Could the weaponized biological warfare plot in Stephen King's epic novel "The Stand" become reality? If so, how would humanity react to such a scenario?
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The U.S. Navy boasts an elite unit that (theoretically) could help avert a global biological weapon-of-mass-destruction, or WMD, meltdown. It is the little-known Forward Deployed Preventative Medical Unit, or FDPMU. The training and mission archetypes of the FDPMU will be discussed in the space below. Readers can deconstruct the official website here, as it adroitly details the unit's mission within the Navy and Marine Corps.
As a precursor, the sweeping tale unpacked within the pages of "The Stand" has thrilled fans since its release in 1978. There can be no doubt that "The Stand" is one of the most successful novels ever written. The 1994 made-for-TV series starring Rob Lowe and Molly Ringwald was truly a national event. As 2018 unfolds, more ancillary cultural products are being devised for "The Stand," including new Hollywood films and another TV series. Read about it here.
The plot of the novel involves a biological Armageddon that destroys more than 99 percent of the world's population. The moral and decent people left in the U.S. congregate in Nebraska (and then Colorado) around a deeply spiritual, 108-year-old African-American woman named Mother Abagail. The evil people rally in Las Vegas (known as "The West") under the Antichrist – Flagg – who is busy seeking nuclear weapons (acquired by Flagg's pyromaniac disciple, "The Trashcan Man") to use against "The Remnant" in the Boulder "Free Zone."
Considering recent events regarding North Korea's weapons of mass destruction – including biological weapons – one would be prudent to ask what is being done to counter these WMDs. They present an unusual set of circumstances in that you can't see weaponized biological substances. It could take days until we realize the continental United States, Hawaii and Alaska have been infected. What if our allies in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Australia, New Zealand, NATO and Israel were infected as well?
Cults and coups
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North Korea has proven it is capable of carrying out a biological attack as far away as Malaysia. Some analysts look at North Korea's leadership as a certain type of a cult. There can be no doubt other cults exist that might also try to acquire biological WMDs.
For example, this writer traveled to Japan to study the Aum Shinrikyo cult. I came away with a broader understanding of the group, which once raised eyebrows in intelligence agencies the world over.
The CIA says there are more than 1,000 active cults on Earth. More than a quarter of them spread "doomsday" or "end times" dogma. Apocalyptic cults are a serious concern, not only to the CIA, but to the FBI. Former Director Louis Freeh once told Congress he feared some cults were willing to wage an "apocalyptic struggle."
Aum Shinrikyo was diverse in its business interests. It sold health food and ran yoga studios. More importantly, the cult stole, through backdoors it set up at various outposts in Japan's military-industrial complex, secrets from the nation's top programs in the fields of lasers, nuclear warfare, counter-intelligence and space-flight operations. Aum's group was home to some of the most brilliant scientific minds in the world. It has raised more than $1 billion in legitimate computer sales within the nation. Its "M" division has done work for Japan's version of the Pentagon, the national phone system and many top corporations. The cult was carefully divided into various "ministries" taking orders from the group's Science and Technology Agency.
Medicine, physics, chemistry, biology, computer science, drugs and weapons were all disciplines the cult compartmentalized with various experts. Cult members manufactured amphetamines, truth serum and LSD. Anthrax and sarin nerve gas were also developed in the group's laboratories. The cult dispatched members to Zaire (Congo) to try to obtain the Ebola virus. They also carried out a biological attack in the Australian Outback in 1993.
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The Aum cult maintained a website in the Russian language, and its erstwhile leader, Shoko Asahara, made a "salvation tour" to Russia during the 1990s. In late 1991, an Aum cultist had a meeting with Oleg Lobov, the chief at the Russian Security Council. The following year, Kiyohide Hayakawa, a top cult weapons expert, roamed free in Russia, buying up weapons and advisers. The cult set up a front company that was staffed in part by Russian Special Forces from the 9th "Deviata" Division.
The reason the Aum cult failed in its biological terrorism is that such attacks are difficult to pull off. You'd need expert, Special Forces-trained munitions experts to work hand-in-hand with erudite scientists to bring such an attack to fruition. This dualism, for now, is inescapable.
New times, new threats
After being invited to deliver a PowerPoint brief recently to FDPMU team members deployed at sea, this writer had the chance to discuss biological terrorism scenarios with the group. Part of my presentation involved the creation of a new unit in which FDPMU experts (the MDs, PhDs and lab technicians) would train side-by-side with Delta Force, SEAL teams and other elite units in realistic biological WMD scenarios.
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Among my recommendations is that an artificial intelligence matrix be set up to study likely buyers and sellers of biological WMDs. This should theoretically be based on geostrategic, economic, religious and other factors. Imagine a having a friend who is one billion times smarter than the smartest human. That's artificial intelligence, or A.I.
As an aside, another article of mine details how artificial intelligence can be used to augment the capabilities of U.S. Special Forces operating behind enemy lines in nations as diverse as Yemen, Niger and North Korea. This article was printed, read, studied and deconstructed by the FDPMU unit.
Ironically, the "super soldiers" of the future, currently being developed in the U.S. Russia and China under the broad architecture of Enhanced Human Operations, or EHOs, will be biologically enhanced entities. Read about the issue here and here. A new era of biological augmentation is dawning. This includes cloning, patents on the human genome, DNA editing, transhumanism (H+) and fetal tissue research. Mankind is strolling without care as an interloper through once forbidden gates. Biological weapons development will also continue.
