Editor’s note: The following column includes excerpts from Robert Pfriender’s upcoming book, “No Place to Run.”
An awful lot can be said for adequate prevention and professional planning for a disaster. We as a great country rely upon our government and its vast agencies such as FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security to institute programs and procedures to protect us. But it seems these agencies and our elected officials have no clue, or perhaps they just really don’t care about the public or our country’s very survival. Unless a comprehensive national civil defense program is urgently implemented it is very likely that the events that are described here may unfortunately one day soon come true.
Most people did not see the threat to the World Trade Center in early 1993 before the first attack. Few had realized that the terrorists would be coming back again prior to 9-11 and certainly could not imagine the magnitude of what was to occur or the cold-blooded, cowardly callousness of the attackers. Today, unfortunately, very few can begin to comprehend what may be about to threaten the very existence of our country. The potential is on a scale so deviant from decent human behavior and so potentially devastating that most people could not visualize this incredible threat. This story will describe what we should expect and how we should be preparing to prevent such a tragedy, and how to plan now to recover and save our country if it does happen. Time is running very short.
This looming national disaster is completely preventable, but our country must act decisively, firmly with resolve and immediately. We must insist that our elected officials and the agencies responsible for our protection and national survival work in the best interest of our country and put in place credible programs, effective and practical procedures, and strong security protocols that will provide ironclad protection from attack and allow for inherent mitigation of the effects of a national disaster, along with rapid recovery in the aftermath.
Our national nuclear disaster may very well start like this:
In the peaceful still of a calm fall night, this city sleeps restfully; its 5:30 a.m. Then, in what must have been less than a heartbeat, all of that changed forever. It started with a fateful blinding flash many times the brightness of the noonday sun, which wakened those unfortunate souls unlucky enough to be close to or in the epicenter of the quickly unfolding horror story. Before anyone could even begin to comprehend what had just happened, they had perished, being instantly vaporized in the incredible blast, super tornado-like winds, huge amounts of flying debris and the hellish firestorm that followed. Perhaps, in hindsight they were indeed the lucky ones.
As this terrible disaster was unfolding before my eyes, I kept reflecting back to just a few days before when I had met with a prominent New York congressman urging him once again to take some concrete actions to avert what I and many others had seen as a huge threat to our national survival.
He had politely listened as his chief of staff jotted down notes detailing what he remarked as being “interesting ideas.” I urged him to support a secure border, to build our proposed offshore cargo container security inspection ports and to implement the provisions of the 2006 Civil Defense Improvement Act that I had drafted to address the many shortcomings of our country’s national disaster preparedness. The meeting lasted all of five minutes and he was off to a photo opportunity for a birthday party at a senior center, oblivious to the danger looming.
This was not our first meeting. I had been trying to convince many officials to see the enormous and very real danger we were facing for several years already since 9-11. Some listened; none had acted. No one in government could grasp the simple concept that no matter how much money was spent on securing mainland ports, it was wasted. The reason is really rather simple: If a nuke arrives in one of our vulnerable mainland ports, it’s already much too late to do anything about it. It’s like an ICBM that has arrived on its target – next it explodes. It would be impossible to stop it, and you can’t just turn it around and send it away. All the so-called “port security” in the world could not prevent it.
Let’s take a few moments to leave our disaster story and examine why this horrible event is very possible. No matter how many times I make that simple statement they just don’t embrace it. The politicians get in front of the cameras the next day and proclaim they want to spend more money on what they ridiculously describe as strong “port security.” The only way to stop this problem is to inspect each and every container in one of three special security ports to be built 25 miles out to sea where a nuclear explosion or chemical or biological weapon will have negligible effects on our cities.
Cargo inspections for weapons of mass destruction have absolutely no place at mainland ports and should not be performed there under any circumstances. Even after the “Dubai ports deal” was overwhelmingly defeated, no one in our government has stepped forward to provide any real improvement to inspecting containers offshore in an American-controlled security port before they enter our vulnerable cities.
The officials and agencies we have relied upon to protect us have failed miserably by any reasonable standard. The fact that there has not yet been a weapon of mass destruction or any other new attack here in America since 9-11 is really very meaningless. It can happen, and it unfortunately will happen, unless we really ramp up our defenses and do it fast.
