Home  •  About  •  Contact  •  Twitter  •  Google+  •  Facebook  •  Tumblr  •  Youtube  •  RSS Feed
Countdown To Zero

Countdown To Zero

By Patrick Samuel • April 23rd, 2012
Static Mass Rating: 2/5
Dogwoof Digital

Release date: August 15th, 2011
Certificate (UK): E
Running time: 89 minutes

Directors: Lucy Walker

Cast: Tony Blair, Jimmy Carter, Mikhail Gorbachev, F. W. de Klerk

The threat of a nuclear war is something we’re told we live with everyday, but how real is that threat and who are we at most risk from?

In 1939 Albert Einstein and Leó Szilárd warned the US about Nazi Germany developing nuclear weapons. This set into motion the Manhattan Project and the first steps in the nuclear arms race were taken. Julius Robert Oppenheimer was part of this project and is now regarded as the “father of the atomic bomb” for the part he played.

On 6 August 1945, the US detonated the first nuclear bomb over the Japanese city of Hiroshima and three days later another one over Nagasaki. Both bombs killed approximately 200,000 Japanese people, including civilians. Four years later, the Soviet Union detonated their first nuclear device, after that, the UK, France, and China followed.

Realising what they started and not wanting other nations to follow, the US got together with a few other like-minded pals and formed the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1968 to prevent the development of further nuclear weapons.

Contdown To Zero

So far India, Israel, Pakistan, Iraq, North Korea, Iran, Libya and Syria are not part of that treaty and the US, along with China, France, Russia and the United Kingdom are the five nations legally allowed to have nuclear arsenals at their disposal but cannot build or maintain such weapons in perpetuity.

The current estimates, according to the Arms Control Association, for these nations are:

China: About 240 total warheads.
France: Fewer than 300 operational warheads.
Russia: Approximately 2,400 operational strategic warheads , approximately 2,000 operational tactical warheads, and approximately 7,000 stockpiled strategic and tactical warheads.
United Kingdom: Fewer than 160 deployed strategic warheads, total stockpile of up to 225.
United States: 5,113 active and inactive nuclear warheads and approximately 3,500 warheads retired and awaiting dismantlement. The 5,113 active and inactive nuclear warhead stockpile includes 1,968 strategic warheads, approximately 500 operational tactical weapons, and approximately 2,645 inactive warheads.

So, I ask again, from who are we at most risk from?

This doesn’t stop Lucy Walker from painting a different picture though. Countdown To Zero presents a brief history of the atomic bomb, but it’s content to align itself with the view that other nations pose a clear and present threat with nuclear weapons capabilities and more are racing to join them. It many ways it seeks to justify why the US holds the most threat, but I find this argument absurd. There is no justification for holding your own weapons of mass destruction while preaching to the rest of the world on the need to disarm, especially when the only ever use of nuclear weapons comes from your own back yard in the indiscriminate aerial bombardment of undefended cities.

Contdown To Zero

Countdown To Zero takes the idea that the nuclear threat could be acted on in one of three ways – by accident, miscalculation, or madness – as stated by John F. Kennedy’s in an address before the General Assembly of the United Nations on September 25, 1961.

There’s a lot of footage of terrorist attacks, we see the bombed out remains of the federal buildings in Okalahoma in 1995, New York City in the 9/11 attacks, Madrid and London as Walker ties in the nuclear threat with terrorism, but when a man who is imprisoned for selling uranium talks about the justification for terror attacks on US soil, the guards standing nearby seem obviously and understandably angry.

Yet I cannot help but question why in a documentary which looks at nuclear weapons and forges a link with terrorism fails to first of all look at the nature of terrorism itself; why it occurs and why it’s all relative. The US bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, with its clear disregarded for civilian life and ethics in warfare, was more devastating than any other terrorist attack, yet it’s allowed to police and govern the world by its laws and doctrines without ever having to apologise for its own acts of terror. This is left widely unaddressed in Countdown To Zero.

Contdown To Zero

What I also found puzzling was the little time it spent on Oppenheimer. Not only a fascinating man of historical importance, but a man who deeply regretted what he had been part of. He would later say, quoting the Bhagavad Gita: “Now, I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds”.

After watching Countdown To Zero I’d have to say that I think Kennedy was wrong when he said “Every man, woman and child lives under a nuclear sword of Damocles, hanging by the slenderest of threads, capable of being cut at any moment by accident, or miscalculation, or by madness.” It won’t be by accident, or miscalculation, or madness but by stupidity.

Patrick Samuel

Patrick Samuel

The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is an emerging artist with a philosophy degree, working primarily with pastels and graphite pencils, but he also enjoys experimenting with water colours, acrylics, glass and oil paints.

Being on the autistic spectrum with Asperger’s Syndrome, he is stimulated by bold, contrasting colours, intricate details, multiple textures, and varying shades of light and dark. Patrick's work extends to sound and video, and when not drawing or painting, he can be found working on projects he shares online with his followers.

Patrick returned to drawing and painting after a prolonged break in December 2016 as part of his daily art therapy, and is now making the transition to being a full-time artist. As a spokesperson for autism awareness, he also gives talks and presentations on the benefits of creative therapy.

Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and science fiction, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.

Patrick Samuel ¦ Asperger Artist

© 2022 STATIC MASS EMPORIUM . All Rights Reserved. Powered by METATEMPUS | creative.timeless.personal.   |   DISCLAIMER, TERMS & CONDITIONS