Blown away in Washington, D.C.
Our government is being run by callow youths, striplings who barely remember Gulf War I, let alone Vietnam. How else to explain a joint study by the National Nuclear Security Administration -- who knew we even had one? -- and the Department of Ho...
Our government is being run by callow youths, striplings who barely remember Gulf War I, let alone Vietnam.
How else to explain a joint study by the National Nuclear Security Administration -- who knew we even had one? -- and the Department of Homeland Security (which we know all too well on an intimate basis).
The study is titled "Key Response Planning Factors for the Aftermath of Nuclear Terrorism," and, in part, purports to tell what would happen if a nuclear device the size of the Oklahoma City bomb were set off in the heart of Washington, D.C. -- 16th and K streets N.W., as a matter of fact.
A summary prepared by The Associated Press says the explosion would destroy everything in every direction within one-half mile. My office is just under half a mile from that intersection. The government's projection that I might instantaneously be reduced to a small cloud of radioactive dust provoked a wave of youthful nostalgia.
To add to the sense of government-induced dread, I, or whatever molecules remained, would be floating toward Baltimore. If there is an afterlife, let me reassure the residents of Charm City that I would make every effort to avoid coating Camden Yards, after Pittsburgh's PNC Park my second-favorite baseball stadium.
AP quotes the report as stating, "An intense flash would temporarily blind drivers on the Beltway miles away." This has to be an inside joke among the Washington security folks because half the drivers on the Beltway are already blind, or at least drive like it.
The report shows the blast would wreck everything from the South Lawn of the White House to FBI headquarters in the east. AP didn't say so, but George Washington University to the west and a lot of good saloons on 14th and 17th streets wouldn't fare too well, either.
Everybody else would be OK if they stay away from windows and head immediately to a deep parking garage or a sturdy basement and wait seven hours or so for the radiation to dissipate.
You will be relieved to know that the U.S. Capitol and the major monuments would survive -- chipped and charred, but otherwise unscathed. Maybe not so much the tourists waiting to get in.
The report was never officially published -- it was deemed for "official use only" -- although, as usual, it's available if you search the Internet diligently enough.
Does our government really think we're such wimps?
Gather around, you novice security types, and let me tell you about the darkest days of the Cold War, when a Russian thermonuclear attack with hydrogen bombs was presumed possibly imminent.
The government regularly published maps with concentric circles measured in miles, not blocks. In the inner circle, you would die a quick and hideous death; in the next circle, a lingering hideous death; and in the outer circles your progeny would have two heads and three legs for generations to come.
In my grade school, we were periodically drilled in "duck and cover" under our desks or, given sufficient notice, marched into the hall to sit with our backs against the wall and our heads between our knees.
Our teachers helpfully noted that since our school was practically in the center of Pittsburgh, with its massive steel industry, we would probably be one of the USSR's first targets and thus these safety drills were probably superfluous. We took a great deal of pride in that.
This was also the era of the home bomb shelter, and there were serious discussions about whether you could shoot your neighbors who had neglected to take similar precautions if they tried to crowd into your shelter. Only so much fresh water and Spam, you know. As I recall, these discussions were conducted with a lot more charity and compassion than these "Stand Your Ground" standards of legalized killing.
There was an animated cartoon inflicted on the young called "Duck and Cover," which is still around, in which a monkey in a tree with a stick of dynamite on a string tries to blow up Bert the Turtle.
Bert ducks and covers and the monkey and the tree get blown away. The animal-rights people and the environmentalists probably wouldn't let us get away with that today. You'll just have to take your chances in a parking garage somewhere.
McFeatters writes for Scripps Howard News Service.