October 26, 2001
3:51 PM   Subscribe

The world just got a little bit scarier, according to The Times of London: Bin Ladin has nuclear materials for possible use against the US(source: little green footballs). Sorry to add another "Current Situation" link, but this is pee-in-your-pants frightening.
posted by croutonsupafreak (43 comments total)
I don't know if you're an American, Crouton, but either way, this isn't directed at you....I have been shocked, in the last two months, to learn what absolute pussies Americans can be. Sure, we got brave people wrestling terrorists and saving people from buildings, but we also have bed-wetting cowards who refuse to open their mail without rubber gloves. Little, quaking, sissy GROWN ADULTS afraid to fly in airplanes. And now we have this: Bin Laden has nuclear material. So? What's the be afraid of? If he uses it, people will die. We have people spending all their time making sure we aren't attacked again. But if you die, you die. That's life, as it were. Living in fear is silly.
Just wanted to get that off my chest.
posted by Doug at 4:04 PM on October 26, 2001

I guess LGF were sensationalizing the ToL article by saying:
The Times of London (not known as an alarmist tabloid rag) says it outright: Bin Laden and Al Qaeda have nuclear weapons.

posted by charles at 07:38 PM PST
Then again, people who actually read the article and have a bit better command of the English language are there to set things straight, (from LGF's comments page):
Anything owned by Rupert Murdoch is an alarmist Tabloid rag. Especially the stories they put on the front of their 'Times 2' tabloid section. Alarmist Claptrap. The Independent is much more sensible.
posted by Nick Richards @ 10/26/2001 05:33 AM PST

The article does not say that at all. Second paragraph "The Western sources say that the suspected mastermind of the September 11 attacks on America does not have the capability to mount a nuclear attack but fear he would do so if he could." Not exactly conclusive evidence of a nuclear weapons...

I agree that the Indy has better coverage. Robert Fisk is brilliant.

posted by Ian Gardiner @ 10/26/2001 07:49 AM PST
posted by tamim at 4:16 PM on October 26, 2001

Doug -- I agree with you in general. I'm not actually wearing soggy pants right now. I booked a flight on Sept. 17. I don't wear gloves when I open the mail (although I do worry about my dad, who works at the State Dept). But the word nuclear brings on a new level of scariness to the table. I'm not afraid for my own safety -- somehow I doubt that anyone's going to drop the bomb on Portland. But imagine the outcome of spreading nuclear contamination across the already devastated landscape of Afghanistan, or anywhere else for that matter. Nuclear contamination does not last forever, but that doesn't matter to the people who die quick or slow deaths as a result of exposure.

tamim -- I read the article. I said "materials," not "weapons." The reporter spoke to one source who was not aware of nuclear weapons, and alludes to others who seem to have absolute knowledge of these weapons. I guess you're right that this could be a bit questionable -- what is a "western source," anyhow??
posted by croutonsupafreak at 4:28 PM on October 26, 2001

This is a prime example of why webloggers are not always the best journalists.
posted by scottandrew at 4:40 PM on October 26, 2001

Let's say Bin Laden, in a last ditch effort, uses a radiation bomb of sort (putting radioactive chemicals near the front line... etc.) does that justify using nuclear weapons against Afghanistan? Certainly by the guidelines set out at the beginning of the war it does. That's what gets real scary. Can you imagine dropping the bomb that close to China and Russia? I hope I'm making wild speculations.
posted by geoff. at 4:46 PM on October 26, 2001

Ahem. Speaking as someone who did actually read the article and feels pretty comfortable with his command of English, let me just point out that the very first paragraph of the article states unequivocally:

OSAMA BIN LADEN and his al-Qaeda network have acquired nuclear materials for possible use in their terrorism war against the West, intelligence sources have disclosed.
posted by cfj at 4:51 PM on October 26, 2001

Somebody set them up the bomb?
posted by hellinskira at 4:52 PM on October 26, 2001

I have been shocked, in the last two months, to learn what absolute pussies Americans can be.

I'm pretty impressed that you can read an article in a British paper and then decide it's (more) evidence of American cowardice. You appear to be American and I acknowledge that Americans may have a deserved reputation for lack of geographic knowledge, but this is the Times of London (UK), not New London, CT. That was a rant that was looking for an outlet.
It's also uncalled-for to use the word 'pussies' as if that's a bad thing. 50% of Americans have them. A little respect for the bold and the brave regardless of their sexual apparatus would be nice.

