Countdown to Madness -- a documentary: “Countdown to Zero” is a documentary about nuclear war directed by Lucy Walker. It is one worth seeing to remind us exactly what the destructive capacity of a nuclear explosive device means. One has to see it to really understand it and to impress upon us the reality of the effects of nuclear war for those who might either not know of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, have never seen pictures of it or if they have seen it have forgotten about it. After viewing this documentary it makes the storm cloud under which mankind sits difficult to forget.
The documentary retells the history of the construction of the nuclear bomb during World War II, Oppenheimer’s horror of what he and others had accomplished through the Manhattan Project, the science of it and, of course, the attempts, however minimal, at nuclear non proliferation treaties signed by the United States and Russia throughout the decades. The documentarian interviews a host of experts on nuclear proliferation including Valerie Pflame (the woman who worked for the CIA exploring the link of terrorism to nuclear weapons whom Rove, Cheney and their henchmen in the Bush administration outed) as well as Mikhail Gorbachev, Tony Blair, the late Robert MacNamara and others including profound statements by Ronald Reagan, John Kennedy and Barack Obama.
The minutiae of the historical facts behind the building of the nuclear bomb, although interesting, are not what staggers me. What staggers me is the fact that the US, Russia and seven other countries have the capacity now, as I write this, to annihilate life on earth many times over in a matter of seconds and how relatively easy it could be done whether by mistake, terrorist attempts at purchasing and/or stealing nuclear material, smuggling nuclear devices into ports or simply bad policy – VERY bad policy and how close we have come in the past to having that happen.
Moreover, it is astounding the relative ease of creating a nuclear device IF one has the appropriate materials and how many have already attempted such a thing including A.Q. Kahn, the hero of Pakistan’s nuclear weapon program. Nuclear weapons in the hands of unstable nation states like Pakistan are a clear and present danger. A destabilized Middle East created by the Iraq War is a threat. A nuclear device either secured on the black market by terrorists or possessed by rogue states like North Korea which does have access to nuclear material or Iran which wants to have access to it is a doomsday scenario. It would take but a single mistake or malfeasance to propel the planet and man on it to extinction.
The documentary catapults the viewer into the reality of a nuclear explosion with views of the flash point, evaporation of people and miles of destruction to everything near the blast as well as the destruction from the ensuing tornado like wind and radiation poisoning that follows as the blast eradicates everything. It is a mind numbing experience but one which, I believe, is necessary for all to see. The horror of it is beyond the power of human imagination to truly comprehend. Man in his genius could be the genius behind his own demise. That is the irony and that is the fear.
Zero nuclear weaponry world wide is the goal but who do we trust to pursue it? This documentary, in my opinion, is a must see for all who care about the preservation of life on earth for its own sake and for the sake of the generations which come after us. The earth is a gift the beauty of which we must not squander for any reason. Let us hope everyone else thinks that way as well.