Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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March 16, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

PORT SECURITY....We have been told by conservative hawks that Iran is actively building a nuclear weapon and that we should do everything we can to stop this, up to and including a military assault on suspected nuclear sites. Since Iran is incapable of delivering a nuclear weapon 7,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean, the primary doomsday scenario they've offered up is that Iran (or a terrorist group working with Iran) will ship a completed nuke through an American port and then threaten to detonate it in a large city.

Now, if you were truly concerned about this possibility really, truly concerned you would support more than preemptive action against Iran. You would also support funding to increase security at American ports. In particular, you would support funding to install radiation monitors at all U.S. ports of entry.

On the other hand, if a nuked-up Iran were not a genuine national security concern, but merely a convenient way to keep people scared and voting for Republicans, you would continue screeching about the mullahs but would oppose spending actual money on increased port security. In particular, you would not want to waste half a billion dollars on radiation monitors for a threat you don't really believe in.

Today, House Republicans voted almost unanimously against an amendment to beef up port security and install radiation monitors at all U.S. ports of entry. They also blocked consideration of an amendment to require 100% scanning of shipping containers entering the United States. I think this tells you just how seriously they take the actual threat of a nuclear Iran.

NOTE TO REPORTERS: The next time a Republican politician tells you that a nuclear Iran is intolerable, the first question you should ask is whether said politician supports funding for serious port security. If the answer is anything other than a firm and passionate "yes, dear God, yes," you should end the interview and walk away. You are talking to a partisan shill, not someone genuinely concerned about national security.

Kevin Drum 6:43 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (121)

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Comments

If I had a bomb on a ship, I'd blow it as soon as it docked.

Security would be useless.

Posted by: djs on March 16, 2006 at 6:52 PM | PERMALINK

This is a major opportunity for Democrats, even DLC Democrats, to put some real distance between themselves and the Republicans. The incompetence of Denny Hastart and the Republican house leadership is the gift that keeps on giving.

The test will be whether elected Democrats exploit the opportunity.

Posted by: Ron Byers on March 16, 2006 at 6:52 PM | PERMALINK

I don't know Kevin. Your position might offend some Republicans, so the Democrats wouldn't want to take that position. Too controversial.

Posted by: RM on March 16, 2006 at 6:54 PM | PERMALINK

Which reporters?

There are only two types of reporters in Washington: those who think that Bush is God, and those who think that Bush has been sent by God to this earth for ridding it of evil.

Posted by: nut on March 16, 2006 at 6:55 PM | PERMALINK

djs has it right. The ports issue was fear-mongering and racial profiling like I've only come to expect from the Republicans. The Wall Street Journal had an article yesterday about all the assurances Dubai Ports World gave (now lost, so that Kevin can whine about the government not spending that money) to increase security, including the installation of radiation and gamma ray detectors at ALL their terminals, foreign and domestic, for an estimated cost of $100 million. Will the "American" companies who get these terminals now pony up that expense?

Posted by: Don P. on March 16, 2006 at 6:58 PM | PERMALINK

Bringing up this issue is unwise as it would unite the Republicans.

Dems should just stick to anti-Flag burning ammendment.

Perhaps some statements against child pronography will endear us to the NASCAR crowd.

But criticism of Republicans over this? A sure loser if you ask me.

Posted by: lib on March 16, 2006 at 6:59 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin wrote: Now, if you were truly concerned about this possibility really, truly concerned you would support more than preemptive action against Iran.

The Bush administration is aggressively undermining the Nuclear Nonproliteration Treaty, and actively promoting the spread of nuclear weapons technology, as with its recent deal to provide nuclear technology to India, by promoting expanded world trade in radioactive materials in support of its planned massive expansion of nuclear power generation, and by seeking to develop a new generation of tactical nuclear weapons.

An administration that was "truly concerned" about the threat of nuclear weapons would take a drastically different, indeed diametrically opposite, approach.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on March 16, 2006 at 7:01 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, have you ever, even for like a moment or two, thought of the price - both in money and time - of scanning every single container? Versus the real live probability of a nuclear device being shipped into the US on a container, as opposed to a private boat, private plane, or car across the Canadian border?
After the shellacking that congressional Dems gave the administration over the Dubai port deal, which even you admit was based on unfounded fears, you're shocked that the GOP is all gung-ho over useless and expensive but good sounding security rhetoric, while not wanting to actually implement such a thing?
Seriously, while I think the congressional Republicans are a bunch of short sighted scumbags, you need to consider if this port security stuff really is such a good idea.

Posted by: rhinoman on March 16, 2006 at 7:03 PM | PERMALINK

rhinoman -

The war in Iraq has cost us $400b. I wonder how much a war with Iran would cost.

We could have gotten a hell of a lot of port security for $400b.

Posted by: xyz on March 16, 2006 at 7:08 PM | PERMALINK

Is it just me, or does this vote sound like a colossally stupid thing for the GOP to be doing eight months before an election? The ad copy writes itself.

"The republicans in Washington wanted to sell our ports to the government of a Middle Eastern country with ties to Al Qeada terrorists... then representative Bilge joined his republican cronies in voting AGAINST increased funding for port security... On election day, vote for the candidate with a sensible and effective national security strategy..."

The efficacy of the legislation in question doesn't matter - as we all know. THe GOP just handed every democrat running for the House a giant hammer and said "here, please hit me with this."

Going to be a fun election season.


Posted by: bling on March 16, 2006 at 7:13 PM | PERMALINK

xyz:

The U.S. would have gotten a lot of port security for FREE had the DPW deal not been shot down - do YOU think the "American" companies will install $100 million on their own dime? Kevin is complaining here about $500 million, so $100 million was nothing to sneeze about.

Posted by: Don P. on March 16, 2006 at 7:14 PM | PERMALINK

bling:

If you are going to LIE like the Swift Boat Vets, I agree you may be just as successful - but at what price?

Posted by: Don P. on March 16, 2006 at 7:16 PM | PERMALINK

xyz,
Sure, we can get a hell of a lot of anything for $400 billion. That doesn't mean we should do it.
I never like the "if they can find $400 billion for the war, why can't they find money for..." arguments. The answer is that they can't find $400 billion for the war, they're borrowing it. We'll have to pay the piper one day, I assure you....

Posted by: rhinoman on March 16, 2006 at 7:18 PM | PERMALINK

rhinoman:

Very reasonable comments.

Posted by: Don P. on March 16, 2006 at 7:20 PM | PERMALINK

On the one hand, we are told the Iranians are ambitious power-seekers, on the other, we are told they are suicidal maniacs that would risk the destruction of their country to kill a few Americans with a first generation nuke. It is simply nuts. All nuts. There is no War on Terror it is just a PR cover story for neoimperial ambitions that, like all PR stories, is an exaggeration of a tiny reality into an epoch-making narrative. It is also used, when necessary, to push around political enemies at home. The terrorists are everywhere and nowhere, forever. Their capital is in Afghanistan, or Tehran, or Baghdad. No matter that these are all mortal enemies. The actions of the politicians stake out the realities and the risk, not their rhetoric.

Posted by: bellumregio on March 16, 2006 at 7:24 PM | PERMALINK

This whole port deal business makes my head hurt almost as much as the religion threads -- or the prospect of giving comfort to the snarkmeister Don P., which my comment here will doubtless be read to do.

It's like Batman (Adam West) said in the movie spun off the 60s TV series:

"Some days you just can't get rid of a bomb."

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on March 16, 2006 at 7:25 PM | PERMALINK

It's all just total bullshit.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on March 16, 2006 at 7:27 PM | PERMALINK

rhinoman:

According to Kevin, you and I qualify as "partisan shills", not genuinely concerned about national security.

Posted by: Don P. on March 16, 2006 at 7:28 PM | PERMALINK

Backwards-land

Can Kevin explain how increased port security funding PREVENTS Iran from developing a nuclear weapon? Once again, he seems to think we should put our efforts into preventing the use of a nuclear weapon AFTER it has been developed - outside of the nuclear non-proliferation agreement, rather than PREVENT the development of the weapon in the first place.

