point in history, I think we must face the fact that the “he said, she said” rhetoric on who is right and who is wrong can no longer be our focus. Rather, the key question should be – who is likely to take their belief so far as to justify attacking the general population just to make a point?