BURNING SKIN FOR 40 MILES Mass Death: Nuclear War’s Pending Horror AUSTIN Even though you are Texans and as Observer readers dedicated provincials, you have a right to know the present meaning of the word “war.” From the beginning of the Observer we have sought to limit our scope to stories and issues of Texas, to the local and personal episodes of our place and time. There is nothing more local these days than war there is nothing more personal than death and radioactive torture. If you are worried, after the bombs fall, about anything, you will not be worried about school integration or the general sales tax. You will be worried how, without water, to put out the fire at your house, your wife and children inside, and deadly fallout outside. If you have built a shelter or dug a hole, you will be worried, for a short time, about breathing, as the firestorm outside burns up the oxygen. SEVEN YEARS we have worked on this newspaper, and we have not paid any attention at all, not just to something we should have seen, but to that thing to which we should have given all our concern and passion we could space from our personal loves and lives. The scientists and the nations have made possible the most horrible things in history, more horrible than cruelty to someone you have loved, more horrible than bashing an enemy’s child against a brick wall, more horrible than the profiteers of revolutions, more horrible than anything else at all. The magazines and the newspapers have failed us. So have our politicians. The generals and the presidents have failed. They have all failed. The liberals meeting at state parks have failed. The labor unions meeting at posh Miami Beach hotels have failed. Because here, all of a sudden, here we are, about to burn and torture and mutilate and cancerize and do so many other things to each other, no typewriter, no imagination, will tell it. About to give the horrors of pain and death their unlimited range in the quantities of nature! We are being lied to by men of little vision, men who think war is still thinkable, fifty million American casualties “tolerable,” and bomb shelters an adequate defense from hydrogen bombs. They have failed us. I will try now to tell you. It is all from books and magazines. But listen. We have failed. Listen. More than to anything else, Listen. Community of Fear, by Harrison Brown and James Real, Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions, Fund for the Republic, 1960: “During the greater part of World War II, strategic bombing planes carried blockbusters of TNT which weighed a little over twenty tons. By the end of the war two atomic bombs had been dropped upon Japan by two bombers. The power of each of these weapons was 1,000 times greater than that of their chemical predecessors. In less than a decade following the end of World War II thermonuclear weapons were developed which multiplied the power of atomic weapons by another factor of 1,000. Toda l y a modern strategic bomber can carry an H-bomb which has the destructive force of twenty million tons of TNT. “Let us represent the explosive power of a World War II blockbuster by a one-foot ruler. On this scale the bomb that demolished Hiroshima would be represented by the height of the Empire State building, and a twenty-megaton weapon by the height of the orbit of Sputnik I. One thermonuclear bomb releases more destructive energy than that released by all of the bombs dropped on Germany and Japan during World War II.” Hold on, hold on : the car needs washing or the baby changing or supper’s ready or junior wants to play badminton but hold on, hold on: what will it avail you to make it through the next hour if you fail the human race for all time? “In fifteen years, the transit time for a bomb flown between Moscow and Washington has been reduced from sixteen hours to less than thirty minutes . . . Man’s ability to rationalize the perpetration of horrors upon his fellows appears to be almost limitless . . . the war had not been over long before military leaders had more or less adjusted themselves to the concept of atomic war . . . “The extent to which the possibility of war would continue to dominate international relations would depend in part upon the extent to which people believe that survival is possible and in part upon the risks which a nation as a whole is willing to take in order to attain a political objective . . . . . . it is estimated that the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. together possess explosive material corresponding to about 30 billion tons of TNT, or about ten tons of TNT for every inhabitant of the world.” \(In New Republic Sept. 4, two psychiatrists put this fact another way : “. . . all of us are passengers on a planet virtually triggered to explodethe earth today contains the explosive equivalent of 10 tons of TNT for each of its three billion inhabitants . . .” \(Resuming the Fund for the Re”Thermonuclear weapons range in explosive force up to somewhat more than twenty megatons, corresponding to 20 million tons of TNT. These heavy bombs can be carried by B-52 bombers . . . “When a ten-megaton warhead is detonated . . . the resultant fireball grows quickly to a diameter of about three and a half miles. The heat flash persists for about twenty seconds and on a clear day can produce third-degree burns out to about twenty miles and second-degree burns out to a distance of about twenty-five miles from the explosion. A ten-megaton burst in the atmosphere thirty miles above the earth could set fire to combusibles over 5,000 square miles on a clear day. “A surface burst of a ten-megaton bomb would produce a crater about 250 feet deep and a half mile wide. “The zone of complete demolition would be about three miles in diameter. “Severe blast damage would extend to about nine miles from the center of the explosion, and moderate to major damage would extend out to twelve miles, or over an area of 450 square miles. “It is likely that firestorms will result from a thermonuclear burst over a large city. A firestorm is a huge fire in which cooler air is drawn to the center of the burning area, elevating the temperature and perpetuating the conflagration. Winds reach hurricane velocities. The holocaust consumes the available oxygen in the air with the result that persons not burned to death may die of suffocation or of carbon monoxide poisoning. “The explosion results in the instantaneous emission of nuclear radiation in quantities that can be lethal at distances up to two miles, but since persons in that area would be killed anyway by the blast and thermal effects, this is not an important factor. “Far more dangerous is the radiation from radioactive products which . . . are scattered over the countryside as ‘fallout.’ . . . The lighter particles are carried downward and, depending upon the wind conditions, will be deposited over an area fifteen to thirty miles wide and 100 to 500 miles long .. . “The local fallout from a ten-megaton explosion could, if spread uniformly, produce lethal levels of radioactivity over about 5,000 square miles of land.” JUST IN CASE you think this is something out of Gabriel HeatterBilly Grahamor the once so fantastic Buck Rogersthe Fund for the Republic writers ask us to imagine that a ten-megaton warhead is exploded in the civic area of downtown Los Angeles. That could be, provincials, hicks, yokels, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio, Austin, Corpus Christi, Beaumont, or 100 to 500 miles west or south or south-west or west-southwest or south-southwest from any of these. “The blast effects would exterminate virtually all but the most deeply sheltered living things within a radius of five miles. Blast casualties would be severe up to a distance of HOUSTON You may recall the stormy events which embraced the natural gas pipeline tax in those closing moments of the late legislature. After a close study of the pipeline levy that survived the spry machinations of Twinkletoes Foster and other pipeline lobbyists, the author of that tax now believes Judge Foster and associates may have pulled the classic bugaboo of the season. Foster is the chief lobbyist for Phillips, a modest outfit that would have borne a sizeable portion of the pipeline tax. As part of the “compromise” from which HB 20 emerged on that last night, the judge and his fellows saw an amendment through which apparently gutted the measure from $18 million to $3 million and let the pipelines off scot-free. Bob Eckhardt of Houston, who devoted most of his energies from the first day of the 57th legislature to a constitutional approach to pipeline taxation one of the central legisla Eckhardt tive issues in recent Texas historynow feels that “the tax is not only constitutional despite the amendment, it may hit the ,pipelines full-force and bring in the whole amount.” Eckhardt has the complete support of Gov. Daniel on this point and perhaps Atty. Gen. Wilson. What has prompted Eckhardt to change his mind on the matter? The answer involves the most complicated legalisms imaginable, but it boils down, in brief, to this: The exemption which Eckhardt originally believed to have excused the pipelines stated, “Without regard to any other provision of this chapter no person or persons operating one or more gasoline plants shall, in respect to the residue gas after processing in said plants, be liable for any tax thereunder.” W E HAVE italicized the crucial wording in the amendment. Eckhardt stoutly believes that the after processing stipulation leaves the tax precisely as he originally intended. “There never was any tax at that level,” he says. From the start the tax was devised to fall directly on the severanceon the removal of the gas from the groundand its impact is on the severance beneficiary, who is usually the holder of the dedicated reserve contract. “The amendment is really nothing more than a restatement of the expressed intent ten miles. But the phenomenon that would complete the devastation of life in the entire area would be fire. “The area would be one great sea of fire, which would burn until there was nothing more to consume. A good proportion of the metropolitan area’s three-and-a-half-million cars and trucks would be lifted and thrown like grotesque Molotov cocktails, to spew flaming gasoline, oil, and automotive shrapnel onto and into everything in their paths. “In an instant most underground gasoline and oil tanks would rupture and explode within the blast area, and a large proportion within the firestorm radius would follow, each in its own particular mannerpumps and pipes sheered, and, finally, higher and higher ambient temperatures.” Beyond the blast radius, Los Angeles is auto junk yards, lumber yards, cheap flammable commercial structures, and then hills and scrub forest. “Most of these highly flammable materials would break into intense flame simultantouslya phe of the whole bill,” he argues. The author further contends that if the pipelines’ construction of the bill is upheld in the courts legal consistency would dictate that pipelines operating gasoline plants would be exempted from payment of any tax on any gas it produces and then processes. This, alas, would go so far as to exempt large quantities of gas from the present seven percent production tax. And if that turns out to be the case, Judge Foster and the pipelines have engineered the coup of the century in Texas. Eckhardt is confident, however, that the courts will not allow such a patent travesty, and will take the strict construction approach straight down the line. The first tax payments are not due until October 1, since they will be based on production starting September 1. “The matter is beginning to have urgency now,” Eckhardt says, “because they’re either going to have to start collecting from the pipelines or they’re not.” The pipelines, as in the past with the “gas gathering” tax of 1951 and the “severance beneficiary” tax of 1959, are sure to pay any revenues demanded of them under protest. If the comptroller’s office proceeds to demand the levy of the pipelines, as the author says they legally should, the question then lies with Will Wilson. Will he judge for or against the pipelines? Eckhardt says he has assurances from the attorney general that he will judge against them. T WAS Wilson, in fact, who played a central role in the conference committee’s adoption of the questionable amendment on the last day of the session. “If this amendment which Wilson endorsed does make the bill unconstitutional in the courts,” Eckhardt says, “then he must bear the whole brunt of the fault.” “What actually happened was this,” Eckhardt says. “The lobbyists for the gas pipelines aren’t particularly good constitutional lawyers. They never have been. They mainly have to concentrate on wining , and dining legislators. “Some of them were trying to pull a trick on the legislature and the state with this amendment. Judge Foster thought he had an amendment that left the pipelines out. He had a real tricky deal. When Foster drafted the amendment and gave it to Sen. fit the old severance beneficiary tax of ’59. He failed to see the new reading of this billthat the tax would be levied at the actual severance of gas from the soil. He simply missed his mark.” W.M. Eckhardt on Pipelines Tax Did Lobby Err?
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