Reminds me of Helen Thomas today making the 'point' that it was illegal for the US to attack Iraq because we hadn't yet been attacked. She really does think that we should sit back and let those who have declared war on us attack us first before we do anything.

Similarly, Kevin seems to think that we can reduce unwanted preganancies by making RU486 weidely available when what we really should be doing is trying to prevent such pregnancies from occurring in the first place.

Are we in backwards-land?

And he sets up a strawman, of sorts (although I have read some less-informed claiming that Iran will try to smuggle a nuclear weapon into our ports). A much more likely scenario would be to smuggle such a weapon into the US via the same means that drug smugglers currently use, and these methods steer quite wide of our major ports.

And finally, does Kevin actually think it is feasible to have 100% screening of all goods entering our harbors? Even after they have been inspected overseas prior to entering international waters? Does he have any idea of the cost and the impact on the US consumer? Does he care? Or he is simply trying to score cheap political points, like he claims the repubs are?

Posted by: sunbeltjerry on March 16, 2006 at 7:29 PM | PERMALINK

Don, Don-clone:

You want to know how much it would have cost? 700 million (with an M) dollars. That's how much the GOP voted down. However, we ARE spending $1.2 billion more on the hapless missile defense system.

http://thinkprogress.org/2006/03/16/port-security-funding/

All Drum is saying is that if the GOP is going to talk the talk of "Iran = Dangerous 'cuz they'll suitcase-nuke us," they'd better walk the walk as well. And they don't.

Posted by: Ben Cochran on March 16, 2006 at 7:30 PM | PERMALINK

sunbeltjerry:

You're absolutely right; I'm amazed I didn't see it before.

Let's nuke Iran.

And temporarily sterilize all women of childbearing age. They can go to their town hall and get antidote to the yearly injections when they can certify to the state that they're capable emotionally and financially of having a child.

Although that might be more expensive to implement (and less moral besides) than just sewing their vaginas shut with metal thread ...

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on March 16, 2006 at 7:33 PM | PERMALINK

If you are going to LIE like the Swift Boat Vets, I agree you may be just as successful - but at what price?

Don: Where's the lie? I assume you refer to my point that there are questions about whether or not this legislation would be the most effective way to go about providing better security. Seems like it was a good idea to me, but maybe it's not. Rhinoman makes valid points. But whatever. The Swiftboat loonies blatantly made stuff up. The GOP housemembers voted against legislation to spend money on port security. That's a fact. So pointing out this fact is a lie? Enlighten me Don, I'm not understanding what you're saying.

Posted by: bling on March 16, 2006 at 7:39 PM | PERMALINK

I know exactly how much it would cost, Ben. And here I thought that Bens were strangely delightful and very intuitive. Complex. Almost too complex to be around. I do know that Phils are dangerous, though, Phils are much less predictable than Bens.

That being said, Ben, did you even read rhinoman and sunbeltjerry's comments about the futility of port security in the first place?

Posted by: Don P. on March 16, 2006 at 7:40 PM | PERMALINK

rmck1: That certainly was a reasonable response to my post. I, of course, desire a reduction in unwanted pregnancies and I think it can be achieved through education. If you want to sew anything shut you should start with your mouth.

And of course I actually support negotiations, diplomacy, third-party talks, carrot-stick approach, and targeted bombings to convince Iran "to change their evil ways."

"Baby."

Posted by: sunbeltjerry on March 16, 2006 at 7:40 PM | PERMALINK

Don P.-I really don't see your links to this Wall Street Journal article with respect to the port issue and free port security by DPW. I've heard of this nowhere else. It wasn't a Wall Street Journal editorial, was it?

Port security is a republican re-election finance problem. The corporations involved in world trade don't want costly (for them) port security and since they own congress via campaign finance and lobby money then republican congressmen they own will see to it that port security is kept as it is. Just like every other replublican issue-just follow the money.

Posted by: MRB on March 16, 2006 at 7:43 PM | PERMALINK

You're definitely correct, Kevin: If these conservatives were truly worried about security at our ports, they should sponsor and adequately fund tighter, effective security measures rather than talk empty rhetoric.

Posted by: Jesse A. Weissman on March 16, 2006 at 7:44 PM | PERMALINK

sunbeltjerry,

There are already a lot of nukes around. Iran getting one only adds incrementally to the danger. We can argue over just how much more perilous it makes the situation (my take: not much, given that a coup in Pakistan could create an equal or greater danger instantaneously). But that still doesn't mean we should pretend it doesn't already exist.

Posted by: modus potus on March 16, 2006 at 7:44 PM | PERMALINK

bling:

"The GOP housemembers voted against legislation to spend money on port security" among other items, is not a "lie".

"The republicans in Washington", "wanted to sell our ports", and "government of a Middle Eastern country with ties to Al Qeada terrorists" especially considering the cooperation from the UAE since 9/11, is.

That's for starters, not even addressing whether the Democratic candidate would indeed possess "a sensible and effective national security strategy..."

Any more questions?

Posted by: Don P. on March 16, 2006 at 7:46 PM | PERMALINK

It's like Batman (Adam West) said in the movie spun off the 60s TV series:

"Some days you just can't get rid of a bomb."

Bob wins.

Posted by: mattS on March 16, 2006 at 7:47 PM | PERMALINK

MRB:

I don't have the link (which is probably behind a subscription wall anyways), but here's the quote:

"The four-page offer, titled 'Proposed Solution to the DP World Issue,' promised to give the Department of Homeland Security nearly complete say over the company's U.S. corporate affairs and to install 'state-of-the-art radiation-detection and gamma-ray inspection devices' at company expense at all current and future DP World-managed ports overseas. Experts estimate that step alone could have cost DP World as much as $100 million, though some ports where DP World operates already have some radiation-detection devices."

Posted by: Don P. on March 16, 2006 at 7:52 PM | PERMALINK

After Iraq why would I believe anything Bush, the republicans, or anyone in the executive branch says about Iran? They made up massive levels of excrement to sell a war in Iraq and now, some how, I supposed to believe that they are not handing me a steaming sack of shit again? Do these people think Americans are this stupid?

Posted by: MRB on March 16, 2006 at 7:52 PM | PERMALINK

sunbelt jerry:

"Targeted bombings."

I think I'd rather just sew your asshole shut :)

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on March 16, 2006 at 7:52 PM | PERMALINK

mattS (or Bob):

Maybe I'm missing the obvious, but how exactly does that give me comfort and/or support my position?

Posted by: Don P. on March 16, 2006 at 7:53 PM | PERMALINK

She really does think that we should sit back and let those who have declared war on us attack us first before we do anything

Did I miss something? Did Iraq (or Iran) declare war on the U.S.? Or are you just talking out your, uh, piehole?

"Baby."

Posted by: SED on March 16, 2006 at 7:54 PM | PERMALINK

SED:

On February 23, 2006, The Telegraph reported:

"Irans hardline spiritual leaders have issued an unprecedented new fatwa, or holy order, sanctioning the use of atomic weapons against its enemies.

In yet another sign of Teherans stiffening resolve on the nuclear issue, influential Muslim clerics have for the first time questioned the theocracys traditional stance that Sharia law forbade the use of nuclear weapons.

One senior mullah has now said it is only natural to have nuclear bombs as a countermeasure against other nuclear powers, thought to be a reference to America and Israel.

The pronouncement is particularly worrying because it has come from Mohsen Gharavian, a disciple of the ultra-conservative Ayatollah Mohammad Taghi Mesbah-Yazdi, who is widely regarded as the cleric closest to Irans new president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Nicknamed Professor Crocodile because of his harsh conservatism, Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdis group opposes virtually any kind of rapprochement with the West and is believed to have influenced President Ahmadinejads refusal to negotiate over Irans nuclear programme.

The comments, which are the first public statement by the Yazdi clerical cabal on the nuclear issue, will be seen as an attempt by the countrys religious hardliners to begin preparing a theological justification for the ownership - and if necessary the use - of atomic bombs"

If Teddy Roosevelt was in the White House, hed quote these fatwas, after he used precisely those nonconventional weapons to eliminate the Iranian nuclear weapons development program. We can only hope Bush lives up to that standard.

