SUPERWEAPONS AGAINST HUMANITY:
HIROSHIMA AT 70
August 6, 2015 marks the 70th anniversary of Hiroshima, in which 150 thousand human beings were killed or wounded, followed by 70 thousand casualties in Nagasaki on August 9. 60 thousand more died in Hiroshima due to bomb effects within the next five years. About 5000 continue to die every year. The exact numbers will never be known, for even today, the effects of the atomic bombs are still continuing to manifest in newborn children. The atomic bomb is truly “the gift that keeps on giving” (“gift” means “poison” in German).
Go back three weeks from Nagasaki, and you reach the first-ever detonation of a nuclear weapon (code-named “Trinity”). Go back another week, fast-forward a decade, and you arrive at another milestone. On July 9, 1955, two of the greatest minds of the twentieth century, Albert Einstein and Bertrand Russell, issued a statement together with other Nobel-prize-winning scientists that became known as the “Russell-Einstein Manifesto.” In it, they denounced nuclear weapons and warfare in general: “Here, then, is the problem which we present to you, stark and dreadful and inescapable: Shall we put an end to the human race; or shall mankind renounce war?”
Master Ahmet Kayhan, who was one of the greatest Islamic saints of the twentieth century and whom I have called the Sufi Sage of the Age, was dead set against all weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), which he termed “toxic weapons.” These included nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) weapons, but Master Kayhan was quite specific that Doomsday would be brought about by nuclear or nuclear-based weapons. In his efforts to avert that deplorable fate, and to establish peace on this planet, he produced four tracts during the 1980s and 90s. One of these, written in 1987, won international acclaim from prominent national and religious leaders of the day.
Today, in homage to those efforts, and to honor the memory of the victims of Hiroshima, Nagasaki and all nuclear mishaps, I pick up that discourse from where it left off.
I swear by the Day of Judgment...
On that day man will cry: “Whither to flee?”
Alas, there will be no refuge.
And when the Earth is levelled flat.
On the Day We shall remove the mountains, and you will see the earth as a level stretch.
“We live in an age of nuclear giants and ethical infants, in a world that has achieved brilliance without wisdom, power without conscience. We have solved the mystery of the atom and forgotten the lessons of the Sermon on the Mount. We know more about war than we know about peace, more about dying than we know about living.”
—General Omar Bradley
“In resigning ourselves to our fate without a struggle, we are guilty of inhumanity...
the solution lies in our rejecting war for an ethical reason;
namely, that war makes us guilty of the crime of inhumanity.”
Two Trillion Dollars
Today we ought to be living in an age of peace, the likes of which has not been seen for a very long time. For the first time in many a year, no nation has any plausible grounds for disturbing world peace.
And yet, global arms expenditures continue to increase. The world spends more than US $2 trillion annually on arms, with around $1 trillion of that sum being spent by the United States alone (don’t let the official budget numbers mislead you). And a sizable portion of that is assigned for “modernizing” and/or enhancing nuclear weapons. The US, in particular, intends to spend a trillion dollars on new nukes to rebuild its nuclear arsenal, in direct violation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (now doomed to oblivion as of May 22, 2015).
The reduction of world nuclear forces from 32 thousand warheads in 2005 to around 15,700 in 2015 may give a false sense of security. (About 97% of the 125,000 nuclear warheads built since 1945 belong to America and Russia; 93% of the present count still belong to them.) This neglects the fact that nuclear weapons are so devastatingly powerful, even a comparatively few weapons can break the back of any nation (see below).
A good yardstick in these matters is the destructive power of World War II (WW2). The total firepower of WW2 was 3 million tons of TNT, or 3 megatons. A single Trident submarine carries 24 megatons or 8 WW2s, enough to destroy every major city in Russia. Each Trident is armed with 24 Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBM), with up to 12 MIRVed (Multiple, Independently-targettable Re-entry Vehicle) nuclear warheads each.
Ever since the beginning of the Atomic Age, all people with a lick of common sense have recognized that nuclear war is tantamount to global suicide or geocide. During the Cold War, people had a pretty good idea about how dreadful a nuclear war would be. Crater sizes, fallout rates, megadeaths were all calculated in excruciating detail. The picture was so horrific that as soon as the Cold War ended in 1990, humanity chose to forget about all those details, pushing them out of its consciousness with a sigh of relief.
