Newt’s Sword of Damocles

Well, there he goes again. Newt Gingrich wants us to believe a “sword of Damocles hangs over our heads.” Has wanted us to believe that since at least 2004, when he first decided to seek the Presidency, and when the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse [EMP] Attack made its first “final report” to Congress.

Who’s holding that sword over our heads?

For years it was alleged by Newt to be the Iranians, whom the Neo-Crazies and their media sycophants have insisted have a secret – so secret that not even Israeli spies or inspectors for the International Atomic Energy Agency, all of them on the ground in Iran for years, have any idea where it might be – deep underground nuclear weapons program.

But now, with Obama in the White House by a landslide, Candidate Newt is alleging it is the North Koreans holding that sword. After all, without doubt – as a direct result of Bush-Cheney-Bolton unilaterally abrogating the Agreed Framework back in the fall of 2002 – the North Koreans now have at least a half-dozen Plutonium-based nukes in their stockpile.

So what?

Well according to Newt;

“One to three missiles tipped with nuclear weapons and armed to detonate at a high altitude – to achieve the strongest EMP over the greatest area of the United States – would create an EMP “overlay” that triggers a continent-wide collapse of our entire electrical, transportation, and communications infrastructure.

“Within weeks after such an attack, tens of millions of Americans would perish. The impact has been likened to a nationwide Hurricane Katrina. Some studies estimate that 90 percent of all Americans might very well die in the year after such an attack as our transportation, food distribution, communications, public safety, law enforcement, and medical infrastructures collapse.”

Great Zot! Where did Newt ever get such an idea?

Well, allegedly from reading the EMP Commission reports.

You see, according to the Commission, the electromagnetic-pulse produced when a nuclear weapon is detonated fifty to a hundred miles above the earth’s surface, outside the earth’s atmosphere, has three components.

The physical mechanisms responsible for generating each component are essentially different.

The Commission doesn’t actually say so, but their Component E1 – usually referred to in Pentagon-funded reports as “internally generated electromagnetic pulse [IEMP]” – is produced by the penetration of prompt x-rays and gamma-rays into “electronics-based control systems, sensors, communicative systems, protective systems, computers and similar devices.”

Since the IEMP effect was discovered in the late 1950s, and can result from the nearby detonation of almost any nuclear weapon, the Pentagon has spent literally billions of dollars ensuring – by design and construction — that all military-related components, systems and facilities are “hardened” against IEMP.

The Commission doesn’t say so, but it is their Component E3 – produced by the ionization of the atmosphere by prompt x-rays and gamma-rays, resulting in humongous amounts of positive-negative charge extreme separation, and subsequent dipole radio-frequency radiation – that can couple into unprotected “secondary loops” in ground-based electrical grids, and disrupt them.

The Pentagon has spent even more money ensuring – by design and construction – that all military components, systems and facilities are “hardened” against such externally-generated EMP.

How obtain that assurance?

Well, for internally generated EMP, both the Pentagon and Department of Energy constructed giant pulsed gamma-ray emission devices to simulate a nuke’s prompt-gamma.

In particular, HERMES III at Sandia National Labs, is the world’s most powerful pulsed x-ray gamma-ray emitter. It has both indoor and outdoor instrumented test cells and is used primarily for simulating the effects of prompt radiation from a nuclear weapon burst on electronic components and on complete military systems.

Of course, when a military system is hit with sufficient prompt radiation to burn out electronic components, any crew in that system at that time will have been killed many times over.

As for externally generated EMP, there is TRESTLE, at Kirtland Air Force Base, the largest wood-and-glue [no-metal] structure in the world. Every Air Force system – including aircraft and missiles in inventory – is periodically subjected to a 10 million volt externally generated high-frequency pulse, to determine whether or nor there are any susceptible ‘secondary transformer loops’ in the system.

It is relatively easy to protect components and systems against externally generated EMP. You just put Faraday Cages around all the components and put fast-response fuses into any secondary transformer loops you can’t eliminate.

Now, it is important to note that the Pentagon has spent all these billions of dollars over the past 50 years to prevent their weapons systems from being defeated by what is actually a secondary effect of a nuke explosion.

If the Soviets had nuked you and yours in your jammies, it would probably not have mattered much to you that the street lights went out.

So, why is Chicken Little Gingrich trying to get you all worked up about that possibility?

Well, the Commission claimed that both China and Russia have “considered” limited attack options that “employ EMP as the primary or sole means of attack.”

How does the Commission know that? Well, apparently a little bird told them that while President Clinton was bombing the gee-whiz out of Yugoslavia in May 1999, “high-ranking members of the Russia Duma,” meeting with a delegation from The Best Congress Money Can Buy, reportedly “raised the specter of a Russian EMP attack that would paralyze the United States.”

That’s it?

In response to Clinton’s pushing NATO eastward to the walls of the Kremlin (in violation of Bush the Elder’s solemn promise to not do so), killing thousands of innocent Slavic women and children from 20,000 feet in the process, their Russian Slavic-brethren solons (presumably not knowing any more about nuclear weapons and their effects, in and out of the atmosphere, than your average Congressperson) “raised the specter” of temporarily putting out the streetlights in your neighborhood?

That’s all?

They didn’t threaten to launch a few thousand megaton nuke-carrying ICBMs at us if we continued to provoke them?

Well, maybe President Yeltsin – who suddenly resigned at the end of 1999 – was in a good mood.

Author: Gordon Prather

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.