Posted by: Don P. on March 16, 2006 at 8:00 PM | PERMALINK

Don P:

I happen to reluctantly agree with the position that shooting down the Dubai port deal was just irresistable politics. In the context of Jihad vs McWorld, a Dubai ports company is McWorld incarnate and the *last* thing it would want to do or support is international jihad. *Especially* because it's owned by a bunch of fat, exquisitely decadent, obscenely wealthy autocratic oil sheikhs.

You know -- Osama's sworn enemies.

But I *also* think you're a total prick to cmdicely -- one of the most well-respected posters on here -- and you're the sort of smug, preening asshole who gives secularism a bad name in general.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on March 16, 2006 at 8:02 PM | PERMALINK

That's fine with me.

Posted by: Don P. on March 16, 2006 at 8:04 PM | PERMALINK

Right now Singapore is experimenting with technology to scan every container travelling through that very busy port. Frankly in the old days when America could do anything we would find a cheap but effective technological solution.

Nowadays we simply say, please, please don't attack us. It would be too expensive to stop you so please, please don't.

Shame on anybody who is so willing to surrender because Republican shills say it would be too expensive to protect our borders.

Posted by: Ron Byers on March 16, 2006 at 8:06 PM | PERMALINK

Don, since you're obviously an intellectual heavyweight of Goldbergian proportions, I'll take my keyboard and go home at this point. But the ad copy still does write itself, and you can be sure that you'll be seeing said ads come October. And they will be effective. You might want to start learning how to spell "Speaker Pelosi." You're likely to be writing lots of lunatic troll comments about her toward the end of the year.

Posted by: bling on March 16, 2006 at 8:09 PM | PERMALINK

Ron Byers,
When you manage to find a way to protect our borders, please let us know. There are four large borders that are virtual sieves: Canadian, Mexican, East and West Coasts.
Hell, we can't even slow down the fountain of illegal drugs flowing into this country. Do you honestly believe that we could prevent someone from smuggling a bomb into the US if they really wanted to do it?

Posted by: rhinoman on March 16, 2006 at 8:13 PM | PERMALINK

Hmmmm. I've read all of the above comments and I think I've sorted them out.

Money is good.
People, not so much.

Posted by: nutty little nut nut on March 16, 2006 at 8:15 PM | PERMALINK

A nuke is not cocaine. A nuke gives off a distinctive radioactive signature. Containers passing through our ports are the delivery system of choice for the Iranians, Koreans and Al Qaeda.

Our choices are simple, shut up and retreat from the rest of the world or take appropriate steps to protect ourselves.

The old its too expensive to protect ourselves line is the line of somebody who,like most Republicans, is already defeated.

Posted by: Ron Byers on March 16, 2006 at 8:17 PM | PERMALINK

I would guess that if I were Iran and the US both listed me as "evil" and made up a bunch of lies to justify invading my neighbor then sure as hell I would want any method possible to deter attack from this apparently "crazy" nation or government. I would assume that they would make up a bunch of lies in order to justify attacking my country since they've done it all ready. I would need to develop as rapidly as possible any method to deter attack or attempt national defense as I could acknowledging that I was preparing for war with a potential war criminal that would lie to send his own countrymen to their deaths needlessly. One has to take an idiot like Bush very seriously since he's shown no problem with lying to start a war.

Posted by: MRB on March 16, 2006 at 8:21 PM | PERMALINK

Insanity.

Somebody with half a brain needs to point out that one of the most radical muslim nation in the world, Pakistan, already has nuclear weapons...with only a shaky dictatorship in place to contain them. One pistol shot and that containment could go away in a hurry.

Islamic/nationalist strikes and protests were strong enough to bring Pakistan to a halt during the Bush visit... but that was pretty much swept under the rug by the media.

Posted by: Buford on March 16, 2006 at 8:22 PM | PERMALINK

rhinoman: When you manage to find a way to protect our borders, please let us know.

It's called defense in depth, or if you prefer, a belt and suspenders approach. Obviously inspections/scanners aren't going to be 100% effective, but by that reasoning we should eliminate customs, border patrols, etc. for being less than 100% effective. You're always playing the odds, but it's best to stack the deck in your favor. Remember, the Millenium bomb plot was foiled by one alert customs agent.

Posted by: alex on March 16, 2006 at 8:22 PM | PERMALINK

who here saying that it's too hard, or terrorists will just use our open borders, actually knows ANYTHING AT ALL about the likely physical characteristics of the Bombs the iranians might be able to make. Like weight, size, gamma ray radiation?

last i read [go find your own sources] the reason that serious people actually worry about port security is that it represents a real weakness in american defenses, kind of like unsecured cockpit doors, and that a north korean / iranian nuke (or, for that matter, significant volumes of explosives/weapons for sleeper cells) likely would be delivered that way, as opposed to driving into the US in a semi, or carried on the back of a mexican smuggler(?!).

Posted by: Francis on March 16, 2006 at 8:26 PM | PERMALINK

Ron,
Uranium does give off gamma rays, which are usually detectable outside of a container. Plutonium does not, it's an alpha emitter. (Somebody correct me here if I'm wrong).
Containers passing through our ports are a crappy delivery system. They can get lost or misplaced, or robbed.
Private planes and private boats are far better methods for delivering terror weapons to targets. Or you could ship the parts to Mexico, assemble it south of the border, and drive on through. Or send the parts in private cars from Canada to the US, and assemble it here. Or bring it ashore in the Carolinas or the Gulf Coast in a Zodiac and load it on a truck.
I have no problem spending money to protect ourselves. Spending it uselessly is silly, regardless of the reason.

Posted by: rhinoman on March 16, 2006 at 8:33 PM | PERMALINK

Well, I've searched and searched and found no other indication of an offering by DP World to install security monitoring devices at there own costs. I'm not saying that this offering doesn't exist, Don P., but that I cannot find even a scent of it. The first question that comes to mind would be: Why would DP World agree to something like this when they've never been considered for security purposes? They were to operate the ports, not secure them. At no time were they to be in charge of security, so why would they independently volunteer to do something that wasn't even within the realm of their operations?

Posted by: MRB on March 16, 2006 at 8:36 PM | PERMALINK

rhinoman,

At least we will have stopped the uranium bombs.

Anyway you are a Republican. Wasting my money is your life's work.

Posted by: Ron Byers on March 16, 2006 at 8:36 PM | PERMALINK

Looks like Kevin is starting to get his ass up again....

'bout time.

Posted by: koreyel on March 16, 2006 at 8:39 PM | PERMALINK

Whee....
alex: you're right about the belt and suspenders approach. We have to do what we can to provide security. The question is: what's the best way to spend the money? If inspecting 5% of the containers is sufficient to deter terrorists from using that avenue to ship nuclear materials, is that good enough? Is it worth it to inspect 100% of the containers? What effect with that have on US trade? Could the money be better spent? Is it cost-effective to bolt and deadbolt and barricade the front door when the back door is wide open? What if we spent the money on more agents? Data collection? Coast Guard units? Foreign intelligence? Would that be more effective in providing security?
Francis: Your point on Iranian nukes is right on, the ability to build a warhead that fits on a missle is way, way beyond them. But they might be able, with the fissile material, to build a "Little Boy" type bomb that could fit very easily on a 50-foot sailing yacht, which could go right up the Hudson River. Kablooie. Personally, I don't think they would do this (well, I hope not). But it could be done.

Posted by: rhinoman on March 16, 2006 at 8:45 PM | PERMALINK

Ron,
We won't have stopped a bloody thing.
Assuming that the Hypothetical Terrorist can read the papers, they just won't put a uranium bomb in a shipping container. My point is that there are other ways into the US.

