US nuclear command's New Year 'joke' bombs

WASHINGTON • The US military command responsible for the nation's nuclear weapons sparked off a furore after it tweeted a New Year's Eve message that it is always ready to "drop something much, much bigger" than Manhattan's iconic Times Square ball.

The post and accompanying video went live as the country readied to ring in the New Year by watching the famous New York City ball descend at midnight.

The US Strategic Command has since deleted and apologised for the tweet.

"We admittedly erred in connecting it to New Year's Eve festivities, and we apologise," said Major Meghan Liemburg-Archer, a US Strategic Command spokesman. "We remain dedicated to the security of America and our allies."

"#TimesSquare tradition rings in the #NewYear by dropping the big ball... if ever needed, we are #ready to drop something much, much bigger," the original post read. "Watch to the end! @AFGlobalStrike @Whiteman-AFB #Deterrence #Assurance #CombatReadyForce #PeacelsOurProfession"

The embedded video showed footage of a B-2 stealth bomber. As the words "stealth," "ready," and "lethal" flashed across the screen, the aircraft released bombs. They fall to the ground and crash with a fiery explosion. It also tagged the Whiteman Air Force Base and the Air Force Global Strike Command, which is responsible for nuclear and non-nuclear strategic bomber fleets. The post was deleted within hours and replaced with a subsequent apology from the Strategic Command's official account.

The New Year's Eve post drew confusion and criticism on the social media platform. Mr Walter Shaub, former director of the Office of Government Ethics, reposted the now-deleted tweet and asked: "What kind of maniacs are running this country?"

Many were unnerved by the flippant comment, which came from the very command that controls American nuclear capabilities.

"This is really disturbing coming from US Strategic Command. It isn't amusing. It is terrifying," wrote one user. Another questioned whether the military planned a bomb strike for midnight.

The original post came hours before outgoing Defence Secretary James Mattis ended his two years as Pentagon chief.

WASHINGTON POST

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 03, 2019, with the headline 'US nuclear command's New Year 'joke' bombs'. Print Edition | Subscribe