Lastly, on the article, I really hope it's just hypothetical worryings, because I'm not really sure how I would feel if it were true. Living in the Cold War when everyone was worried about USSR's nuclear capability but took solace in the assumed sanity of their leaders is one thing. No one would assume that BL is sane, and so there is no mental safety net. Sometimes it's nice to have a mental safety net; the world can be a scary place without it.
posted by dness2 at 4:55 PM on October 26, 2001

Here's a link to increase the paranoia: from CNN: Pakistan Nuclear Scientists Detained for possible contacts with the Taliban.
posted by pandaharma at 5:08 PM on October 26, 2001

well as an american, I will substitute the more politically correct term "wimps'.....we americans are spoiled rotten. I knew this theoretically but when I took a trip to Thailand several years ago, it was my first time out of the States. i had a revelation...look, most of us know no better as we have been blessed to have peace and safety...but no conception at all as to how utterly blessed we were and still are,frankly...and now that the cold slap of reality has hit, we react as if"how can this be, this is the USA, etc etc.."

I hate to tell you but we still don't get it......
posted by bunnyfire at 5:09 PM on October 26, 2001

50% of Americans have cats????

Nice one Hellinskira!

And remember folks you're still many times more likely to die (or be injured) in a car accident than by terrorists...

And for some reason no one stops driving to work everyday do they?

Definitely not pee-in-your-pants scary... I'm sure many more terrorist groups have access to this kind of stuff than we (the public) think... Or know about... We got along fine yesterday and we'll get along fine tomorrow...
posted by davros42 at 5:13 PM on October 26, 2001

This is such O-L-D news. He's had "radioactive material" for a while. This does not constitute "nuclear capability" by any stretch of the imagination.
posted by donkeyschlong at 5:15 PM on October 26, 2001

Doug wrote: I have been shocked, in the last two months, to learn what absolute pussies Americans can be...But if you die, you die. That's life, as it were.

Hi, Doug. I'm a 33-year-old American with a 32-year-old wife and a 9-month-old daughter living in Battery Park City in NYC. If it's at all possible, we'd very much like to avoid dying prematurely, as our proximity to the Financial District would make us a tad fretful if we happened to read a news article (from an 'estimable' source) in which the fact is disclosed the Al-Qaeda network has the means to build a "dirty bomb." In my opinion, the likelihood is high a weapon like that, if used in NYC, will be detonated in Times Square or the Financial District (or both).

But like you said, "If you die, you die. That's life." My wife and I will be sure to teach our daughter that lesson as soon as she's able to understand. And if it upsets her I'll say, "Shut up, you pussy." Then she'll learn, right?
posted by judomadonna at 5:20 PM on October 26, 2001

merci Tamim for quoting me.

Scott, I would suggest more:

This is a prime example of why weblogers are good at gossip.

Than 'journalists'. I see little journalism at LGF. I see many cool links, often with excellent commentry (and comments). I also see frustratingly small headlines in the central content area. Make them bigger. Then it draws my eye to the real meat, not your cool RSS feeds!
posted by nedrichards at 5:48 PM on October 26, 2001

"If you die, you die. That's life."

No, I believe it's more commonly referred to as death. If going to reasonable lengths to avoid it makes me a "pussy", then scratch my snatch and call me Louise.

Besides, I'm too old to leave a good-looking corpse, and my son wants to keep me around, at least until he's a teenager.
posted by groundhog at 5:49 PM on October 26, 2001

If you think American 'cowardice' is bad now, just remember that Americans have often been pussies (relatively speaking) at the beginning of every major war.

Right after the First Battle of Bull Run, when the Confederates won a dramatic victory over the Union army and forced them into an unprofessional panicked retreat into the streets of Washington, the press and public assumed that the fall of Washington into the hands of the rebels was imminent and everyone should abandon the city as lost. Of course they were overestimating their enemy and nothing of the sort happened.

Pearl Harbor induced an even greater level of fear and people were convinced that Hawaii and the west coast were due for intense bombing and even invasion in the near future. Plus there were intense fears of an ethnic 5th column which caused the internment of Japanese-Americans. In that despairing winter of '41, even leaders as resolute as FDR or Churchill privately worried about the ability of the Allies to defeat the Axis. At the time, the ultimate victory seemed very distant and possibly unattainable.