Posted by: rhinoman on March 16, 2006 at 8:48 PM | PERMALINK

Since Rhinoman wants to trade our safety for money lets establish what he thinks your city is worth.
According to Stephen Flynn at in an article on the subject in the Far East Economic Review (http://www.feer.com/articles1/2006/0601/free/p005.html)

"The total cost of third-party compliance inspections, deploying smart containers, and operating a cargo scanning system such as Hong Kongs is likely to reach $50 to $100 per container depending on the number of containers an importer has and the complexity of its supply chain. Even if the final price tag came in at $100 additional cost per container, it would raise the average price of cargo moved by, say, Wal-Mart or Target by only 0.06%. What importers and consumers are getting in return is the reduced risk of a catastrophic terrorist attack and its economic consequences."

That dear readers is what your Republican congress and Rhinoman think your city or mine is worth.

Posted by: Ron Byers on March 16, 2006 at 8:52 PM | PERMALINK

The next time a Republican politician tells you that a nuclear Iran is intolerable, the first question you should ask is whether said politician supports funding for serious port security. If the answer is anything other than a firm and passionate "yes, dear God, yes," you should end the interview and walk away. You are talking to a partisan shill, not someone genuinely concerned about national security.

Kevin, you're gonna need to wake up one of these days.

Posted by: Dan on March 16, 2006 at 8:57 PM | PERMALINK

The point here is not the cost to the US budget, it's the cost to the republican campaign finance shipping corporations that would need to comply to laws regarding more security which would cut into their profit potential. These corporations are represented, due to their campaign financing, in a republican congress while mere citizens like us that would like a little more security have virtually no representation due to the fact that we lack the financial resources to buy our own congressman.

Posted by: MRB on March 16, 2006 at 9:02 PM | PERMALINK

Ron,
Good article. The system he described could still have some big holes, it mostly relies on "detecting sheilding because of it's heavy mass" (how it distinguishes shielding from engine blocks isn't specified). Also, the throughput of such an inspection system would be enormous, leaving me doubtful that they would really engage in real-time analysis of the data over a 10-year period. Shit happens. But still, if it's that cheap, it might be worth it. Or not.
Ease up on the "money is no object" routine, you sound like a green first-year law student proclaiming that "you can't set a price on human life!".

Posted by: rhinoman on March 16, 2006 at 9:11 PM | PERMALINK

The wingnut trolls just keep getting more bizarre.

The next election should be lots of fun... assuming we don't have riots in the streets by then.

Posted by: Joey Giraud on March 16, 2006 at 9:16 PM | PERMALINK

we should follow through on this

Feingold Calls Warrantless Wiretaps an Impeachable Offense

Posted by: hal on March 16, 2006 at 9:18 PM | PERMALINK

Ron,
This quote from the article you referenced also makes my point:

Scrambling for fresh alternatives to reassure anxious and angry citizens, the White House and Congress are likely to impose Draconian inspection protocols that dramatically raise costs and disrupt crossborder trade flows.

That's what I'm afraid of. I don't doubt Congress would do such a thing, either.

Posted by: rhinoman on March 16, 2006 at 9:19 PM | PERMALINK

The wingnut trolls just keep getting more bizarre...

That's because all those with a half a wit were crushed a long time ago...

All that is left are nit wits...

Which is to say: the bottom of America's intellectual barrel.

Posted by: koreyel on March 16, 2006 at 9:22 PM | PERMALINK

My point is you can't argue that port security is prohibitively expensive.

The Republican congress is willing to risk some city, be it Chicago, or Seattle, or Dallas, for $100 per container. Real security minded people they, and you.

Posted by: Ron Byers on March 16, 2006 at 9:24 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, exactly.

Posted by: BWR on March 16, 2006 at 9:26 PM | PERMALINK

The house decision today is such an easy exploit one has to wonder if any Republican will be reelected.

Posted by: Ron Byers on March 16, 2006 at 9:28 PM | PERMALINK

"You are talking to a partisan shill"

And boy, Kevin knows all about those.

Here are a few hints:

"the primary doomsday scenario they've offered up is that Iran (or a terrorist group working with Iran) will ship a completed nuke through an American port"

False. Straw man. The concerns are around an attack on Israel, the use of nuclear weapons as a cover for regional aggression and as a motivation for further proliferation.

"You would also support funding to increase security at American ports"

False. Preventing the problem at the source is obviously more efficient and efficacious than treating it at the many possible destinations.

The other falsehoods, straw men and baseless assertions in your posting are derived from the above and need not be considered.

In other words: a real stinker of a post, Kevin. Really bad.

Posted by: am on March 16, 2006 at 9:31 PM | PERMALINK

My last statement was a little over the top, but keep it up Republicans and many of you will have to go to work somewhere else.

Posted by: Ron Byers on March 16, 2006 at 9:31 PM | PERMALINK

We won't have stopped a bloody thing.
Assuming that the Hypothetical Terrorist can read the papers, they just won't put a uranium bomb in a shipping container. My point is that there are other ways into the US.

It sounds like we could indeed stop something (according to you, rhinokid). As that hole is being plugged, we move on to others: better survalence of coastal waters, better monitoring of border areas.

We will ever be 100% safe, all we can do is reduce the risks.


Posted by: Keith G on March 16, 2006 at 9:32 PM | PERMALINK

Drum, did you read this weekend's AP story about the difficultires of port security? www.sltrib.com/nationworld/ci_3594267

Money graph:

"In theory, some nuclear materials inside cargo containers can be detected with special monitors. But such devices have frustrated port officials in New Jersey because bananas, kitty litter and fire detectors - which all emit natural radiation - set off the same alarms more than 100 times every day."

Posted by: trotsky on March 16, 2006 at 9:32 PM | PERMALINK

ever=never

Posted by: Keith G on March 16, 2006 at 9:33 PM | PERMALINK

About Iran.

I know that the President of Iran made a statement (in Persian) that was mis-interpreted by CNN, among others, stating that Iran wanted nukes.

I read his statement and it is quite obvious that all Iran wants is to enrich uranium to make more efficient reactors and not to make material suitable for nuke bombs.

Does someone have an actual quote that the President of Iran actually says that Iran wants nuclear bombs? or, is this just, yet, another wanna-be neo-con fantasy? A quote and timestamp, as well as attribution would be helpful.

Thanks in advance,

Posted by: Sky-Ho on March 16, 2006 at 9:35 PM | PERMALINK

No offense meant, Sky-Ho:

A quote and timestamp, as well as attribution would be helpful.

Got Google?

Posted by: Keith G on March 16, 2006 at 9:38 PM | PERMALINK

If I had a bomb on a ship, I'd blow it as soon as it docked.

Security would be useless.

Nope, it's possible to reliably scan for a nuclear weapon on 100% of ships and verify the scan before the ship approaches port.

Just because you don't know how to do it doesn't mean nobody else hasn't spent the time to figure it out.

Posted by: Boronx on March 16, 2006 at 9:42 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, have you ever, even for like a moment or two, thought of the price - both in money and time - of scanning every single container?

It can be done relatively cheaply.

Posted by: Boronx on March 16, 2006 at 9:44 PM | PERMALINK

The notion that Iran is going to launch a nuclear first strike against us is completely ridiculous, BTW.

Posted by: Boronx on March 16, 2006 at 9:49 PM | PERMALINK

Congressional Republican: (n.)
A radical who employs fear as a political weapon; usually organizes with others small cells; often uses religion as a cover.

Posted by: mc on March 16, 2006 at 9:50 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin,

The Republicans aren't being hypocritical, just true to form.

They voted against federal funding for port security because, like with Social Security, health care, environmental mediation, disaster recovery, automobile and mine safety -- they believe these are all issues best handled by the private sector.

Or, more precisely, the American-born private sector.

Posted by: pj_in_jesusland on March 16, 2006 at 9:54 PM | PERMALINK

(OT)

Jsut wanted to mention that I TOTALLY see Amy's point about how unimpressive Adam Morrison is - sheesh - he only scored 35+ n had a bunch of other big plays to practically single-handedly pull victory out of defeat tonite...

Unimpressive indeed. I'm glad WaMo has someone who knows basketball so well.

Posted by: The Past, Nov 10, 2004 on March 16, 2006 at 9:55 PM | PERMALINK

WHY????

