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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Community Comment

Al Qaeda’s projection of the future?

Good afternoon, Netizens...

The rather gruesome picture you are looking at is a computer-generated image which was posted on an Islamic extremists' website yesterday. It purports to represent what Washington, DC would look like in the aftermath of a terrorist's nuclear weapon. It is designed, by its creators, to shock and frighten Americans, but fortunately a great deal of what is portrayed in the picture is a blatant LIE.

Like most of the past attempts of Al Qaeda to manipulate the news media, they seem to do a fairly good job of devising their schemes unless you really examine matters closely and know some basic essential facts.

First, there is the picture itself. Washington is in ruins as far as you can see. The Capitol is a blackened, smoking ruin and the White House has been razed. Countless millions of civilian and government employees are dead, and people living downwind are subject to a wide variety of radiation-related illnesses which kill thousands more. Now you've got the picture.

Before someone in the news media seizes on this picture for some wildly-unpredictable reason, let me apply some rational thought here.

Rather than being a detailed simulation created by terrorists, this apocalyptic vision is in fact lifted from the computer game Fallout 3, by US game designers Bethesda Softworks. The game bills itself as “America’s first choice in post-nuclear simulation”, with players roaming a ruined landscape some time after a nuclear war in 2077. Isn't that sweet! We make a game out of our own nuclear annihilation. Send one to every kid you know, if you are warped enough, that is.

Having said that, I'll go a bit further. The bomb that hit Hiroshima did much less devastation than we envision in this picture. It weighed in at a conservative 12.5 kilotons of TNT, was dropped from the air exploding at an estimated 580 meters altitude and was of relatively crude design, based upon modern standards. According to all the estimates I have read, a suitcase nuke probably would range between 1 and 10 kilotons. Rationally, then, we could expect fatalities of up to 20,000 and a comparable number of injured. Weather conditions, evacuation efficiency and time of day all would have substantial parts to play in the outcome. That's a lot less than the millions the terrorists want us to believe.
Such an explosion using a “suitcase nuke” would be horrific, have no doubt about it.
The terrorists first problem is going to be smuggling one into our country. The second problem will be finding a deep enough hole where they can hide once we begin prowling the world looking for vengeance. Let's hope that if this ever happens, this time we find and eliminate Osama Bin Laden.
Of course, your thoughts may differ.


Spokesman-Review readers blog about news and issues in Spokane written by Dave Laird.