Five long years after 9-11, our borders are wide open, checked baggage and commercial airline cargo goes completely uninspected aboard passenger flights, thousands of trailer homes desperately needed by victims of Katrina still lie wasted and unused in the mud, first responders still lack equipment, and the ludicrous “Container Security Initiative,” or CSI, that Customs and Border Protection, or CBP, relies on at foreign ports for “container security” has failed by every measure to provide any protection at all from a nuke arriving and being detonated in one of our mainland ports. This massive blunder and boondoggle should be quickly trashed, yet CBP continues to embrace it, wastes many tens of millions of dollars trying to expand it and refuses to even look at other much more credible programs. They choose to leave us defenseless and vulnerable in the name of open, unrestrained trade.
None of the foreign ports enrolled as part of CSI are in countries that threaten our security, and we cannot and absolutely should not give control to and rely on foreigners to inspect cargo destined for our shores as is now the standard practice. Where is the logic and common sense?
A “virtual screening” protocol that relies on risk management and not physical inspection of all containers cannot assure that we will find 100 percent of the possible nuclear weapons that may be in one of the 8 or 9 million containers that arrive in our country each year. Without absolute certainty CSI is simply worthless. Does CBP actually believe that we should accept CSI’s serious flaws and that as a result of those fundamental deficiencies that prevent achieving 100 percent detection that a nuke exploding in one of our cities from time to time is OK? Can you imagine a general at NORAD making such a statement about incoming Russian ICBM’s during the height of the Cold War? He undoubtedly would be immediately stripped of command and likely court-martialed and sent for a mental evaluation.
It’s clearly a time for change of management at CBP. Or, better yet, place NORAD in charge of all efforts to stop nuclear weapons from entering our country by whatever conveyance, be it on a missile, in a cargo container, smuggled across our borders by foot or beast, car, truck, or on a boat or an airplane.
NORAD is the only existing organization that is up to the task. By CBP’s performance thus far, it is clearly well out of its league and have been tasked with a mission that is well beyond its meager capabilities. This needs to be handled as a prime national security objective by a military agency and not a civilian “let’s promote trade and open borders at any costs” mentality such as CBP has taken. The very survival of our nation is at stake.
We are at war. We cannot and certainly should not entrust our national security at a time of war to anyone but the Pentagon and our very capable military. The cavalier civilians at CBP do not understand that we are at war. They have clearly failed to grasp the serious magnitude of the faulty decisions they have made. Their fatally flawed programs, including CSI, threaten the continued existence of our country.
There was an uproar recently about the Chinese-military linked company getting a huge contract to inspect containers in the Bahamas before being transshipped to America. Yet this is happening every day at the few dozen ports enrolled in CSI. Even the non-partisan investigative and oversight arm of Congress, the General Accountability Office, has nothing but severe criticism of CSI. This is a worthless program that is wasting huge amounts of taxpayer money. It has no redeeming features at all, and relying on it actually makes us much more vulnerable.
No one at the Homeland Security Department has ever been willing to address how a nuclear weapon that has arrived in our port would be neutralized. That’s because it is impossible. So why waste money trying to find such a weapon in the first place after it has arrived at its target destination, ready to detonate? We already know that CSI can’t credibly find a weapon with its extremely poor “virtual detection” scheme.
I left that meeting feeling as I did when I exited several other meetings I have had with this particular congressman and other politicians where I also urged them to act and fix this vulnerability. It was a kind of almost hopeless feeling; perhaps I should have been angry; perhaps I should have pushed them harder to understand the enormity of what our country would be facing as a result of a nuclear attack on our cities. But the reality is that they are just very far removed from understanding these threats to our country. They are politicians, and their only true concern is getting elected every few years. They don’t have the training or expertise to be able to solve these issues, even if they were truly motivated and sincere about wanting to.
Most officials, including those most outspoken on the issue of “port security” such as Sen. Clinton, D-N.Y., and Schumer, D-N.Y., and Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., did not even bother to reply to my letters or the several copies of the proposals I had sent to them.
Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., after initially stating support for the offshore inspection ports never followed through on his promises to prod CBP and other agencies to carefully examine the proposal. He was also provided with the proposed provisions of the Civil Defense Improvement Act, but again never followed through. His aide recently told me: “These things take time.” My reply was that the four years you’ve had to do something after receiving the proposal was a lot of time, wasted time that we could have used to protect our country.
Sen. Schumer recently traveled on the taxpayer dime to Hong Kong to see their process for inspecting 100 percent of the containers arriving there. Obviously, the senator does not understand that simple concept I mentioned a few paragraphs back. If he had returned just one of my calls I could have explained it to him and saved him a trip. Then he and other Democrats recently came out with their absurd “Real Security Plan.” These self-ignorant officials would not understand “real security” if it was staring them in the face. It is clearly just absentminded political posturing. And most of the Republicans are really no wiser, the border and immigration problem being a case in point.
The Homeland Security Committee’s “Subcommittee on Economic Security, Infrastructure Protection, and Cyber Security” which is chaired by Rep. Dan Lungren, R-Calif., introduced H.R. 4954, known as the “Safe Ports Act.” Congressman King, who is the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, refers to H.R. 4954 as the most comprehensive port security legislation ever considered by the United States Congress. In reality, this proposed legislation has no provision to inspect containers by American inspectors before they enter our ports, does not address how a container found to be hiding a nuclear weapon inside would be neutralized, nor does it provide any additional safety to our ports or country if such a weapon is detonated upon arrival, even though the stated purpose of the legislation is to “harden our ports against attack.” It merely just wastes more taxpayer money on worthless programs like CSI.
The reality is that these officials who we have entrusted to protect us have very little incentive to move beyond talking points and sound bites. Unbeknownst to most of us, there is a massive emergency evacuation and relocation plan for these officials in the event of such an event. It is kind of ironic; the persons who can most effectively work to prevent such an attack and to put in place a plan to mitigate its effects have the least motivation to do so since they know they are already well protected. Let’s return now to our all-too-possible “hypothetical” nuclear disaster story:
The unimaginable consequences of all of our government’s missteps and failed programs were quickly unfolding in a horrible fashion.
Many miles away in the normally bucolic suburbs of Long Island some are awakened by the thundering blast and wonder what to make of it. No one has ever heard such a noise before. Closer to Manhattan, in Queens, they are shaken out of their beds by what many at first believe to be an earthquake.
When they reach for their lamp switch, the power is off, as it is across a wide expanse of the region, and in fact across most of the continent. Some simply roll over and go back to their sleep thinking whatever happened must be over since its all quiet again. A few who are working or just out and about at this early hour have seen the brilliant flash. Some are even instantly blinded by it even though they are many miles away. But most have no idea of what has just happened in Manhattan. A few imagine that something horrible is taking place.
Before they can return to their slumber, the peace is interrupted yet again, this time by the scream of fire sirens that seem to never end. Resolved to find an answer, some turn on their battery-powered radios only to hear static. Many radios don’t even work, early victims of a powerful electromagnetic pulse, or EMP, generated by the blast that has swept across the area frying the circuits of all things electronic including radios, computers, televisions, cash machines, the telephone system, the air traffic control system, the electric subway and Long Island Railroad, and even the ignition systems of many cars and trucks, all of which are now worthless.
Apparently, the transmitters and broadcast antennas atop Rockefeller Center and the Empire State Building have be incinerated, including the Emergency Alert System, the government backup that is supposed to warn us of an emergency and give guidance afterwards. In an instant every conceivable component of our electronic society and advanced Internet economy has been destroyed. I recall those haunting words of the congressman, “interesting ideas,” and feel disgust as I know this was all preventable.
In contradiction to so many prior pronunciations by naive politicians that such a catastrophe could not happen, it has – a nuclear “device” (a politically-correct, unemotional term for a devastating thermonuclear bomb), has been detonated by terrorists in the heart of the city. FEMA’s past failures with their response to Katrina now seem so insignificant; an unimaginable horror has occurred that eclipses Pearl Harbor and 9-11 by a million fold. Even the bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima don’t compare.