And yet, the weapons, the missiles, the bombers, the submarines are still there, still—against all reason—on hair-trigger alert. (The US, for instance, keeps 450 Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) on hair-trigger alert.) Further, more and more nations are achieving nuclear capability, thwarting containment and increasing the likelihood of a nuclear exchange. In other words, we have blotted nuclear weapons out of our consciousness, but we have not removed them in reality. That is, we have stuck our heads in the sand.
On January 25, 1995, with no Cold War in sight and complacency ruling the day, the world narrowly escaped nuclear war, as detailed here. We are never very far from “a few minutes to midnight,” as depicted by the “Doomsday Clock” of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. If these weapons are unleashed at even a fraction of their full force, humanity—even the entire biosphere—doesn't stand a chance.
Any effort to bring about a nuclear holocaust can only be described as diabolical. The chief desire of Satan is to see humanity suffer, the more the merrier, and the extinction of humankind would be the coup de grâce. We all know that war is hell, but the aftermath of a nuclear war would be a scene of hell on earth, such as even the combined imaginations of Dante, Hieronymus Bosch and Edward Munch could not conceive. The attempts of movie-makers to depict the horrors of nuclear war have likewise fallen short of that reality.
James Cameron’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) was one of the most successful depictions of a nuclear detonation in an urban area.
The American nuclear operations plan for attacking Russia (or the former Soviet Union) is called the Single Integrated Operational Plan, or SIOP. Only a few dozen people have any detailed knowledge of it at one time. Beyond that, it has always been shrouded in secrecy. Further, we can safely assume that Russia and every nuclear-armed state has its own version of SIOP. The people who make such plans are almost completely beyond the reach of public scrutiny and accountability.
In 2001, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) simulated the SIOP. It used customized software and available open-source data to closely approximate the tools used by SIOP planners—producing, in effect, a “proxy SIOP.”
The NRDC project concentrated on two scenarios: a “counterforce” attack on Russia’s nuclear forces using 1,300 strategic warheads, and a “countervalue” (counter-city) attack on Russian cities using a minimal arsenal of 150 silo-based intercontinental ballistic missile warheads or 192 submarine-launched ballistic missile warheads from a single submarine. Thomas B. Cochran, Robert S. Norris and William M. Arkin report: “Even the most precise counterforce attacks on Russian nuclear forces unavoidably causes widespread civilian deaths due to the fallout generated by numerous ground bursts.”
The results are clear. A “precision” attack against Russia’s nuclear forces — with an arsenal of about 1,300 warheads — would kill 8 to 12 million people and injure millions more, while destroying most of Russia’s nuclear weapons. In a “countervalue” attack, the U.S. could kill or injure up to 50 million Russians with a mere 3 percent of its current arsenal of more than 7,000 strategic warheads. There is no such thing as a surgical nuclear strike; nuclear weapons are simply weapons of mass destruction, and their effects are complex, unpredictable, and ultimately uncontrollable.
Hiroshima after the bombing, showing area directly under the fireball (Ground Zero)
How Much is Enough?
Although the SIOP is top secret, leaks have nevertheless occurred that allow us a glimpse, however slight, into its contents and into the strategic thinking that guides it. First in 1969-70 and then again in 1980, a Top Secret US Air Force Europe Nuclear Yield Requirements manual belonging to the early 1960s was leaked. It included plans for bombing West German cities and other friendly or neutral countries, so that these would not fall into the hands of Warsaw Pact invaders. The first volume of the manual detailed more than 2800 targets in Europe and the Middle East. The targets were not strategic and did not include missile silos, but civilian infrastructure such as airports, bridges and waterways, railways and motorway intersections. All of them were to be “nuked.” These were all “soft” targets that did not need to be addressed with nuclear weapons. Yet by 1963, the US had stockpiled so many nukes in Europe that there was no other use for them than to target these—as it were—“mosquitos.” The Nuclear Yield Requirements manual was an integral part of SIOP, to be used jointly with attack option plans, one of which detailed a US preemptive strike on the former Soviet Union. (New Statesman, 27 June 1980, pp. 959-60.)
The New York Times reported that of the 12,500 targets in the SIOP in 1991, one was slated to be hit by 69 consecutive nuclear weapons. The same logic was assumed to prevail on the other side: Jonathan Schell’s expert told him that some dozens of one-megaton weapons were expected to hit the New York metropolitan area. (At the time, the SIOP consisted of a million lines of computer code.) General Lee Butler, then in charge of SIOP, asked his staff to remove all targeting from Moscow and just calculate the effects of radiation resulting from upwind strikes. The result was exactly the same: Moscow would still be rendered uninhabitable for generations.
