If your computer has ever crashed or your Internet service has ever gone out, you know how devastating it is to lose your connection to the rest of the world.
Now picture that happening with everyone else’s computer across the country. At the same time, power throughout the nation goes out, and all electronic chips become fried. Your car won’t start, gasoline pumps won’t work, airplanes cannot take off, and your supermarket closes because it can’t get deliveries, and its cash registers won’t work.
Your heat and air conditioning shut down, telephones go dead, the water goes out, radio and television sets don’t turn on, banks and ATMs shut down, credit cards become useless, and emergency services and hospital operating rooms close.
That is just the start of the devastation that would descend on the country if a single electromagnetic pulse (EMP) bomb were detonated over the middle of America. In the ensuing chaos, most Americans would die from starvation.
“The one thing that makes me lose sleep is an E bomb, an EMP,” Col. Gail Wojtowicz, who was the Air Force’s chief of future concepts and transformation, has said.
According to William Graham, who was chairman of the congressional Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse Attack, life “would be a lot like life in the 1800s.” Yet at a hearing of the House Committee on Homeland Security on July 22, Graham testified that the Department of Homeland Security has done virtually nothing to address the effects of such an attack.
An EMP attack occurs when a nuclear bomb explodes in the atmosphere. The electromagnetic pulse generated by the blast destroys all electronics in line of sight. EMP was first detected during the detonation of the Starfish Prime nuclear test on July 9, 1962. While the explosion occurred near Johnston Island in the Pacific Ocean and was not designed to be an EMP blast, it blew out street lamps, television sets, and telephone communications in Hawaii nearly 1,000 miles away.
Within a few seconds, an EMP blast propels neutrons that destroy chips that are at the heart of every electronic device. While military and intelligence networks may be shielded against EMP, most of the rest of the country’s technological infrastructure is not.
As America becomes ever more dependent on technology, experts are growing increasingly alarmed. The 2008 report of the congressional commission found that the country is shockingly unprepared for an EMP attack.
“We’ve been aware of it, and it’s difficult to defend against if for no other reason than just because of the expense,” former CIA Director Michael Hayden tells me.
Terrorists, or a nation such as North Korea or Iran, could launch such an attack. Iran’s military has been detected discussing the effects of an EMP attack on the U.S., according to James Shinn, an assistant secretary of defense. China is developing such weapons, Shinn says.
To destroy electronics throughout North America, a missile would be required to detonate the blast 200 miles above earth. While a high degree of technology would be necessary, those who pooh-pooh the possibility of such an attack likely also discounted the possibility that al Qaida could have successfully launched a devastating attack on the U.S.
It would take years for the country to recover from such an attack. Even if computers are unplugged, the impulses from electrical lines would wipe out their memory and destroy their chips. The large transformers used in electrical transmission are not made in the U.S. It would take up to three years to obtain delivery of new ones.
The commission that studied the threat recommends “hardening” more equipment to withstand an attack, obtaining replacement equipment, and increasing stocks of federal food supplies. But none of that would make much of a difference. Unless we learn to hunt with knives or bows and arrows, most of us would starve. Nor would retaliation after the fact be of any value.
One solution would work: A strong missile defense to knock missiles out of the sky before they reach the U.S. But going back to President Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative — dubbed Star Wars — Democrats have consistently ridiculed the idea of an anti-missile defense.
Despite polls showing that Americans overwhelmingly support missile defense, President Obama’s administration already has cut the Pentagon’s missile defense budget by $1.4 billion, or 15 percent.
If an EMP attack occurs, we will have the Democrats to blame. But without voting machines or any form of communication, Americans who survive will not be able to vote them out of office.
Ronald Kessler is chief Washington correspondent of Newsmax.com. View his previous reports and get his dispatches sent to you free via
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