In the mere blink of an eye, our terrorist enemies and the evil states that sponsor and encourage them (likely lead by the radical and irrational president of Iran and the ruthless dictator of North Korea who is just as unbalanced) have completely devastated our country. Many hundreds of thousands are dead, killed instantly in their beds without warning or a chance. Manhattan is a smoldering ruin of debris piled many stories high and will be impassable for tens of decades. Our superpower national infrastructure and vibrant economy have been wiped out. Transportation has come to a halt; communications and power are as if they never existed; don’t even consider surfing the Internet, it’s simply gone.
The few remaining hospitals are vastly overwhelmed. The national food supply is contaminated, but even if it weren’t there is only two to three days’ worth of food on hand across the country, a casualty of “just-in-time” distribution and short-sighted policies. Gone are the days when our government smartly insisted that there be two years or more of food for every citizen. Ditto for critical supplies like medications, first aid and hospital supplies, fuel and batteries – virtually everything we have come to depend on, especially in an emergency.
Even the things we take for granted, like our water systems, are now worthless without power to pump, chlorine deliveries to sanitize it and unbroken pipes to carry it to our homes. Gasoline station pumps don’t work. Generator plants are burned out from the EMP. The list just goes on and on. It might as well be the Stone Age. In fact, it is a new ice age, because when the winter comes, there will be no heat, no shelter, no food, no water, no warm clothes, no tents, no health care, nothing. Just millions of injured, dying, hungry and cold citizens begging for help. Except those officials who made it to their cozy, well-stocked and staffed bunkers.
But incredibly, the very worse is yet to come as death is silently riding the prevailing west to east winds to unprotected and completely unprepared Long Island.
Across the country, similar scenes of devastation are playing out, the result of 100-kiloton warheads formerly belonging to the old Soviet Union purchased by al-Qaida on the thriving nuclear black market or perhaps donated by those maniacal leaders of Iran and North Korea. Boston, Washington, D.C., Las Vegas, Miami, Chicago, Los Angeles, Anchorage, and on and on – they have all been targeted and chosen for symbolic, economic, military or population density reasons. Oil refineries, trading centers, pipelines, ports, food and supply distribution routes, interstate highways, dams, nuclear power plants, military bases, airports, all have been mercilessly destroyed by supposedly “untraceable” terrorist proxy in an absolute instant.
And the irony of the attacks is that all of the container-borne nukes were detonated as they were being handled by customs agents trying to get as many containers in and out of the ports as fast as possible “to expedite trade.” The weapons had been rigged to a crude but effective fusing device made to detonate them the moment the containers were opened or when they detected an X-ray machine turning on, perhaps providing the final insult to the Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Protection.
And by the way, the nuclear bombs were undetectable by the rudimentary systems CBP has put in place at just a few ports across the country. The box was shipped by a “known” shipper that had been set up as a sleeper front company many years before and that carried on “legitimate” trade during those years to gain the trust of customs officials. CBP actually certified that the shipper would get expedited handling (no screening even being considered) since it had previously complied with all requested paper work in advance of shipping.
As the morning sun rises around 6 a.m., hundreds of thousands of dazed people stand about in the streets in this normally calm Long Island community.
Do we send the kids to school? What do we do? Is there a danger? Are we safe being so far away? Will another bomb go off here? Soon there is a mass panic. The ones whose cars will start jam the supermarkets buying bread and milk, something that they have come to do as habit during past snow storms. Others swamp the local Home Depot in a desperate search for batteries, flashlights and of course that recommended plastic sheet and duct tape, and wonder if it will help.
But their fate is unfortunately already sealed. They just haven’t realized this yet, and most have absolutely no clue what is coming. I again recall my last meeting with the congressman, how I urged him to support legislation that would have stopped this. I remember him smiling as he half-heartedly thumbed through my proposed “2006 Civil Defense Improvement Act.” It was as if he was silently mocking my efforts, thinking I was some far-right doomsday-dreaming fool of sorts. I wonder now if he and his family were whisked away to the safety of his official bunker, snug and secure in knowing that he would be available to commence the continuity of government that planners had envisioned.
Imagine that, “continuity of government,” just more of the same incompetence that put us in this trouble. How reassuring to know that these same officials would be back. Something to look forward to.
