Man’s Life’s a Vapor, and Full of Woes

I propose that if we are attacked again like we were on 9/11 that we respond with neutron bombs to wipe out the entity threatening/attacking us with overwhelming, quick and deadly force. If a country supports attacking us then we should attack them. No more American interminable boots on the ground, just neutron bombs on the ground that will kill life without irradiating the area. It is past time to get serious with these barbarians who threaten us and Israel because of their stupid, misguided and violent so called religion.

— a reader’s letter to my local paper, Sept. 1, 2010

I have now seen with my own eyes what a neutron bomb can do to a small city. I am back at the Hotel Oloffson after three days in my old hometown. Midland City was exactly as I remembered it, except that there were no people living there. … Ketchum’s wife and Felix’s wife had declined to come along. They were afraid of radioactivity, and Felix’s wife was especially afraid of it, since she was with child. We were unable to persuade those superstitious souls that the whole beauty of a neutron bomb explosion was that here was no lingering radiation afterwards.

— Kurt Vonnegut, Deadeye Dick: A Novel (1982)

Also called ENHANCED RADIATION WARHEAD, specialized type of small thermonuclear weapon that produces minimal blast and heat but which releases large amounts of lethal radiation. The neutron bomb delivers blast and heat effects that are confined to an area of only a few hundred yards in radius. But within a somewhat larger area it throws off a massive wave of neutron and gamma radiation, which can penetrate armor or several feet of earth. This radiation is extremely destructive to living tissue.

Whereas a standard thermonuclear device will destroy buildings in a vast shockwave of heat and pressure, the neutron bomb would detonate above a battlefield with, theoretically, little risk of destroying the surrounding area. The blast would be confined to a radius of no more than a couple of hundred metres but a massive wave of radiation would knock out tank crews, infantry and other personnel. Even if the buildings did remain, survivors would soon find their bodies filled with elements such as strontium, ensuring that they eventually die of radiation poisoning.

…Only a small number of neutron warheads were produced and Washington never deployed the weapon alongside its other nuclear forces in Europe because of the surrounding political controversy.

… William Peden of CND (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament) said: “Whatever has been said about the neutron bomb, its actual effects are known only in theory. In nuclear terms, an explosion is still an explosion. You cannot sanitise nuclear war.”

— BBC News, “Neutron bomb: Why clean is deadly,” July 15, 1999

I will explain the main symbols in this book.
… There is a neutron bomb explosion in a populated area. This is the disappearance of so many people I cared about in Indaniapolis when I was starting out to be a writer. Indianapolis is there, but the people are gone.
… I also say that a neutron bomb is a sort of magic wand, which kills people instantly, but which leaves their property unharmed. This is a fantasy borrowed from enthusiasts for a Third World War. A real neutron bomb, detonated in a populated area, would cause a lot more suffering and destruction than I have described.

— Kurt Vonnegut, Deadeye Dick, from the preface

A “dirty bomb,” also known as a radiological weapon or a radiological dispersal device (RDD), is a conventional explosive packaged with radioactive materials. A dirty bomb kills or injures through the initial blast of the conventional explosive, and by airborne radiation and contamination (hence the term “dirty”).

Council on Foreign Relations, Oct. 19, 2006

VINCE CANNISTRARO, Ex-Chief, Central Intelligence Agency Counterterrorism: Jose Padilla apparently went to Al Qaeda and said, “Look give me some money, and I’ll carry out an operation for you, including a dirty bomb.” Al Qaeda said, “Okay, fine.” And they gave him $10,000. It was one of the kinds of operations that Al Qaeda has been known for in the past, kind of a venture capital, seeding operation.

— NOVA, “DIRTY BOMB,” PBS, February 25, 2003

MIAMI, Jan. 22, 2008 — Jose Padilla, once accused of plotting with al Qaeda to blow up a radioactive “dirty bomb,” was sentenced Tuesday to 17 years and four months on terrorism conspiracy charges that don’t mention those initial allegations.


… You want to know something? We are still in the Dark Ages. The Dark Ages — they haven’t ended yet.

— Kurt Vonnegut, Deadeye Dick

Yo La Tengo — Nuclear War, Version 2

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