Monday, January 07, 2008

NOT IF, BUT WHEN: Nuclear terror script always popular

If you've read this blog infrequently over the last year or so, you've seen that our leaders and great experts love scaring their lessers. It is not a matter of if, but only when a bioterror attack will occur. A chemical assault? Not if, but when.

"I don't believe it is a question of if [a nuclear attack on America] will happen," said Debra A. Wilber, a defender against nuclear terror, told the Los Angeles Times for its Sunday edition. "It is a question of when," she added unremarkably.

The Times story, by Ralph Vartabedian, was remarkable in its lack of hard detail. The absence of real news -- as opposed to allusion to classified activity and stuff from movie scripts -- was filled with various claims, some perfectly senseless, courtesy of our nuclear terror defenders.

"About every three days, unknown to most Americans, an elite team of federal scientists hits the streets in the fight against nuclear terrorism," reported Vartabedian.

One envisions the laughable, straight from a TV show, which is -- as it turns out -- just what the journalist for the story delivers. Their shoe leather pounding the city streets, a small army of gritty Jack and Jackie Bauers do battle against the invisible, with only their wits and fancy tools to guide them.

"[Our defenders against nuclear terror] are supposed to rush up to a ticking nuclear explosive (or a 'dirty' bomb, which would disperse radioactive material) and defuse it before it's too late -- a situation often depicted by Hollywood that seems less fictional every year," continues the piece.

Less fictional? According to who?

Journalists and experts involved in these types of stories always play a game. The game is to pretend that Americans haven't already been beaten to death by the memes of catastrophic terrors that are not-a-matter-of-if-but-when.

This being the case, there is a counterwish among some that the deliverers of them just be served a steaming hot cup of STFU.

For instance, how impressed are we to be by nuclear terror defenders who "[near] the Las Vegas Strip ... investigated a homeless person who had somehow picked up a piece of radioactive material ... and a hot dog vendor [in Manhattan] fresh from a medical test."

Obsessed with defending against every imaginable threat, they defend nothing but are effective in the rousting and scrutinizing of a beggar in Las Vegas. This is seemingly meant to show some manner of success in bomb detection, success being a relative term in the United States -- a word which can have alternative meanings, like annoyance and failure.

If you watch the movie "The Sum of All Fears" -- it seems to run about once a week on cable movie channels -- you are familiar with the part where the hero charges into the radiation forensics tent after a football stadium in Baltimore is blown up in an atomic attack. A few instruments are consulted, the pages of a looseleaf binder flipped, data cross-referenced, and voila! The material in the bomb came from a US nuclear weapons lab! The information is rushed to the President just in time to stop an all out nuclear war with Russia.

"Even if a bomb detonates, fallout can be analyzed to identify the terrorists and their state sponsors," reports the story, somewhat laughably. "The idea is to force other nations to take better care of their own nuclear fuels or else find themselves in the cross-hairs of the US nuclear arsenal."

Much of this rests on a set of stupid beliefs.

One is that the American government could use its alleged experts to sell a story on where the bomb came from, one that others around the world would believe, not just journalists for big newspapers. DD believes we can all agree that's pretty much off the table as a workable tactic thanks to the Bush administration, the Iraq war, and the US government's way of conducting itself in relationship to the rest of the world.

It might be more correctly seen as only useful in selling a majority of Americans on the need to immediately attack some other nation our leadership wishes to obliterate.

Second, a logical person can hold to the idea that if attacked, the United States doesn't hesitate to retaliate against the wrong people, anyway. Fairness, some adherence to conduct dictated by scientific findings and being right never enters into it. In addition, this country knows when it's attacking the wrong people and does it anyway under the rationale that such an attack sends a strong message to other enemies.

Jay C. Davis, a retired weapons scientist named as one of our defenders against nuclear terror "said it was hoped that nuclear forensics could determine the size of a detonation within one hour, the sophistication of the bomb design within six hours, how the fuel was enriched within 72 hours; and the peculiar details of national design -- does this look like a Russian, a Chinese or a Pakistani device, or something we have never seen before -- within a week."

Davis and others are "trying to assess how authoritative the US could be in attributing a nuclear device to a particular source and making its case..."

The man should be nominated for a Nobel this year, don't you think?

The original the the LA Times.

"Nuclear terror" in the recent news. The usual perps from the nuclear-terror-is-inevitable industry.

Nuclear terror -- not losing one's job and health insurance or going broke -- is the top fear of Americans. Alleged by some poll conducted by annoying ninnies you've never heard of.


Blogger J. said...

"This being the case, there is a counterwish among some that the deliverers of them just be served a steaming hot cup of STFU."

Hear, Hear! I agree completely, although I didn't quite use the same language.

6:06 AM  

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