So, in my historic view. in 2001, the United States is merely following the old pattern. There is a mysterious determined foe who has gained some early victories and the inexperienced military makes mistakes and fails to regain the lost ground quickly, and the press and public feel despair and a bit of panic. But, as government and military gains experience and, as the enemy proves to be less menacing as once feared, the country will bravely muddle its way to victory in the end.

I think the 'pussiness' is partially a side-effect of having such a free press. In these various crisises, the press has speculated in great detail about the horrid degredations that will happen once the Rebels take Washington, once the 'Japs' land on the California coast and turn the citizens into sushi-eating slaves, or once Bin Laden infects everyone with smallpox and we all die. And the public seems to buy into all these fears for a while.

Americans underestimate potential enemies until the enemy gets a victory, and then overestimate them until the enemy is broken and cries 'Uncle!' My gut feeling is this is still true and Bin Laden's organization will be crushed with a level of effort which will be less than what was originally feared.
posted by pandaharma at 5:56 PM on October 26, 2001

Equating changes of mind concerning air travel with simple fear (or as you put it, "pussiness" - nice adjective)... sure does ignore a.lot. of context, and precludes the possiblity of particularities or individual choices made through conscious deliberation.

In other words. Wrong, try again.

Speaking as an American, I have chosen to stop travelling by commercial air because

a) the September 11 tragedy and subsequent public education has proven to me that the commercial airline companies do not care about my safety (see: minimum wage earning security people, etc.)

b) the immediate bailout of airline companies, who were already going down prior to Sept. 11, as they simultaneously laid off thousands of their workers, PISSED ME OFF.

c) the September 11 tragedy and subsequent soul searching has shown to me the folly of hurried living and the graces of ground travel

d) I prefer to fly whilst being mindful of its extraordinariness - rather than taking it for granted with an "hum-de-ho" attitude... and that is just an extension of my personal appropriate use of technology schtick anyway.

So thank you for considering each's individual decisions and respecting them for what, in fact they are. Decisions.
posted by gomez at 6:05 PM on October 26, 2001

erm, sorry little green footballs people. missed the link out.

The 'than "journalists"' bit: well, erm. This is what webloggers are good at, gossip. And it's cool. But they're not journalists, because, they're not on the ground. If you must have a journalism metaphor then they're closer to pundits or opinion columists.
posted by nedrichards at 6:17 PM on October 26, 2001

Americans underestimate potential enemies until the enemy gets a victory, and then overestimate them until the enemy is broken and cries 'Uncle!'

Good point, pandaharma. Also, it seems like we're been over this ground before. If he/they/whoever had nuclear weapons, and wanted to make a point, they wouldn't be stealing our own commercial airplanes with box cutters and knives.
posted by LeLiLo at 6:27 PM on October 26, 2001

The Doomsday Clock of the Atomic Scientists hasnt moved so thats a good sign :)
posted by stbalbach at 6:32 PM on October 26, 2001

I must be missing something obvious.

Some nutjob in a tent has some plutonium, I pretty much guarantee there are fuckwads in tents all over the world with plutonium, it's not that hard to come by.

In a time when airliners are bombs, the mail is toxic and children walk through metal detectors entering school...what's the big deal about some radioactive metal?

It's not like he has a delivery or detonation system, he has a lump of toxic metal. This is not, nor is it ever likely to be, a bomb. It is far more likely that anyone handling the material will develop an extremely aggressive lymphoma and die long before the people trying to assemble the weapon decapitate themselves with a premature explosion.

To decide that this a threat to the world, or piss-in-your-pants scary is absurd. It's not my intention to be cavalier about weapons of mass destruction, but it this isn't a weapon of mass destruction...it's a lump of poisonous metal.
posted by cedar at 6:33 PM on October 26, 2001

Americans are pussies!? What would Franklin D. Roosevelt say?
posted by MrBaliHai at 6:36 PM on October 26, 2001


Than 'journalists'. I see little journalism at LGF. I see many cool links, often with excellent commentry (and comments). I also see frustratingly small headlines in the central content area. Make them bigger. Then it draws my eye to the real meat, not your cool RSS feeds!

I don't want to divert you guys too long from the discussion of whether Americans are pussies or not (for being all a-feared o' them pesky nucular bombs), but I did want to point out that at no time, no how, did I ever claim to be a "journalist." Sorry to deprive you of a straw man.

