June 07, 2003

We Should Be Proud! We've Locked the Barn Door!

An unbelievable "we can be proud that we've now locked the barn door!" quote from George W. Bush. From Jack Balkin:

Speaking in Qatar, today, President Bush declared (according to a report from the Associated Press):

"We're on the look. We'll reveal the truth," Bush said, without specifically promising weapons would be found. "But one thing is certain: no terrorist network will gain weapons of mass destruction from the Iraqi regime because the Iraqi regime is no more."

The problem, however, is that if the weapons had already been given to terrorist groups before the war, or fell into the hands of terrorist groups during the anarchy that reigned while the war was going on, it will be quite irrelevant whether terrorist networks now can gain weapons from Iraq. That horse is already out of the barn door... the sobering possibility that the decision to attack Iraq actually caused weapons of mass destruction to proliferate to terrorist groups, making Americans less safe, not more. The Administration was warned about this possibility repeatedly by opponents of the war and dismissed it. But if we do not find those weapons in Iraq, that may be the reason why.... Many people have defended the recent war on the grounds that even if weapons of mass destruction were not found, it's worth the price because we have freed the Iraqi people.... But what is more important is the question whether we would be willing to free the Iraqi people if we knew that the price would be the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their placement in the hands of terrorist organizations. No one who has supported the war on the grounds that it freed the Iraqi people has come to terms with *that* question...

The thing that makes no sense at all is the feckless insouciance of the search for NBC weapons in Iraq. Securing possible NBC sites and preventing such weapons from getting in the hands of terrorists does not seem to have been an important army mission in Iraq. Why not? I want a reason. I really, really, really don't want to have to entertain the possibility that there are people in the White House who think that it would be, on balance, good if Al Qaeda had some sarin or some anthrax in its arsenal--that another atrocity and 10,000 more dead at the hands of terrorists would give America incentive to undertake its proper mission in the world. Please help me. I really, really, really want to believe in another reason for why taking every step to prevent the transfer of Saddamist NBC weapons to terrorists was not one of the army's principal missions in Iraq...

Posted by DeLong at June 7, 2003 12:33 PM | TrackBack

Comments

Well, will blatant incompetence do? How about the notion that the administration knew it was selling the american people and Congress a bill of goods? Those are pretty much the only alternatives.

Of course, neither one of those possibilities is very complimentary to the administration. And both are good reason for anyone who loves this country and believes in democracy to want this administration gone as soon as possible. But hey, at least they're not treason, as the possibility you raise would constitute.

On balance, I wouldn't want to be an administration supporter right now. There's really no way to spin this story adequately, and somehow, "you all just hate George Bush!" seems a little less than satisfying, under the circumstances.

Posted by: Jonathan on June 7, 2003 06:13 PM

Because they know it's bullshit.
That's why.

Hello???

How much pantomime searching is necessary to give them plausible deniability? For God's sake, it's pretty obvious isn't it?

Posted by: Credulous on June 7, 2003 07:11 PM

Hans Blix, the UN chief weapons inspector, also fuelled the debate on Friday over whether the US and UK exaggerated the Iraqi threat by complaining of the quality of intelligence provided to his team.

"Only in three of those cases did we find anything at all, and in none of these cases were there any weapons of mass destruction, and that shook me a bit, I must say," Mr Blix told the BBC.

"I thought - my God, if this is the best intelligence they have and we find nothing, what about the rest?"

Posted by: Credulous on June 7, 2003 07:24 PM

The scope of the conspiracy to dupe the American people into thinking Saddam and his "weapons of mass destruction" were some kind of threat to them is breathtaking...

"What if [Saddam] fails to comply and we fail to act, or we take some ambiguous third route, which gives him yet more opportunities to develop this program of weapons of mass destruction? ... Well, he will conclude that the international community has lost its will. He will then conclude that he can go right on and do more to rebuild an arsenal of devastating destruction. And some day, some way, I guarantee you he'll use the arsenal."
-- Bill Clinton, 2/18/98

Then all the way back on Jan 27, 2003, we have fellow conspirator Hans Blix reporting there was "strong evidence" that Iraq had made and retained even more anthrax in addition to the 8,500 gallons (plus a few tons of VX nerve agent) that it originally was known to have and hadn't shown it had destroyed, and in addition to the 6,500 "chemical bombs" containing 1,000 tons of chemical agents that he said were still unaccounted for.

Then there were the contributions to the deception by fellow conspirators Al Gore, Clinton CIA director John Deutch, Clinton Secretary of Defense William Cohen, Tony Blair, Jacques Chirac, the German intelligence services, etc. and so on ... http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A26671-2003Jun6.html

And as the result of all this calculated deceit -- arranged by the Bushies retroactively back through time and the speeches of Bill Clinton and his staff -- the US now has gone and wrongfully toppled a regime that had done little more than, oh, gas its own civilians with poison gas it didn't have, fill mass graves for children, torture and terrorize its own population generally, invade its neighbors across every border starting wars that killed a million people, pay rewards to the families of terrorists in nearby nations, and such.

No wonder liberals lament its unjust toppling. They *knew* Clinton was lying with his "some day, some way, I guarantee you he'll use that arsenal" speech, to help the Bushies set all this up. After all, did that man ever tell the truth about anything?

No wonder they now so fear they may soon lament the unjust toppling of Kim Jong Il, Robert Mugabe ... who knows who? Such a band of conspirators may know no bounds to their ambition.

Posted by: Jim Glass on June 7, 2003 09:29 PM

You miss Balkin's point (and my fear): there *is* a bunch of evidence that Saddam had nasty stuff. Where is it now? Our feckless failure to try harder to secure NBC weapons raises the possibility--likelihood?--that Saddamist NBC weapons are now in the hands of even nastier people who cannot be deterred.

Posted by: Brad DeLong on June 7, 2003 09:55 PM

Effective lies are usually believed on some level by the liar. I spent 7 years of my life lying about myself, and although I KNEW it was a lie, I kept a significant part of my Conscious mind CONVINCED that it was not a lie. As a result, I was a VERY effective liar.