For more than half a century, the U.S. government failed to predict nuclear fire damage as it drew up plans to fight strategic nuclear war. It underestimated the damage caused by nuclear weapons, and built far more warheads, and far more destructive warheads, than were necessary. In her attempt to understand why, Lynn Eden sheds light on the kind of thinking underlying SIOP:
I have picked Washington, D.C., because many readers are familiar with the city. A single detonation on a capital city, however, does not depict a “realistic” scenario of destruction. When a former commander in chief of the U.S. Strategic Command read a draft of this chapter, he wanted to know why I put only one bomb on Washington. He said, “We must have targeted Moscow with 400 weapons.” He explained the military logic of planning a nuclear attack on Washington: “You’d put one on the White House, one on the Capitol, several on the Pentagon, several on National Airport, one on the CIA, I can think of fifty to a hundred targets right off. . . . I would be comfortable saying that there would be several dozens of weapons aimed at D.C.” Moreover, he said that even today, with fewer weapons, what makes sense in extremis would be a decapitating strike against those who command military forces. Today, he said, Washington is in no less danger than during the Cold War.
(Lynn Eden, Whole World on Fire, Cornell U. Press, 2004, p. 16.)
We see that the thinking has not changed from the height of the Cold War to the post-Cold-War period.
Let us pause to consider the kind of intellect that can contemplate bombing almost every street with a citybuster. “We’ve got ’em, might as well use ’em all.” This is not just overkill, it is hyperkill. But you can kill someone only once. What do you think of a person who, after killing someone, proceeds to kill them over and over and over again, hundreds of times? Is this not the height of folly, indeed, of insanity?
The details of nuclear war plans that have oozed out demonstrate that we have entrusted our future and our children’s future to the hands of madmen.
It should be noted that a high level of intelligence is no defense against insanity, for it plagues geniuses no less than idiots. The only true insurance against insanity is wisdom. And of that, there is precious little to go around these days.
Superweapons In Action: The Fire Deluge
Just to give you a slight idea about what a superweapon means, let us consider the following question. What would happen if an 800-kiloton nuclear warhead detonated above midtown Manhattan? Among the various effects (blast, EMP, radioactive fallout, etc.) of superweapons, we shall be concerned primarily with the thermal effects. We have to bear in mind, of course, that all those effects will be unfolding concurrently.
Russian intercontinental ballistic missiles are believed to carry a total of approximately 1,000 strategic nuclear warheads that can hit the US less than 30 minutes after being launched. Of this total, about 700 warheads are rated at 800 kilotons; that is, each has the explosive power of 800,000 tons of TNT. What follows is a description of the consequences of the detonation of a single such warhead over midtown Manhattan, in the heart of New York City.
The initial fireball. The warhead would probably be detonated slightly more than a mile above the city, to maximize the damage created by its blast wave. Within a few tenths of millionths of a second after detonation, the center of the warhead would reach a temperature of roughly 200 million degrees Fahrenheit (about 100 million degrees Celsius), or about four to five times the temperature at the center of the sun.
A ball of superheated air would form, initially expanding outward at millions of miles per hour. It would act like a fast-moving piston on the surrounding air, compressing it at the edge of the fireball and creating a shockwave of vast size and power.
After one second, the fireball would be roughly a mile in diameter. It would have cooled from its initial temperature of many millions of degrees to about 16,000 degrees Fahrenheit, roughly 4,000 degrees hotter than the surface of the sun.
On a clear day with average weather conditions, the enormous heat and light from the fireball would almost instantly ignite fires over a total area of about 100 square miles.
Within seconds after the detonation, fires set within a few miles of the fireball would burn violently. These fires would force gigantic masses of heated air to rise, drawing cooler air from surrounding areas toward the center of the fire zone from all directions.
As the massive winds drove flames into areas where fires had not yet fully developed,the fires set by the detonation would begin to merge. Within tens of minutes of the detonation, fires from near and far would join [and] have formed a single, gigantic fire. The energy released by this mass fire would be 15 to 50 times greater than the energy produced by the nuclear detonation.
The figure at bottom right shows the firestorm zone for Manhattan, New York. Click here to see a simulation for your city or address of choice.
The mass fire, or firestorm, would quickly increase in intensity, heating enormous volumes of air that would rise at speeds approaching 300 miles per hour. This chimney effect would pull cool air from outside the fire zone towards the center of the fire at speeds of hundreds of miles per hour. These superheated ground winds of more than hurricane force would further intensify the fire. At the edge of the fire zone, the winds would be powerful enough to uproot trees three feet in diameter and suck people from outside the fire into it.