Traffic is deadlocked across Long Island with many cars that were stopped earlier in their tracks by the EMP and others being the result of massive numbers of accidents since there are no traffic lights and plenty of panic. People with no idea where they should go are just wandering around aimlessly. The more they realize that there are no routes off this island surrounded by ocean and that all the roads to the mainland pass through the blast area the more they panic. Valuable moments pass by. Pandemonium is spreading; people are openly weeping in public, even grown men.
Already there are heavily armed gangs running wild and unchallenged in the streets, smashing store windows, looting whatever they can carry away, wantonly robbing people on the streets. The guns in sporting goods shops and the narcotics in the pharmacies are the first to be grabbed. Then a complete and sustained breakdown in our society and failure of law and order arrives. Anarchy reigns. It’s everyone for himself.
The Cold War days of teaching “duck and cover” are long gone; the weathered yellow and black signs identifying the location of a “Fallout Shelter” have been removed many years ago. The supplies that were carefully stocked in those shelters have been sent to the trash with the signs. Plastic and duct tape is the only advice that FEMA had provided in the years after 9-11. Most people have absolutely no idea even what “fallout” is, no less about the danger now riding toward them on the morning breeze, soon to arrive without warning, soon to mercilessly decimate entire communities with immeasurable suffering and certain unimaginably painful death.
The sun should be up; it’s now 6:30 a.m. But there is a strange overcast to the sky. The fallout is starting to arrive. And, like the rest of this event, few still have any idea at all about what is happening. At first they think it must just be dirty air, the same sort of dust clouds we all saw on TV after the Trade Center towers came crashing down on that fateful day in September, 2001.
The first fallout to come raining down are the heaviest particles, parts of the vaporized bomb along with whatever else was nearby, including a great mass of concrete, earth, asphalt and buildings when the detonation occurred at ground level and which were sucked into the massive fireball and heaved skyward into the well-recognized mushroom clouds that now rises many thousands of feet above New York and so many other cities. It begins as marble-sized chunks raining down, which many initially think is hail. These fallout particles are highly irradiated and extremely deadly, but most persons don’t even know what that means, no less about the ominous danger now falling upon them. It’s the ignorance of the nuclear age.
As the fallout lands on cars, grass and all exposed surfaces and yes on people, too, it starts its quiet but insidious effects, damaging and destroying all aspects of cellular life in its path. The winds start to pick up, being driven by the massive firestorms now silently raging many miles away in the center of a once great city. Soon smaller particles the size of grains of sand start to fall, then even smaller ones similar to ash.
By 7 a.m., the fallout cloud is cigar-shaped, about the same width (11 miles) as the island and it already extends out to Suffolk County. Still, there are no radio or TV broadcasts, no announcements or official guidance, just the wailing of the fire sirens.
In the very little of what remains of Manhattan people are still dying. But here on Long Island they don’t feel any pain yet and have no idea that they are receiving fatal doses of Gamma rays.
The “Geiger-counters” that were stocked in those long- shuttered and forgotten fallout shelters have been sold at government auctions, and even if you are one of the people that bought one on eBay it is worthless, having not been calibrated for many years and thus not reliably accurate.
Some try to shelter their families in the basements of their wood-framed homes, even lining them with plastic sheet and duct tape. Unfortunately, those efforts are futile as the radiation passes through as if they were standing unprotected outside. Nothing short of three feet of earth or two feet of concrete overhead and surrounding you will help, just like the old fallout shelters were designed. Many are still there, but without those signs no one knows where to go. They foolishly stopped teaching students and adults about protecting themselves and our country many years ago.
All of the city hospitals are gone. The ones left in the boroughs surrounding the city are quickly overwhelmed and have no water, no power, no heat, no life support or diagnostic equipment (also early victims of the EMP) and supplies barely enough to treat a few hundred persons. Those lucky few who got to the hospital are heavily contaminated and can’t even be washed of fallout without running water, so their prognosis is grim. And most of the doctors and staff are trying to flee like everyone else.
Even the fancy new multi-million dollar NYPD command center is gone, now just part of the mushroom cloud. The few police who were not killed in the blast or firestorms have also fled with their families, just like the doctors nurses, firemen and other first responders are trying to do. It’s the same all across the country; no one wants to be a hero today.