Also, if you don't like LGF's fonts, change them. That's what our preferences page is for.
posted by cfj at 6:49 PM on October 26, 2001

You have a higher chance of being killed in a car crash then of contracting anthrax! But still every day millions of people drive cars, eat fat filled hamburgers, and carry little mobile phones full of radiation. SO many people in America carry guns, and so many people get killed with guns every year..... Can you see why we are thinking that Americans are being wimps over the SO SMALL CHANCE that you''ll get anthrax.
posted by Burgatron at 6:57 PM on October 26, 2001

pandaharma: If you can use pussiness, could one say, for example, that the press is reacting pussily?
posted by signal at 7:03 PM on October 26, 2001

Of course a couple weeks ago we were pretty sure they wouldn't use something like anthrax (not that we know specifically that it's "them", but you get my point). If we were to find out Bin Laden had nukes, what would you think would be an appropriate response?

In my mind nuclear = throw all self-restrictions off of the table. But that's me.
posted by owillis at 7:14 PM on October 26, 2001

judomadonna, concern is one thing, fear another. I doubt that you are going to teach your child to be afraid all the time, by example or otherwise. My post was really harsh, reading it now, but I am dismayed by the number of cowards that have shown themselves in the last few days.
groundhog: We're all going to die. You're going to die. There really isn't anything you can do about that, so why worry about it? And besides, I'm not saying you're a coward. Unless you're not opening your mail, or afraid to fly. Then you are.
posted by Doug at 7:15 PM on October 26, 2001

If Bin Laden does have nuclear materials, it's probably *not* in the form of a nuclear bomb, nor in some other sort of fissionable weapon, but instead, as mentioned above, just some amount of radioactive material. An attack would have the result of a Chernobyl, not an Hiroshima. I don't think this is something to be overly alarmed about - if an attack did happen, it would be horrible, for sure, but I don't think there will be mushroom clouds hanging over NYC any time soon.
posted by skwm at 7:23 PM on October 26, 2001

Another reason to not fly - the headache of new security measures. It's nicer to spend ten hours in a car than 3 hours in line at an airport.
posted by phoenix enflamed at 7:36 PM on October 26, 2001

Quick question...if someone working in the one of the major media companies or for the U.S. government decides that he doesn't want to open his mail and would rather have it be run through a decontamination unit first, does that make him/her a "pussy"? 'Cuz I see that as just being smart. Sure the chances are slim that they'll get any more anthrax mail, but since it's happened already, why take chances again. When it was just one location (American Media), it was a fluke/random. But now that it's happened in more than one location and seems to target specific groups (US Gov, US media)...

I agree though. I live in Canada, in a small town, with absolutely no political/military/financial impact on Canada (never mind the U.S.) and I have always responded to "Kind of makes you worried, huh?" with "Nope." There is no reason for me to worry about it, and there is no reason for a large % of Americans to worry about it. But for some people, they SHOULD to worry about it.
posted by Grum at 7:47 PM on October 26, 2001

Well I'm glad I'm not the only one truly frightened of Nuclear Winter. The fact is, is that we have a lot of people in control of Nuclear devices right now, that should not have that kind of control. (Bin Laden, Putin, Bush...)

If avoiding death at reasonable cost, then yes, I am a pussy. A royal pussy. Pardon me while I be a pussy.
posted by benjh at 7:53 PM on October 26, 2001

BL has nukes OMIGOD!!! And everyone knows how *easy* it is to launch one from Afghanistan. I mean, right not it's only monitored 24/7 by the best tech you can find, and any unidentified object flying out of there is sure to make it to the US and hit a populated area, nevermind that every major urban center in the States is protected 60/60/24/7 against ANYTHING suspicious in the air.

People in Pakistan and neighbouring countries should be worrying not North America.
posted by HoldenCaulfield at 8:05 PM on October 26, 2001

I think that, in a very general sense, we Americans are happily oblivious to what goes on in many parts of the world; ask an American about what's happening in Paraguay these days, or even Mexico, and you're likely to get a blank stare. More than a few of us, unfortunately, will even respond with, "Uh, where's Paraguay/Mexico?"

