An Open Letter to Citizens of the Coastal States around the Gulf of Mexico

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Hank CooperIf you live near the Gulf of Mexico, you are the front line to an eminent threat to all Americans. The electromagnetic pulse (EMP) from a nuclear weapon exploded a hundred miles above the U.S. could kill 60-90 percent of all Americans. The powers that be should urgently address this well known threat that could be launched by Iran or Terrorists from a ship in the Gulf.

An Open letter to Citizens of the Coastal States around the Gulf of Mexico

By Ambassador Henry F. Cooper

October 26, 2012

If you live in Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana or Texas, I’m writing especially to you about an eminent threat, because of your close proximity to the Gulf of Mexico.

But this existential threat is actually to all Americans. It is well known, and should be addressed urgently—but alas the powers that be continue to ignore it.

It is a fact that the electromagnetic pulse (EMP) created by a single nuclear weapon exploded a hundred miles above the United States could lead to the  death of 60-90 percent of all Americans.

And this kind of attack could be delivered by Iran or terrorists.

A congressionally-mandated nonpartisan commission, reported detailed these findings several years ago. Yet neither the administration nor congress has done anything to address this all too real threat, which could and now should be addressed, especially in view of the events of the past few weeks.

Why?  Let me connect a few dots—in layman’s terms.

First, we know EMP effects are real—and potentially catastrophic.  The U.S. first observed them on atmospheric nuclear tests in the early 1960s.  For example, a U.S. high altitude test in South Pacific turned out lights in Hawaii, hundreds of miles away. 

Today, the effect would be more damaging because modern electronics are much more vulnerable to EMP than were the electronics of the early 1960s. Indeed, a burst over the continental U.S. could bring our entire “just in time” economy to an indefinite standstill—we could lose for many months the electric power grid and our communications, transportation, banking and other critical infrastructure systems upon which we depend for survival.

That experience would be like an indefinite return to the 18th century, but without the agrarian society that supported everyone during those days.  Now, without those essentials, people would perish for lack of food and other necessities. For example, diabetics without Insulin would die. How long would it be before civil order would break down, especially in our cities? And then what?

Dr. William R. Graham, President Reagan’s science advisor, an expert on EMP effects and as Chairman of the nonpartisan EMP Commission, testified to congress that up to two thirds of all Americans could die within the next 12 months.  Others think the percentage could be higher.

Second, EMP effects are well known, including to rogue states and terrorists who wish to kill us. Of course, the Russians understand EMP effects, perhaps better than we, from the Soviet extensive high altitude testing in the 1960s. We hardened our strategic forces to counter their attack plans during the Cold War so that we could retaliate if the Soviets attacked us or our allies. We depended on that threat to deter them from attacking in the first place. And so we relied upon deterrence rather than hardening our critical civil infrastructure against EMP.

Others also understand the EMP threat. For example, the EMP Commission concluded that Iran well understood EMP and years ago actually tested some of its ballistic missiles in ways that are consistent with carrying out such an attack with ballistic missiles launched from vessels off our coasts, including from the Gulf of Mexico. Iranian officials have explicitly stated that this is the case in conjunction with impressive operational exercises, as noted in the National Review Online article in Appendix B.

Click here to watch a very informative roundtable discussion of the EMP threat, which was conducted at the Heritage Foundation on August 15, 2012.

Third, our current missile defenses, if appropriately deployed, could defend against such attack—but alas they are not so deployed.  Most notably the Navy’s Standard Missile now at sea on a couple of dozen of our Aegis ships have demonstrated this capability.  Some of these ships are usually operating near our east and west coasts, and could shoot down such attacking missiles from vessels off our coasts if launched within their striking radius. Improved readiness of our missile defense capable Aegis ships operating near our coasts could improve the defense of our east and west coasts.

But of greater importance for those of you near the Gulf of Mexico, our Aegis ships don’t operate in the Gulf. So we are completely vulnerable to attacks from the south—from ships off our southern coasts, or from Venezuela which Iran is helping to develop ballistic missiles. This is a major concern.

Fourth, we can easily afford an effective defense against this threat—indeed, in my opinion and for reasons stated below, we cannot afford not to defend against it.  We can adapt an on-going program developing defenses for protecting our European allies against exactly the same kind of threat from Iran.  This program is called “Aegis Ashore” and is composed of the Standard Missile carried on our Aegis ships, and its associated command and control systems, deployed as a modular unit on land—initially in Romania and then in Poland.  Funded plans call for an initial operating capability by 2015.