91BILLION more for the debacle in Iraq, but not a measly billion or so for something that would actually make us safer.

what the fuck is wrong with these people
WHY WHY WHY??

Was it sponsored by a DEM?
Is that the childish reason to oppose?

Posted by: lilybart on March 16, 2006 at 10:10 PM | PERMALINK

Speed boat
Piper Cub
Federal Express
Fishing Boat
Fake Airliner
Truck it across the Canadian border

We could spend a gazillion on port security and just cause the bomb to be delivered using other methods.

Posted by: Matt on March 16, 2006 at 10:20 PM | PERMALINK

I'm glad WaMo has someone who knows basketball so well.

Amen.

Posted by: koreyel on March 16, 2006 at 10:22 PM | PERMALINK

Hey, Kevin, you ready to say anything about Venezuela yet? How about Chavez? Where do you stand?

Posted by: Toner Cart. on March 16, 2006 at 10:27 PM | PERMALINK

"We could spend a gazillion on port security and just cause the bomb to be delivered using other methods." Matt at 10:20 pm

You might be right, but why make it easy for the terrorists? Do you want to be responsible for your city going up because an uninspected container ended up on a siding down the road?

As the guy above said, to Republicans money is very important, the lives of Americans, not so much.

Posted by: Ron Byers on March 16, 2006 at 10:31 PM | PERMALINK

"In particular, you would not want to waste half a billion dollars on radiation monitors for a threat you don't really believe in."

Yeah but, the day after the Republicans raise the debt limit by another half a trillion dollars or whatever, who believes those schmucks care about another half a billion?

This whole Dubai port thing seems like a huge BushCo Republican fuck you to all the suckers who got them where they are today. (There's no thrill left to simply fucking over traditional Democratic constituencies like ethnic minorities, children, retired people, women, and the sexually unrepressed for the Republican commintern, no, they're going to prove just how big they think their dicks are by fucking over even those who vote for them.) From the wimpy Democrats who created a vacuum where the opposition should be and the Evangelicals who are so stupid they agree with everything as long as they can prevent pregnant women from getting abortions to the rich conservative white guys (and the proud suckers who think they're in that class but don't have a clue that they're not now and they never will be) who fund Republican campaigns to the whores in the media who get off on the confusion they create by reporting little but lies, a big fuck you all you stupid deadenders who voted for Eisenhower, for Nixon, for Reagan, for Bush, and for so many other deadend Republicans over the past fifty years. Not because they don't need and want their votes, obviously. But, because they can, and it's all they know how to do. It has been reported here over and over again how little BushCo has been willing to do for their customers and clients, the American People, and how willing we have been to accept poor service, crappy products, and price gouging from what is basically, a company more fucked up than Enron running the US Government. How stupid can we be?

The company, the Republicans, currently incorported as BushCo, not only deserve to fail, their leaders, hundreds of them, deserve to go to jail for the crimes they've commmitted.

Posted by: NealB on March 16, 2006 at 10:34 PM | PERMALINK

You nailed this one Kevin. There is logical defense that can be asserted to your argument.

On the topic of Bush's ridiculous and highly fictional National Security Strategy, three points:

(1) This foolish document starts with the assertion "We are a nation at war". Oh really? With which nation? al-Qaeda is not a nation, therefore we cannot be at war. And the military is the wrong means of fighting an enemy such as al-Qaeda anyway. This idiotic statement serves no purpose than to assuage Bush's guilt complex about going AWOL from the TANG and to justify his peacock-like strutting about on the aircraft carrier. We are also not at war with Iraq, we invaded Iraq, a Muslim country that was no more of a threat to us than the Congo.
(2) In one section, the document asserts that "most al-Qaeda leaders behind the 9-11 attacks have been captured or killed". Oh yeah? How about the top two - namely Usama bin Laden and Zayman al-Zawahiri? They are both very much alive, very much uncaptured and regularly taunting Mr. Bush with video and audiotapes. Mission accomplished, my ass.
(3) If Bush thinks Iran is the biggest threat to the United States, he is one piss poor risk assessor! Do not be fooled - Pakistan is the most dangerous country on this planet and this buffoon Bush is playing patty-cake with the unelected dictator of this radical Islamist powderkeg, when one bullet through his head puts a hundred nukes in bin Laden's lap.

This document is the most idiotic, error and lie-laden piece of crap to ever come off a U.S. government printing press.

Can I get a voucher for my tax dollars that were wasted printing this worthless rag???

Posted by: Stephen Kriz on March 16, 2006 at 10:47 PM | PERMALINK

Speed boat
Piper Cub
Federal Express
Fishing Boat
Fake Airliner
Truck it across the Canadian border

We could spend a gazillion on port security and just cause the bomb to be delivered using other methods. Matt

Hell, why go to all that trouble to smuggle a nuclear bomb into the US. Isn't that like smuggling ice into Greenland?

There are more than enough bombs inside the US already - how good is security at all the military bases and launch sites across the country?

What are the odds of a person in a position of authority being turned?

What are the odds of getting weapons grade materials from within the US?

Not meaning to be facetious, but it seems like people are feeling the need to return to the whole 'protected by the oceans' mindset. Of course port protection is important, and should be treated as such, but complete protection is impossible.

Posted by: floopmeister on March 16, 2006 at 10:48 PM | PERMALINK

Iran's primary interest in developing nuclear weapons is to have a deterrent to a U.S./other invasion, much as North Korea now has. The Bush administration's primary interest is in keeping them from obtaining such a capability.

It affects the U.S.'s ability to control Iraq's oil, and maintain dominant influence in the other parts of the Persian Gulf region. A nuclear Iran has much more latitude to cause trouble by itself, and as it aligns itself more closely with China, as an ally of China in helping China to meet its growing demand for oil.

The security issue Bush is worried about is not in the U.S., it is in the Persian Gulf. It speaks greatly to the Bush administration's desire to control the world's most important oil reserves.

Posted by: opihi on March 16, 2006 at 10:56 PM | PERMALINK

floopmeister: complete protection is impossible

And your point is?

it seems like people are feeling the need to return to the whole 'protected by the oceans' mindset

I'd say keeping nukes out of our ports is more like being protected from the sea.

Shame about the splendid isolationism thing though. Worked well for a long time. You guys too (Battle of the Coral Sea notwithstanding).

There are more than enough bombs inside the US already - how good is security at all the military bases and launch sites across the country?

AFAIK it's pretty good, and you'd have to turn a number of people. Weapons grade material security may need some improvement though.

Posted by: alex on March 16, 2006 at 11:11 PM | PERMALINK

Since Iran is incapable of delivering a nuclear weapon 7,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean, the primary doomsday scenario they've offered up is that Iran (or a terrorist group working with Iran) will ship a completed nuke through an American port and then threaten to detonate it in a large city.

Nonsense. They could attack Israel. They could threaten the Kurds. They could try to expand their territory and dominate the Persian Gulf. They could attack any European country or threaten them in the same way.

American ports aren't the major potential target, but I think you knew that already.

Posted by: Mario on March 16, 2006 at 11:21 PM | PERMALINK

complete protection is impossible

And your point is?

Well, didn't really have one, actually - apart from an observation that it is pretty much impossible to secure any country for city from terrorist attack, if the attackers are determined or smart enough.

People want to feel safe - whether they are or not is sorta beyond the point. I think the Bush adminstration knows this - that's why their misstep on this issue was so out of character.

Shame about the splendid isolationism thing though. Worked well for a long time. You guys too (Battle of the Coral Sea notwithstanding).

Oh absolutely. We knew it as Fortress Australia, though. The point is, of course, is that it existed in our minds, not in reality.

AFAIK it's pretty good, and you'd have to turn a number of people. Weapons grade material security may need some improvement though.

I'm sure the security's pretty good - certainly better than in the former USSR for sure. I was just being a little bit cheeky, I guess - why do people need to feel secure from nuclear weapons in a country that's dotted with a massive arsenal of them, all ready to be launched at an instant's notice? Not to mention chemical and biological weapon stores and/or active laboratories.

