(This is an excerpt from the book ‘Locusts on the Horizon‘ from the chapter titled ‘The Matter at Hand’.)
In recent years, the fans of the Mad Max scenario have latched upon a new spontaneous, universal, obliteration threat for civilization. This is the ‘grid down’ scenario caused by either an EMP attack or a geomagnetic storm launched by the sun.
Nowadays you hear many pundits talking at length about how there is a ‘government report’ which states that after an EMP attack, a whopping 90% of the US population will be dead in 18 months. This has some in a state of near panic.
The problem with this is that the main ‘reports’ about this being touted nowadays don’t come from the US government, but rather a ‘neo-con’ think tank called the Center for Security Policy.
The Center for Security Policy, founded in 1988, is a lobbying group of politically well-connected Washington insiders, and it is funded with about $4 million per year from several foundations which have political agendas, plus donations from numerous military weapons contractors, such as Boeing, General Atomics, General Dynamics, Litton, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Thiokol, and TRW.
In other words, they are a lobby and a mouthpiece for the ‘military industrial complex’ which Eisenhower warned us about so long ago.
A primary goal of the Center for Security Policy in the last few years has been to promote the starting of a pre-emptive war with Iran. One of the tools they have used to try and sell this new war to the public is scare tactics with EMP as a doomsday device, and the supposed threat of the Iranians attacking the US with it.
The founder of this think tank (who is paid $300,000 per year) and its main driving force is a man named Frank Gaffney.
Frank Gaffney is one of the 25 signatories of the June 3, 1997 “Statement of Principles” of PNAC – Project for a New American Century, and is a neo-con ‘war hawk’ who has called for, and continues to call for, US military intervention in numerous foreign locations. A career political hack of little scientific or engineering expertise, Gaffney promotes EMP as a scare tactic to call for pre-emptive war in his book, ‘War Footing’.
The Center for Security Policy is drawing some of the source of its scare tactics from the EMP Commission which the government funded in 2001. The EMP Commission released a report in 2004, Report of the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack, which actually said that many of the effects can be mitigated, and that recovery from a worst case EMP strike is possible.
Reports by scientists in 2009 stated that much of the effects of EMP or a geomagnetic storm could be mitigated by simply retrofitting a new, relatively inexpensive grounding system to the power transmission lines. As stated in the 2004 report, other components can be redesigned and hardened at manufacture against EMP for as little as a 1% to 3% increase in cost.
Aside from the difficulty of anyone but a well-funded government with developed, strategic missiles or space launch vehicles getting hold of or manufacturing a thermonuclear (fusion) warhead of the size needed (about 1.4 megatons), and then getting it 200 miles above Nebraska (the theoretical blast point to try and EMP the entire continental USA) the effects of EMP are not a guaranteed, universal, permanent ‘lights out’.
The effects over such a wide area are actually quite random, and can vary wildly upon a wide variety of factors such as weather, etc. The effects upon electrical systems are similar to a lightning strike and are just about as unpredictable.
At Kirkland Air Force Base outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico, there is a platform called The Trestle, which is used to test EMP. The late Carl Baum, EMP expert and former Kirtland Air Force Base senior scientist, stated that he thought the effects of EMP are still a huge unknown and need further study.
A geomagnetic storm would have similar effects to the speculated, theoretical effects of an EMP attack. The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) has stated that we have about a 7% chance of having one in the next decade, and the strength may, or may not, be as severe as the well-known ‘Carrington Event’ of 1859. The Carrington Event of 1859 caused some telegraph wires to burst into flame, and even electrocuted a few telegraph operators. Scientists consider the solar super-storm known as the Carrington Event of 1859 to be a once in 500 years event.
Scientists with the NAS have estimated that of the approximately 2,100 major transformers in the USA that are vulnerable to a severe geomagnetic storm, they expect about 365 to be knocked out. Odds are the effects of a worst case EMP attack would be similar, or less intense. So, in a worst case scenario, you are looking at a crippling of the grid, not a permanent obliteration of it.
As for 90% of the population dying within 18 month as a result of the electric grid going down, outside of a Hollywood movie, that is highly unlikely.
How do we know this?
We like to rely upon facts and known examples when we can, not wild speculation or propaganda from neo-con think-tanks run by political hacks who have an agenda. Fortunately, we already have an example of a sudden, unexpected, long term ‘grid down’ situation in a modern city which served as a laboratory for such matters. The city is called, ‘Sarajevo’.
Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the location of the 1984 Winter Olympics, suffered the longest siege of a capital city in the history of modern warfare. During the Bosnian War, after being initially besieged by the forces of the Yugoslav People’s Army, Sarajevo was besieged by the Army of Republika Srpska from April 5, 1992, to February 29, 1996. The siege lasted three times longer than the Siege of Stalingrad and a year longer than the Siege of Leningrad.
During its 44 month siege, the city was completely cut off for about a year except for NATO air flights. With little or no preparation, the power grid on that modern city went down and stayed down, followed by public utilities and the health care system. Official law and order began breaking down and food shipments stopped, except for air drops that began later by NATO. People often had to crawl under enemy artillery fire to get the air dropped food.
People broke into government armories, and military issue firearms (select fire AK’s, Tokarev ‘TT’ handguns, etc.), with sufficient ammunition to use them, were commonplace in civilian hands. Food and medicine, however, was much harder to obtain, and more valuable, than either guns or ammunition.
Out of an estimated population of 380,000 in the city proper at the time the siege started, the official death toll within the city from the entire 44 month siege was 11,541 dead, mostly civilians, and that includes starvation, disease, lack of health care, rampant crime with a break down of law enforcement, an average of 330 artillery shells per day landing in the city, and sniper attacks. All the while, the grid was totally down for most people in that modern city. That is about a 3% fatality rate.
Humans, as a whole, are a tough and adaptable species, and they do not stay in panic mode indefinitely. They adapt to their situation after a short while, and they then become very survival oriented. These traits are hardwired into all of us. It’s how we as a species have endured so much and yet are still here.
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