[Todd] Purdum [author of a profile of V.P. Cheney in latest issue of Vanity Fair] reports that Cheney travels with a chemical-biological suit at all times. When he gave his friend Robin West and his twin children a ride to the White House a couple of years ago, West commented on the fact that Cheney’s motorcade varied its daily path. “And he said, ‘Yeah, we take different routes so that “The Jackal” can’t get me,’” West tells Purdum. “And then there was this big duffel bag in the middle of the backseat, and I said, ‘What’s that? It’s not very roomy in here.’ And [Cheney] said, ‘No, because it’s a chemical-biological suit,’ and he looked at it and said, ‘Robin, there’s only one. You lose.’”Isonically (or satirically?), a friend had loaned me the DVD of Jarhead and I got around to watching it last night. Shortly after the Marines arrive in the desert they are setting up their tent and their Staff Sergeant walks in with a stopwatch in his hand. He almost immediately announces a gas attack drill and the Marines frantically struggle with their NBC suits. 60 seconds of Keystone Kops struggles later, the Staff Sgt. pronounces them all "dead." No one has managed to get more than the mask or part of the full suit on.
Jarhead is a memoir of the Gulf War, so I have no doubt that scene is accurately portrayed. The suits are bulky, cumbersome, and not easily put on without great familiarity and practice. Now think about it: 20 year old well-trained Marines in an open space (a tent) cannot, in 60 seconds, get into their anti-gas gear. How likely is it Dick Cheney, a senior overweight man who has had multiple heart attacks and wears a pacemaker, is going to get that "chemical suit" out of the duffle bag in the back seat of a limo and get into it quickly enough?
The baseline of paranoia, at least as the term is commonly defined, is an irrational belief both that you are subject to constant threats, and that you can do something about them. Isn't this kind of attitude of a piece with the idea that tactical nuclear weapons are a viable part of the U.S. arsenal, and can be used in a "first strike" capacity?