Thousands of people survived the blast and fires deep underground in the subways. The radiation cannot penetrate more than a few feet of earth or concrete. But the terrorists anticipated that; just before the blast they unleashed deadly poison sarin gas in the subways, which is slowly circulating through the tunnels, killing all whom it contacts. And for good measure they have flown over our cities the day before the nuke attack in stolen crop dusting planes, quietly infecting us with deadly smallpox.
Up above the scene is unimaginable. The dead (those that can even be recognized as being once alive) are everywhere. Most have been violently torn apart by the blast and massive shock waves, burned beyond even a semblance of recognition, crushed by debris, cut to shreds by extreme wind-propelled glass and steel or simply carried away as ashes in the mushroom cloud that now hangs high in the stratosphere. A few steel frames of our once mighty skyscrapers remain partially erect. Most are completely destroyed, just like the Trade Center was on 9-11.
The walking wounded wander about desperately begging for water, blinded by the flash, severely burned over most of their bodies, suffering from intense pain. Most cannot hear because their eardrums have been ruptured by the blast. They are bleeding profusely not only from open wounds and lost limbs but also from their noses and mouths. Many have collapsed lungs from the same cause and struggle just to breathe. The ones unfortunate to be wearing synthetic fabrics now find their clothing melted to their skin. The explosion has produced incredible temperatures around 100,000,000 degrees Celsius. Burns are estimated to have been the cause of 50 percent of the fatalities at Nagasaki and Hiroshima.
Very few will survive through this night, and as the fallout does its deed, many, many more will succumb to radiation sickness and painful deaths. Infections will run rampant; cholera and dysentery will flourish. Exposure to the cold will claim many who did survive the blast and fires. Hunger and lack of drinkable water will be replaced by dehydration and starvation.
Many will simply perish as a result of not having their regular medications; diseases and minor medical conditions will become death sentences without health care and prescriptions. Violence will prevail with the strong and brazen taking what they want and need from the weaker. Like I said at the beginning of this story, few could ever begin to imagine what fate may await us.
Back to reality, our entire country has only 3,000 burn-care hospital beds. We could not handle the implications of a large conventional fire in Manhattan no less a nuclear firestorm that raged in several cities. There are less than 105,000 pulmonary care respirators (likely the most important equipment needed to treat inhalation burns, pneumonias, or even an influenza outbreak.) We would easily need ten times that or more if a pandemic or nuke attack strikes, plus legions of trained personnel to operate them.
There are not even enough bandages to cover the wounds of more than a few thousand casualties nationwide. And it’s the same pathetic state of affairs in every category for first aid, long-term patient care, hospital disaster cots, rescue tools, fire fighting equipment, portable water purification plants, mobile field hospitals, portable cell phone sites, emergency radios, vaccines, decontamination trucks, heavy rescue equipment, winter tents, emergency clothing supplies, disaster blankets, sanitation supplies, food rations, radiological survey meters and dosimeters. Again, the list is endless.
We are terribly unprepared and extremely vulnerable, and not just to a nuke attack but to all types of attacks with weapons of mass destruction and, as Katrina demonstrated, from natural disasters such as severe weather and flu pandemics. And while the general public is not aware of these crucial facts, our worst enemies certainly are and intend to exploit our weaknesses in every way they can.
It was not always like this. During the Cold War, America had a substantial civil defense program with many shelters, supplies and procedures put in place. And so did the former Soviet Union and China. Many European countries also had very sophisticated programs, and most of these countries still do. Russia and China continue to build massive facilities designed to shield the populations of entire cities and even whole regions deep underground, stocked for many months full of supplies.
The Russians are suspected of building a huge underground city at Yamantau Mountain, located 850 miles east of Moscow in the Urals not far from the town of Beloretsk. During my several trips to Russia, I constantly heard stories about the extensive underground facilities in Moscow. They include secret subway systems to evacuate the leadership and all sorts of civil defensive measures.
All of their subways and those I saw in other former republics, including Ukraine, are buried so deep underground it takes five minutes to go down all the stairs to get to the train platform. There are huge blast doors tucked away from sight that close off the entrances to many stations. They have contingency plans for safeguarding critical infrastructure and even their massive manufacturing plants and other important industries.
