November 11, 2001
Bin Laden's Nukes and Ours

So Osama Bin Laden says that he has chemical and nuclear weapons and is prepared to use them? It would be a pity if something were to happen to them. If one of his caves were to be hit by an American bomb, send up a mushroom cloud, and spread radiation for miles downwind, wouldn't it look as if one of his nukes had been set off by one of our conventional bombs, even if it had happened the other way around? The same goes, mutatis mutandis, for chemical and biological weapons. His statement certainly gives us deniability if we want to make discreet use of low-yield nukes on the deeper and more solidly fortified caves in Tora Bora.

Of course, it would still look bad, since not everyone would believe our denials. In fact, it would make us look bad even if that is what really happened. That is, it would give Bin Laden the opposite of deniability, which I suppose is 'assertability'. (Note to the editors of the Oxford English Dictionary: if the word is new, please quote me in your next edition.) Nevertheless, it seems worth pointing out that crossing a threshold could have advantages as well as disadvantages for us.

Finally, it is interesting that Bin Laden does not threaten to use biological weapons. Is this omission significant? Given that his claim to possess workable nuclear weapons is almost certainly false, I wonder if he does not threaten to use biological weapons because he has already done so. That would make this an implicit confession to being behind the anthrax mailings in Florida and New Jersey. This is hardly the sort of evidence that would stand up in a court of law, but still . . . . Of course, he denies any connection with the anthrax elsewhere in the tape, but he would say that, wouldn't he?

Posted by Dr. Weevil at November 11, 2001 10:00 PM