Now, I think the administration officials either believed there were weapons, or lied very convincingly (and maybe there were weapons, we don't know until we find them. unfortunately, our smoking gun may be a mushroom cloud at this point). To achieve that, they had to believe on some level that the weapons were there (this is even more true when many people are involved - SOME of them had to believe the weapons were there). Therefore, the complete failure to secure the sites - particularly the nuclear sites that were there and had potential dirty bomb material - had to be either groteque incompetence or on some level a HOPE that there would be more effective terrorism against the US. I never thought the Republicans were treasonous, but a part of me now really has to wonder if they really hope for terrorist attacks to help their campaigns. Keeping this in mind, remember: Bush decreased resources to anti-terrorism efforts previous to 9-11, and he continues to ignore actually developing a homeland security department. These systematic incompetent failures really suggest they don't care about terrorism and are fine with it happening, because it will help them in elections. That or they refuse to address any problem that actually involves really trying beyond military conquest. I guess I don't know which.

Posted by: Dissilusioned on June 7, 2003 10:34 PM

Effective lies are usually believed on some level by the liar. I spent 7 years of my life lying about myself, and although I KNEW it was a lie, I kept a significant part of my Conscious mind CONVINCED that it was not a lie. As a result, I was a VERY effective liar.

Now, I think the administration officials either believed there were weapons, or lied very convincingly (and maybe there were weapons, we don't know until we find them. unfortunately, our smoking gun may be a mushroom cloud at this point). To achieve that, they had to believe on some level that the weapons were there (this is even more true when many people are involved - SOME of them had to believe the weapons were there). Therefore, the complete failure to secure the sites - particularly the nuclear sites that were there and had potential dirty bomb material - had to be either groteque incompetence or on some level a HOPE that there would be more effective terrorism against the US. I never thought the Republicans were treasonous, but a part of me now really has to wonder if they really hope for terrorist attacks to help their campaigns. Keeping this in mind, remember: Bush decreased resources to anti-terrorism efforts previous to 9-11, and he continues to ignore actually developing a homeland security department. These systematic incompetent failures really suggest they don't care about terrorism and are fine with it happening, because it will help them in elections. That or they refuse to address any problem that actually involves really trying beyond military conquest. I guess I don't know which.

Posted by: Dissilusioned on June 7, 2003 10:36 PM

Personally, I think the biggest hypocrisy is reserved for the administration's retroactive propagandization of their war as one of liberation and democratization. Set in the context of their public refusal to let popular anti-American, non-secular, and non-Christian groups participate in the democratic process, this comes off as a bit thin.

Honest question: If the Iraqis cannot be trusted to govern themselves without posing a security threat to the United States, using either a security or democratic agenda to defend war involves a non-trivial element of public deception.

Then any, would it be too rich in irony to have the Bush squad achieve through toppling Saddam exactly what its Reagan era counterpart sought to prevent through supporting him.

Posted by: david on June 7, 2003 10:59 PM

Prof. DeLong,
From what I've seen, the most solid evidence came from the UN, and that evidence basically stated there were unaccounted-for materials.

Most of the rest seems to have come from "informants" with a vested interest in Saddam's downfall. Considering the stories we're now hearing (from people with little incentive to lie at this point) that Saddam literally threatened to kill people if they violated UN conditions, I remain a skeptic.

But you're right, Professor. The worst-case scenario is that the weapons existed and the administration deliberately sat on its hands, hoping for a doomsday scenario. The second-worst is that the materials existed and the administration incompetently sat on its hands, jeopardizing the American people with its cluelessness.

Posted by: Jonathan on June 8, 2003 12:13 AM

Brad--
How does that linkrot vaccine work again? The link is busted already.

I'll try to outdo the MinuteMan in the silver lining department: It is a good thing if Al Qaeda has sarin or anthrax. Maybe they'll waste their time monkeying around with these fancy but not very effective weapons, instead of using paint thinner to set fire to subway cars or sending out two-man teams with Bushmasters to strike utter panic into the heart of our cities.

What's the judge from East Germany say?

Posted by: Matt Weiner on June 8, 2003 09:09 AM

We have a question from Brad DeLong: "Securing possible NBC sites and preventing such weapons from getting in the hands of terrorists does not seem to have been an important army mission in Iraq. Why not?"

And we have an apparent response from Jim Glass, which goes something like "even Bill Clinton said... don't you know that Saddam murdered... and let's not forget Robert Mugabe..."

Comment would be superfluous.

Posted by: Jeffrey Kramer on June 8, 2003 09:21 AM

Get it folks, the pressure over the years on Iraq worked. Rotten as the Iraqi government was, there were evidently no WMDs.

Posted by: arthur on June 8, 2003 01:46 PM

How's this for a thesis:

Initially, the administration deluded themselves into believing that Saddam had... well, if not a truly effective WMD program, at least sufficient that it could be used for an excuse for a war they wanted for other reasons. The evidence was (sort of) there, but it was partly based on exaggerations and outright lies from exiles with an axe to grind, and partly on ambiguous information that could, if you squinted at it, be interpreted as supporting the existence of WMDs. Oh, and maybe partly on some Iraqi bookkeeping errors as well, in accounting for the destruction. It couldn't have been entirely flimsy; it was at least good enough that it fooled Clinton, too.

This explains all those confident assertions in the run-up to the war. It wasn't *good* evidence, but they thought they could make it serve, and if they had any doubts, they figured that they could always rely on Saddam to have tried to cheat the system somehow.

When the inspections started, and site after site after site started coming up empty, they would have started to get that ol' sinking feeling. But it was too late; there was no way they could back out at that point without losing an enormous amount of face. And this is the administration that never admits it was wrong. Never.

So they had to shut down the inspections. That's why the war was suddenly so urgent, and they couldn't possibly wait for fall. If the inspections were allowed to complete, then it might become obvious to everyone that they had provoked this crisis based on bad intelligence and wishful thinking. What to do, what to do?

Well, if they hadn't wanted the war for other reasons, the smart strategy would have been to claim that the whole mobilization had been engineered to force Saddam to cooperate with the inspectors, and walk away with the "I meant to do that" dignity of a cat who has skidded on a freshly waxed floor. But Cheney needed the war. So they had to go ahead and invade quickly, change their excuse to "liberating the suffering Iraqi people," and hope hard that everyone would forget about those WMDs.

So that's why they didn't look; by the time the war actually started, they were privately sure the WMDs didn't exist.

Of course, it's conceivable that no-one bothered to give Bush the memo on this awkward change in rationale. But I recall the drugged, deer-in-the-headlights look in his eyes at that pre-war press conference. That terrified, "what the hell have I gotten myself into" look... perhaps that was when they told him.

This thesis has the relative advantage that if it is true, there never were any WMDs. Well, not after 1998, anyway. They really were disassembled and destroyed. There were accounting mistakes, but hey, the US has been known to make those too. So if it's true, there are no WMDs in the hands of terrorists, and the administration may be venal and corrupt, and guilty of an egregious misuse of power, but it is not treasonous.

