Feature

United Kingdom: How close we came to nuclear war

British officials were lying to us all along.

Giles CorenThe Times

They were lying to us all along, said Giles Coren. Back in the 1980s, when I was a teen at the height of the Cold War, British officials assured us that we didn’t have to worry about nuclear Armageddon because the principle of mutually assured destruction would save us. “They told me the Russians loved their children too.” But now it turns out that they had secretly written a speech for the queen to read out in the event that the missiles were hurtling toward us. It has just been published “under the Terrifying S--- That Can Be Published After 30 Years law.” What’s scary isn’t so much the realization that we were close enough to nuclear war for a contingency speech. It’s “the hollowness of the words.” The queen reminds us that we survived World War II and then “signs off with the most bone-chilling words our English language has to call upon: God bless you all.” That, as any native speaker knows, is just another way of saying, “All hope is lost, we’re totally screwed.” Worst of all, the queen didn’t even write the words herself. How little consolation there will be in the next calamity, now that we know the monarch’s exhortation to keep a stiff upper lip is “pre-scripted, pre-recorded, unfelt, unmeant, and scribbled by flunkies.”

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