Don't you think that's kind of interesting?

The anthrax attack on Congress is a case in point - that wasn't 'from outside', you know.

Posted by: floopmeister on March 16, 2006 at 11:27 PM | PERMALINK

Amen! Outstanding post Kevin.

Being serious about national security does NOT mean screeching about the need to bomb the brown people and giving the Feds the unfettered right to spy on Americans (even if it means they could discover your regular need to scrub your soiled chickenhawk jockey shorts).

That's not serious, it's comical.

Being serious means identifying and funding measures to improve security that are CONSISTENT WITH OUR CONSTITUTION.

When the British burned down the White House in the War of 1812, did the country shriek and abandon civil rights and the Constitution? (And the British were the deadliest military force in the world at the time.)

Today, we've got a few loosely organized gangs of fanatics who would like to attack us but don't have much money or technology to do so (pssst, last time they attacked us with BOX CUTTERS. If you think any sum'bitch will take over a plane with box cutter again, then I've got a bridge to sell you.)

The Republicans shit themselves, whined and cried, sold out their most basic federalist principles, and invaded an Arabic country that didn't attack us because, um, well, who knows. And somehow they're the serious ones. I would hate to see unserious...

Posted by: Sean on March 16, 2006 at 11:36 PM | PERMALINK

am: The concerns are around an attack on Israel . . .

Because Israel is more important than America and America's soldiers and citizens should be sacrificed for the sake of Israel.

We get it.

Posted by: Advocate for God on March 16, 2006 at 11:43 PM | PERMALINK

Because Israel is more important than America and America's soldiers and citizens should be sacrificed for the sake of Israel.

Now if only the US and Israel were formal allies, with a formal treaty of mutual defense, imagine how much support the US could offer Israel.

Israel, of course, has no desire to ever sign such a formal treaty. At the moment they have all the support with no responsibility to the US in return.

Apart from voting with the US in unpopular UN decisions alongside those stalwart US allies the Marshall Islands.

Posted by: floopmeister on March 16, 2006 at 11:47 PM | PERMALINK

am: Preventing the problem at the source is obviously more efficient and efficacious than treating it at the many possible destinations.

Might be true, if in fact there was only one source.

Wrong.

That was always the illogic of invading Iraq to prevent terrorists from getting their hands on WMDs - there were always easier sources for WMDs for terrorists than Iraq, even assuming Iraq had had any or would have been willing to part with them, especially by giving them to its sworn enemies.

Try again, fool.

Dirty bombs and biological agents require no sophisticated nuclear program and the ports are the most likely source of entry.

Leaving our ports unprotected in order to cut down one potential nuclear power that is decades away from a weapon that could threaten the US is idiocy.

Damn, but you are stupid.

Or just love Israel, a nation which has betrayed the American interests on innumerable occasions and sacrificed our interests for their own (not that they shouldn't do so, mind you), more than the US.

Posted by: Advocate for God on March 16, 2006 at 11:50 PM | PERMALINK

Don P, Rhinoman and all the trolls stating that the port security spending Kevin advocated would be too expensive or ineffective should, but won't, be ashamed to show their faces in public.

Under Bush we have spent over $200 billion, so far and in direct costs only, on a war in Iraq that has made us less secure not more. Per this GAO report - http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d05243.pdf - spending on ballistic missile defense systems totaled $85 billion from 1985 through 2004 and we expected to top $150 billion by 2011.

Granted, no port security regime can be 100% effective and there will be costs. However, we can achieve meaningful increases in our overall security for far less money than we are already spending on much less valuable programs.

The fact that the Republican administration and Republican-controlled Congress use the threat of international terrorism to justify everything from domestic surveillance initiative to war without spending the relative pittance on something that could make a real difference in our security does in fact show that they are not serious or trustworthy on these issues.

Posted by: tanj on March 16, 2006 at 11:54 PM | PERMALINK
Don P, Rhinoman, Matt and all the trolls stating that the port security spending Kevin advocated would be too expensive or ineffective should, but won't, be ashamed to show their faces in public....Posted by: tanj
They are bitter-ender Republicans: They have no shame. Spending on real security is anathema to them, but spending on pie-in-the-sky Star Wars to the tune of over $100 billion is an investment. Perhaps they believe that SDI will protect them. In that case, I recommend they place themselves under anything incoming. Posted by: Mike on March 17, 2006 at 1:03 AM | PERMALINK

Nice post Kevin.

Posted by: Jimm on March 17, 2006 at 2:02 AM | PERMALINK

There is some misperception with this thinking. If the only issue with a nuclear Iran was Iran attacking the U.S. directly, we might be taking a different approach.

Iran with nuclear weapons would be a definite threat to Israel, a potential threat to other friendly nations in the area, and a threat to the oil pipelines and straits leading to the rest of the world.

It would be great if we could keep Iran from building nukes. I wish I had a foolproof idea on how to do it. Best one I've had so far is sit back, do some diplomacy, and hope to God Israel goes medieval on them and knows where to hit.

Trying to make our borders completely impervious to something the size of a small truck trailer is impossible. That being said, we should still be beefing up our port security as much as possible.

I support missile defense, and often hear the argument that such a defense is useless because they would just think of another way to get bombs here. That's like saying there's no point in a cop wearing a bulletproof vest since someone might shoot them in the head. Saying it's no use to spend money on border security because something could still get by, misses the point.

Missile defenses, port detections systems, additional Coast Guard. None of these will stop everything. None are perfect.

But it will be worth almost any amount of money spent on such defenses if they stop just one bomb.

Posted by: tbrosz on March 17, 2006 at 3:24 AM | PERMALINK

Look, I know this is a really weird thing to say, especially coming from me. And I'm not saying that some disentanglement between the US and Israel, or more accurately the right wing of the Likud Party, wouldn't be a good idea.

But here's the thing: if the maelstrom of violence and disillusionment that's ensued in the 5 years after 9/11 ultimately leads America to stop supporting Israel against the Palestinians, then...brace yourselves...the terrorists have, quite literally, won.

In the sense of achieving pretty much exactly what they wanted to achieve, in pretty much exactly the manner in which they wanted to achieve it.

Posted by: brooksfoe on March 17, 2006 at 4:40 AM | PERMALINK

The border is wide open...

We got cameras and microphones on our streets, the toll roads will track and trace every mile we drive, they record our telephone and internet activity, but our borders are wide open! And now they want to sell our ports to an arab group? Look out U.S.A., we have the government we deserve!

Posted by: john on March 17, 2006 at 8:34 AM | PERMALINK

Nothing gets both lib and conservative trolls in a tizzy like nuclear weapons.

"Suitcase nukes!"

"Iranian nukes!"

"Terrorists with nukes!"

What a hoot. Let me disabuse some of you ninnies:

1. There is no such thing as a "suitcase nuke." They don't come small enough to fit in a suitcase. It is impossible. Where did the term "suitcase nuke" come from then? A bad translation of a Russian military officer, who stated that Russia had nuclear weapons small enough to fit in a steamer trunk (6'x4'x4'). The translator erred and used the English word "suitcase" to translate the Russian word for "steamer trunk."

Sorry, but you won't find terrorists carrying around a briefcase packed with a nuke.

2. Even if Iran develops nuclear weapons, they will be quite crude - they'll be lucky if the weapon is smaller than Fat Man or Little Boy, and they'll be lucky if it packs the same punch. Also, Iran currently has no reliable means to disseminate these weapons. Their ballistic missiles are crap, even if they can theoretically reach Israel and/or Southern Europe. The Shahab's CEP is so large that if Tehran targeted Tel Aviv, chances are that the Shahab would fall into the Mediterranean.

Iran also has no long-range fighters that could reliably drop a nuke on Israel. Sure, their aging F-15s could in theory, but they have no refueling capabilities to get the planes close enough to drop the bomb.

Lastly, Iran can't simply take a crude nuclear weapon and place it in a container and make it detonate. Aerial nuclear weapons (dropped from planes) have atmospheric triggering devices. Nuclear weapons on ballistic missiles have complex physics packages. Neither will work if you want to detonate a bomb in a container. And this might seem like a shock, but Hollywood's rendition of being able to pack a nuclear bomb with explosives and make it detonate is flat our wrong.

