[Welcome, Hugh Hewitt readers.] — Last Friday on his blog, Hugh asked the question, “What will it take?”, in regards to waking up the Left in America to the continuing dangers from those that want us all dead. — I most certainly “hope” that what I have outlined below is “not the answer” to his question.
There are many nightmare scenarios that one can conger up given the nature of our enemy in the Global War On Terror (GWOT). Each has its own sadistic signature, its own special set of circumstances and lits own level of sophistication required to execute. Nightmare scenarios are just that, because if one is “successful”, the loss of life will be extreme, and could even be worse. This is my nightmare . . .
[Any Weekday — 10:31 AM — Los Angeles — Downtown]
Out of a hazy sky, the morning marine layer already abated toward the coast, a chartered helicopter flys toward downtown Los Angeles from a small airport outside the city proper. Aboard are two passengers who have a scheduled business meeting at the Bonaventure hotel and want to avoid “traffic”, plus, by their looks and manner, they can certainly afford to travel in style. In the copter with them is the pilot and a medium size sample case carrying the “proprietary” items that they will be demonstrating at their meeting, at least that is what the pilot thinks as he flares out over the hotel’s heliport, a few hundred feet above street level. It’s the last thought that he will ever have.
In the millisecond after the pilot starts to descend to the helipad, the copter is engulfed in a white-hot ball of plasma, which expands to a diameter of 262 feet in 0.4 seconds. Everyone who happened to be on the surrounding rooftops or near windows facing the explosion would almost instantly disintegrate from the effects of the initial intense gamma and X-ray radiation. Within the next few seconds the fireball would consume the intended landing target and the immediately surrounding buildings, burning everything flammable, weakening concrete, softening steel — and then the shock wave from the overpressure effect would flatten them to the ground, spreading out from the blast radius, exploding the glass from all the towers in a 1,500 radius, burning most everything inside, and blowing furniture and people out to fall to their deaths in the streets. Within this zone would be virtually 100% destruction of people and structures. The open spaces of streets running between the towers would channel and direct the down blast to incinerate and destroy vehicles and pedestrians in a larger area than if it occurred on a flat plain.
An air-blast like this is in the shape of a sphere, which means it goes up and to all sides, as well as down. The overpressure blast wave causes a 747 making its final approach after an 18 hour flight from New Zealand to suffer wing stall, and its pilots and passengers on the blast side suffer blindness and intense burns as it falls from the sky, crashing into a neighborhood in Watts.
Outside the critical blast radius, those on protected sides will live, those on the facing side of the blast will be critically burnt by radiation out to a radius of almost 3/4 mile. Thousands of cars, trucks and buses will be pushed off the streets by the pressure wave. Everyone on the 4-level Hollywood/10 interchange are blinded by the flash and some are blown out into empty space. The blast of the pressure wave takes out the LA City Hall and main police station, along with the Federal Courthouse, half a dozen famous hotels, the new Disney Concert hall, and the City of Angels Cathedral. No building within 0.8 miles is exempt from damage.
Since it was an air blast, and because it was only a small “nuke”, not one of the often-speculated-about “suitcase” nukes, but only a 5 kiloton device, the blast damage area is isolated to the downtown skyscraper area, and the intensity of the fireball sucks up the major amount of radioactive byproduct, sending it up to the top of the expanding mushroom cloud, up to about 30,000 feet, where the prevailing winds start carrying it east, towards the large bedroom communities of East LA and on to San Bernardino and perhaps even beyond to the desert communities, Palm Springs, Palm Desert and Rancho Mirage.
With approximately 300,000 commuters and 25,000 residents, plus several thousand in transit at any given time during the day, the casualty rate could go as high as 100,000 initially dead and injured. Without proper radiation decontamination, that number would be much higher. That would go also for those downwind of the blast area, with a coordinated effort quickly put in place to decontaminate the effected areas. With proper efforts, much of the potential loss of life could be averted, as is the case with prompt and immediate medical care for the severely burned and injured in the blast zone and surrounding areas. And there’s the pickle — on a good day, Los Angeles is straining to support its trauma system, and this would break it entirely.
Not to mention completely disrupting the Interstates 10, 101 and 5 for a good amount of time. The initial blast zone area would be contaminated by radioactivity for months or years.
Now, that’s a pretty frightening scenario, to be sure — but that’s only the beginning of my nightmare!