Doug, I think I get where you're coming from, but if you are ignorant about something that suddenly becomes relevant to your everyday life, or at least appears that way, it stands to reason that you would at least be a bit worried or even afraid until you knew more about it. I think the events of the last few weeks and the people and philosophy(ies) behind them are still too mysterious and incomprehensible for many of us, and fear is a natural response, however pathetic it might seem to others. Being judgmental doesn't serve any practical purpose beyond making the "judge" feel superior at the expense of others. But hey, maybe that's the only reason some folks post comments anyway. So, cool. Whatever, dude.
posted by Bixby23 at 8:16 PM on October 26, 2001

signal: not only pussily but also pusillanimous
posted by pandaharma at 8:44 PM on October 26, 2001

The type of bomb bin laden is alleged to have some of the capability to build is called radiological weaponry, using knowledge acquired from Iraq's special weapons program. Basiccally it's a conventional bomb that's built to spread radioactive dust far and wide, with all the long-term nastiness that suggests, but far short of the immediate annihilation that we associate with The Bomb.

I believe it is alarmist to use the term "nukes" (or even "nuclear weapons") in this context. (I believe this two weeks ago when this story first made the rounds.)

Nevertheless, I am certain that if indeed he could acquire a real nuclear bomb, he would not hesitate to use it against a Western target. (Note to Dubya: no missile required, city delivery via Usama Parcel Service ground shipping.) While we must remain thankful that the death toll from 9/11 may be as low as the 3000s, clearly they had some hope with both the 1993 and 2001 attacks of toppled buildings causing much wider devastation, with possible casualties in the 100,000 range and up. The only silver lining in 9/11 is that their means of attack demonstrate that they probably do not have a better one -- namely, nukes, or even radiologicals.
posted by dhartung at 9:42 PM on October 26, 2001

Grum, I absolutely agree with you. If you are a member of the very elite group of people targetted right now, and you're taking precautions against anthrax, that is just being smart. If you are a housewife in Spokane, and you're ironing your mail, you're a dweeb.
Bixby, I guess I should feel bad that I'm acting superior to the panty-waists who are afraid to fly, but I'm not. Those people have to just get over it. Unless you're in the very small group of people currently in immediate threat from terrorists, and you are fearful for your life, and not doing all the things you want to do, I think you're a coward. There are worse things than being a coward. But if you're not, for instance, going to fly across country to see your relatives this Christmas 'cause you're afraid of terrorists, you really gotta just chill out a bit.
There is a chance any of us will die at any moment. I'm not a statistician, but I believe that that percent chance has not changed significantly since 9/11.
posted by Doug at 10:27 PM on October 26, 2001

Oh, man, I missed the post where I was basically called sexist for using the term, "pussy." I'm sorry, I was being a dick. I'll try not to be such an asshole in the future.
posted by Doug at 10:36 PM on October 26, 2001

Does anyone else think this story is a plant? Surely intelligence must have known for some time if Bin Laden had nuclear materiels or not. I think the British press is being used to soften people up to the prospect of a ground war, just like Blair was used to provide evidence of Bin Laden's guilt.
posted by Summer at 3:01 AM on October 27, 2001


posted by nicwolff at 7:24 AM on October 27, 2001

grep -v puss
posted by stbalbach at 7:43 AM on October 27, 2001

It amazes me at how we are supposed to shit our pants about what basically is old news. If you look the actual cases go back to 1993. New Scientist reported this summer on an active black market of nuclear materials. It amazes me at how little bit of information republished since September 11 is somehow "new evidence of terror."
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:53 AM on October 27, 2001

puss·y 1 (pʊs'ç) n., pl. -ies.
Informal. A cat.
Botany. A fuzzy catkin, especially of the pussy willow.
Vulgar Slang. The vulva. Sexual intercourse with a woman.
Offensive Slang. Used as a disparaging term for a woman.
Slang. A man regarded as weak, timid, or unmanly.

pus·sy 2 (pŭs'ç) adj., -si·er, -si·est.
Containing or resembling pus. {The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, via Atomica.}

A woman and cat-lover, I interpret negative use of "pussy" as the second .
posted by Carol Anne at 7:54 AM on October 27, 2001

So it's apparently offensive to call a woman a pussy, but not offensive to call a man a pussy, since the latter is just slang and the former is "offensive" slang.

Is it me, or are there two conversations going on here?
posted by benjh at 8:14 PM on October 27, 2001

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