By Fr. George Welzbacher
May 31, 2009
Memorial Day weekend has come and gone, and summer has all but begun-and therewith the season for the grandslam, full-throttle global catastrophe film. And sure enough, right on schedule, just in time for the holiday weekend, our multiplex screens came blazingly alive with the latest Star Trek prequel plus Terminator Salvation, with disasters- bang! bang! bang! bang! bang!-piling up non-stop! (in Angels and Demons, the would-be competition to the aforementioned films, the most spectacular disaster is the plot). After watching films of this kind, as the credit crawl starts unwinding and the crowd begins drifting towards the exits, we generally agree it's all been fun or at least that the special effects were terrific, but now it's back to the real world and its humdrum but insistent demands.
Unfortunately the REAL world may be getting a whole lot closer to Hollywood's scenarios than many of us would like to think. I'm referring in particular to something called EMP: an electromagnetic pulse, something very physical, very dangerous and very real. It's a phenomenon that occurs instantaneously when a nuclear bomb is exploded high above earth's atmosphere-at a height of 25 miles or so above the surface of the earth. The exploding bomb's gamma rays, though undetected by our human senses, interact with the atmosphere's molecules to produce an instantaneous surge, a pulse of enormous power that, descending in a swiftly expanding and devastating cone, as it strikes the earth's surface will reduce to junk every unprotected electrical or electronic device that lies within the limits of the cone's base. From the point of detonation to the surface of the earth the pulse proceeds according to line of sight. One such bomb exploded at the designated height above, let us say, the State of Kansas would thus instantly and irreparably knock out every single piece of electrical and electronic equipment throughout the whole continental United States, unless that equipment had been especially (and very expensively) "hardened' beforehand to guard against that pulse. Try to imagine what the consequences would be for a civilization like ours that has become so pervasively dependent on electricity and electronics. The entire electrical grid on which depend not only the lighting of our towns and cities and countryside but also the control of the flow of our water, oil and natural gas supply, not to mention the operation of our factories, plus everything that depends on electronics-not only our entire interlocking system of communication (radio, TV, telephones, computers) but most of our transportation system as well, automobiles and buses (except for those "ancient" models that were made before computers were integrated into automotive design), airplanes, helicopters, - and modern (i.e., computer-controlled) trains- everything, EVERYTHING! that depends on electricity and electronics is suddenly gone-in the twinkling of an eye! The technological wizardry in which we take such pride can become a window of vulnerability, our "Achilles' heel." The giant that the world once revered or feared, or envied or hated, as "The Superpower" is suddenly paralyzed, helpless in the face of domestic chaos and the likelihood of attack from foreign foes.
All this from ONE BOMB on ONE MISSILE that need ONLY attain a height of 25 miles!
What put me in mind of all this was a novel I read last week up in Wisconsin's north woods as I was letting my vocal cords recover from a disabling case of laryngitis. The novel's title is One Second After. It was written by William Forstchen. It describes with compelling power what would plausibly take place in a small college town in the mountains of North Carolina as the days and weeks and months go by in the wake of an EMP attack. In the novel the devastating bomb was launched atop a solid-fuel missile fired from a freighter of ambiguous registration in the Gulf of Mexico. If only half of what the novel describes should actually come to pass it would mean the end of the America we love. And the kind of attack that the novel describes is in sober fact achievable with "off the shell' technology.
In a striking coincidence just as I was reading William Forstchen's book the news reports started coming in announcing Iran's latest leap forward-or rather upward- in its accelerating acquisition of solid-fuel missile technology.
On Wednesday, May 20th, Iran successfully launched a Sejjil-2 solid-fuel rocket with a range of some 1200 miles. The Pentagon has confirmed that the test was a success. The significance of such a test of a solid-fuel missile is that solid-fuel missiles are much more easily hidden and are more easily launched than are liquid-fuel missiles. And in another striking coincidence the virulently anti-American government of North Korea just a few days later exploded underground what seems to have been another atomic bomb.
As our declared enemies are arming themselves to the teeth, what beggars belief is that, precisely at the moment when the danger in particular of an EMP attack is rising exponentially, our government, which doesn't seem to mind shoveling out hundreds and hundreds and still hundreds more of billions of dollars to pay for almost anything and everything under the sun, IN ITS BUDGET FOR 2010 IS SLASHING DEFENSE EXPENDITURES BY SOMETHING IN THE ORDER OF 20 PERCENT, with imposition of a freeze on replacing our decaying nuclear arsenal, and with a further reduction in the size of our navy, already down to fewer than 300 ships, and most incredibly of all, WITH A SCHEDULED REDUCTION TO THE SUM OF 1.3 BILLION DOLLARS IN THE FUNDING OF RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT FOR ANTI-MISSILE DEFENSE.
There's an ancient Greek saying: "Whom the gods will destroy they first make mad." Right now our republic is in need of prayer.
May I share with you here the Star Tribune's coverage of the successful test of the Iranian missile. The report appeared in the edition of May 21, 2009.
* * * * *Iran test-fired a sophisticated missile on Wednesday that was capable of striking Israel, parts of Western Europe, and U.S bases in the Persian Gulf, adding to concerns that Iran's weapons- development program is fast outpacing the U.S-led diplomacy that President Obama has said he will let play out through the end of the year.
The solid-fuel Sejjil-2 missile, which Tehran says has a range of about 1,200 miles, used a technology that Iran appeared to have tested at least once before, but the Obama administration nonetheless described the event as "significant," largely because missiles of this kind can be moved or hidden.
The Pentagon confirmed that the test of the medium- range missile had been a success, and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that the missile "landed exactly on target!" according to Iran's official news agency. The move comes just two days after Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyah-u discussed the importance of stopping Iran's nuclear ambitions. Although Iran's leaders say they are working to create nuclear power only for civilian use, the West believes it is designed to produce nuclear weapons.
In a televised speech in Semnan Province, where the missile was launched, Ahmadinejad described the launch as a blow to those trying to thwart its nuclear program. "We send them a message: Today the Islamic Republic of Iran is running the show," he said. "Every center of power which wants to shoot a bullet, before it can put its finger on the trigger, we will cut off its hands and send it to hell.... "