Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Worst That Could Happen

Thirty years ago, I remember feeling complimented when asked if I were an anti-nuclear activist. If I ever was, I’m not anymore. The world has changed and I have too. In my idealistic world-view, I thought it might be feasible to rid the world of nuclear weapons - too naive to realize that once the toothpaste is out of the tube, we’re never going to get it back in. People like me were against all things nuclear - weapons and power plants producing uranium and plutonium that could be made into weapons.

In 1979, Pennsylvania’s Three Mile Island nuclear power plant nearly melted down. In January of 1986, I was in my first term as a selectman when the federal government notified us that my town and others in southwestern Maine were being considered as a repository for high-level nuclear waste. Maine was moving rapidly leftward because of an in-migration of people like me and we were in high dudgeon as we berated bureaucrats from the US Department of Energy at hearings around the state. They tolerated us calmly and then abandoned their plans after the Soviet Union's Chernobyl nuclear plant melted down in late April.

Shortly thereafter, Presidents Reagan and Bush negotiated the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with the Soviet Union and after four decades of building them, we actually began dismantling nuclear weapons.

Trouble is, the Soviet Union disintegrated. It was as inept monitoring its nuclear weapons as it was monitoring its nuclear power plants. Its huge military was not getting paid. Its nukes, its plutonium, its enriched uranium, and its nuclear physicists were hanging around - lots of weapons and weapons experts looking for cash. Radical Muslims just to the south were flush with cash and looking for nuclear weapons. It doesn’t take an expert in international politics to understand deals were likely made. We must operate under the assumption that our enemies have nukes and are anxious to use them against us.

In January, 2007, I was in the audience in Washington DC when former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich said: “At some point down the road, we run a serious risk of losing two or three [American] cities to nuclear weapons [in terrorist attacks], and it’s a lot better to act now before we lose a city.”

And it’s not just conservative Republicans warning us. On the other side of the aisle, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joe Biden said: “the most dangerous threat America faces is the possibility that one of the world's most extreme groups -- like al Qaeda -- gets its hands on a nuclear bomb."

Graham Allison, Director, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government claims: “a successful terrorist nuclear attack devastating one of the great cities of the world is inevitable.”

Scotland’s Sunday Herald quoted Ian Dickinson, who leads the police response to chemical, biological and nuclear threats there: "These materials are undoubtedly out there, and undoubtedly will end up in terrorists' hands, and undoubtedly will be used by terrorists some time soon," he claims.

Although he didn’t use the word “nuclear,” Senator Joseph Lieberman said on CBS’s Face the Nation: “"Our enemies will test the new president early. Remember that the truck bombing of the World Trade Center happened in the first year of the Clinton administration. 9/11 happened in the first year of the Bush administration."

What Lieberman didn’t mention is that al Quaida returns to a target if they’re unsuccessful destroying it the first time - as they did with the World Trade Center in 1993 and 2001. United Flight 93 was believed to be headed for either the White House or the US Capitol Building before it was taken over by passengers and crashed in Pennsylvania. Does al Qaeda plan to go back to the Capitol and finish the job?

SITE Intelligence Group revealed a horrific, computer-generated image of what the US Capitol would look like after a terrorist nuke attack. SITE found the image on two password-protected al-Qaeda-affiliated web sites. Evidently, our enemies found the image somewhere and use it to salivate while making their plans. With our porous borders and port facilities, we’re vulnerable.

Every American needs to look long at our enemies' vision for us. Perhaps it will help us understand that we need to get a whole lot tougher if we’re going to prevent it from becoming reality. Five Supreme Court justices should have gazed at it before voting to grant rights of habeas corpus to Guantanamo terrorists who would live only to bring down the Great Satan - that’s us, in case you didn’t know. To accomplish that, nothing would be more effective than nuking Washington, DC.


Anonymous said...

Right on, Tom!

Harvey in North Baldwin

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this story Tom.
I believe Nuclear Power Plants can be safely operated if properly maintained.
My home was within 15 miles of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plant when the accident happened. My family had to evacuate to Connecticut.
I was in Dallas, Texas at the time, and was very concerned for their welfare.
Regardless, I have always believed that nuclear power plants could be operated safely if properly maintained as they are aboard US Navy submarines and other ships.
I am in favor of nuclear plants, but only if they are taken out of corporate control.
Maintenance in the corporate wold is a, "Necessary Evil". Corporate Executives believe that all profits should go to the Shareholders.
The US Navy does not have to worry about quaterly dividends and will properly maintain their reactors no matter what the cost.
So, build the reactors, but keep them out of the hands of greedy private investors, and we will not have another 3 Mile Island.

Bob Sharkey, Lamoine

Unknown said...

Well, posted April 16, 2008 The (Hypothetical) Nuking of Washington DC

Anonymous said... know that proverbial doomsday clock nearing midnight?

I think we've already passed it.

Living on borrowed time, or maybe by the Grace of God.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for your insight.
One of the greatest dangers we face in this country is the perspective that says "that will never happen".

Sam, Porter

Anonymous said...


What we need are small regional nuke plants that could be operated with relatively small crews, like on Navy ships.

While I agree with your story on the nuclear terrorists, and I have a buddy with an MI background who feels that the "suitcase from Allah" is inevitable, your graphic is not from any intelligence source. It's from a video game.

Anonymous said...

Try that link again

The above should be one line.

Tom McLaughlin said...

Thanks for the link, Anonymous. I'll make the necessary edits.

Anonymous said...

If we stop invading other countries, we won't have so many enemies.

What you described is not the worst that could happen either. Carl Sagan got it right: There's no such thing as a contained nuclear war, and nuclear winter will kill nearly everyone, and possibly the planet.

Anonymous said...

Who determines if someone is a terrorist if he doesn't have his day in court? Does our government really not have enough evidence against these guys to convince a judge that a prima facie case exists against them? You can't be serious. Like all patriotic Americans, I strongly support civil liberties and have litle tolerance for those who seek pretexts to encroach upon them.