Does that help you breathe any easier, Brad?

Posted by: Canadian Reader on June 8, 2003 01:48 PM

"Securing possible NBC sites and preventing such weapons from getting in the hands of terrorists does not seem to have been an important army mission in Iraq. Why not? I want a reason."

I have some *possible* reasons:

1) What "seems not to have been an important army mission" may actually have BEEN an important mission of the military (army and marines). By what accounts don't you think that portion of the war was "unimportant?"

2) I have never been in the military, but my understanding of what is most important to the soldiers themselves (as opposed to their civilian leaders) is that they not come back from Iraq in body bags. As advised by Dr. Evil, perhaps you ought to cut them some friggin' slack! :-)

The Tuwaitha nuclear facility is 18 miles south of the suburbs of Baghdad. The U.S. army and marines didn't secure the facility on Day 1 of the war (March 20), because doing so would have involved parachuting in a bunch of U.S. paratroopers, to be cut to ribbons when they hit the ground (if not before).

Instead, the U.S. marines reached the Tuwaitha facility circa April 6th:

http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/tribune-review/specialreports/iraq/s_128200.html

However, sometime before the U.S. marines arrived there, circa April 6th, it appears that things were taken off-site (some of materials taken seem to have been taken by the facility's neighbors, who were reacting to Saddam Hussein's people leaving the site).

There was obviously a period of about 2 1/2 weeks between when the war started, and when the U.S. marines arrived, where terrorists could have come in and taken things.

But a key point is that, FROM NOW ON, no more nuclear weapons research will be conducted at Al-Tuwaitha.

In other words, we WON'T have a situation like what has happened in North Korea, and may be happening in Iran, where a government that is clearly hostile, is developing nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons.

Posted by: Mark Bahner on June 8, 2003 02:29 PM

There may well have been many proper reasons to go to war against Iraq, but self-defense in lieu of the use of WMDs was the prime reason cited. When sending troops off to war a democratic people must be told of the true nature of the threat so that they can properly support the war effort. Perhaps we might have had to go to war even with no other country's support, but Americans should have been told the truth.

Posted by: arthur on June 8, 2003 02:30 PM

"When sending troops off to war a democratic people must be told of the true nature of the threat so that they can properly support the war effort."

But we are not (supposed to be) a democracy. We are (supposed to be) a constitutional republic.

What is most necessary is that *Congress* understand the true nature of the threat, and that *Congress* stop being a bunch of law-breaking cowards, and vote up or down on a Congressional declaration of *War*...prior to any president actually going to war.

Unfortunately, I don't see much hope of the American People demanding that their Congresscritters actually follow The Law.

Posted by: Mark Bahner on June 8, 2003 02:55 PM

Mark,
No one is saying nothing good has come out of the overthrow of Saddam. Clearly, he had a historical penchant for WMD. And he was a bad man.

Those are really beside the point we're discussing here.

The Pentagon had no trouble promptly securing Iraq's Oil Ministry. Considering the fact that it was located in an urban combat environment where soldiers could also have been "cut to ribbons", your objection seems somewhat less than convincing. They also promptly secured Iraq's oil wells.

Additionally, as I read it no one is criticizing the soldiers or commanders on the ground as regards WMD. The criticism is directed towards the administration's planning and priorities. The evidence indicates that WMD and known hazardous waste sites could have been promptly secured. They weren't.

Furthermore, I fail to see what Congress' behavior have to do with whether the administration misled the body constitutionally empowered with the ability to declare war. Congress, in this case, did in fact vote on the issue (although some have said the vote was a little hazy, most acknowledge that it was legit).

And finally, your point regarding "constitutional republic" vs. democracy is a red herring. Commonly-accepted definitions of democracy accept both direct and representative versions. Regardless, the people still have a right to know about the nature of the threat, if they are to make informed decisions as to whether their leaders should continue being their leaders.

Posted by: Jonathan on June 8, 2003 04:31 PM

Mark:

the criticism is not that the Army did not parachute into Tuwaitha the first day of the war, the criticism is that, once they got there, they only disarmed the Iraqi guards, and then failed to secure the site themselves. The looting took place after they got there! This was detailed in a LATimes story on April 11th, which is no longer online.

To illustrate what the problem is, we can easily find a fairly recent story to document that the site is still not secured. Can we agree that this should be a priority, and that it is a scandal that it hasn't happened yet?

Note: the main gates were stolen after April 6th, when the Marines got there. Should Central Command perhaps have allocated more forces to secure a site that was known to hold dangerous radioactive material?

"The main gates at Tuwaitha, once one of the highest-security locations in Iraq, were stolen by looters shortly after Baghdad fell to U.S. troops April 9.

The entry guard posts are now windowless and vacant but for a family of squatters whose children bathe in murky brown water.

Inside a 10-foot-high chain-link fence, a platoon of U.S. troops guards the remains of the nuclear reactor destroyed by the Israelis.

Army Staff Sgt. Robert Gasman says his job is to keep looters out, but with a platoon of just 40 men and a fence that runs as far as the eye can see, he admits it's a losing battle. Looters break through nightly; they are often released within a few hours of being caught."

http://www.latimes.com/la-fg-iraqnuke22may22001423,0,1600144.story

Posted by: Raven on June 8, 2003 07:36 PM

"Those are really beside the point we're discussing here."

Yes, this is *my* impression of what we are discussing here:

1) A bunch of people who are highly politically biased towards finding any possible "scandal," and

2) who probably know virtually nothing about radiation, let alone about nuclear weapons,

3) are relying on newspaper articles written by people who are almost certainly item #2, and possibly even item #1.

Now, I didn't vote for G.W. Bush, and based on Mr. Bush's performance in office, I can honestly say that I wouldn't care one way or the other if Al Gore had been elected president. (Which he most certainly was not. At least under the Constitution as it's currently written...which puts the responsibility of choosing presidential electors on each state legislature.)

Further, I didn't support the U.S. going to war in Iraq, because the U.S. Congress never declared war. In fact, because G.W. Bush didn't get a Congressional Declaration of War, I would support his impeachment and removal from office (for that, and probably 100s of other examples of where he's violated the Constitution).

So I can safely say that *I* am not covered by item #1. But I can also safely say that I am NOT a Bush supporter. (Except for the occasional places where he doesn't violate the Constitution, and manages to do do or say the right things.)

As for item #2, I took a course in nuclear engineering, and worked in the nuclear power generation industry for several years, but I have no particular expertise in radiation health effects. (I do have enough knowledge that I could brush up quickly, based on some Internet research.)

