Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Taking the Pulse

The first I ever heard of “Electro-Magnetic Pulse” or EMP was twenty years ago when the Pentagon wanted to build a series of low-frequency AM radio towers - one of them a few miles from my house in the cornfields of North Fryeburg, Maine. In case our enemies exploded a nuclear device high in our atmosphere and fried all electronic communications, the towers would survive and allow our forces to orchestrate a counterattack. The Pentagon called the system “GWEN,” or Ground Wave Emergency Network.

At the time, I was still transitioning from liberal to conservative and reflexively questioned the wisdom of expenditures on anything related to nuclear warfare. I knew nothing about AM radio waves except that they faded out while driving under a bridge. Twenty years hence, that’s still about the extent of my knowledge, except that I now listen regularly to conservative talk radio on that band. No tower went up in North Fryeburg, but the GWEN system was built in the rest of the country.

In an informative article about the EMP threat, Frank Gaffney of the Center for Security Policy quoted a congressionally-mandated report that a small nuke, detonated high above the USA, would have a “high likelihood of damaging electrical power systems, electronics, and information systems upon which American society depends. Their effects on dependent systems and infrastructures could be sufficient to qualify as catastrophic to the nation.”

Catastrophic. They didn’t overstate it. Right now, I’m near the end of a novel by William R. Forstchen called “One Second After,” and it’s scaring me. Forstchen specializes in military history and the history of technology, and he paints a bleak picture of a post-EMP America.

There would be no electronic communication. Information would travel by word of mouth, just like in the 18th century. There would be no electricity. Cars, trucks, trains would just stop. Only antique vehicles would run - those built before electronic ignition systems. Planes would fall out of the sky. There would be no refrigeration, no freezers. After a week or so, food not canned or dried would spoil. Animals dependent on grain trucked in would starve too. America’s abundant food supply could not be distributed without trucks or trains. People would have to make due with what they had stored up. Hog farms without grain shipments would have a lot of dead hogs or the surrounding area would have a lot of wild ones.

Pacemakers would stop. Diabetics would run out of insulin. People on anti-depressants or anti-psychotics would run out of meds. Hospitals and nursing homes couldn’t function. Within a couple of months, there would be huge die-offs. Refugees would roam and compete for dwindling food supplies. State and federal government could not function. Prisons would have to either execute their inmates or release them. All government would be local, and would likely rule by martial law if there were any law at all.

With a forward by former US House Speaker Newt Gingrich, “One Second After” makes the plausible case that, after an EMP, America would be sent back to the Middle Ages. How vulnerable is the United States to EMP? The present nuclear nations would be unlikely to attack this way because we would hit right back and they’re as vulnerable as we are. So where would a threat likely come from?

Let’s see. There are at least two whack-jobs running countries today, and they both hate the United States. Both are developing nuclear weapons and long-range missiles to deliver them. The first is Kim Jong Il of North Korea. According to a article from 2003:

Kim Jong Il likes Daffy Duck and fast cars, and before he became North Korea's dictator he wanted to be a film producer. He was born on the peak of a sacred mountain, he says, and his birth was attended by thunder and lightning. . . . While his famine-starved people eat tree bark to ease their hunger, he dines on steak and cognac in the company of the "Pleasure Squad" -- a variety pack of imported blondes and Asian beauties.

A 2000 Time article echoes those claims. Last week Kim successfully tested a nuke bigger than the one that destroyed Hiroshima, and he’s been regularly test-firing missiles capable of delivering it.

The second whack-job is Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran. At two speeches to the UN General Assembly, he invoked the “Mahdi” whom Allah has been keeping alive in an Iranian well for over a 1000 years. Radical Shiites believe Ahmadinejad can bring the Mahdi out of the well by causing chaos on earth, and that’s what he’s planning to do. While we have Fourth of July parades here, in Iran they chant “Death to America” and flog themselves bloody with chains.

Meanwhile, President Obama spends trillions on social welfare and “infrastructure,” much of it electronic. Then he cut funding for anti-missile defense systems which could prevent just such an EMP attack by rogue nations like North Korea and Iran. Soon, each will have the capability of wiping out all that new infrastructure, and more, in one second - if they don’t have it already.


Anonymous said...

If I wasn't awake before seeing the picture of a naked Kim Jong Il, I definitely was afterward. Given how vain he is, I'm surprised that he let that photo out.

It's a scary world that we live in today and it will only continue to get worse as the days pass.


Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...


I linked your article on the Constitutionalists blog.

While I do not hesitate a second to believe that the PRK or Iran would create THE PULSE, I think they still lack the technology, since this scenario requires a nuclear detonation IN SPACE.

So far (!) all countries who have the technology are not crazy enough to do it, since MAD still works on nations like Russia.

Also, my friend, I seriously recommend you issue a clear barf alert, before publishing pictures of a naked North Korean Pig in Chief!

HERE's my revenge for the shock!

Tom McLaughlin said...

Ralph: That was an over-reaction in the extreme and I didn't deserve it. I'm thinking you need anger-management intervention before you hurt someone.

Anonymous said...

Right on as usual, Tom. As retired Navy SCPO, I have some background in military things. I have been reading about EMP for several years. I have not been able to find out anything about our capability to combat such an event and it is scary just to think about it. Could I survive by living off the land? I would hate to have to try. Also, we had all better be prepared to protect ourselves in the inevitable anarchy that ensue in the first few months as humans turn to animal behavior just to survive.

Harvey in North Baldwin