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Saturday
Sep232017

Sep. 26 is Nuclear Abolition Day. It was also the day one man saved the world

On September 26, we should remember the man who saved the world. 

"Petrov was the lieutenant colonel in the Soviet Union’s Air Defense Forces who, on the night of September 26, 1983 just happened to be in charge of monitoring his country’s satellite system that watched for a potential launch of nuclear weapons by the United States. In the early hours, such a launch appeared to have happened.

Petrov had only minutes to decide if the launch was genuine. He was supposed to report the alert up the chain of command. Doing so would almost certainly have led to a counterstrike, triggering a full-on nuclear exchange between the Soviet Union and the U.S. Instead, Petrov hesitated. And doubted.

The alarm suggested five missiles, too few for an all-out nuclear attack by the U.S. But time was of the essence. If Petrov’s doubts were misplaced and this was a real attack, his duty was to inform his superiors so a retaliatory strike could be launched.

But Petrov never made that call. Instead, he decided to check if there was a computer malfunction. This was later discovered to have been the case. A satellite had mistaken the sun’s reflection off the tops of clouds for a missile launch. The computer system had failed to make the distinction as well." (Petrov is pictured winning the Dresden Peace Prize in 2013.)

Read the rest of Linda Pentz Gunter's article in Counterpunch.