3. No country is foolish enough to hand over a nuclear weapon to a terrorist, who may or may not use the bomb as intended. These countries spend billions to develop the capability to make nuclear weapons. They aren't going to give their crown jewel to someone idiot proclaiming to use it against the New York port facilities.

Iran, and other countries, know damn well that you can track the emissions from a nuclear device and determine who made it. Why would Iran risk total nuclear destruction for one pot-shot against the U.S. or Israel? Answer: they wouldn't. And that's why you haven't seen terrorists running around with "loose nukes" from Russia or Pakistan.

So let's take a step back and quit using the nuclear bugbear to justify idiotic domestic and foreign policy decisions.

Posted by: NSA Mole on March 17, 2006 at 8:59 AM | PERMALINK

Depleated Uranium?
Why worry about a smuggled in nuke? Depleated uranium is already blowing over us from Iraq and Afghanistan. We used 4 times as much this time as we did in round one. 10,000 U.S. troops have already died from exposure to it since G.W.1.

And by the way, tyrants and dictators all agree that foreign troops work better under a martial law senario than local ones, so expect more pre-emptive invasions and occupations. Welcome to the police state...

Posted by: John on March 17, 2006 at 9:00 AM | PERMALINK

What I heard from a tech insider: Don't be impressed by claims that Iran is far away from having a nuclear bomb. What that usually means is, uranium purifed to enough '235 to make the classic softball-sized fissionable mass yielding reliably in the two-digit kilotons. But if your technology is lousy, you could still maybe come up with lower-grade material that would go off using a few hundred kilograms and blow a few kilotons - which could fit in a ship and cause lots of damage.

In any case, Kevin's point is spot on. We can see the misadministration using this as another diversion because of it's political trouble (and real threats can be abused and bungled too.) Isn't that disgusting?

Posted by: Neil' on March 17, 2006 at 9:01 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin, I've been stressed over port security since 2002, I agree that it's one of the smoking holes in our security planning (and risks creating real smoking holes). But I've also been keeping abreast of the research in the area (check out Georgia Tech's Institute for Transportation and Logistics Security), and no one serious thinks 100% inspection/scanning is remotely feasible without essentially abandoning the global supply chain - with pretty significant consequences for everyone.

Based on that, this bill was grandstanding, not a serious policy effort. For something more serious, check out Jane Harman's SAFE Port Act (yes, it's co-sponsored by a Republican, if that's a problem). But it's a pretty good proposal.

A.L.

Posted by: Armed Liberal on March 17, 2006 at 9:02 AM | PERMALINK

rhinoman -
bringing up the costs of port cargo screening was not a good way to buttress your belief that it's a bad idea.
What do you suppose the cost is of NOT catching a nuclear device sent to the US via a shipping container? Care to compare that to screening costs?

To give you a point of reference, you may recall that the airline industry pressured the FAA into discarding increased security measures because they'd be so expensive.
Do you recall the cost of NOT forcing them to implement more stringent security? For the sake of simplicity, let's disregard the loss of 2500+ lives so that we don't have to quibble about the dollar value of them. Let's just focus on the cost of a big smoking hole in the ground in NYC and the impact that had on the various economies it impacted (individual, city, state, and national).

So by your figuring, how's that cost-benefit thing work out?

Do you suppose a low yield atomic weapon (just a couple kilotons) would leave a bigger or smaller hole wherever it happened to go off?
Sure, a dirty bomb wouldn't leave a huge crater except, I think, in people's minds.

Posted by: kenga on March 17, 2006 at 9:10 AM | PERMALINK

NSA mole: I am sure you are wrong about "suitcase nukes" - remember, it is a logical fallacy to "work in reverse" from an error like the mistranslation. Maybe that's what the Russian meant, but there really are nukes small enough to fit in one of our typical suitcases. Did you know about the atomic cannon which fired 280mm shells in the *50s*? Did you know about the "Davy Crocket" recoiless atomic rifle? That shell would easily fit in a suitcase. Sure, it's just atomic, but that's good enough. Even the hydrogen ones are rather small - even seen pics of MIRV warheads, about the size and shape of roadside safety pylons. I knew a guy who worked on that kind of stuff. Yes, we can put a nuke in a real suitcase, but I don't know if the secondary powers can do it.

Posted by: Neil' on March 17, 2006 at 9:34 AM | PERMALINK

Well I feel better and none of us should even worry anymore about Iran for the mental giant NSA has dispelled all of our fears. Accroding to NSA, the Iranians are too stupid to develop any real nuclear threat and if they happened by luck to do so, well they don't possess the engineering capabilities to deploy such weapon. Thank God, the Iranians are just too stupid to figure any of that out.

And if they again lucked into developing a nuclear bomb, they wouldn't dare hand it over to someone promising to use against America because of the mutually assured destruction repercussion. This makes complete sense afterall they just want to live in a cooperative peaceful world with the infidels just like all of the other extremists right? I think.

Maybe it's just me but shouldn't we be spending our capital on preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear capability rather than preparing to minimize the damage. We could spend a billion dollars on radiation monitors and not intercept 100% of the threats. Not even close. And in addition to that, I would think having a freindly Arab ally managing some of the port terminals would assist us in protecting against that threat, no?

Posted by: Jay on March 17, 2006 at 9:45 AM | PERMALINK

Neil - those atmoic shells are still pretty big and heavy. Good luck fitting them into a standard suitcase. Plus, the atomic shells (and Davey Crocket warheads) had a fuze that would detonate it just before or on impact. Or, you your shell or DC warhead is a gun-type warhead. Either way, the shell/warhead won't detonate without impact. You won't have impact in a "suitcase nuke." To detonate a nuke without a fuze, you need a physics package and those are quite large.

As for the MIRVs, yes, those warheads are small. But not suitcase small, or plyon small. And they are utterly worthless without the physics package that accompanies it on the missile.

Posted by: NSA Mole on March 17, 2006 at 9:53 AM | PERMALINK

Neil'

We even had Special Weapons on the tips of our eight inch shells in Germany in the late 50s and 60s - 8 inch Self Propelled vehicles were always on station across from the eastern bloc.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on March 17, 2006 at 9:57 AM | PERMALINK

Jay - listen fuck-knuckle, why don't you re-read my post. Furthermore, why don't you actually do some research into nuclear weapons. Or Iran. I'm sure you haven't even taken a physics class.

Let me elaborate:

It's over. Iran will get nukes. It's a done deal. You can bomb the shit and daisies out of them but they have the technology, know-how, and raw materials to do it. Bombing them only delays the inevitable. However, if you think expending capital (ie, the lives of US military that, imagine that, won't include YOU) every couple of years is sound policy, be my guest.

What I did say, is that Iran is years away from acquiring a capable delivery platform. Again, I hope I didn't go over your head, but CEP is Circular Error of Probability. Our missiles have a CEP measured in meters, as do the Russians. Iranian missile are based on North Korean SCUDS, who have a CEP measured in the 10s to 100s kilometers. Big difference, champ.

Second, why on earth would Iran take a nuclear weapon and attack us, knowing that we'd nuke them back to the Stone Age? Heck, Bush has come out and decreed it official policy: we'll nuke you if you use WMD on us. Please don't tell me you're so stupid that you believe all the rhetoric coming from Iran's President these days. It's all verbal diarrhea - kind of like your posts.

I've based my posts on facts. Yours are based on irrational fears. So, my challenge to you is:

1. Please show me any evidence, now or in the past, that any nation-state has even thought about developing nuclear weapons and giving them to terrorists. Note: Hollywood movies and Tom Clancy books are fiction and don't count.

2. Please show me any evidence where any country that has developed nukes has even used them on another country, much less give them to terrorists. To help you out, here is the list of countries with viable nuclear weapons:

Russia
China
India
Pakistan
France
Great Britain
Israel

Heck, I'll even give you North Korea.

Have at it jackass.