Now, I haven't read the LA Times April 11 (sic, it may have been April 10) story that first raised this "scandal". And I can't seem to open the LA Times May 22 article you've linked to.

But I have read the article I linked to previously, and I've just read this article, from the Washington Times:

http://www.washtimes.com/world/20030522-120239-8668r.htm

Headline: "U.S. calls looting from nuke site no risk"

To cut/paste some quotes:

"BAGHDAD — U.S. military inspection teams have concluded that material looted from Iraq's main nuclear facility at Tuwaitha poses little or no danger to the people who stole it and cannot be converted into an effective 'dirty bomb.'"

"After cleaning up two small areas of spillage outside the facility, the Washington-based Nuclear Disablement Team determined that the radiation level was no more than double the dosage every human absorbs daily, officials said."

"U.S. and British newspaper reports have suggested that residents of the area were suffering from severe ill health after tipping out yellow-cake powder from barrels and using them to store food."

"Other reports said the missing material could be used by terrorists to produce a powerful radiological weapon."

"But Col. Tim Madere, the 5th Corps officer in charge of coalition forces' chemical, biological, radiation and nuclear weapons search teams, rejected both contentions yesterday."

"Looters had broken open the doors of the yellow-cake facility by the time Marines arrived, Col. Madere said in an interview."

The article goes on to provide more details on WHY Col. Madere thinks those two contentions should be rejected.

My guess is that Col. Madere generally knows what he's talking about...to a far, far, far, farrrrrr
greater extent than.....well, Dr. DeLong, for example. (About matters of nuclear radiation and nuclear weapons, that is. I have no doubt that Dr. DeLong would clean Col. Madere's clock in any debate over a matter of economics!)

So that's my take on the situation. I think it's unfortunate that anybody even had the CHANCE to hurt themselves by exposure to radioactive materials. And with 20/20 hindsight, I could suggest some things that might have discouraged looters from taking anything that might have hurt them (e.g. "stink bombs," or other non-lethal but unpleasant measures, inside the various buildings).

But my take on this is that Dr. DeLong's "We Should be Proud! We've Locked the Barn Door!" headline, and his subsequent speculations about terrorists using materials taken AFTER U.S. marines arrived at Al Tuwaitha, are basically the shrill complaints of a person who doesn't know much about the subject on which he's writing, and who desperately desires to find a "scandal."

That's my take. Now, if any of you have information/evidence that contradicts Col Madere's opinion about the potential for post-Marine-Corp-arrival-looting resulting in potential nuclear or even "dirty" bombs, I'm open to further discussion.

P.S. I can think of a LOT of suggestions I'd have for the U.S. military, in addition to the "stink bombs" type stuff. (First and foremost, I'd consider hiring locals to do the policing to keep out looters.) But those suggestions would just be a result of my engineering (problem-solving) background...I have no special expertise in security matters.

Posted by: Mark Bahner on June 9, 2003 09:27 AM

How could the terrorists have gotten hold of the noxious weapons in Iraq? Let's think through some possible scenarios and see if they seem reasonable; I will operate on the assumption that Iraq had either the WMD themselves or capabilities to develop them in a reasonably short time.

Scenario one: Saddam has no connection to terrorist groups. After the war breaks out, in all the confusion Al Qaida manages to send its operatives to Iraq and extract the dangerous stuff. The UN couldn't locate it, the US and British intelligence didn't locate it precisely enough, but Al Qaida did. Sounds reasonable? You answer.

Scenario two: Saddam had no connection to terrorist groups before the war, but changed his mind when the war broke out. He was able contact the appropriate terrorist representatives, get them into the country, and give them what they wanted, and help them export it--all in the short time before the regime crumbled altogether. I guess not impossible, but somehow it requires a lot of imagination, at least on my part. Seems likely he would be more interested in the success his son had in looting the central bank.

Scenario three: Saddam had connections to terrorist groups before the war. But then the worst scenario had been already true regardless of the war, so all we did was to prevent them terrorist groups from profiting from it further.

Can anyone provide a compelling scenario which will make me seriously entertain the possibility that the war CAUSED the terrorists to acquire these weapons?

maciej

Posted by: maciej on June 9, 2003 11:48 AM

Maciej writes:

>Scenario one: Saddam has no connection to terrorist
>groups. After the war breaks out, in all the confusion Al
>Qaida manages to send its operatives to Iraq and extract
>the dangerous stuff. The UN couldn't locate it, the US and
>British intelligence didn't locate it precisely enough, but Al
>Qaida did. Sounds reasonable? You answer.

I think a more likely scenario is that Saddam doesn't really have much contact with Al Qaeda, but some of his minions did. Or, Al Qaeda anticipated the invasion and began buying stuff up before the war even started. Or, they made conacts inside the apparatus and then got the stuff out of the country into Iran (since that border seems remarkably porous...

The point I take away from this is that if you really think a state is likely to have or use WMDs in a war, you probably do not act against the country as we acted against Iraq, if you're smart. So take the example of N. Korea. There is some uncertainty as to what nuclear capability they actually possess, but they are a *very* credible threat. Administration policy towards them has differed significantly from the policy we see towards Iraq. Part of this is because the nuclear threat is frankly just far more dire than any chemical or biological threat that Saddam was ever rumored to possess. I think there is a big difference between a statement that Saddam possessed WMDs and a statement that these WMDs posed a significant security threat to the US...when held by Saddam Hussein. I think the latter statement is likely false. But even a fairly trivial amount of VX or anthrax could have a horrific effect on the US or the world economy in the hands of terrorists, and *THIS* is the concern I think should be foremost in people's minds right now. The likelihood of this happening is far greater than our chance of finding hidden and completely secret stashes of nerve gas at this late date, albeit potentially a lower likelihood than the chance that the entire cache had long ago ceased to exist. An opponent's belief that you have WMDs is enough to change his behavior, to the point where actually holding on to the suckers could become superfluous.

Posted by: Jonathan King on June 9, 2003 12:32 PM

The notion that in a totalitarian regime like Iraq some generals would undertake on their own such a potentially explosive activity as selling the goods to Al Qaida strikes me as totally unconvincing. These programs were probably the prime possession of the regime. Since no one person could pull it off, you have to imagine that in a state where everyone spies on everyone else, a group from the military could form and steal from Saddam what he had always wanted to possess. Unlikely. Not to mention the disincentive that the way to an unmarked grave led through Uday's electric baths and other assorted amenities.