You see, Al Qaeda has a pattern for “multiple” concurrent events — witness 4 airliners on 9/11, multiple bomb blasts in Madrid and London. If they are ever to successfully detonate a nuclear weapon in the U.S., I seriously doubt that it would be a singular event. Let’s say they try for 10, and only succeed with 50%, and that they use the same method (’cause they will only get to use it once!). Ignore D.C. and New York (too much security) and pick on smaller, but important, city centers — like Seattle, Houston, Minneapolis, Boston, heck, even Cleveland! Especially if “home grown” sleeper cells do the deeds, with the likes of John Walker Lindh. The result? Five times the number of dead and injured. Five center city areas rendered useless for a very long time. Five times the amount of lost productivity, wages, taxes and contributions to our nation’s GDP. Five times the grief and sorrow, along with mass distrust of our government and its ability to protect us.
[Update: One reader correctly says that multiple strikes would cause a great deal more than “5-times” the economic damage of a single explosion, as the effects would be geometric instead of linear. Also, multiple attacks would most likely cause the President to declare “Marshall Law” across the land, suspend “Habius Corpus”, and lock this sucker down for quite some time. If/when the failed attempts were discovered, government reactions would only be worse, and many, if not most, of those that work in downtown areas would have a great deal of cause for not going to work, resulting in even greater national economic losses.]
The Los Angeles Times new OP-Ed Sunday section, Current leads off with a discussion of what is being called the “Islamic Bomb”. Pervez Hoodbhoy, professor of nuclear and high-energy physics at Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad, Pakistan writes:
But the nuclear monopoly is breaking down. The making of atomic weapons — especially crude ones — has become vastly simpler than at the time of the Manhattan Project. Basic information is freely available in technical libraries throughout the world, and surfing the Internet can bring anyone a staggering amount of detail.
Advanced textbooks and monographs contain details that can enable reasonably competent scientists and engineers to come up with “quick and dirty” designs for nuclear explosives. The physics of nuclear explosions can be readily taught to graduate students.
By stealing fissile materials in the thousands of former Soviet bombs marked for disassembly, or even a fraction of the vast amounts of highly enriched uranium and separated plutonium in research reactors and storage sites the world over, it is unnecessary to go through complex processes for uranium enrichment or plutonium reprocessing.
What that means is that this is not such a far-fetched scenario, although I truly wish it were just some outlandish techno-military fiction plot (one scary book!). With the call for the deaths of ALL Americans by our enemy, we shouldn’t just wait around and let them have at us again. There are two ways that these weapons could come into the country, via our borders (that are way too open) and via smuggling in imported containers (only a small % of them are inspected), as well as materials could be collected and assembled here.
[Update: One reader suggests that an even easier method to deliver the device into the country and to the attack cell would be via diplomatic courier.]
As they keep telling us, be aware — report ANY suspicious activities today, not tomorrow or next week. I’ll have to add, don’t fall asleep and believe the passivist jargon that if we leave them alone they will leave us alone. 9/11, the Cole, the embassies in Africa, Beirut, Lockerbie, Somalia — all were pre-invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq.
They want us all DEAD folks! That’s really all you should have to understand in order to fully support our continuing efforts in the GWOT. (db)
[Blast effects estimated using Michael Wong’s Nuclear Weapon Effects Calculator with the following notes on the numbers]
- Thermal radiation is non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation which has a significant heating effect. Air is virtually transparent to thermal radiation. At the destructive radius, the thermal radiation intensity is sufficient to cause lethal burns.
- The first air blast is 4.6psi overpressure, which is sufficient to collapse most residential and industrial structures. Note that exposed humans can actually survive such a blast, about 1/3 bar above standard. However, that much pressure exerted against the face of a building exerts very high force (a 40 foot tall, 50 foot wide structure would be hit with more than 600 tons-force).
- The second air blast category is 20psi overpressure, which is sufficient to destroy virtually any large above-ground structure and cause nearly 100% fatalities.
- Ionizing radiation is electromagnetic radiation of sufficient frequency (and hence energy) to literally “knock off” electrons from atoms, thus ionizing them. Ionizing radiation is extremely dangerous but it is also strongly absorbed by air, unlike thermal radiation. At the 500rem dosage, mortality is between 50% and 90%, although this can be mitigated with prompt and sophisticated medical care (which may not be available in the aftermath of a nuclear attack).
- Fireball duration is based on emission intensity reduction to 10% of peak.
- Fireball radius is based on a scaling law from “The Effects of Nuclear Weapons” (1977), Chapter IIc, from excerpts reprinted at EnviroWeb. According to that source, fireball radius scales with (Y^0.4), where Y is yield. Also note that a ground-contact air burst creates a larger fireball because some of the energy is reflected back up from the surface.
Other pages & individuals that I used for information and inspiration:
P.S. — If you want to read some really-totally-absolutely scary U-know-What — go here!
This entry was posted on Sunday, July 10th, 2005 at 1:19 pm and is filed under G.W.O.T.. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed. | Print This Post | Email This Post
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