The inrushing winds would drive the flames from burning buildings horizontally along the ground, filling city streets with flames and firebrands, breaking in doors and windows, and causing the fire to jump, sometimes hundreds of feet, swallowing anything not already violently combusting.
These above-hurricane-force ground winds would have average air temperatures well above the boiling point of water. The targeted area would be transformed into a huge hurricane of fire, producing a lethal environment throughout the entire fire zone.
Ground zero: Midtown Manhattan. The fireball would vaporize the structures directly below it and produce an immense blast wave and high-speed winds, crushing even heavily built concrete structures within a couple miles of ground zero. The blast would tear apart high-rise buildings and expose their contents to the solar temperatures; it would spread fires by exposing ignitable surfaces, releasing flammable materials, and dispersing burning materials.
At the Empire State Building, Grand Central Station, the Chrysler Building, and St. Patrick’s Cathedral, about one half to three quarters of a mile from ground zero, light from the fireball would melt asphalt in the streets, burn paint off walls, and melt metal surfaces within a half second of the detonation. Roughly one second later, the blast wave and 750-mile-per-hour winds would arrive, flattening buildings and tossing burning cars into the air like leaves in a windstorm. Throughout Midtown, the interiors of vehicles and buildings in line of sight of the fireball would explode into flames.
Read the rest here.
The Cuban Missile Crisis
In October 1962, the world held its breath for 13 days as the United States and the Soviet Union came to the brink of nuclear war.
After the failed American Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961, Cuban leader Fidel Castro asked Soviet Premier Khrushchev to base missiles in Cuba. When the U.S. became aware of nuclear missiles 90 miles from its shores, President John Kennedy established a military blockade around Cuba and demanded that the missiles be removed. After tense negotiations, an agreement was reached between Kennedy and Khrushchev, the missiles were removed, and the blockade was ended on November 20, 1962. According to Major Don Clawson, who piloted a NATO aircraft, 26 October was the day when “the nation was closest to nuclear war.” He adds: “We were damned lucky we didn't blow up the world – and no thanks to the political or military leadership of [the U.S.].”
A Russian submariner, Vasili Arkhipov, later called “the man who saved the world,” single-handedly averted World War Three. Hounded by the U.S. Navy, the submarine he was on had a nuclear torpedo that was the equal of the Hiroshima bomb and could have destroyed the entire American fleet—but also unleashed nuclear disaster. As fleet commander, Arkhipov vetoed firing the torpedo and opted for surrender. That move, while humiliating for the Russians, saved us all.
The development of nuclear submarines capable of launching SLBMs brought the Cuban Crisis to every nation's doorstep. And today, with the roles reversed, a mirror image of the Cuban Missile Crisis is slowly unfolding in Ukraine.
Accidents: Russian Roulette
For years we’ve been hearing how hair-raising accidents that could have precipitated nuclear war—or could have unleashed havoc on the country that owns the weapons—happened with monotonous frequency. In Command and Control (2013), Eric Schlosser has detailed more than 1,200 nuclear accidents that happened between 1950 and 1968. That’s more than one accident per week. And the Department of Defense admitted 1,152 “moderately serious” false alarms between 1977 and 1984—roughly three a week. There’s no reason to suppose that the accident/false alarm rate has diminished. And you can bet the Russian side, with inferior tech, experienced even more of these.
Eric Schlosser: A single safety switch prevented the detonation of a hydrogen bomb in Faro, North Carolina, in 1961. That type of switch was later discovered to have been defective in dozens of cases. Had the weapon detonated, it could have sent lethal radioactive fallout as far north as Washington, DC, and New York City.
On September 18, 1980, a couple of workmen were doing routine maintenance at a Titan II missile silo in Damascus, Arkansas. The single warhead on the Titan II had three times the explosive force of all the bombs used during the Second World War combined—including both atomic bombs. As one of the workers prepared to remove a pressure cap near the top of the missile, the socket fell off his wrench handle. The tool fell about seventy feet, bounced off part of the silo, struck the missile and pierced its metal skin. Thousands of gallons of highly flammable, highly explosive rocket fuel began to fill the silo. Had [the warhead] detonated, the state of Arkansas would have been consumed by firestorms. [The missile eventually exploded, blasting a 750-ton silo door a quarter of a mile away and launching the nuclear warhead into the air.]
