The Writers Voice
Americans Worry Again Over Nuclear Attack
Gregory J. Rummo
NOVEMBER 1, 2002
I remember the air-raid drills. A siren would sound and then a robotic voice would come over the PA system: “Take safest places. Take safest places.”
It was America’s worst nightmare — then — and now, once again.
The fear of a nuclear bomb being detonated in the United States by terrorists has gripped the imaginations of another generation of Americans. Fueling all the angst is the entertainment industry.
That’s my conclusion after watching the season opener of “24” on Fox TV and reading Tom Clancy’s “The Sum of All Fears.” The movie version of this book was recently released on videotape and DVD.
Both are riveting stories and would be pure entertainment given a different environment than what currently exists in the world today. But they hit too close to home, especially when there’s a real possibility of another attack in this country on a scale similar to or worse than 9/11.
With the Department of Homeland Security issuing “orange alerts” on what seems to be a daily basis, coupled with the revelation that Saddam Hussein acquired aluminum tubes for the refining of uranium and plutonium for use in weapons of mass destruction, it’s only natural for Americans to imagine a worst-case scenario.
In Tom Clancy’s “The Sum of All Fears,” an Israeli bomb buried in a field in the Golan Heights in Syria has lain undisturbed since the 1973 October war. Discovered by a Druse farmer, the warhead, containing ten kilos of plutonium 239, falls into the hands of Islamic terrorists. They build a nuclear device, smuggle it into America and detonate it outside Mile High Stadium in Denver during the Super Bowl.
The bomb is a “fizzle” but in nuclear jargon, a fizzle produced by ten kilos of plutonium still manages to make quite a big bang and sixty thousand people are incinerated.
I haven’t yet seen the movie version of Clancy’s book, but I heard it was a masterpiece of political correctness, altering the nationalities of the terrorists so as not to offend Arabs. (When someone figures out how it’s possible to do this without offending someone, please drop me a note). My son saw the movie last summer and he said the special effects during the scene when the bomb is detonated were frightening.
I know it’s only a story. But in another one of Clancy’s books, a crazed Japanese pilot flies a fuel-laden 747 into the U.S. Capitol building.
The season premiere of “24” aired during the last week of October. “24” is a show that takes place in “real time.” Each episode is one hour in a day in the life of Jack Bauer, a no mess around counter intelligence agent played by Kiefer Sutherland.
In the first episode, agent Bauer has been away from the counter-terrorism unit for a year, trying to piece his life back together after his wife was murdered during last season's final episode by a mole that had infiltrated the CTU. He’s called back when the National Security Adviser learns that a rogue nuclear device has fallen into the hands of Middle-eastern terrorists who are plotting to detonate it somewhere in Los Angeles. It is estimated as many as 2.5 million people will die if the terrorists aren’t stopped.
As I sat watching "24" with my wife and two boys, I came to the realization that the program had turned into something more than just an hour of entertainment.
Terrorists may have already tried attacking us with weapons of mass destruction.
We still don't know the origin of the anthrax that was mailed to members of the media and Congress last year. There's growing suspicion it originated in Iraq, was transported here by Mohammed Atta, one of the nineteen 9/11 terrorists, and was then mailed shortly before they all died. Atta, and another man, who has since been identified as Marwan Al-Shehhi (Atta's nephew) visited a Florida drug store and apparently purchased skin ointment and antibiotics. And one of the terrorists was treated for a lesion by a Florida doctor who now thinks it was cutaneous anthrax.
I have no doubt that any one of the 19 terrorists who flew jets into buildings would have most certainly detonated a nuclear device had they been able to get their hands on one. I am convinced that the Chechen rebels who were willing to die in a theater in Moscow along with their 700 hostages would have had absolutely no qualms about pushing the button if given the opportunity.
We defeated the Evil Soviet Empire and
thought we had eliminated the threat of a nuclear attack forever. What we all
hoped was a bad dream from our past has now, once again, become America’s worst
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