I also find it unlikely that unless there had been previous contacts approved by the leadership, Al Qaida could have gotten in after it became clear that the regime was toppling and find the WMD, for reasons already mentioned. Could they at that point have bribed some officials to give these up? Possible, but again it's hard to see what was in it for them. Al Qaida doesn't have that much money; if it became known, they could be sure to face justice from the US or the new Iraqi state. Can you explain it purely by trying to spite the US? Somehow doesn't ring true to me.
maciej

Posted by: maciej on June 9, 2003 01:34 PM

"The point I take away from this is that if you really think a state is likely to have or use WMDs in a war, you probably do not act against the country as we acted against Iraq, if you're smart."

I disagree...mostly. As you noted, there are actually 3 types of WMDs...biological, chemical, and nuclear.

I agree that it probably isn't a good idea to go after a country with nuclear WMDs...but only if they are on weapons capable of hitting civilian targets.

That situation is definitely true for North Korea, since Seoul can be hit with short-range nuclear missiles. So since North Korea has nukes (almost certainly)...and the means to deliver them to civilian targets in South Korea...they've essentially placed themselves outside of prudent invasion.

But if a country ONLY has biological or chemical weapons--AND doesn't have good means to deliver those weapons to civilian targets--it becomes reasonable to take the government out. That's the situation that occurred in Iraq.

Pretty much everyone agreed that Saddam Hussein didn't have nuclear weapons YET, and he also had very limited *delivery* capability, so far, so it was reasonable to take him out.

There was a danger that Saddam could have used biological or chemical weapons on Israel or Kuwait. But he would have only had a couple of chances...and our Patriot missiles seem to have worked much better in 2003.

Further, using them on Kuwait would be stupid...because he'd lose all Arab support. And using them on Israel would guarantee they'd get into the war...and no Arab neighbor would likely be dumb enough to join Saddam in suicide. So while Saddam only had chemical and biological weapons, and no good means for delivery to civilian targets, it made sense to take him out. Very dangerous for our troops, but still sensible.

"I think there is a big difference between a statement that Saddam possessed WMDs and a statement that these WMDs posed a significant security threat to the US...when held by Saddam Hussein. I think the latter statement is likely false."

I don't think even the Bush administration was saying that *tomorrow,* or *next week,* or *next month,* Saddam Hussein was a security threat to the U.S. What they were saying was that Saddam Hussein would NEVER STOP developing chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons...and that the world (i.e., U.N. inspections) simply couldn't stop Hussein. Eventually, Hussein would (once again) kick out inspectors.

Plus...and this seems to be forgotten in all this...Saddam Hussein was a monster. (One can say he was a monster created by the U.S. Well, fine: "He was a monster created by the U.S." But a monster is a monster.) There was simply no hope of the Iraqi people overthrowing him...or likely even his sons, after he died. Iraq was headed for literally decades of h@ll. And during those decades, Saddam (or his sons) would be trying to develop biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons, and the means to deliver them (including nut-job suicide bombers).

"But even a fairly trivial amount of VX or anthrax could have a horrific effect on the US or the world economy in the hands of terrorists, and *THIS* is the concern I think should be foremost in people's minds right now."

In the 20th century, we had to face the very real possibility of global thermonuclear war (e.g., the Cuban missile crisis). THAT danger is receding. I think it will reach zero, when China becomes a democracy, and Russian democracy is on firmer ground.

But in the 21st century, we have to face the very real possibility--I am even pessimistic enough to regard it as a probability--that some city, somewhere in the world, is going to be exposed to biological, chemical, or nuclear attack. This attack will likely NOT be by any government...but instead by a private organization (ala Al Qaeda).

I simply don't see any way to completely deter such people. We can only hope to reduce the destruction after it occurs, and to make sure there are as few nut cases supported by governments as possible.

Obviously, it would be wonderful if no one had WMD. But the best we can realistically hope for is that as few rogue states (i.e., non-democratic states, like North Korea and Iran) are developing WMD as possible.

Now, we don't have to worry about Iraq developing WMD (at least while it is under U.S. control, or if it develops a stable democracy).

Even if 100s of pounds of anthrax were taken out of Iraq, post-Saddam's collapse, at least he's not there to produce 100s of THOUSANDS of pounds in the future.

P.S. This whole post is essentially off the original topic, which is whether the materials at the Al Tuwaitha nuclear plant presented any danger to U.S. citizens, through terrorists or looters getting materials that could be used in fission or "dirty" bombs.

The answer to THAT question, apparently according to a Col. Tim Madere, of the U.S. Army 5th Corp, is that there was and is no such threat. In the absence of other evidence (such as that HE doesn't exist!), I'm inclined to accept his opinion.

Posted by: Mark Bahner on June 9, 2003 02:48 PM

Mark:

You are just blowing so much smoke. It does indeed require expertise to assess the effects of radioactive materials. It does not require any special expertise to understand the concept that dangerous materials have to be kept secure under lock and key, and that it is not an acceptable situation when everybody has access to them. It is also not under dispute that there are indeed dangerous radioactive materials present at the Tuwaitha site, so that I do not need any personal expertise to make that assessment, either.

It is also beside the point to state that nothing dangerous has been stolen. The point here is that it was entirely possible that something could have been taken, and that this was a totally unnecessary and completely avoidable risk.

As a matter of fact, the good Col. Madere does not know whether any dangerous materials were stolen, since he does not know what was there in the first place. From the article you cited above:

"Col. Madere said the U.S. research teams had not been given comprehensive lists prepared by the International Atomic Energy Agency of what the Tuwaitha complex had housed. He would not speculate on whether that was the fault of U.S. authorities or the nuclear agency, which operates under the aegis of the United Nations."

What you are arguing is essentially that we should not complain about unnecessary risk taking, because nothing seems to have happened. And this is something I cannot agree with. When the stated rationale for the war with Iraq is a perceived risk of WMD attack, this makes only sense when the risks taken during the occupation are smaller than those presented by the WMD threat in the first place.

Sorry about the link in my post above, I forgot that the LATimes does indeed require a free registration, then it works.

Posted by: Raven on June 9, 2003 04:16 PM

----------------------------------------
P.S. This whole post is essentially off the original topic, which is whether the materials at the Al Tuwaitha nuclear plant presented any danger to U.S. citizens, through terrorists or looters getting materials that could be used in fission or "dirty" bombs.

