Newt Gingrich’s Electromagnetic Pulse Fetish

Newt Gingrich knows something we don’t know. Oh hell, let’s just say it: Newt knows about 100 times more than we’ll ever know. Probably a thousand times more than everything I ever knew multiplied by a zillion.

Here’s a thing: a nuclear electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack will kill you. Probably soon. Watch the first minute of this clip and take some notes. Then you may find it practical to launch an attack on North Korea before they fritz your ham radio:

North Korea could launch 3 nuclear missiles and completely wipe out our electrical grid? Send us back to a pre-industrial era? Krishna no, don’t be silly.

North Korea could launch just one missile and it would send us back 300 to 400 years. And kill 90% of us within a year. That’s the prediction of that ‘expert,’ Newt Gingrich’s co-author and good friend William Forstchen:

Turns out Russia could lob a dozen nukes at us and kill millions, but most of us would survive. We’d also still be a modern country. But if, say, Iran launches a single, small nuclear-tipped missile from a boat in the Atlantic and detonates it 200 miles up in the atmosphere, most of us will die before Christmas 2013. Oh, and America will become Latvia cerca 1700-something.

My. Conservative experts on national security everywhere play up this scenario frequently. Here’s the President of the Center for Security Policy, Frank Gaffney:

The Heritage Foundation:

In 33 minutes or less, life as we know it in America could end. That’s how long it would take for an enemy ballistic missile launched from the other side of the world to hit the United States. If it carried and detonated a nuclear weapon high over the center of the country, the electromagnetic pulse (EMP) would literally fry the nation’s electrical grid and all of the circuitry that powers our homes, businesses, hospitals, phones, cars, planes, traffic lights, ATMs, water supplies, and anything else not “hardened” against such attacks. The EMP Commission chairman has testified that, within just one year of such an attack, 70 percent to 90 percent of Americans would be dead from starvation and disease.

Heavens, we’re about to die.

There really once was an EMP Commission. They were tasked with figuring out how substantial a threat the EMP from a nuclear explosion might be. The commission produced reports in 2004 (here) and in 2008 (here) and written testimony before the House Armed Services Committee (here).

They predicted the deaths of all but a few Americans? No, they produced plenty of dry boring analysis but no evidence that all but 30 million of us could be slaughtered with a single bomb. Not that that matters, of course. Because the threat of an impending sky-holocaust is simply too wonderful for the right-wing fear and book merchants to let alone. So, we get this.

From what I gather, the popular proof of your approaching death came from a Newsmax article. A reporter named Kenneth Timmerman, attending a meeting of missile defense hawks at The Claremont Institute, heard a talk by the EMP Commission’s chair, Dr. William Graham. Unable to discern the difference between Graham speaking in simpatico to his whacko friends and Graham testifying under oath to Congress, Timmerman became confused. In his sober post titled “U.S. Intel: Iran Plans Nuclear Strike on U.S.,” he reported:

In testimony before the House Armed Services Committee and in remarks to a private conference on missile defense over the weekend hosted by the Claremont Institute, Dr. William Graham warned that the U.S. intelligence community “doesn’t have a story” to explain the recent Iranian tests.

Timmerman was never aware of Graham’s actual testimony. Obviously. But if Graham is saying stuff at the conference, surely he said the same things to Congress, right? Congress has slightly higher standards for shiny intellectualism and honesty, but they’re partisan. And so everything Graham lectured about at The Claremont Institute became the Commission’s report to Congress. Like this:

“If even a crude nuclear weapon were detonated anywhere between 40 kilometers to 400 kilometers above the earth, in a split-second it would generate an electro-magnetic pulse [EMP] that would cripple military and civilian communications, power, transportation, water, food, and other infrastructure,” the report warned.

No, Graham warned. Yes, that’s somewhat what the report said, but the words are Graham’s. And thus, this . .

Asked just how many Americans would die if Iran were to launch the EMP attack it appears to be preparing, Graham gave a chilling reply.

“You have to go back into the 1800s to look at the size of population” that could survive in a nation deprived of mechanized agriculture, transportation, power, water, and communication.

“I’d have to say that 70 to 90 percent of the population would not be sustainable after this kind of attack,” he said.

. . Graham’s own runaway comments became the Heritage Foundation’s “The EMP Commission chairman has testified . . ” Now the League of Doom predicts you’ll die of starvation once Iran manages to buy a fishing trawler. Of course, Newt Gingrich’s stagecraft morality leans to educating the media. And this, friends, is why we call some people “wingnuts.”

And what about this EMP? Is it dangerous? I don’t know, I really didn’t feel like blowing more hours than I already had producing a flawless debunk. But I do know this: plenty of nuclear bombs have been detonated above ground without sending countries 1000 miles away into permanent decline. From the commission’s own 2004 report:

In [1962], the Soviets executed a series of nuclear detonations in which they exploded 300 kiloton weapons at approximately 300, 150, and 60 kilometers above their test site in South Central Asia. They report that on each shot they observed damage to overhead and underground buried cables at distances of 600 kilometers. They also observed surge arrestor burnout, spark-gap breakdown, blown fuses, and power supply breakdowns.

While interesting, we also note that the Soviet Union survived. And it did so without being thrown even further back into the Dark Ages. Now I congratulate myself: I have waited the entire post to remind the loons that electrical grids have been around 130 years. Silly people. Also: we have, for some time, been concerned with our enemies lobbing nuclear missiles at us because they could come down. There’s a whole system in place for tracking incoming strikes, launching lightning counter-attacks, and turning countries into craters.


2 thoughts Newt Gingrich’s Electromagnetic Pulse Fetish

  1. avatar Grung_e_Gene says:

    Chicken Hawk Frank Gaffney should suffer 4484 “deaths” for this disgusting statement:

    It is regrettable that they had to die, but I believe they did have to die.” – Gaffney, now routinely writes pieces for Andrew Breitbart website of lies and fabrications

  2. avatar toma says:

    That is a remark so putrefying, it deserves punishment. Gaffney is a thoroughly disgusting reptile. Having said that — I like your blog, Gene. Cheers.

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