Iraq Lacked Atom Whack
October 27, 2003 3:43 PM   Subscribe

At least four times in the fall of 2002, the president and his advisers invoked the specter of a "mushroom cloud," and some of them, including Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, described Iraq's nuclear ambitions as a threat to the American homeland... Among the closely held internal judgments of the Iraq Survey Group, overseen by David Kay as special representative of CIA Director George J. Tenet, are that Iraq's nuclear weapons scientists did no significant arms-related work after 1991, that facilities with suspicious new construction proved benign, and that equipment of potential use to a nuclear program remained under seal or in civilian industrial use.

So in regards to Iraq's possession of the one weapon we can be certain causes mass destruction: the atomic bomb, as Gregg Easterbrook put it, the verdict is the unsurprising (and unsurprisingly closely held) nope, not, zero, zip, nada...
posted by y2karl (21 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Wait, so the Bush administration lied to us?!?!?!
posted by keswick at 3:46 PM on October 27, 2003

Keswick scores another First Post!
posted by Armitage Shanks at 3:51 PM on October 27, 2003

He's got a point. Title tags don't make up for the fact that this is all old news.
posted by machaus at 3:56 PM on October 27, 2003

The WaPo article isn't old news, though it's certainly not surprising.
posted by homunculus at 4:18 PM on October 27, 2003

Exactly, machaus.
Now, for my encore, I will need a nubile female volunteer and a bowl of grits.
posted by keswick at 4:24 PM on October 27, 2003

i can't stand it i know you planned it
but i'm gonna set it straight, this watergate
i can't stand rockin' when i'm in here
because your crystal ball ain't so crystal clear
so while you sit back and wonder why
i got this fuckin' thorn in my side
oh my, it's a mirage
i'm tellin' y'all it's sabotage

so listen up 'cause you can't say nothin'
you'll shut me down with a push of your button?
but i'm out, and i'm gone
i'll tell you now i keep it on and on

'cause what you see you might not get
and we can't bet so don't you get souped yet
you're schmeing on a thing that's a mirage
i'm trying to tell you now it's sabotage

--Beastie Boys, 1992
posted by cell divide at 4:58 PM on October 27, 2003

Well, hell if it's old news, then lets just forget it about it. Seriously, who the hell cares? Not the american people.
posted by damnitkage at 5:12 PM on October 27, 2003

No, let's just not take a shit on the front page of MeFi even moreso than what we have. Mefi != America
posted by angry modem at 5:15 PM on October 27, 2003

Seriously, who the hell cares? Not the american people.
This american cares--millions more do too.
posted by amberglow at 5:16 PM on October 27, 2003

This isn't old news. For example, did you know before this WaPo piece that the nuclear investigators chilling in one of Saddam's old palaces have taken to calling themselves "The Book-of-the-Month Club" ? That's such a great detail, and worth this whole post being on the front page.
posted by jbrjake at 6:32 PM on October 27, 2003

Mefi != America

Yes, and clearly Mefi > America, right?
posted by rushmc at 7:11 PM on October 27, 2003

Several points.
First, mushroom cloud implies a fission reaction, something much more difficult to obtain by Iraq then a crude radiation bomb, which can be as simple as nuclear waste mixed with high explosive, of which they could have easily made dozens or hundreds, with radioactive medical waste, if nothing else. It just blows contamination up into the air.

Second, a fission weapon or a radiation bomb has to be delivered to its target. Too much emphasis, in my opinion, has been placed on the *idea* of a direct attack on the US. Tactically, that would be the hardest thing for an enemy to do. So, an enemy could either attack some overseas representative of the US, like a naval fleet, or an ally of the US. A delivery system in the region could be an ordinary truck or boat.

Third, much has been made of the delivery systems that Iraq might have used to deploy a nuclear weapon, such as a SCUD. However, Saddam was known for a certain flakiness in this regard, trying to create such things as a gigantic cannon to attack Israel. Also, there is a gaping hole in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty about delivery systems, and there are lots of missile buyers and sellers in the world.

