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Of Little Boys and Fat Men

Anwaar Hussain, Fountainhead


April 20, 2006

Little Boy and Fat Man were the first nuclear weapons used in warfare. Little Boy was dropped from a B-29 bomber, it exploded approximately 1,800 feet over Hiroshima, Japan, on the morning of August 6, 1945, with a force equal to 13,000 tons of TNT. Immediate deaths were reported to be between 70,000 to 130,000. Fat Man was dropped on Nagasaki three days later, on August 9, 1945, devastating more than two square miles of the city and causing approximately 45,000 immediate deaths. America was the country that first used that weapon.

As reported recently in the international press, once again the incumbent President of the same country is planning a massive bombing campaign against yet another country. This time the country is Iran and the use of bunker-buster nuclear bombs to destroy some key Iranian suspected nuclear weapons facilities has been almost assured. Given the compulsions of the present US-Iran stand-off, it seems more than likely that America will almost certainly use nuclear weapons during the upcoming conflict.

Little boys and Fat Men, it seems, are back in business but with a difference. The little boys now will be a wee bit littler and the fat men a touch leaner to pacify the outcry of the world citizenry that has not quite forgotten the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. These new kids on the block are called Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrators, or Low Yield Bunker Busters, a modification of high-yield nuclear weapons that are designed to penetrate the earth before detonating, with the purpose of destroying underground bunkers. It is a common knowledge that most of Iran’s nuclear facilities are buried in deep, well-dug bunkers. Short of nuclear weapons, a considerable number of these facilities simply cannot be taken out by conventional aerial strikes.

Except for the low yield bunker buster type of nuclear weapons that America presumably is already in possession of, America’s current nuclear arsenal is almost entirely made up of strategic class weapons. The destructive power of America’s current nuclear weapons is far greater than the weapons used at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Were America to use these weapons on any country today, it would have devastating consequences for humanity and the environment, not only in the country attacked but in the surrounding countries as well. Therefore, principally speaking, even mad men should shirk from inflicting this nuclear overkill on human race.

For example, compared to 15 and 20 Kilo Ton yields of Little Boy and Fat Man, the Minuteman III ICBM carries a warhead with a 300 kiloton (KT) yield and the Trident II SLBM--475 KT. The B-2 and B-52 bombers carry nuclear warheads with yields ranging from 500 KT to the B83 mega-bomb yielding 1-2 megatons. These weapons’ yields are capable of inflicting a horrendous level of collateral damage if detonated on the target’s surface in an attempt to create blast and overpressure sufficient enough to neutralize hardened and deeply buried targets. The awesome yields of these weapons, in fact, are so powerful that using these in the Iranian context would amount to killing a fly with a sledge hammer.

Concurrently, a recent Pentagon document for the first time spelled out the determination of US war planners to use nuclear weapons in a military conflict. The language of the report is purposely kept ambiguous. The document says that nuclear weapons "could be employed against targets able to withstand non-nuclear attack," i.e. under any conditions where a conventional US military assault was going to prove ineffective.

Even more sweeping is the suggestion in the document that nuclear weapons could be used "in the event of surprising military developments." It is clear to see that the case for the use of nukes in the ongoing US-Iran stand-off is unmistakably established. As occupation of Iran for the purpose of neutralizing its nuclear facilities through ground forces is presently a non-option, the tactic of choice, therefore, is none other than using the Low Yield Bunker Busters.

However, even if the perceived economic and political costs and the cost of a violent Iranian reaction through groups like the Hezbollah and Iraq’s pro-Iranian Shia groups of such a venture are disregarded, there still remain some deep-seated problems attached with this option.

Firstly, in the 19 or so alleged Iranian nuclear facilities that are dispersed throughout Iran, it is very difficult to find one vital choke point neutralizing which the Iranian program is stopped or stalled for a long time. Even after a nuclear attack on these facilities, not only will the element of uncertainty surrounding Iran’s nuclear quest continue to linger, it may even spur Iran into an even more frenzied acceleration of its program in total disregard of all international actors.

Secondly, not only would the use of low-yield warheads make these a cherished weapon resulting in arms races amongst many potential adversaries, such an act would simply make their eventual use even more likely. That is because they promote the illusion that nuclear weapons could be used in ways which minimize their "collateral damage," making them tempting tools to be used like conventional weapons. In fact, for this very reason, a 1994 law specifically prohibits the nuclear laboratories from undertaking research and development that could lead to a precision nuclear weapon of less than 5 kilotons (KT), because "low-yield nuclear weapons blur the distinction between nuclear and conventional war." But then in a world gone lawless, who would care for such legal niceties.

Thirdly, no earth-burrowing missile can penetrate deep enough into the earth to contain an explosion with a nuclear yield even a fraction of the 15 kiloton Hiroshima weapon. It will still result in massive numbers of civilian casualties. Various studies have shown that in order to be fully contained, nuclear explosions must occur at a depth of 650 feet for a 5 kiloton explosive — 1300 feet for a 100-kiloton explosive. Even then, there are no guarantees. Therefore, even if an earth penetrating missile were somehow able to drill hundreds of feet into the ground and then detonate, the explosion would most likely shower the surrounding region with highly radioactive dust and gas.

Last but not the least, the use of nuclear weapons, however low yield, would amount to lowering the nuclear threshold. As one has often said, Americans are neither the only country nor the only crazies in the world possessing nuclear weapons. Not only would the use of mini nukes by America be perceived as a loud and clear 'go-ahead’ signal by other nuclear weapon states, it would also be taken as a final 'gloves-off’ act by the extremist packs all around. Taking lives, their own or others’, toward a 'blessed cause’ means nothing to these zealots.

The neocons are not the only mad men convinced of their cause. Even a crude one Kiloton nuclear bomb handed over to a suicide bomber under the table by a fired up scientist and exploded by the wannabe martyr can cast calamitous damage to America. The awesome power of the brief case nuke is neither news nor a fairy tale. A few years ago, General Alexander Lebed of Russia had gone public with the startling admission that a number of Russia's atomic demolition munitions (ADMs), popularly known as brief case bombs, were missing.

According to the Center of Defense Information, "if [such] a nuclear weapon had been available to the bombers of the World Trade Center, most of Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Staten Island would have been leveled." What's more, "if central New York City were leveled, besides injuring and killing millions of people, the exploding bomb would destroy the following institutions creating economic and social chaos in the world; United Nations Headquarters, Major communication centers i.e. NBC, CBS, ABC, etc., New York Stock Exchange, World banking centers where billions of dollars are transferred daily, Transportation centers within New York City and connecting New York City with other areas."

And so while the mad men decide whether to nuke or not to nuke, patting their Little Boys and Fat Men, let us heed the words of Edward Abbey who once wrote, "While you can. While it's still here. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, encounter the grizz, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for awhile and contemplate the precious stillness, that lovely, mysterious and awesome space."

May we always have our 'sweet and lucid’ air.

Copyrights : Anwaar Hussain

:: Article nr. 22745 sent on 21-apr-2006 05:45 ECT


Link: malakandsky.blogspot.com/2006/04/of-little-boys-and-fat-men.html

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