And how many times were flocks of birds or geese on the radar mistaken for a nuclear missile attack by either side? Noam Chomsky writes: “There have been hundreds of cases when human intervention aborted a first strike minutes before launch, after automated systems gave false alarms. We don't have Russian records, but there's no doubt that their systems are far more accident-prone.” (See here for other notable cases.)
As General Lee Butler (former head of the U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM), with responsibility for all Air Force and Navy strategic nuclear forces) put it: “we escaped the Cold War without a nuclear holocaust by some combination of skill, luck and divine intervention, and I suspect the latter in greatest proportion.” Noam Chomsky has added: “It is a near miracle that we have escaped destruction so far, and the longer we tempt fate, the less likely it is that we can hope for divine intervention to perpetuate the miracle.”
As anyone familiar with Murphy’s Law knows, anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. That Murphy’s Law can be violated for such a long time on so many occasions without the attendant consequences, can only be explained by one thing: divine protection. If you’re looking for proof that God exists, look no further: if we have not succeeded in blowing ourselves to bits in the last seventy years, this can only be due to the fact that in each case, God stepped in. Sheer dumb luck just doesn’t cut it.
A Full-Scale Attack
In 1982, Jonathan Schell wrote a long essay for The New Yorker magazine, which later became a book called The Fate of the Earth. Schell contemplated the effects of a full-scale, 10-thousand-megaton attack on America. More than three decades later, it still makes for sobering reading:
In the first moments of a 10,000-megaton attack on the United States. . . flashes of white light would suddenly illuminate large areas of the country as thousands of suns, each one brighter than the sun itself, blossomed over cities, suburbs, and towns. In those same moments. . . the vast majority of the people in the regions first targeted would be irradiated, crushed, or burned to death. The thermal pulses could subject more than six hundred thousand square miles, or one-sixth of the total land mass of the nation, to a minimum level of. . . heat that chars human beings. . . . Tens of millions of people would go up in smoke. As the attack proceeded, as much as three-quarters of the country could be subjected to incendiary levels of heat, and so, wherever there was inflammable material, could be set ablaze. In the ten seconds or so after each bomb hit, as blast waves swept outward from thousands of ground zeros, the physical plant of the United States would be swept away like leaves in a gust of wind. The six hundred thousand square miles already scorched. . . would now be hit by blast waves. . . and virtually all the habitations, places of work, and other man-made things there — substantially the whole human construct in the United States — would be vaporized, blasted, or otherwise pulverized out of existence. Then, as clouds of dust rose from the earth, and mushroom clouds spread overhead. . . day would turn to night. . . . Shortly, fires would spring up in the debris of the cities and in every forest dry enough to burn. These fires would simply burn down the United States.
. . . sixty per cent of the population … could be annihilated with only three hundred one-megaton bombs. . . . That would leave nine thousand seven hundred megatons, or ninety-seven percent of the megatonnage in the attacking force, available for other targets. . . .
(The Fate of the Earth, pp. 56-60, quoted in Ronald C. Pine, Science and the Human Prospect.)
But there are no other targets. Using the remainder would be tantamount to hunting down each human being with an atomic bomb.
Similar considerations apply to the former Soviet Union. It should be remembered, however, that the United States and Russia are continent-wide nations, and 300 megatons is required only to break the backs of the elephants. Any smaller country could be reduced to rubble with much greater ease. As Schell further explains:
Yet even one megaton, which contains the explosive yield of eighty Hiroshimas, would, if it should be dropped in the United States in the form of a number of small bombs, be an unimaginable catastrophe. Ten megatons—eight hundred Hiroshimas—would leave any nation on earth devastated beyond anything in our historical experience. A hundred megatons—eight thousand Hiroshimas—is already outside comprehension. (p. 67.)
These are not pretty facts. Yet we must always bear them in mind, because they have not changed. The memory of man is afflicted with amnesia, and there are those who have forgotten these crushing facts, and have even begun to contemplate a winnable nuclear war from the vantage point of a first strike. It is also true that people who possess such weapons become drunk with the power conferred by such possession. This is precisely the point at which the Base Self becomes a plaything of the devil without even realizing it. “I let live and make to die...” Those who gloat over their god-like power forget still another thing, however, and that is that they inhabit the same planet as their adversaries. They would have to transport their country off-planet in its entirety if they wished to avoid the consequences of their attack.
