Death and injury are every bit as tragic as they are inevitable for human beings. Understandably, we worry about both, we all cry and mourn when either strike, especially with ourselves or those we love playing the starring role. And I have no desire to down play the loss that anyone feels when someone they love is struck down, be it by terrorism or leukemia. But ...some perspective maybe?
Heart disease and cancer will claim about 1.5 million American lives each and every year. As far as accidental deaths (~100,000/year), motor vehicle accidents far and away lead the pack (+40,000/year), with accidental poisoning and falls in place and show1. You can play with those stats all kinds of ways. But the bottom line is that over the course of a civilian lifetime, the odds of falling victim to Al Qaeda rank somewhere between falling off a ladder to your death and being struck by lightning inside your home.
How does Al Qaeda compare with past threats?
This is a UR-100, NATO designation SS-11 "Sego". The SS-11 was one of the workhorses making up a significant portion of the land based Soviet nuclear deterrent. These weapons initially carried a single one-megaton nuclear warhead. Later versions carried up to six 300-500 kilo-ton devices in a single MIRV configuration (The atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima yielded about 15 kilotons). Between 1970 and 1985 there were well over 1000 SS-11 missiles and later, larger variants deployed throughout the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe in both silo and mobile launcher systems.
Had the SS-11s and their buddies been launched at the US during the cold war, they would have reached their targets in a few minutes and converted some 20 million US citizens into plasma. Many millions more would have died in agony over the next few weeks in ways too horrible to contemplate. A full Soviet attack would have turned every major city and military base into a smoking, glassy, radioactive crater. Let's put it in perspective by way of pictures:
H-bomb test Castle Bravo shown to rough scale behind lower Manhattan with the two World Trade Centers for reference. The skyline has actually been made larger (By maybe a factor of ten as near as we can figure) for purposes of clarity--in actual scale it would be so small you wouldn't be able to recognize it. Now multiply that by a thousand to get a handle on the cold-war. Yes, 9-11 was a shocking tragedy, as was Katrina, Oklahoma City, and the nation rightfully mourned them all and many more like them. But in even a limited nuclear exchange with the former USSR, there would have been no nation left. Photo work by Karen Wehrstein (Artist tip jar)
The Cold-war is just one of many threats we've faced that exceed the danger posed to America from Osama bin Laden by orders of magnitude. We also survived Hitler, Imperial Japan, the Kaiser, a Civil War, and the British Empire--the latter one twice by the way--just to name a few.
In that historical context, reading or hearing a bunch of yelping GOP crybabies incessantly screeching in craven horror that Al Qaeda is the worst, gosh-darn biggest bad-ass threat we've ever faced is, frankly, an act that has grown tired and embarrassing. And when they yammer, time and time again, that it's not enough for them to be quivering under their beds, they insist the entire country crawl under there and obsess along with them, while they lay in fetal position swaddled in their faded George Bush security blanket squawking in fear, it's enough to make Burt the Turtle duck and cover in disgust.
Here's a message for both our homegrown Neoconservative, bloggy, gutless wonders and the Jihadi nutcases overseas: I grew up in the cold-war, my parents went through WW2 for crying out loud. We are not paralyzed with fear over Osama. Despite your best efforts, I'm not obsessed with terrorism. Sheesh, I barely even think about it. I face bigger statistical risks, in every way, every day, and on every scale, just driving across a set of railroad tracks and down the interstate smoking a cigarette in the rain, and I don't worry much about that either.
And if you want me to be afraid for my very nation's survival, Jebus H Christ, you damn well better be able to wave around a threat considerably more convincing than a rag-tag group of zealots who shit in caves and beg other people to put on suicide belts sporting a rip cord detonator.
Update 8:54 AM EDT: Yay! I got
linked quoted on one right-wing chicken-shit site already. Redstate is whining that we must join them under the bed. How do these wimps make it through the day without a jug of Xanax? Who will be the next yellow-elephant to complain that we're not sharing in their abject cowardice enough? I'm taking bets ...