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The Colonel Who Saved the Earth
an article by David Adams

Here's a story about a military man who had the courage to refuse his orders and thereby save the earth from destruction. I found it in a pamphlet at the annual meeting of Non-Governmental Organizations at the United Nations this year. It's the kind of news that you don't get in the commercial media but that we need to disseminate on CPNN. The full article, from the War and Peace Digest, is available on the Internet; Here is a brief synopsis.

On May 21, 2004, in Moscow, a special World Citizen Award was presented to Stanislav Petrov, a former Lt. Colonel in the Soviet Army for his action on September 26, 1983, that many arms experts credit for averting nuclear war. The incident occurred on September 26, 1983, with the colonel in charge of 200 men operating a Russian early warning bunker close to Moscow. Recalling that fateful day when alarms went off and the early warning computer screens were showing a nuclear attack launched by the United States, Petrov said: "I felt as if I'd been punched in my nervous system. There was a huge map of the States with a U.S. base lit up, showing that the missiles had been launched."

For several minutes, Petrov held a phone in one hand and an intercom in the other as alarms continued blaring, lights blinking and the computers reporting that U.S. missiles were on their way. In the confusion of this horrific chaos and terror, with the prospect of the end of civilization itself, Petrov made an historic decision not to alert higher authorities for a retaliation attack. He believed in his gut and everything sacred that contrary to what all the sophisticated equipment was reporting, this alarm had to be an error.

I didn't want to make a mistake," Petrov said, "I made a decision and that was it." The Daily Mail newspaper wrote: "Had Petrov cracked and triggered a response, Soviet missiles would have rained down on U.S. cities. In turn, that would have brought a devastating response from the Pentagon." As agonizing minutes passed, Petrov's decision proved correct. It was a computer error that signaled a U.S. attack. In the Daily Mail newspaper interview, Petrov said: "In principle, a nuclear war could have broken out. The whole world could have been destroyed."

Colonel Petrov was eventually dismissed from the Army on a small pension and his health destroyed by the terrible stress of the incident. His wife died of cancer and he lives in a second-floor flat in a small town about 30 miles from Moscow.


Question(s) related to this article:

How close have we come to destroying the planet in a nuclear war?,

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Latest reader comment:

I sent the following letter to the New York Times, but they apparently are not going to publish it:

Yes, there is a lesson from the Virgina Tech massacre, but it has been a taboo in the media.

The massacre was committed with a weapon of mass destruction, an automatic pistol.

There is no use for automatic pistols except mass murder, even at the hands of a policeman or soldier, but we are a society that profits from the manufacture, sale and transport of weapons of mass destruction.

The real lesson applies to nuclear weapons where we fail to abolish them, thus encouraging their development by others.

Here is another massacre waiting to happen, but on a much larger scale.

This report was posted on September 16, 2004.