Posted by: NSA Mole on March 17, 2006 at 10:08 AM | PERMALINK

Nonsense. They could attack Israel. They could threaten the Kurds. They could try to expand their territory and dominate the Persian Gulf. They could attack any European country or threaten them in the same way.

So why do we have to do something about Iran?

Why doesn't Israel or the Kurds do something about them?

You Republiscum want it both ways. A scarey boogie man Iran that threatens the US enough that we have to bomb them, but not so much that we actually have to do something about port security.

Funny, in WWII we not only bombed Germany and Japan we also had port security.

But I guess you'll bail on the WWII analogy now that it's being used against you, right?

Posted by: Dr. Morpheus on March 17, 2006 at 10:24 AM | PERMALINK

NSA Mole -
I've a little, almost insignificant, technical quibble with you that I think needs to be pointed out. For informational and though-provoking purposes only - don't let me distract you.

Those cone-shaped warheads in a MIRV(Multiple Independently-targeted Re-entry Vehicle) are what get scattered from the missile to detonate in, on, or over multiple targets. The warhead is the whole bomb, and includes that which is needed to detonate.
The physics package in the missile itself is left behind when the warheads go their separate ways. And they're designed to detonate without it once it gets them most of the way to the target, and gives them the last nudge in the correct direction.
I'd say it is extremely improbably that Iran will get its hands on a MIRV missile, or even a warhead from one. I find it hard to believe that it is impossible to build a very small device, given that those MIRV warheads generally had a much higher yield than Fat or Little Boy. Someone willing to settle for 1/2 or 1/4 the yield of Fat Boy could make something pretty small yet still able to cause frightful damage.

Posted by: kenga on March 17, 2006 at 10:28 AM | PERMALINK

I will have to remember fuck-knuckle, that's a good one. Kudos.

So let me get this straight, you believe that Bushco will do everything that that administration advocates and must be stopped at all costs before they destroy this planet, but yet Ahmedinejad is just blowing smoke and is nothing to worry about? Seems duplicitous to me.

Secondly, it wouldn't take the leaders of Iran to offer up a nuke to the terrorists, it would simply take the terrorists to hijack a nuke from them. Many of the terrorists could not care less if we bombed them back to the stone age, hell thay are already there. All of the countries you have mentioned, with the exception of Pakistan, are among the worlds more civilized and trusted nations. It is important that we keep Pakistan in the fold as an ally and to continue to monitor their nuclear capability and stock. Which is being done.

BTW, Iran obtaining nukes is not a done deal, only to the defeatest it is. That's akin to saying well drugs are there, so my kids are going to be drug addicts, there's nothing I can do about it. Intervention.

How did I do fuck-knuckle. (I like that)

Posted by: Jay on March 17, 2006 at 10:30 AM | PERMALINK

It's been awhile since I looked at this stuff but I thought detonating an atomic bomb was relatively simple, assuming you had the ingredients.

Get enough fissionable material for a critical mass, separate it into pieces and then slam those pieces together, probably with shaped charges.

Sure, you need to know what shape and size pieces and how hard they need to slam together, that is the hard part, but once it is built setting off the shaped charges would be simple.

Granted it would be rather embarrassing to either set the device off prematurely or have it fizzle instead of explode, so you'd really want a test first, and those can be detected.

Posted by: Tripp on March 17, 2006 at 11:02 AM | PERMALINK

Hey, as far as putting nuclear materials into the hands of terrorists goes, don't count out the Bush administration. Remember Al Qa'qaa? During the invasion of Iran there will be lots of chances for terrorists to grab whatever they like.

Posted by: S Ra on March 17, 2006 at 11:02 AM | PERMALINK

Cut 'N Run Jay: Secondly, it wouldn't take the leaders of Iran to offer up a nuke to the terrorists, it would simply take the terrorists to hijack a nuke from them.

That would be equally true of any other country that had nuclear weapons, such as Israel, the USSR, China, North Korea, India, even the US. Though again, the "hijacking a nuke" scenario is more like a Tom Clancy novel than real life.

All of the countries you have mentioned, with the exception of Pakistan, are among the worlds more civilized and trusted nations.

China, North Korea and the USSR are among thte world's most trusted nations? On what planet is this?

It is important that we keep Pakistan in the fold as an ally and to continue to monitor their nuclear capability and stock. Which is being done.

No, it's not. We don't really "monitor their nuclear capability and stock" -- hell, A.Q. Khan was running his own personal nuclear eBay and shipping Pakistani nuclear technology to North Korea for years before we heard about it.

Posted by: Stefan on March 17, 2006 at 11:12 AM | PERMALINK

Please show me any evidence where any country that has developed nukes has even used them on another country, much less give them to terrorists.

Well, there is the United States....

Posted by: Stefan on March 17, 2006 at 11:15 AM | PERMALINK

kenga - you are correct; however, without the physics package, a MIRV warhead is useless.

jay - glad you like fuck-knuckle. Still don't know where you got this from:

So let me get this straight, you believe that Bushco will do everything that that administration advocates and must be stopped at all costs before they destroy this planet, but yet Ahmedinejad is just blowing smoke and is nothing to worry about? Seems duplicitous to me.

Just because I comment on this blog doesn't make me a Bush hater, or believe that they must be stopped before the planet is destroyed. I know half the shit coming from Bush is just that. He's a politician. That's there job. So is Ahmedinejad. So I take both of their pronouncements with a huge grain of salt.

As for a terrorist hijacking a nuke, that would work only if the terrorist could detonate a stolen nuke. As I've stated in previous posts, nukes don't just detonate on their own. They can be rigged like an IED. You need the physics package and the proper fuzing.

Besides, what makes you think Iran won't guard their nukes? If I'm an Iranian, I'm guarding those things good. Especially with Israel and the U.S. wanting to destroy, or steal, them.

Lastly, I don't agree with your drug analogy. You can't stop the flow of drugs, but you can keep your kid from using them. Likewise, you can't stop the spread of nuclear technology and know-how, but you can keep these countries from using nukes.

Face it, nuclear technology is quite old - and too pedestrian. Countries that decide to pursue nuclear power, a smart choice I might add, will likewise develop the capability to make nuke weapons. We can't bomb all potential nuke states that we don't like. But we can persuade them not to use them.

Posted by: NSA Mole on March 17, 2006 at 11:17 AM | PERMALINK

So you are saying that Iran is not or does not have nuclear program. Well that's just completely wrong.

Look at the IED, and the weapons that are used to attack us in Iraq by insurgents, they all come from by way of Iran. Iran is one the major supporters of terrorism activity. And that's a fact.

If we are to preserve our democractic way of life, to preserve the progress that we have made in Iraq, to free our future generations from the enslavement of terrorism, we must attack Iran now, We must destabilisze it, nullify the threat to our forces in Iraq, and spread the freedom that is currently an inherent right by the Iraqi people.

We must attack the arms, the brains, and the money that feeds terrorism activity aroud the world.

Posted by: Mini Al on March 17, 2006 at 12:58 PM | PERMALINK

Jay: Maybe it's just me but shouldn't we be spending our capital on preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear capability rather than preparing to minimize the damage.

The Voice of the Dimwit Returns (2006), starring Jay.

Sequel to The Voice of the Dimwit (2005), starring Jay.

Posted by: A Muse Zing on March 17, 2006 at 1:58 PM | PERMALINK

sunbeltjerry: Does he have any idea of the cost and the impact on the US consumer?

Yeah, Kevin.

After all, invading Iraq had no impact on consumers at all and neither will taking Iran out.

Sheesh, but you are stoopid, Kevin!

Posted by: A Muse Zing on March 17, 2006 at 1:59 PM | PERMALINK

Is everyone cooking in the sunbelt heat an idiot? Just asking.

Posted by: The Tim on March 17, 2006 at 2:20 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, yes to scanning every container coming in. I have a friend in the business and I would enjoy seeing him getting very rich. Wish I could tell you some of his container scanning stories. Very interesting!

Posted by: dilbert dogbert on March 17, 2006 at 11:08 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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