We could have an effective Aegis Ashore defense deployed at several military bases in states around the Gulf of Mexico, on this same time frame.  All the development costs are being paid for by the existing program—with the exception of Environmental Impact Statements required before such sites are formally selected.  Deployment and operations costs should be less for a U.S. site than in Europe.

Fifth, time is running out for us to provide these needed defenses against Iran and its agents.  This is clear from recent events, including those surrounding the opening of this year’s United Nations General Assembly meetings. Iran’s President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said that Israel has no roots in the Middle East and would be “eliminated” . . .echoing his previous claims that Israel is a “tumor” to be “wiped off the map.” In his speech to the General Assembly on one of Judaism’s holiest days— Yom Kippur, he referred to Israelis as “uncivilized Zionists” and railed against the U.S. and European Union as having ” entrusted themselves to the devil.”

Iran’s threats to “Little Satan” Israel cannot be separated from its threat to “Great Satan” America, as Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards missile section, clarified just before the UN sessions. On Iran’s Arab-language network, he said, that if Israel and Iran engage militarily, “nothing is predictable… and it will turn into World War III.”  And further, “In circumstances in which they (the Israelis) have prepared everything for an attack, it is possible that we will make a pre-emptive attack. Any Israeli strike would be presumed to be authorized by the U.S. Therefore, we will definitely attack U.S. bases in Bahrain, Qatar and Afghanistan.”

Such threats from Iran are not mere boasts, as Iran illustrated in their comprehensive exercises last year.  Last year in National Review Online, I highlighted that Iran’s high-flying ballistic missiles could overwhelm U.S. missile defenses in the Persian Gulf, where much of the world’s oil passes. Its fast-attack boats could swarm a battleship and possibly sink it—remember the USS Cole destroyer that was almost sunk in the Yemen port of Aden by al-Qaeda using a single high speed boat on October 12, 2000 (killing 17 American sailors and wounding 39 others)? And Iran’s submarine fleet carries torpedoes that can threaten our ships.

The Iranian navy could hit us at least one time at sea or on shore, after which we would probably destroy their navy and most of their land-based missile capability. But they should not be assumed to act alone—and not only in the Persian Gulf. Iran has been expanding its defensive and offensive capabilities with the help of China, Russia, North Korea and other nations amid demands—to little or no avail— from the United Nations and Western nations that it prove its nuclear program is not for making a bomb in violation of its international agreements. Iranian leaders flout the fact that sanctions have not worked.  If/when they get a nuclear weapon and mate it to a ballistic missile, even the U.S. could/would be an obvious target for nuclear attack as discussed above.

Sympathetic Islamic riots also could and probably would go global immediately.  Recent events have shown the so-called “Arab Spring” to be a farce (as I and many of my colleagues anticipated). These events include the assassination of our ambassador to Libya by al-Qaeda terrorists; Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood leadership boasts and threats in spite of the State Department sending $1.5 billion in U.S. aid; Islamist flag burning riots and demonstrations against our embassies in Cairo and some 20 or so nations around the world; and American troops dying at the hands of al-Qaeda and the Taliban as we withdraw from Afghanistan and snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in Iraq—all aided by our “ally” Pakistan, which already has many nuclear weapons of its own. And we should not forget that Iran has supported al-Qaeda and others in killing our troops in the Middle East for the past decade.

Why should we believe that, if Iran goes to war in the Middle East, such on-demand demonstrations and riots will not also happen in the U.S.—as well as direct attacks on the international commerce upon which our “just in time” markets depend?  In my view we must prepare for that eventuality. And time may be running out

Sixth, Washington’s counters to this growing threat seem too little, too late. President Obama seems to be trying to separate the U.S. plight from that of Israel. He refused to meet with Israeli President Benyamin Netanyahu on the margins of the General Assembly. On CBS’s September 23rd 60 Minutes, he notably said, “Now I feel an obligation—not pressure but obligation—to make sure that we’re in close consultation with the Israelis on these issues because it affects them deeply.”  Affects “them,” but not “us?” And “Close consultation” to be sure, but why not “close cooperation?”

And his blunt, verging-on-contemptuous, dismissal of Israel’s concerns as “noise out there” was not much different from the way Iran’s leaders often refer to the Jewish state. This apparent and dangerous indifference was not helped by his September 25th General Assembly speech, full of verbal idealism but without substance on actionable specifics to deal with the evident threat of a nuclear armed Iran, which many believe could happen within the next six months.

As a recent issue of American Thinker reported, if war comes to Iran and Israel, other Islamist violence in the Middle East could and probably would go global immediately—including to America, especially when Iran has nuclear weapons.  I urge you to read that article in its entirety.