The answer to THAT question, apparently according to a Col. Tim Madere, of the U.S. Army 5th Corp, is that there was and is no such threat. In the absence of other evidence (such as that HE doesn't exist!), I'm inclined to accept his opinion.
----------------------------------------

First and foremost, the scenarios involving dirty bombs don’t involve many fatalities or casualties from the radiation alone. The real damage (aside from the conventional explosives) comes from the panic and chaos following its detonation. Even though a blast and wind effects would damage/contaminate a few dozens of blocks at most, it could easily throw an entire city into chaos. After all, terrorists are using fear as a weapon. There is also the economic damage associated with the decontamination.

As such, the criterion for a dirty bomb is not that it causes fatal exposure it is that it contains enough radioactive material to kick off radiation detectors to force an alert and subsequent expensive cleanup. Given the how quickly people became ill, it’s very hard to believe that a functioning detector would miss the material even if it were spread out over a few dozen blocks.

This brings us to the colonel. Assuming that he is competent, he knows all of this already. Had he said that there *was* a threat - he would be ensuring that the next manhole/sewer explosion turned into a stampede. There is also the issue of his handlers/censors.

- From someone who has taken more than just a “course in nuclear engineering”.

Posted by: chris_a on June 9, 2003 04:22 PM

Call me naive, but I really don't buy that they would deliberately encourage NBC materials to reach terrorist hands so that a few thousand American deaths allow them to make new policy. That's pretty evil, and most people aren't that evil. It's much, much easier to assume that they knew there really wasn't anything much there. But they really wanted to go to war, so they lied about it, as any kid would do to get what he wanted - we're not talking a deeply evil mindset here. That way, they didn't actually kill anybody. Well, nobody much, especially not Americans.
OK, what this doesn't explain is the fact that enough was at the nuclear sites for dirty bombs, and they didn't guard those. I guess I'll put that down to incompetence and poor planning - they just knew they wanted Baghdad and the oil fields With A New Model Army! and forgot about what happened once they got there. So I blame that asshole Rumsfeld, and everything post-invasion bears this out. This is still a mile from deliberate evil. It's greed, incompetence, and lies - far more common currency in history.

Posted by: John Isbell on June 10, 2003 09:22 AM

"It is also not under dispute that there are indeed dangerous radioactive materials present at the Tuwaitha site, so that I do not need any personal expertise to make that assessment, either."

It IS under dispute whether the radioactive materials at Al Tuwaitha are "dangerous," at least in the sense that Brad DeLong was speaking of them.

Brad DeLong was--or SEEMED to be--maintaining that the radioactive materials at Al Tuwaitha might be taken by terrorists, and used against civilians. This scenario is highly unlikely, according to Col. Tim Madere...who, *in this case,* probably knows more of what he's talking about, than Dr. DeLong. (No offense intended, Dr. DeLong.)

"It is also beside the point to state that nothing dangerous has been stolen. The point here is that it was entirely possible that something could have been taken, and that this was a totally unnecessary and completely avoidable risk."

And, once again, y'all (you, and Brad DeLong, and the other complaintants in this matter) are WRONG. The U.S. marines came to the site, circa April 6th. When they came there, the site was ALREADY looted.

The marines determined, in their EXPERT opinions, that no radioactive materials of military significance (i.e., that might potentially be used by terrorists) were at the site. So they left only a small contingent of troops there to guard. There is NO "risk" (in terms of risk to civilians in the U.S., or U.S. troops in Iraq) from the materials at Al Tuwaitha, in the expert opinion of Col. Tim Madere. Case closed.

"As a matter of fact, the good Col. Madere does not know whether any dangerous materials were stolen, since he does not know what was there in the first place."

He DOES know that no dangerous materials were stolen AFTER THE MARINES ARRIVED, circa April 6th. What he does NOT know, is whether any dangerous materials were stolen between the time that the Iraqi guards abandoned the site (circa March 19th, the day before the U.S. attack started), and the day that the marines fought their way to the Al Tuwaitha site (circa April 6th).

From this site:
http://www.dfw.com/mld/dfw/news/special_packages/iraq/6020759.htm

"Tuwaitha obviously had been picked over by thieves. The fence and 12-foot concrete wall around the three storage buildings for radioactive material had huge gaps and U.S. Marines found the main gate open when they arrived April 7."

"Inside, some radioactive material had been scattered around. Radioactivity measurements inside the three buildings found levels two to ten times background levels, a senior U.S. military official in Baghdad said, joining the news briefing via a satellite link."

"Local Iraqis have told the Americans that Iraqi soldiers guarding Tuwaitha left on March 10, before the war started, and civilian guards abandoned the site March 20, the day before American ground forces entered Iraq from Kuwait."

"Although reporters saw looters inside the radioactive material storage site after the Americans arrived, the defense officials said Thursday they had no evidence of any looting there after April 7. Other looters have been captured elsewhere on the sprawling, 23,000-acre Tuwaitha site, however, they said."

Raven finishes with, "What you are arguing is essentially that we should not complain about unnecessary risk taking, because nothing seems to have happened."

No, what I'm saying is that any risk to U.S. civilians (i.e., from materials stolen for a "dirty bomb") would have come from terrorists that arrived BEFORE the marines got to Al Tuwaitha. And I'm saying that the marines can NOT be blamed for getting to Al Tuwaitha on April 7, and not earlier (they had a frikkin' war they were fighting). And finally, I'm saying that the marines thoroughly checked out Al Tuwaitha when they arrived on April 7, and in their EXPERT opinions, found no "militarily significant materials." Therefore, any looting which happened AFTER April 7th could NOT be a danger to U.S. civilians. Case closed.

Stop trying to make this into some sort of big screwup or scandal. If you want big screwups and scandals, you need to look elsewhere.

Posted by: Mark Bahner on June 10, 2003 09:23 AM

"It is also not under dispute that there are indeed dangerous radioactive materials present at the Tuwaitha site, so that I do not need any personal expertise to make that assessment, either."

It IS under dispute whether the radioactive materials at Al Tuwaitha are "dangerous," at least in the sense that Brad DeLong was speaking of them.

Brad DeLong was--or SEEMED to be--maintaining that the radioactive materials at Al Tuwaitha might be taken by terrorists, and used against civilians. This scenario is highly unlikely, according to Col. Tim Madere...who, *in this case,* probably knows more of what he's talking about, than Dr. DeLong. (No offense intended, Dr. DeLong.)

"It is also beside the point to state that nothing dangerous has been stolen. The point here is that it was entirely possible that something could have been taken, and that this was a totally unnecessary and completely avoidable risk."

And, once again, y'all (you, and Brad DeLong, and the other complaintants in this matter) are WRONG. The U.S. marines came to the site, circa April 6th. When they came there, the site was ALREADY looted.