Fourth, and something that should be of concern, are the nations willing to partner with other nations to create nuclear weapons. Odd bedfellows indeed. Some years ago a South Africa/Argentina/Israel group possibly detonated a nuclear weapon in the southern hemisphere; though details are sketchy. However, with one nation devoting itself to missile technology, another to the creation of fissionable material, and a third to the physical bomb components...

These are general points, and don't really address the issue at hand--but they apply to the continuing problem in the world.
posted by kablam at 8:13 PM on October 27, 2003

Y'all are missing why this bears repeating in capital letters. Bush said over and over we had to take away Saddam's WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION. Then once we got there and it became obvious that the weapons themselves just weren't there, he changed the game and pretended what he had "said all along" was that we'd find evidence of WMD PROGRAMS.

But now we are learning that "it is now clear he had no active program to build a weapon, produce its key materials or obtain the technology he needed for either." So even on his own weasel-worded, smirking, winking, cheating terms, Whistle-Ass swings and misses! Lies on top of lies, and he's still a complete chump. As is anybody who didn't protest like hell when he was piling the lies high to get us stuck in this mess.
posted by soyjoy at 9:23 PM on October 27, 2003

"Just say the words George, say the words. We know what we're doing. Trust us. We're your friends. Really."
posted by troutfishing at 9:33 PM on October 27, 2003

Well as long as aWol doesn't get a blow job or anything then everything is peachy keen.

Lying is only bad if you're NOT Republican, otherwise, go for it!

War is good, the reasons for war don't really matter.
The ends always justify the means.
Why is the WaPo doing revisionist history?
The adults are in charge now.
Being born wealthy and entitled means never having to say you're sorry.
posted by nofundy at 5:12 AM on October 28, 2003

as simple as nuclear waste mixed with high explosive

Simple-r, maybe. But "simple" it is not.
posted by magullo at 8:21 AM on October 28, 2003

magullo: simple, indeed. A radiation bomb has no explosive power beyond its high explosive. Its purpose is to spread fine particles of radioactive matter over a large area, contaminating it.
A radiation bomb could be just radioactive medical waste, which is available in most of the world. If you wanted much greater casualties, you would want to use radioactive isotopes that are more harmful to the human body.
Two bad ones are iodine and cesium. Iodine has a short half-life, but attacks the thyroid gland; cesium lasts much longer, and is readily uptaken into plants and absorbed by bone marrow. Large quantities of both were given off by Chernobyl, whose dispersal system wasn't even really an explosion, it was a big fire whose smoke carried the isotopes into the sky (still detectable in Sweden, I believe.)

In the early days of nuclear weapons, before Russia had an atomic bomb, it had a long-range ICBM. For interim use, they created a warhead for the missile that was just an empty container for radioactive waste. If it blew up in the air it would contaminate a relatively small area. If it blew up hitting the ground, it would just go "splat", not even having the explosion of its depleted rocket fuel, being ballistic.

Technically, I suppose you could call it a radioactive bomb.
posted by kablam at 10:52 AM on October 28, 2003

To think the unthinkable, if an atomic device bearing about the yield of the Hiroshima weapon went off outside the White House, people for roughly a mile in each direction might die. But most people in the District of Columbia would survive, while the main effect on Washington's suburbs would be power failures and broken windows. So the majority of people in Washington and its suburbs who would not die would need to know what to do. But do they? Generally not, because there has been scant discussion.

(Here's what to do: Remain indoors at least 24 hours to avoid fallout; remain on ground floors or in the basements of buildings; if you are upwind of the explosion stay put; if downwind, flee by car only if roads are clear since buildings provide better fallout protection than cars.)

