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The Independent Online

What, Then, are we to make of the strange and fatal case of the USS Greeneville? Nothing so much as life, and death, imitating the American art, the movie, scripted here by the Coen brothers in best dark mode: civilians make donations to commemorate the battleship that saw the Japanese surrender; rewarded with trip on submarine; given a go on controls; pull lever; surface at max speed right up and into a Japanese trawler; people dead and missing.

What, Then, are we to make of the strange and fatal case of the USS Greeneville? Nothing so much as life, and death, imitating the American art, the movie, scripted here by the Coen brothers in best dark mode: civilians make donations to commemorate the battleship that saw the Japanese surrender; rewarded with trip on submarine; given a go on controls; pull lever; surface at max speed right up and into a Japanese trawler; people dead and missing.

Consequences continue to ripple upwards and outwards. Japan's Prime Minister looks likely to fall for continuing to play golf after hearing the news. The Pentagon decides it is not good to have civilians pushing buttons on submarines, which, in the late-locking stable-door stakes, is up there with switching the lights off at Pearl Harbor. Swirling above it all, the words of the Greeneville's captain: "Jesus, what the hell was that?"

Morals? Lessons? Perhaps we should quote America's new President: "I am a person who recognises the fallacy of humans." Perhaps, too, we should be grateful that, as in the days of our island empire, the world is run by incompetent bumblers rather than efficient megalomaniacs.

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