The marines determined, in their EXPERT opinions, that no radioactive materials of military significance (i.e., that might potentially be used by terrorists) were at the site. So they left only a small contingent of troops there to guard. There is NO "risk" (in terms of risk to civilians in the U.S., or U.S. troops in Iraq) from the materials at Al Tuwaitha, in the expert opinion of Col. Tim Madere. Case closed.

"As a matter of fact, the good Col. Madere does not know whether any dangerous materials were stolen, since he does not know what was there in the first place."

He DOES know that no dangerous materials were stolen AFTER THE MARINES ARRIVED, circa April 6th. What he does NOT know, is whether any dangerous materials were stolen between the time that the Iraqi guards abandoned the site (circa March 19th, the day before the U.S. attack started), and the day that the marines fought their way to the Al Tuwaitha site (circa April 6th).

From this site:
http://www.dfw.com/mld/dfw/news/special_packages/iraq/6020759.htm

"Tuwaitha obviously had been picked over by thieves. The fence and 12-foot concrete wall around the three storage buildings for radioactive material had huge gaps and U.S. Marines found the main gate open when they arrived April 7."

"Inside, some radioactive material had been scattered around. Radioactivity measurements inside the three buildings found levels two to ten times background levels, a senior U.S. military official in Baghdad said, joining the news briefing via a satellite link."

"Local Iraqis have told the Americans that Iraqi soldiers guarding Tuwaitha left on March 10, before the war started, and civilian guards abandoned the site March 20, the day before American ground forces entered Iraq from Kuwait."

"Although reporters saw looters inside the radioactive material storage site after the Americans arrived, the defense officials said Thursday they had no evidence of any looting there after April 7. Other looters have been captured elsewhere on the sprawling, 23,000-acre Tuwaitha site, however, they said."

Raven finishes with, "What you are arguing is essentially that we should not complain about unnecessary risk taking, because nothing seems to have happened."

No, what I'm saying is that any risk to U.S. civilians (i.e., from materials stolen for a "dirty bomb") would have come from terrorists that arrived BEFORE the marines got to Al Tuwaitha. And I'm saying that the marines can NOT be blamed for getting to Al Tuwaitha on April 7, and not earlier (they had a frikkin' war they were fighting). And finally, I'm saying that the marines thoroughly checked out Al Tuwaitha when they arrived on April 7, and in their EXPERT opinions, found no "militarily significant materials." Therefore, any looting which happened AFTER April 7th could NOT be a danger to U.S. civilians. Case closed.

Stop trying to make this into some sort of big screwup or scandal. If you want big screwups and scandals, you need to look elsewhere.

Posted by: Mark Bahner on June 10, 2003 09:33 AM

"Chris_a," who posts under a false email address, writes, "This brings us to the colonel. Assuming that he is competent,..."

I can pretty much guarantee he's more competent than *you*, in this matter.

"Chris" (real name unknown), then closes with this zinger, "From someone who has taken more than just a 'course in nuclear engineering.'"

OK, you pretentious git. Tell us all what *your* background is...and try starting with your REAL full name and email address.

When I wrote of my experience in nuclear matters, I was explaining my limited knowledge of radiation health effects.

I also have a masters degree in environmental engineering (air pollution option), and more than 10 years in air pollution research. And unlike you, I'm sure, I actually know something about air dispersion modelling.

Do you even know what yellowcake is? Why would (or wouldn't) it be a good material for use in a dirty bomb? What other materials might be used in a dirty bomb, and why?

If I were at the back of a 20 foot by 20 foot room, and you came into a door on the opposite side of the room, and tossed a handful of yellowcake into the air, would my health be in danger? Why, or why not?

Posted by: Mark Bahner on June 10, 2003 09:55 AM

First off I note that you've made no attempt to address the technical content of my post.

When experts (CIA, NRC, the DOD emergency response teams) are asked what non-fissile materials would make good candidates for a dirty bomb, there are three substances usually mentioned:

Cesium-137
Strontium-90
Cobalt-60

Cesium is also interesting because it's a group
1-A metal (like sodium) As such, it reacts rigorously with water - substantially complicating decontaimination.

So I typed 'Al Tuwaitha' & 'Cesium' into google and look at what comes up:

http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,454441,00.html

(dated Friday, May. 23, 2003)

"Highly irradiated equipment that survived the looting, like the 23 cesium 137 "pigs," metal sphere-like wrecking balls, are lying in the open air in an area visited by looters "until the last few days or so,"

To put things in perspective, a few years back
in Goiana, Brazil someone scavenged a relatively small amount of Cesium-137 from some discarded medical equipment. A couple hundred people ended up being getting radiation poisoning. (I don't remember how many died.)

The claim that "The marines determined, in their EXPERT opinions, that no radioactive materials of military significance " is beginning to look pretty weak.

Now I suppose you could quibble that the material is not *militarily* significant unless there's enough of it to cause death by radiation poisoning. See my earlier post as to why this line of argument is a red herring.

As far as anonymous posting goes, the 'email@in.transit' should give you a clue. I recently moved and haven't set up email at the new place yet. I don't use my work address as a matter of principle. If you go back and look at earlier posts, you see that I used my (old) address.

Hmm, the guy who says that those who disagree with him know nothing about radiation is calling me pretentious. To claim that a course in nuclear engineering makes you more of an authority than the people on this site is bold enough, but it's particularly bold considering your limited grasp of the underlying science. You deserved to be tweaked on that.

Finally, I am not ashamed of my experience/background but I see no need to flaunt it when I can win on the technical merits - you should try it sometime.

Posted by: chris_a on June 10, 2003 12:03 PM

Mark:

The article you cite yourself concedes that there was still looting after the Marines arrived. I see that as a problem, you apparently do not.

Do you seriously believe that it is possible, in one day, to survey all the material on a "sprawling complex", and be SURE that nothing
dangerous is there? And that the first combat units there had indeed the necessary equipment to do that, and finished all analysis in one day? Please.

Your argument seems to be that the Marines are not responsible for any looting that occured before they arrived, and the looting afterward was not a problem, because once they were there, they could know right away that there were no dangerous materials? So first they could not secure it, then they need not secure it? Please.

In a war that was nominally fought over the possession of weapons of mass destruction by Iraq, securing the main nuclear research facility should obviously have been one of the most important objectives. Not a job for just one platoon. Nothing that happended or did not happen afterwards changes this.

