WASHINGTON, June 21 (Reuters) - There is a 70-percent risk of an attack somewhere in the world with a weapon of mass destruction in the next decade, arms experts predicted in a survey released on Tuesday.
Okay, will all of you who predicted in August 2001 that there was a 100% chance of planes being flown into the World Trade Center take one step forward?
The survey, conducted by U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard Lugar, describes a threat that is "real and increasing over time" and endorses vastly increased funding for non-proliferation programs.
What's the point? We're doomed. I say, sit back and enjoy the ride. Margarita?
"Even if we succeed spectacularly at building democracy around the world, bringing stability to failed states and spreading economic opportunity broadly, we will not be secure from the actions of small, disaffected groups that acquire weapons of mass destruction," the Indiana Republican said in a preface to the survey.
Seriously, I've been listening to Dick Lugar for forty years now, and if he's ever delivered a political pronouncement that wasn't caged for the crackpot wing of his party it slipped past me in the night. Where was this speech when we were voting on the Iraq War Resolution, Mr. Chairman? Where was the strong voice for counterinsurgency then, instead of the easy $300 billion "and increasing over time" handed over in the hopes of succeeding spectacularly at not making ourselves secure?
The survey records the views of 85, mostly U.S., experts, including the Bush administration's top non-proliferation official, Robert Joseph, and such former Republican and Democratic officials as John Wolf, James Woolsey, William Burns, Donald Gregg, Strobe Talbott and Robert Einhorn.
Wow. And they all agree that nuclear proliferation is worrisome. What are the odds? And speaking of odds:
The experts estimated the risk of a nuclear attack to be 16.4 percent over the next five years and 29.2 percent over the next decade.
Sixteen-point-four. Twenty-nine-point-two. That's impressive pinpoint accuracy there, especially considering that it doesn't mean a goddam thing.
Asked to consider the possibility of a nuclear, biological, chemical or radiological (dirty bomb) attack on any nation, they concluded the chance of one of the four to be 50 percent over five years and 70 percent over 10 years.
A Lugar aide who oversaw the survey told Reuters 70 percent is "a very conservative estimate."
Because nine out of ten doctors agree, when pulling numbers out of your ass it's best to be conservative. Wear gloves, preferably, and don't use oil-based lubes with latex.
An attack with a dirty bomb, combining a conventional explosive like dynamite with radioactive material, is seen as most likely, with a risk of 40 percent over the next decade.
Am I missing something here? If the most likely scenario is put at 40%, then aren't those the odds? We're not adding percentages to increase the scare factor here, are we?
Oh, look, here's the answer man from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Let's see if he can set us straight:
In most cases, any immediate deaths or serious injuries would likely result from the explosion itself, rather than from radiation exposure. It is unlikely that the radioactive material contained in a dirty bomb would kill anyone.
Thanks, Mr. NRC. I feel better already, except for a touch of vertigo. Say, isn't that your friend from the Mayo Clinic?
Experts say biological and chemical agents are used more as a threat against small groups than as actual weapons aimed at large populations. This may be in part because they're difficult to deploy.
A controlled release of anthrax spores, for instance, can be tricky because of shifting winds. Tularemia-causing bacteria could be destroyed by the very bomb set to unleash the disease over a community by exploding. And nerve gases eventually dissipate once released into the air.
The expertise needed in handling and producing the various viruses and chemicals also makes them difficult to use as weapons in war or terrorism. Although bacteria, viruses and chemicals can be produced in a laboratory, the actual release of these agents requires technical skill and special equipment. Those who try to create or use these agents place themselves at great risk.
Hey, do any of you experts happen to have a couple aspirin on you? I feel 70% of a headache coming on.
By the way, if we're all destroyed in a nuclear holocaust you can blame me for scoffing.