China has a very substantial civil defense program as well. Commonly referred to as the “Beijing Underground City,” this vast underground facility was ordered built by Mao Zedong during the time of the Sino-Soviet border conflict in 1969 over Zhenbao Island in northeast China’s Heilongjiang River. It was built to withstand a nuclear attack by the Soviets, which was thought to be inevitable.
The Chinese used more than 300,000 workers over ten years to carve out the vast network of subterranean tunnels and facilities. The tunnels alone reportedly span more than 30 kilometers and cover more than 85 square kilometers of underground area. The facility is 8 to18 meters deep and has over 1,000 shelter spaces. There are thousands of trapdoors that lead into the facility from all parts of the city.
At the time it was initially constructed it was designed to house 40 percent of the city’s population in less than 10 minutes. China raised international eyebrows recently when it opened the tunnels to its citizens ostensibly to let them cool off during warm weather. Outside observers doubt that excuse and believe that it was actually a drill to familiarize citizens with the facilities. As any such large-scale movement of persons into a shelter system is considered an early warning of possible intentions to launch a first strike, military planners across the world took careful note. The Chinese have incorporated extensive above-ground features such as stores, factories, theaters, warehouses, grain and petroleum storage facilities and reportedly even an ice skating rink into the underground shelter system.
Our potential adversaries’ civil defense programs are still growing rapidly while America’s is non-existent (except for our officials). This is absolutely shameful, nothing short of a national disgrace. There is no excuse that justifies our complete state of national unpreparedness. And unless we act immediately, we will pay dearly for this.
Unlike 9-11 when we saw many heroic efforts to help, forget about relief efforts. Most first responders will be focusing on their own family’s survival. In regard to a national effort to send help, if several cities were attacked it would be almost impossible to coordinate and muster any meaningful relief efforts. The damage would just be massively overwhelming and emergency supplies and equipment tremendously insufficient for the huge task. We are completely unprepared even for a single small-scale attack.
It will take many decades to repair the electrical system, water supplies, sewers, telephone and Internet facilities, mass transit, roadways, and all other infrastructure after such an attack. In fact, some areas may never be repaired due to the enormity of the damage or due to very high radiation levels.
Think about how poorly people cope even after a minor snow storm. Look at how FEMA failed terribly during Katrina. Those trailers are still sitting unused in the mud. President Bush recently stated that it will take decades to repair the damage from Katrina. And that is mild compared to what we will be facing from a nuke attack.
Imagine the damage from Katrina times at least 100 and in a dozen or so major cities. You may wonder about evacuation. It would be simply impossible, so survivors will be stuck – no supplies, no care, no help, and no future, just lot’s of suffering to go around.
Simple, inexpensive measures could be effective stopgap measures until we can get a full-scale fallout/storm shelter building program up and running. Just installing new signs to the entrances of the many thousands of existing buildings that still have fallout shelters built many years ago and since abandoned and publishing a directory for citizens to locate one near their home would save countless lives. The same holds true with signs showing evacuation routes.
Restocking existing shelters with critical supplies can be accomplished in a short time. New private shelter development can be encouraged with tax credits and rebates. FEMA could require that all new public buildings and facilities include shelters, as was the norm years ago. It could also require hospitals to stock large quantities of emergency medications and supplies. There are many other urgent actions we need to take. Some of the obvious ones are outlined in the proposed 2006 Civil Defense Improvement Act linked at the end of this article.
This is exactly why we need a new civil defense program. And such a program should be administered not by the Homeland Security Department or FEMA, but a new, compact, highly mobile, dynamic, minimally bureaucratic agency with carte blanche authority to acquire all necessary funds and resources, supplies and equipment, set national stockpiling quotas for food, medical and energy reserves, call out the national guard and the full military at its sole option, implement a national shelter construction program and set stringent policy for local and state governments to follow in the building of a strong national civil defense. And it all must be without any political partisan tampering.
Customs and Border Patrol are clueless. Mark Laria, Customs and Border Protection’s port director for the Norfolk region, recently said, “People need to stop worrying about a percentage,” because all containers that are thought to be risky are thoroughly examined. He said scanning 100 percent of cargo would lead to port congestion and “choke the economy.” I wonder how he’ll characterize the effect on the economy after terror nuke attacks on several of our major cities.