Accidents at nuclear power plants have shown that radioactive fallout has little respect for the borders of nations. The 1978 Three Mile Island accident was thankfully well-contained. We were less fortunate in the case of Chernobyl, which contaminated countries neighboring Russia in 1986, causing elevations in cancer deaths. As for the Fukushima accident of 2011, it clearly demonstrated the transport of radioactivity across the Pacific Ocean, where it hit the west coast of the United States.
Nuclear Winter: No Escape
Another interesting thing about nuclear weapons is that recognition of some of their effects has been slow to unfold, creating fresh surprises as each was discovered. For example, the electromagnetic pulse (or EMP) effect of a nuclear explosion was not noticed until 1962, after which it was realized that it created an electric surge of tens of thousands of amperes, frying all electronic equipment and power transmission lines. Just detonate an EMP-enhanced bomb 300 miles above the middle of the US, and you can blanket the entire continent (80 percent of Americans would die within a year). Similarly in the early 1980s, another consequence of nuclear war was discovered, and promptly named “nuclear winter.” And this is the reason why advocates of a winnable nuclear war have to first relocate to Mars before they can expect a reasonable chance of success.
For behold, the debris raised by a nuclear explosion would blot out the skies, and winds would carry it all over the planet. I quote from Wikipedia: “the ignition of 100 firestorms that are comparable in intensity to that observed in Hiroshima in 1945 would produce a small nuclear winter. The burning of these firestorms would result in the injection of soot into the Earth’s stratosphere, producing an anti-greenhouse effect, that lowers the Earth’s surface temperature.”
In other words, a nuclear exchange of as small as 1.5 megatons could be sufficient to alter the earth’s climate, causing agricultural losses and famine. (You can do much more damage with a hundred small nukes than with one big nuke.) See here for a view of how soot spreads across the globe with time.
According to the same source:
Half of 1% of the explosive power of US-Russian nuclear weapons can create enough nuclear darkness to impact global climate. 100 Hiroshima-size weapons exploded in the cities of India and Pakistan would put up to 5 million tons of smoke in the stratosphere. [Note that India and Pakistan each have around 100 warheads.] The smoke would destroy much of the Earth’s protective ozone layer and drop temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere to levels last seen in the Little Ice Age. Shortened growing seasons could cause up to 1 billion people to starve to death.
A large nuclear war could put 150 million tons of smoke in the stratosphere and make global temperatures colder than they were 18,000 years ago during the coldest part of the last Ice Age. Killing frosts would occur every day for 1-3 years in the large agricultural regions of the Northern Hemisphere. Average global precipitation would be reduced by 45%. Earth’s ozone layer would be decimated. Growing seasons would be eliminated.
A study on the “Environmental consequences of nuclear war” concludes:
A regional war involving 100 Hiroshima-sized weapons would pose a worldwide threat due to ozone destruction and climate change. A superpower confrontation with a few thousand weapons would be catastrophic. ...
Recent work by our colleagues and us shows that even small arsenals threaten people far removed from the sites of conflict because of environmental changes triggered by smoke from firestorms. Meanwhile, modern climate models confirm that the 1980s predictions of nuclear winter effects were, if anything, underestimates.
... we estimate that the direct effects of using [even reduced] 2012 arsenals would lead to hundreds of millions of fatalities. The indirect effects would likely eliminate the majority of the human population. ...
For any nuclear conflict, nuclear winter would seriously affect noncombatant countries. In a [major] war, for example, we estimate that most of the world’s population, including that of the Southern Hemisphere, would be threatened by the indirect effects on global climate. Even a regional war between India and Pakistan, for instance, has the potential to dramatically damage Europe, the US, and other regions through global ozone loss and climate change.
Anyone itching for a “small” nuclear skirmish will need to factor that into their calculations.
Doomsday Descriptions in the Koran
Although the Koran was revealed 14 centuries ago, it contains descriptions of Doomsday that only become fully comprehensible in the light of knowledge gained from nuclear explosions. Whatever people made of these descriptions prior to 1945, they have exposed a whole new dimension of meaning since then. We shall consider the verses of interest in the light of the main effects of a nuclear detonation. What is interesting is that most verse groups speak of multiple effects, which is a hallmark of nuclear weapons and would not be expected in any other type of (conventional) event. I cannot hope to do full justice to the meanings of the verses, but shall endeavor to do my best.
1The terrible calamity!
2What is the calamity?
3What will make you comprehend what the terrible calamity is?
4On that day, people will be like scattered moths
5And mountains will be carded like wool.