FDPMU + Special Forces = ?
Imagine if the North Korean regime is about to fall – perhaps to an internal coup. What would happen to North Korea's 13 (or more) types of biological weapons? The head of the FDPMU team asked me directly for a list of the 13 bioweapons. They are as follows: Bacillus anthracis (anthrax), Clostridium botulinum (botulism), Vibrio cholerae (cholera), Bunyaviridae hantavirus (Korean hemorrhagic fever), Yersinia pestis (plague), Variola (smallpox), Salmonella typhi (typhoid fever), Coquillettidia fuscopennata (yellow fever), Shigella (dysentery), Brucella (brucellosis), Staphylococcus aureus (staph), Rickettsia prowazekii (typhus fever), and T-2 mycotoxin (alimentary toxic aleukia).
Follow this link to a terrific October 2017 PDF from the Harvard Kennedy Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs on this salient issue. The U.S. needs to begin addressing this conundrum, as the fate of humanity hangs in the balance.
A realistic approach rooted in tactics and operations should involve setting up mock North Korean (and other) biological weapons storage facilities – say in the mountains of California. Next comes the creation of a permanent (new) elite unit of Special Forces "trigger-pullers," to be augmented by FDPMU-staffed MDs, PhDs and lab techs.
The FDPMU team members I interviewed spoke of how they are rotated in and out of various positions. As of right now, there exists (to our knowledge) no such permanent unit that I am describing in this column. One team member even brought up the basic need for more Personal Protective Equipment, or PPE.
Other points they addressed include how the FDPMU is supposed to be – theoretically – "fully integrated and seamless." This is not the case. FDPMU team members are brilliant, well-educated, highly trained, courageous and dedicated. But if push comes to shove, and a North Korean meltdown situation were to occur involving biological WMDs, are they trained to work alongside Navy SEALs sent into North Korea to secure those weapons? The answer is no.
Who would give the order to destroy WMDs on site if need be? Would the U.S. military and the CIA want to bring back North Korea's biological weapons to see the progress they've made on them – if any? No doubt, some of those weapons were sold to them by the Russians.
That's another point one of the FDPMU team members brought up – the scenario in which North Korea doesn't use its biological WMDs, but rather sells them. Pakistan was mentioned as a potential buyer. ISIS, al-Qaida, China, Iran, Zimbabwe, Myanmar, drug-trafficking cartels and other state and non-state actors could all be cited as possible outlets.
Of course, the United States has a dedicated Defense Threat Reduction Agency. (The FDPMU team I interviewed mentioned this entity by name.) The Air Force might be best suited to lead the new unit proposed in the space above. For those prone to worrying about humanity's survival, there are a few drills being carried out in preparation.
For example, in Eastern Europe, a Special Forces team of the host nation brought in a strange looking, taped-up box/cooler containing a mysterious mock biological entity. The FDPMU team member, outfitted in a biological suit specially made to protect them from harm, "investigated" the strange cargo. This is all fine and well as a training exercise.
But let us ask what would have happened in a real-world scenario if/when the cargo in question were leaking The Black Death or some other kind of bug we read about in "The Stand"? The soldiers would have been busy infecting everyone and everyplace they encountered on the route back to the laboratory.
My proposed unit would drill for things like a breach in the operation – somebody dropping a vial. Containment and quarantines. Taking the WMDs back on board a ship, truck or cargo plane. A SERE component (Survival, Escape, Resistance and Evasion), "Pulp Fiction"-style exotic on-site treatments after infection, calling in air support for extraction, First Aid, accessing A.I. while operationally deployed in the field, continuity of the chain of command and "destroy on site" versus return the WMDs to U.S. outposts for further study and perhaps final destruction.
It is my firm belief that the FDPMUs should receive actual military training (weapons, land navigation, hand-to-hand combat) from the Special Forces, and that an archetype of Delta Force should also receive biological and medical training from the FDPMUs. This would be done so they can quickly shift into each other's roles if needed. This type of interoperability could be the difference between the success and failure of a mission. Additionally, a futuristic "space plane" will one day (perhaps relatively soon) be able to insert a Special Forces team anywhere on Earth within a few hours. Such a plane is actually in the works. Read about it here.
Once again, let us ask if the plot of "The Stand" will one day become reality. What we can say for sure is that the day is rapidly approaching when the United States of America and our allies will require the operational capacity of a fully integrated Special Forces/FDPMU team. Such a scenario will involve the use of biological WMDs by cults, non-state actors, rouge states or perhaps even America's top peer competitors.
An elite unit – augmented by A.I. – combining the very best skills, training, education and operational tactics of the FDPMU and Navy SEALs, should be drilling 24/7/365 in an effort to prepare for every thinkable biological WMD scenario. We need not fall victim as a species to a lack of preparation. There are no victims; there are only volunteers. And it goes without saying that any potential Trump versus Kim III summit should have North Korea's biological WMDs on the table as a primary objective within the broad architecture of the negotiations.
For now, we are left with the words of Ernest Hemingway, who long-ago warned humanity: "The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure that it will kill you too, but there will be no special hurry."