First, the mullahs’ mouthpiece Ahmadinejad is unambiguous that the regime’s goal is the destruction of both Israel and the U.S., having vowed at the “World Without Zionism” conference that “his eminency Imam Khomeini … said that the occupation regime of Qods [Israel] must be wiped off from the map of the world, and with the help of the Almighty, we shall soon experience a world without America and Zionism, notwithstanding those who doubt.”  Second, his promise to annihilate these two nations, and to do it “soon,” is coupled with a nuclear threat: “Today, the Iranian people is the owner of nuclear technology. Those who want to talk with our people should know what people they are talking to[.] … If they have not realized this by now, they soon will, but then it will be too late[.]“

Ahmadinejad promises a second Holocaust by means that only a nuclear weapon could produce — “[t]he Zionist regime…will be eliminated by one storm” — followed by attacks on the West: “The rage of the Muslim peoples will not be restricted to the boundaries of our region[.] The waves of the explosion … will reach the corrupt forces [i.e., the Western countries] which support this fake regime [Israel].”

Why should we not take Ahmadinejad at his word?  And simultaneously also note that we are unprepared to deal with the EMP threat at home, or to the consequences if it were to occur?

We can counter the EMP threat by shooting down Iranian ballistic missiles, if we prepare to do so—our problem is persuading the powers that be to make the needed preparations.

I have not discussed the things that we can do to survive if such an attack occurs and our defenses fail —grist for another letter. But a few in congress have been trying to get such countermeasures funded—so far to no avail. Of particular note is the proposed Shield Act (See the Heritage Foundation link above.) to harden key elements of our electric power grid to assure the survival/rapid revival of the power that underpins our critical infrastructure without which many millions of Americans would perish, as discussed above.  This proposed Act has overwhelming bipartisan support in the House and Senate, but has been blocked in the Energy and Commerce Committee for the past 18-months.  And now it has been kicked into the next Congress to be restarted again.

Seventh, I believe that our best hope for ending the above discussed apathy is to educate the grass roots about the threat and help them with a bottoms-up effort to demand that Washington powers that be live up to their oath to provide for the common defense. Unavoidable bottom line conclusions:

  • The U.S. cannot avoid involvement in a war between Iran and Israel, regardless of who starts it.
  • If such a war begins, it will likely spread globally like wildfire, fanned by Islamist terrorists . . . including within the United States.
  • Today, we cannot assure that Iran cannot launch ballistic missiles from vessels off our coasts and, if mated with a nuclear weapon, detonate it high above the U.S. creating an EMP—causing no physical damage, but ultimately leading to the death of millions of Americans.
  • We are currently unprepared to defend against such an attack or to provide for the survival of millions of Americans if it were to occur—especially from the Gulf of Mexico.
  • An affordable near-term defense is possible, with enlightened leadership.

Finally, I am confident that we can achieve this needed grass roots support, based on our initial efforts during this past spring and summer.  Last April, I lectured at the University of Mississippi on the threat and how a key Aegis Ashore site in Pascagoula could help defend against ballistic missiles launched from vessels in the Gulf of Mexico. After our positive exchanges with faculty and students of Ole Miss’ College of Engineering, we met with the Jackson County Board of Supervisors, who must support such a deployment if it is to be politically viable—and they responded very positively. Then we met with Mississippi’s Secretary of State and Governor, who also were very receptive. My subsequent discussions with Mississippi’s senior Senator, Thad Cochran, were also very positive.

So the stars are aligned from the bottom up in Mississippi—and I hope we can turn this positive support into a serious acquisition program this next fiscal year.

I hope also to begin comparable efforts in other coastal states around the Gulf of Mexico.  Example possible locations include: Corpus Christi Naval Air Station, Texas, Eglin and Tyndall AFB in the Florida panhandle near Panama City and McDill AFB on the Florida peninsula near Tampa.

I welcome other suggested locations including any you might wish to make. I hope you will make a tax deductable gift to High Frontier, as indicated below—and use the reverse side for suggestions. We urgently need your support to help defray our expenses for a full court press to defend the states around the Gulf of Mexico, before it may be needed to secure our survival of all we hold dear.

God bless you and yours—Let freedom ring!

For America,

Henry F. Cooper

Chairman, High Frontier

P.S. High Frontier is a 501c(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to building truly effective missile defenses. Our Founder, Lt. Gen. Danny Graham was a close advisor to President Ronald Reagan in initiating the Strategic Defense Initiative.  As High Frontier’s Chairman and President Reagan’s Chief Negotiator with the Soviet Union in defending the SDI program, which helped to end the Cold War, and then SDI’s Director, I am seeking to finish the work Danny began.  I hope you will help me do so with the best tax deductable gift you can afford.

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