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October 4, 2008

Bomb-Bomb Iran: To Avert EMP Attack?


by Gordon Prather

According to the Guardian, a few months ago President Bush put the kibosh on Israel's plan to take out, in a preventative strike, Iran's nuclear facilities, despite all being duly subject to a Safeguards Agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency, as required by the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

Because Bush deemed such an attack to be immoral? To be contrary to the UN Charter? A violation of UN Security Council Resolution 487? Would further undermine the IAEA-NPT nuke proliferation-prevention regime?

No, No. Bush was reportedly concerned that the Iranians might retaliate for the dastardly Israeli deed and that said retaliation might disrupt oil shipments from the Persian Gulf, causing gasoline prices in America to go sky-high, just before the election.

Now comes a seemingly authoritative report that Russia's crushing retaliation for the Georgian attack on South Ossetia has put the kibosh on Israel's alternative plan; to launch that "preventative strike" from airfields in Southern Georgia.

Perhaps those reports are all true. How else to account for the spectacle of various neo-crazies and Likudniks, running around in circles of diminishing radius, muttering to themselves or shrieking incoherently.

Take Frank Gaffney, for instance, for the last 30 years or so a lickspittle of Likudnik Grand Pooh-Bah Richard Perle.

In an exclusive interview with Newsmax TV, Gaffney essentially warned that "any day" now, Iran could detonate exo-atmospherically, somewhere over Kansas, a specially designed multi-megaton thermonuclear weapon, which could wipe out our entire electricity grid, causing a "catastrophic disaster."

"Such an attack could really cripple our 21st-century society, and I would suggest sort of push us back into preindustrial society in the blink of an eye. It would translate over time – not immediately but over time – into the deaths of perhaps as many as nine out of 10 Americans, because our society simply can't be sustained without electricity and all of the infrastructure that supports our urban settings."

So, Gaffney appears to have gone from Likudnik neo-crazy to just plain crazy. What could conceivably have moved Gaffney to make such charges?

Well, way back in 2004, the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse Attack delivered its final report [.pdf] to Congress.

The Commission had been asked to assess – among other things – "the nature and magnitude of potential high-altitude EMP threats to the United States from all potentially hostile states or non-state actors that have or could acquire nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles enabling them to perform a high-altitude EMP attack against the United States within the next 15 years."

You see, back in Operation Dominic, a series of nuke tests we conducted over the Pacific in 1962, we learned – much to our surprise – then when a multi-megaton-yield anti-ballistic-missile nuke warhead is detonated at the very high altitudes where incoming Soviet nuke warheads would be intercepted, in addition to destroying the incoming Soviet warhead, our ABM nuke's enhanced radiation also produces extreme charge separation in the underlying atmosphere. That is, the atoms in the air are not merely ionized – separated into positively-charged ions and negatively-charged electrons – but gadzillions of those ionization electrons are driven far away from the ions, creating humongous high-frequency dipole radio transmitters.

The resulting multi-frequency electromagnetic pulse – EMP – can interfere catastrophically with the operation of certain kinds of electrical and electronic systems at considerable distances. That first high-altitude megaton-yield nuke test over Johnson Island resulted in power system failures in Hawaii, more than 700 miles away.

Once the EMP effect was discovered, we did two things. One was to spend a zillion dollars EMP-proofing all military electrical and electronic components and weapons systems.

The second was to see if specially designed nukes of much lower yield could produce EMP as the primary "kill mechanism."

According to the Commission, China and Russia have done the same. In fact, in May 1999, during the NATO bombing of the former Yugoslavia, high-ranking members of the Russian Duma, meeting with a U.S. congressional delegation to discuss the Balkans conflict, reportedly raised the specter of a Russian EMP attack that would paralyze the United States.

The Commission concluded that such an attack – non-lethal, in and of, itself – "has the potential to hold our society at risk and might result in defeat of our military forces."

Now the Commission has burped again, this time detailing the grizzly details of what might happen if Russia or China or someone with that EMP-capability did attack us. Whereupon, Gaffney, on behalf of frustrated Likudniks, goes on Newsmax to warn that "any day" now, Iran could detonate exo-atmospherically, somewhere over Kansas, a specially designed multi-megaton thermonuclear weapon, which could wipe out our entire electricity grid, causing a "catastrophic disaster."

Of course, it is one thing for Russia or China to have that capability. It is quite another for a "potentially hostile state or non-state actor" to develop or acquire such a capability.

Is it conceivable that Iran could develop such a capability? Iran – one of the very largest producers of oil and natural gas in the world – can't even construct the refineries it needs to produce enough gasoline for its population.

In any case, if Iran was to somehow acquire a multi-megaton nuke (from the Russians or the Chinese?), why do the Likudniks think you're stupid enough to believe their claim that the Iranians would choose some non-lethal use for it? Like using a magic carpet to haul it up 50 miles or so above Kansas and detonating it? Is that what you'd do? Or would you use eight tiny reindeer?

Do the Likudniks really believe that you're stupid enough to believe that if the Israelis don't launch a "preventative strike" against the Mullahs and the Iranian IAEA-Safeguarded facilities this year or early next year that nine out of ten of us will – if we're the lucky ones – freeze in the dark?

Now, Gaffney apparently told Newsmax TV that he had been "an Assistant Secretary of Defense" – a PAS position, requiring Senate confirmation – "under Ronald Reagan" and if he did, he told them a bald-faced lie. He never was.

In fact, when Assistant Secretary Perle attempted to get the Senate to confirm his lickspittle, Gaffney, as his successor, the reaction of the Senate Armed Services Committee staff was – to put it politely – negative.

You can see why.


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Physicist James Gordon Prather has served as a policy implementing official for national security-related technical matters in the Federal Energy Agency, the Energy Research and Development Administration, the Department of Energy, the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Department of the Army. Dr. Prather also served as legislative assistant for national security affairs to U.S. Sen. Henry Bellmon, R-Okla. -- ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee and member of the Senate Energy Committee and Appropriations Committee. Dr. Prather had earlier worked as a nuclear weapons physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California and Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico.

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