And about the suitability of the material for a dirty bomb: I am not going to get into any kind of technical discussion with you here, Chris is doing a much better job than I ever could. I wish to make a completely non-technical point. For a terrorist attack with a dirty bomb it is certainly not necessary to obtain material that is highly lethal. The point is to spread fear and terror, and that does not nesessarily require to kill a lot of people. Case in point: the Anthrax attacks.

If a dirty bomb with low-level radioactive material goes of in a city, do you think you can explain to people that they should not worry? Or that it would not bring everything to a standstill, and require quite extensive decontamination, at enormous cost?

You still have not convinced me that the situation was not a problem, and I am afraid you won't manage to.

Posted by: Raven on June 10, 2003 02:36 PM

Chris:

Sorry, in re-reading the thread I noticed you had already made the points I was just trying to make. It seems now that it was quite unnecessary for me to respond again to Mark.

Posted by: Raven on June 10, 2003 03:01 PM

"No one who has supported the war on the grounds that it freed the Iraqi people ..."

Freed the Iraqi people?
What about freeing the Vietnamese people - weren't they happy about it.

The US army is repeating itself.
Not understanding, knowing or even caring a damn about customs and feelings of honour in Middle East ern countries, they abuse everybody - men, especially women, and children, obviously considering these people inferior and treating them like dirt. E.g.
http://www.nytimes.com/2003/06/15/international/worldspecial/15ARRE.html?th

Back in February in the DeLong thread "Let's get snarky" I predicted that "suicide bombings [in Iraq] may well become the fashion of the year" - and the army is doing its best to make that prediction true.

Is it really *impossible* to learn from previous errors?

Posted by: John Ståhle on June 15, 2003 05:19 AM

Chris_a writes, "Cesium is also interesting because it's a group 1-A metal (like sodium) As such, it reacts rigorously with water - substantially complicating decontaimination."

Bwahahahaha! That's a good one, Chris! I love the way you relate it in the manner of someone who has "had more than just a course in nuclear engineering," while simultaneously revealing your vast ignorance on the subject. :-)

Your comment is actually ignorant on many levels:

1) You apparently don't have any clue of what the chemical form for radioactive cesium would be in any "dirty bomb." It would be cesium CHLORIDE, not elemental cesium!

2) You apparently also have no clue about what *amount* of radioactive cesium CHLORIDE would be used. If even a couple of kilograms of cesium chloride was used in a "dirty bomb", that would be an extraordinarily large amount. So it isn't like there's going to be a couple inches thick of cesium CHLORIDE lying on exposed surfaces.

3) You also apparently haven't even thought of the fact that the whole purpose of a dirty bomb would be to spread the cesium chloride as widely as possible. So this "vigorous reaction" that you're talking about (that wouldn't happen anyway, because cesium chloride is inert...in case you hadn't heard) would happen (if it did happen, which it wouldn't) on almost-microscopic amounts of cesium. So the hydrogen produced could NEVER "substantially complicate decontamination."

Bwahahahahaha! "Someone who as taken more than just a course in nuclear engineering, indeed!" :-)

Why don't you speak with someone who actually has a clue about radioactive cesium and "dirty bombs" before you display your vast pool of ignorance?

Posted by: Mark Bahner on October 2, 2003 09:49 AM

Chris_a writes, "Cesium is also interesting because it's a group 1-A metal (like sodium) As such, it reacts rigorously with water - substantially complicating decontaimination."

Bwahahahaha! That's a good one, Chris! I love the way you relate it in the manner of someone who has "had more than just a course in nuclear engineering," while simultaneously revealing your vast ignorance on the subject. :-)

Your comment is actually ignorant on many levels:

1) You apparently don't have any clue of what the chemical form for radioactive cesium would be in any "dirty bomb." It would be cesium CHLORIDE, not elemental cesium!

2) You apparently also have no clue about what *amount* of radioactive cesium CHLORIDE would be used. If even a couple of kilograms of cesium chloride was used in a "dirty bomb", that would be an extraordinarily large amount. So it isn't like there's going to be a couple inches thick of cesium CHLORIDE lying on exposed surfaces.

3) You also apparently haven't even thought of the fact that the whole purpose of a dirty bomb would be to spread the cesium chloride as widely as possible. So this "vigorous reaction" that you're talking about (that wouldn't happen anyway, because cesium chloride is inert...in case you hadn't heard) would happen (if it did happen, which it wouldn't) on almost-microscopic amounts of cesium. So the hydrogen produced could NEVER "substantially complicate decontamination."

Bwahahahahaha! "Someone who as taken more than just a course in nuclear engineering, indeed!" :-)

Why don't you speak with someone who actually has a clue about radioactive cesium and "dirty bombs" before you display your vast pool of ignorance?

Posted by: Mark Bahner on October 2, 2003 09:54 AM

"your vast pool of ignorance"

Mark: Look who's talking. I hope the next time you take 3 1/2 months to come up with a reply you will do a better job.

1: I wasn't aware that terrorists are required to use cesium chloride in their bombs. I'm so glad they follow Mark Bahner's rules for making dirty bombs. I guess terrorists are smart enough to build a dirty bomb but not smart enough to figure out how to chemically process the contents for maximum effect. Too bad they didn't see your rules for box cutters.

2: The case I mentioned in Brazil involved *grams* of cesium, not kilograms. It still poisoned 100+ people. It's pretty clear that you AREN'T "someone who actually has a clue about radioactive cesium" or you wouldn't have made this mistake.

3: I thought my contamination comment was obvious: If water was used to put out the fires associated with the bomb (e.g. firehoses, sprinkler systems), it would quickly react with the cesium and spread it even further than it otherwise would have gone, complicating decontamination - especially if it got into the sewer system. From now on, I will remember to dumb things down to your level.

---
P.S. This whole post is essentially off the original topic, which is whether the materials at the Al Tuwaitha nuclear plant presented any danger to U.S. citizens, through terrorists or looters getting materials that could be used in fission or "dirty" bombs.
---

It's clear that cesium-137 could be used in a dirty bomb, you've conceded so yourself. Clearly, they shouldn't have left the pigs of cesium lying around. Rather than admit this, you try to argue that if they were nice enough to use an inert form it wouldn't be as much of a problem. Assuming that your opponent is a moron is a quick way to lose.

P.S. Earlier you questioned my posting anonymously. Given the ignorance *you've* displayed, the better question is why you aren't.

Posted by: chris_a on October 10, 2003 03:12 PM

One last thing.

Cesium chloride, like sodium chloride, dissolves readily in water. So, even if they followed Mark Bahner's rules, the contamination problem still exists.

Posted by: chris_a on October 13, 2003 08:07 AM
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