Saturday, September 16, 2006

# Posted 9:55 PM by Patrick Belton  

THOUGHTS ON THE CLOSE OF A WEEK THAT INCLUDED 9/11: Sixty-one years after Hiroshima, five after 9/11 and a mere one after 7/7, a nuclear terrorist attack on London could bring a half-million dead and damage exceeding £1 trillion. The point's not wholly academic: Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller, the director-general of the Security Service, calls it 'only a matter of time' before the west sees a terrorist attack with nuclear, chemical or biological weapons. Her service additionally estimates the presence of one thousand terrorist operatives and their immediate supporters in Britain. The question is, how much has preparedness for this new threat progressed beyond the 1963 civil defence instructions to 'wear stout shoes'?

There are indications the answer may be, very little. Analysts who study nuclear smuggling report complex networks of diverse, cooperating groups to be transporting highly-enriched uranium and other nuclear materials regularly out of Russia into western Europe, where their end recipients maintain connections with terrorist organisations. The 7 July review committee of the London assembly found shockingly little progress has been achieved since last year's Tube bombings, in emergency communications and medical preparation for large-scale disaster. And recent disclosures in a book by BBC security correspondent Gordon Corera indicate that at the very time key proliferation damage was being caused by Dr AQ Khan's Pakistan-based nuclear proliferation network (a 'Wal-Mart of private-sector proliferation', in words of IAEA chief Mohammed elBaradei), MI6 personnel producing evidence of Pakistani proliferation were roundly ignored in Washington, while CIA and Pentagon staff attempting the same were generally fired. (In some sort of record, Richard Barlow, whose job first at the CIA and then at the Pentagon was to relay information to his superiors on proliferation, was dismissed twice for doing it.)

To give an example of the scale of the threat, by my best research a fairly rudimentary 1-kiloton nuclear device exploded in the centre of Trafalgar Square would kill in the first minute through thermal radiation all persons between Nelson's Column and Horse Guards, located outside or by windows. Within the second minute, the energy of the blast would kill all between Trafalgar Square and the Houses of Parliament, while radiation would kill everyone between Waterloo and Buckingham Palace. People in the City would receive heat injuries; while depending on winds and meteorological conditions, radiological fallout could extend to Penzance. The loss of life would include eventual deaths from carcinogenesis; building damage alone would reach hundreds of billions of pounds.

There are three stories here, which intersect and do not provide cause for comfort. One, following a war so splendidly executed the Bush White House must somehow have been in on it, an Iran closer each day to the bomb is increasingly assertive, and some ambiguity attaches itself to the next tactical steps by a Hizbullah which may or may not be the final recipient of Iranian nuclear largesse (thoughts on this point welcome). Two, there is the bad story of supine nonproliferation and chapter 7 enforcement systems, which failed world security in the case of A.Q. Khan, and may do so again with Iran. Third, there is the bad story on the home front of lessons not learnt from 7/7, with best indications being that New Labour has managed neither to heal the gap between Britain's Muslims and its mainstream populace, nor to implement the emergency and communications lessons from the Tube bombings.

Best wear stout shoes.
(6) opinions -- Add your opinion

Your remarks don't even begin to capture the extent of the disruption caused by a nuke in central London.

There are no standards which allow for the successful measurement or certification of radioactive contamination or its absence, even if structures are completely rebuilt. Consequently workplace regulation and insurance issues, even without the associated hysteria, would immediately place most of London into an unending limbo of unusability.

In addition London doesn't have a transport system which can function without links which pass through the center of the city. Take out the center and the practical value of properties in outer London also declines dramatically.
Meme chose,
Thanks for your comment. Think of it this way, Chelsea becomes affordable!
Sorry to be difficult, but could you clarify the sentence: "One, following a war so splendidly executed the Bush administration must somehow have been in on it..." To which war are you referring? Iraq? Afghanistan? The war on terror in general?
And the Bush administration must have been "in on" what?
Lebanon, I think
The Koran expressly Commands World Jihad and World Domination for Islam. Here are the verses:
Meme, I think 'certification of radioactive contamination or its absence' is one of those niceties we will pretend to be able to afford until circumstances force our hand. As another example, see 'Islam is a religion of peace'.

Patrick, to be fair, the Hezbollah war only lasted about 3 weeks; the first 3 weeks of a war seems to be when the Bush admin does their best work.
Post a Comment