The Electro-pulse of Doom that threatens America

So we need a continent-sized Faraday cage, right? And lots of candles...

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Be afraid. The recent election removed a stalwart defender of the United States against one demonical menace among many, the electromagnetic pulse attack, the one that will fry our electronics. The spiritual leader of the cause, Republican Congressman Curt Weldon, was endorsed by Frank Gaffney, right wing defender of the faith in national security and pundit for the pages of the Washington Times, two days before Weldon's political career was terminated.

"No one has done more than Curt Weldon to warn the nation against the potentially 'catastrophic' threat of electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack . . " wrote Gaffney.

"[Weldon] has sought another closed-session of the House to apprise his colleagues, who remain largely uninformed of this megathreat, and to rouse them to the sort of decisive action they previously took on missile defense."

Weldon went down anyway, the megathreat being not as compelling as the perception of crookedness, if the FBI is investigating you for influence peddling.

While this is dancing on the man's grave, consider the observer's fun factor lost when the electromagnetic pulse threat advocacy lobby's loss of Weldon took one in the shorts on November 7th.

"The nightmare scenario is this: A rogue nation like North Korea or a stateless terrorist like Bin Laden gets hold of a nuclear weapon and decides not to drive it into a large city but rather to launch it on a Scud-type missile straight into the atmosphere from a barge off the East Coast," claimed Gaffney.

Keep in mind that when talking about electromagnetic attack, anything goes. It's old but immortal Fortress American paranoid voodoo, crap - in other words, a threat which can be glued on anyone: teen hackers, Russia, Cuba, China, North Korea, Iran, al Qaeda, even Saddam Hussein and a half dozen enemies we haven't found, like maybe you.

If someone doesn't have the bomb quite yet, such as Iran, let alone the multi-megaton one to be notionally used to induce a scorching atmospheric electromagnetic wave, it's no obstacle. Suspend disbelief. Common sense, after all, is a handicap to outside-the-box thinking.

"There is reason to believe the Iranian regime is working toward [an EMP] capability that could destroy America as we know it," wrote Gaffney, again attributing Curt Weldon, last February. This linked piece conveniently contains a graphic, showing Jesusland would suffer more, so buy gold now.

And if one is conceptually skeptical of Iran, North Korea or terrorists with a multi-megaton thermonuclear device, that's no impediment to crushing the Great Satan.

"In an instant, the world's superpower could become a candle-powered 19th-century museum," wrote one brilliant theoretician at Slate recently.

"The worse news is that EMP weapons don't require a nuclear detonation - there are other ways to achieve the same effect."

What other ways? Not important. Take it from me, they exist, just like N-rays and phlogiston.

Electromagnetic pulse attack is so nefarious, even journalists feel compelled to bug Homeland Security about it.

In a talk in June entitled "Fact or Fiction in the War on Terror" - this is not made up - HS director Michael Chertoff was jokily cryptic with a DC news audience that had watched Jack Bauer's adventures on "24."

"[I]s electromagnetic pulse fact or fiction?" asked the moderator of the event.

"Well, let me say first of all that it is true that technology always surprises us," said Chertoff, adding a little later, "As far as electromagnetic pulsating, I don't know if it would shut the entire country down."

Jack Bauer, as you may know, fought an electromagnetic pulse bomb that employed "other ways" than a thermonuclear blast to black out Los Angeles. DD, however, prefers the electromagnetic pulse bomb in "Medusa's Child," a made for TV movie that runs once a month or so on cable in which a downsized Pentagon scientist makes a four megaton H-bomb in his work shack behind the house.

While Weldon won't be available to kick around anymore, the EMP lobby still has supporters. Arizona GOP Senator John Kyl and Rep. Roscoe Bartlett of Maryland. Kyl believes the EMP attack could come from the al Qaeda freighter navy, a 60-strong fleet that could park off the coast and lob bombs, like Trident submarines.

And a potential reinforcement exists in Newt Gingrich, presidential candidate. Gingrich has been traveling the country, talking about "Word War III," the one Americans are fighting for the rest of you shabby lot.

"If we didn't have the threat of nuclear weapons, electromagnetic pulse weapons... this would not be a global threat," said Gingrich in July at a Republican rally in Palm Springs.

The news on electromagnetic pulse weapons also goes from bad to worse. Not only do the enemies of freedom have the technology, we apparently do not, with research into electromagnetic artillery shells and such still stumbling along, like it has been for the last fifteen years or so. There is, one suspects, an electromagnetic pulse gap.

"US Army Research, Development and Engineering Command (ARDEC) is researching high-power microwave (HPM) weapon that could be launched by mortar or artillery piece; previous HPM concepts involved electromagnetic pulse to short-circuit electronics of weapons systems," wrote Jane's Defense Weekly forlornly in a 58-word announcement in August.

Now, before you raise your hand and point to a book on Amazon, or a website selling shock pulse generators alongside the anti-gravity thrusters, or news stories that implied we used the electromagnetic pulse against Saddam or someone else. Yes - yes, I know all about it. As GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow, I was asked by AP's editor in charge of sending the news agency's reporting team to Iraq if the journalists should put their cell phones and laptops in microwave ovens to protect the equipment from American e-bomb barrage. The idea was, you know, that microwave ovens can keep electromagnetic rays in, so they ought to be able to keep them out. At the time, I felt microwave ovens were for cooking food and still do. A German TV news team also asked me about this, inquiring if the US had a death ray - it had been mentioned in news prior to Iraqi Freedom - and if the air force would employ it in Baghdad. I told them Americans didn't have a death ray. At the time, they might not have believed me. ®

George Smith is a Senior Fellow at GlobalSecurity.org, a defense affairs think tank and public information group. At Dick Destiny, he blogs his way through chemical, biological and nuclear terror hysteria, often by way of the contents of neighborhood hardware stores.

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