Perhaps more likely than an atomic detonation would be a "dirty bomb," in which conventional explosives spread radioactive material. Since this has never been used, effects are hard to project. Most likely, even an extremely large dirty bomb (say, an entire truck converted to one) might kill only those within a city block. Fallout would probably threaten only those a few hundred or thousands of yards downwind...

But is the government explaining to the public how to react if a dirty bomb goes off? (Stay indoors; if upwind do nothing; if downwind, drive away only if roads are clear; take potassium iodide pills to prevent some effects of fallout.) The Department of Homeland Security Web site, for one, has loads of information about anthrax, but offers essentially zero on what to do in the event of radiological explosions.

From 2nd Gregg Easterbrook link above. A city block, a few thousand yards--not quite on a par with Chenobyl, Tom Kablamcy. Mwahahaha, booga booga dirty bomb.

On another note, A Fine Compendium of WMD quotes, Pre- and Post War, courtesy Billmon... What a tangled web we weave, indeed.
posted by y2karl at 7:35 PM on October 28, 2003

In the early days of nuclear weapons, before Russia had an atomic bomb, it had a long-range ICBM. For interim use, they created a warhead for the missile that was just an empty container for radioactive waste. If it blew up in the air it would contaminate a relatively small area. If it blew up hitting the ground, it would just go "splat", not even having the explosion of its depleted rocket fuel, being ballistic.

This, by the way, is total unadulterated completely made up bullshit. The Soviet Union had the atomic bomb by 1949, decades before it deployed ICBMs.
posted by y2karl at 7:48 PM on October 28, 2003

"This, by the way, is total unadulterated completely made up bullshit."

Nope. It took a long time for the Soviets to build an atomic weapon small enought for rocket launch.

The Soviet R-2 rocket "was accepted into the military on 27 November 1951. A 30 November 1951 decree authorised series production at factory 586 at Dnepropetrovsk. The first launch by a military unit was made with a prototype rocket in 1952. The first production rocket was rolled out there in June 1953 (only six months after the first all-Dnepropetrovsk R-1).

The gruesome Geran radiological warhead was developed for use with the R-2. This dispersed a radioactive liquid at altitude, resulting in a deadly 'radioactive rain' falling in a wide area around the impact point.

R-2's were deployed in rocket brigades equipped with six launchers (three divisions per brigade, each division with two batteries). The 54th and 56th brigades were formed for test launches at Kapustin Yar on 1 June 1952. Following receipt of production missiles in 1953, divisions were deployed to Zhitomir; Kolomiya; Medved, Novgorod oblast; Kamyshin, Volgograd oblast; Siauliai, Lithuania; Dzhambul, Kazakhstan; and Ordzhonikidze, in the Far East."

The first Soviet rocket to actually carry an atomic weapon, the R-5 was originally built with speciil 'lateral warheads' "evidently deigned for dispersal of radiological liquids over a wide area in the impact zone. Such radiological warheads were used on the R-2 and R-5 prior to the availability of nuclear warheads. Similar weapons were discussed at Los Alamos during World War II when it seemed that the atomic bomb would not be ready in time or not work. In this case radioactive waste could be dispersed over a wide area, effectively providing the fallout effects of a nuclear bomb without the blast and fire effects.

The Generator-S radiological warhead for the R-5 was developed in the early 1950's. In order to handle the warhead OKBT Kirov Factory built the shielded manipulator vehicle Objekt 805, which had a total mass of 72 tonnes. Following a demonstration of 20 May 1954 the system was accepted by the military in 1955."

posted by Jos Bleau at 6:45 AM on October 29, 2003 [1 favorite]

In the early days of nuclear weapons, before Russia had an atomic bomb, it had a long-range ICBM.

The IC in ICBM stands for Inter-Continental, does it not?
This R-2 which was nothing more than a modified V-2 was inter-continental?
So, did the Soviet Union have a long range intercontinental missile before it had an atomic bomb?

Hold that hair still before you try to split it.
posted by y2karl at 9:45 AM on October 29, 2003

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