The repetition of calamity in three consecutive verses underlines the great significance attached to it, as well as the difficulty of describing it adequately. Verse 101:5 refers to the blast wave (see also verses 70:9 and 81:3).
Verse 101:4 is about the hibakusha (see verse 22:2), but the reference to moths inevitably brings to mind the way a moth is consumed by a flame. In other words, it refers to people on fire, to human torches, which was a common enough sight at Hiroshima. (Photos of charred corpses from Nagasaki are also available.)
7When the sight is dazzled
8And the moon becomes dark,
9And the sun and moon are brought together,
The light of a detonating atomic bomb has been described as “brighter than a thousand suns” (which became the title of a book by Robert Jungk in 1956). The initial pulse of (mostly ultraviolet) light produced by a nuclear detonation can dazzle persons miles away and blind them temporarily or permanently. Verse 75:8 points to nuclear darkness/nuclear winter (see also verses 81:1-2). In the next verse, the sun and moon are described as being levelled. That is, the sun too is darkened, as stated more explicitly in 81:1.
6They think it (the Day of Judgment) is far off,
7But We see it as near.
8The day when the sky will become as molten copper,
9And the mountains shall become like wool,
10And no friend shall ask of friend...
70:8—See photo at right (also 55:37). 70:9 refers to the blast wave that can pulverize even mountains (see also verses 101:5 and 81:3).
37When the sky is rent asunder, and turns crimson like red leather
The famous “Tsar Bomba,” the largest hydrogen bomb ever built (50 megatons), was detonated by the Soviets in 1961. The crown of its mushroom cloud eventually reached a height of 64 km/40mi, about 7 times the height of Mount Everest, placing it well beyond the stratosphere.
Below, you can find real footage of the detonation. Notice how the ground shakes towards the end, rendering the Koranic verses 22:1 and 79:6 comprehensible.
1When the sky is rent asunder,
2When the stars are scattered,
First the fireball, and then the rapidly rising mushroom cloud, will “rip the sky apart” (the nuclear detonation heaves the Earth's magnetic field out of the way). Verse 82:2 is best understood in the sense of 81:2. That is, light sources such as the stars, the moon, and even the sun are rendered void: “day will turn to night.”
1When the sun shall be shrouded in darkness,
2And when the stars lose their light,
3When the mountains will be blown away...
5And when all the beasts (huddle) together,
6And when the oceans shall boil...
The first two verses have already been referred to above as the “nuclear darkness” that precipitates nuclear winter, caused by the injection of vast amounts of soot into the upper atmospheric layers. Verse 81:3 refers to the blast effect (see also verses 70:9 and 101:5), and “boiling oceans” (verse 81:6) to the thermal effect.
1Surely the earthquake of the Hour is a mighty thing,
2On the day when you behold it, every woman who gives suck shall forget her nursling and every pregnant woman shall lose her burden, and you shall see mankind drunk, yet they are not drunk...
The detonation shakes the earth at a significant level on the Richter scale, as recorded on seismographs. The last part of verse 22:2, “drunk yet not drunk,” refers to the hibakusha (Jap. “explosion-affected people”), who were studied by psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton in his classic Death in Life: Survivors of Hiroshima (1967). These survivors were so utterly traumatized that they wandered aimlessly towards the hills surrounding Hiroshima. Some, counterintuitively, headed towards Ground Zero. Those who survived suffered from prolonged psychic numbing and feelings of guilt at having remained alive. Lifton quotes from Hiroshima Diary:
Those who were able walked silently toward the suburbs in the distant hills, their spirits broken, their initiative gone. When asked whence they had come, they pointed to the city and said, “That way,” and when asked where they were going, pointed away from the city and said, “This way.” They were so broken and confused that they moved and behaved like automatons.
Their reactions had astonished outsiders, who reported with amazement the spectacle of long files of people holding stolidly to a narrow, rough path when close by was a smooth, easy road going in the same direction. The outsiders could not grasp the fact that they were witnessing the exodus of a people who walked in the realm of dreams. (Death in Life, p. 25.)
Wax figures representing survivors of Hiroshima, with strips of flayed-off skin dripping from their limbs.
Click here for an impression of what it was really like (from the cartoon movie Barefoot Gen (1983)).
Click here for video footage, suppressed for decades, taken in Hiroshima in March 1946 showing victims with severe burns.
33But when the deafening Blast comes,
34On that day every man shall flee from his brother,
35And from his mother and his father,
36And from his wife and his children.