The official in charge of CSI sees his mission primarily as enabling trade, not securing our country. That official, CBP Assistant Commissioner Jason Ahern has been quoted as saying, “It makes absolutely no sense for us to screen everything coming into and going out of the country; we need to screen 100 percent of what needs to be screened and let the rest of the cargo go though expeditiously. One hundred percent screening would just choke travel and trade. We’re not out to disrupt business practices.”
But Mr. Ahern cannot afford to make even one simple mistake in figuring out which box to screen and which not to, because the implications of such a mistake will undoubtedly kill hundreds of thousands, if not millions of our citizens and destroy commerce, our freedoms and our very way of life. But that is exactly what will happen under the current very lax non-inspection program.
Pushing as many uninspected containers through our vulnerable ports as possible in the name of trade is foolhardy. It’s criminal, contributory negligence. And it could likely lead to nothing short of mass-murder on an unprecedented scale.
The analogy I made previously to Russian ICBM’s during the Cold War is a perfect one. If just one of those missiles gets through our defenses, it’s all over for a major city. Somehow, I would assume that would be the ultimate disruption of business and choking of travel and trade that Mr. Ahern is so concerned about.
After such an incident where a nuke goes off in one of our ports, what longshoreman would want to handle another container? And, would we be inclined to go back to Mr. Ahern’s version of “port security”? I don’t think so; we’d have to inspect every container by hand. At that point, no one would ever want that job because we’d have firsthand experiences of the tragic consequences. Clearly, CBP has placed trade above security without any regard to common sense or simple logic, and this needs immediate oversight and change. If Rep. King and Sens. Clinton and Schumer really want to demonstrate their commitment to port security here’s a good place to start. Otherwise, let’s vote them out of office and put representatives in that understand the real threats to our national survival and who are ready to do something serious about fixing it.
By the way, only about 1 percent of containers are actually opened and physically inspected right now. Our proposed offshore security inspection ports would inspect 100 percent (not merely screen) of the containers and cargo passing through them using highly automated processes, advanced artificial intelligence controlled robotics and sensitive detection technologies.
The inspections would not add any considerable time or cost to the delivery. The ports would be privately financed at no cost to the government. Minimal inspection fees on each container would generate the operating revenues. And God forbid if a nuke exploded, the damage would be far out to sea, not in a port adjacent to our highly populated cities.
No missiles, no early warning from NORAD, no chance to shoot down incoming warheads, no submarines lurking off our shores, no super secret advanced stealth technology. Just a few thousand dollars in shipping costs, which ironically will never even be paid. All of the devices in our hypothetical disaster were concealed in cargo containers, except two, one of which came across the Mexican border assisted by the notorious MS-13 gang and one across the northern border hidden among boxes of cheap imported produce.
None could be detected, as highly enriched uranium has a negligible radiation “signature” of low energy gamma rays, which is easily concealed with simple two-centimeter lead sheets.
National destruction of a superpower, delivered to our doorsteps with a simple deception by lying on the shipping documents that the Container Security Initiative did not and could not, unsurprisingly, detect.
In an upcoming column, Pfriender will cover how you can plan now to protect your family and assure their survival after a nuclear attack. Read the full story in the upcoming new book, “No Place to Run.”
Find out what you can do to stop this story from becoming real. Access the proposed provisions of the 2006 Civil Defense Improvement Act.
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Robert Pfriender is the founder and president of Allied International Development, Ltd., (AID) a New York-based privately held real estate development and construction management firm. He recently founded Allied Transgenic Energy, Ltd. to exploit his incredible new proprietary process of producing biologically synthesized and economically competitive alternative motor fuels. These new fuels can be the cornerstone of a national energy policy that would make the United States the most competitive energy exporter in the world. Watch WND for Pfriender’s new article “The coming last days of oil as a weapon” for details. AID has proposed to develop three Super-Security Offshore Cargo Container Inspection Ports to inspect 100 percent of containers for weapons of mass destruction before they enter the mainland United States. The ports would be privately financed and leased to the United States government.