1st March 2003


Australia is apparently buying in to the US ABM technology.  Your diarist is a firm supporter of that technology.

A US General was recently visiting Australia, and his comments on the airwaves claimed that knocking out a ballistic nuclear weapon just before it hit was not a good idea, because all that radioactive material would splash down and cause great hazard to the citizens in the target area.

The level of technological knowledge displayed by a person making such a remark is dismal.  Especially considering that the person making those remarks was a military person, and would be expected to get his facts straight about military matters.

Dear General,

  1. The amount of radioactive material in an actual nuclear bomb is quite minuscule.  About 3 or 4 pounds (1 - 2 Kg) of enriched Uranium or Plutonium.  The real problem of radioactivity only happens when the bomb explodes.  The bomb (depending on it's construction) creates hundreds to tens of thousands of times more radioactivity in the process of exploding.  The amount of radioactive material in an unexploded bomb would not produce a radioactive hazard even 1/10,000 as severe as Chernobyl.
  2. A nuclear bomb is a rather delicately balanced mechanism inside a fairly robust casing.  The earliest bombs were like two rifle barrels pointing at each other.  Simultaneous explosions in each barrel sent the two radioactive "bullets" racing towards each other, where (hopefully) they were together long enough to produce sufficient fission energy for an explosion (before they melted the casing and dissipated as a gas).  A slight disturbance in the delicate mechanism (e.g. one charge exploding 1/100 of a second late etc.) and the bomb is a meltdown squib.  The point is, a solid steel rifle barrel casing would probably survive relatively intact from a sub orbital ballistic trajectory, with the enriched Uranium still inside.  Admittedly, modern casings are probably more fragile.
  3. Even if the bomb was in a more fragile case and did "burn up" after being damaged by the ABM, the radioactivity released would be so dispersed that there would be a barely noticeable (<2%) increase in background radiation at ground zero.
I can understand that US military "brass" might not find ABM's as "sexy" as aircraft carriers or B2's or the like, but they should not allow their personal feelings interfere with an honest assessment of the strategic possibilities of technology.   Strategically, a workable ABM is like the threat of MAD in the sixties.  Hopefully, the ABM will discourage nations from developing ballistic weapons.  Hopefully, the ABM will discourage nations from using ABM's.

I must say, my confidence in the US military is being severely damaged by this and the Tora Bora fiasco.


Your diarist met NSW premier Bob Carr and his wife?  (We 3 on those 2) last Saturday while having a morning coffee outside Coluzzi.

There is of course an election due in about three weeks.

Someone (one of we 3) remarked later that he read a lot of history books.  An unusual (and desirable) attribute in a political leader, I thought.

Your diarist did not ask any important questions (like the Premier's opinion on poll voting issues by e-mail, or direct government), just commented (somewhat incoherently I fear) that Warne, involved in the scandal about a cricketer caught using diuretics, was the victim of a law that should have procedurally discriminated between medical and ability enhancement use of steroids.

Premier Carr's opinion was that Warne should have come clean immediately, (presumably that he used steroids to heal a sports injury).


The UN Security council has 15 members, of which five (Russia, France, China, UK & USA) are permanent members with veto powers.    Two of those (Russia & France) have extensive economic involvement with Saddam Hussein's Iraq, and in the event of an invasion, could lose significant amounts of money.

The question is, suppose the council votes 9-v-6 to invade Iraq, and the motion fails because two of those votes against invasion are veto's by members who have a financial interest in there not being a war?

Then the USA would have a moral mandate to invade.

In the common law, if a judge has a pecuniary (or, in fact, any) interest in a case that is brought before him, he is bound to discharge himself from that matter.  This is because it is against the principle of natural justice that a judge would benefit depending on the outcome of a case brought before him.

Is France, the land that claims to originate Liberty, Equality & Fraternity, able to distinguish this fine point of a natural justice issue?.  Is Russia, the nation that brought about the world's first socialist state, able to distinguish natural justice issues?

On the other hand, the Australian press (which is admittedly anti-war) is telling us that the small nations on the security council are "only going to vote for the invasion because the USA has bought their votes".

If that is the situation, then my next question becomes, "how long has this situation existed?"

If Tammany Hall is common practice in the UN security council, then the security council of the United Nations is a failure, and should be abandoned or repaired.

The UN security council has already been severely damaged when Clinton invaded Yugoslavia without seeking security council approval.  Perhaps it will fall to Bush to administer the Coup de grace.

Maybe security matters should in future be considered by the full bench of the UN.