37On that day everyone will be engrossed in his own concerns.
This is clear enough. As one Hiroshima survivor reported: “right after the bomb exploded, during the confusion and pain and suffering and dying, people’s instincts told them to save themselves.”
6On the day when the first Blast quakes the earth,
7And the second Blast follows it,
8Hearts on that day shall tremble,
9And eyes will be humbly cast down.
If a single weapon is involved in an air burst, the first blast would be due to the initial supersonic punch delivered by the shock wave, and the second to the audible sonic boom traveling at lower speed. Alternatively, the verses could refer to more than one detonation, possibly also implying multiple blasts, as we have seen above. It works both ways.
10Wait for the Day when the sky will bring forth a visible smoke
11It will engulf and afflict mankind; that is a painful torture.
12(Then they will say): Our Lord, relieve us from this torment, for we are believers.
13How shall this remembrance avail them at this point, when an undoubted Messenger had earlier come to them?
The reference here is to the mushroom cloud, and the radioactive ash or fallout it will spew into the atmosphere, which then rains down on earth, causing radiation sickness and death. On a global scale, the millions of tons of smoke delivered into the stratosphere, thus causing nuclear winter, could also be implied. The smokescreen will be so acute that even plant photosynthesis will become impossible, decimating crops and vegetables. Without food, heat or even light, the human and animal populations of the earth will be doomed. Once the terrible calamity happens, there is no turning back.
Conclusion: The descriptions given in the Koran are crystal clear. The light pulse, the blast wave, the mushroom cloud, the earthquake, the heat effect, the explosion-affected people, the fallout, the radiation sickness, the nuclear darkness, are all described. Not one or two or even three, but almost all the effects of a nuclear disaster are described in the Koran.
Master Kayhan’s Take
As mentioned above, Master Kayhan was extremely concerned about the fate of humanity. Over the years, he articulated his views on various occasions. While he considered Doomsday inevitable, he also believed we should do everything within our power to avert it. Now, without further ado, I present an exclusive excerpt from The Teachings of a Perfect Master (pp. 170-74, emphases added), which concisely summarizes his thoughts on this issue.
Whatever has emerged from the mouth of the Prophet, those are all going to happen. ‘Human beings will end the world with their own hands’ – a Saying. It’s going to happen. The Apocalypse is going to happen. Everything that emerged from the two lips of the Prophet is going to take place.
I heard it somewhere when I was seven or eight years old: ‘In time the Mahdi [Savior] Messenger will come, Islam will continue for a while. But gunpowder won’t burn against the Mahdi Messenger.’ I’ve remembered this. When we heard about the atom, the atomic bomb [in 1945], I recalled that. Gunpowder will burn, but will have no effect, what can it do? Aha! Gunpowder will burn when fire is applied to it, but its rule will be over. This is one.
The other is, when they started out on space, I thought of Noah’s Ark. If there’s something like that someday, a nuclear war, they’re going to escape into space. After the term of the atom, the rage of the atom is over on Earth, they’re going to come back and land on Earth. The Third Adam, that is. The First Adam [is the Adam we know from religious tradition as Adam]. The Second Adam is Noah, he was created with the Flood. I recalled that. Aha! Now these rascals are looking for a place in space. If, someday, something like this happens, after the fury of the atom – so many years – has passed, they’re going to return to Earth. But they can’t find a place in the realm of space, among the stars. They won’t be able to find a planet like Earth. In Invitation to Peace , I gave the maximum period humans can withstand space as five years. It’s actually one year, I’m overstating it. If you go to Mars, you can live there for five years at most, how are you going to survive?
A Doomsday is going to come in any case. The atom – whoosh! It happens such that the divine sciences are terminated. Humanity approaches oblivion. Faith departs from humankind. Illicit gain, illicit lust become dominant. Satan says, ‘You’re like Pharaoh, you’re like Nimrod.’ Then, such a generation is going to come that mercy, loving-kindness, is going to vanish. That generation is going to do it. The three Adams – they don’t study history, they don’t know. I say ‘the Third Adam.’ Nobody studies history, how are they going to know who the Second Adam is? One has to study the history of Islam, the history of the prophets.
Noah’s deluge occurred with water. The mountains and rocks didn’t burn, fire didn’t burn. With the atom, the mountains burn, wheeoow! The fire of the atom is more intense than hellfire. Hellfire doesn’t consume mountains, the atom does. There’s only one weapon more powerful than the atom – the human [the Perfect Human] who enlightens, who leads.
The last resort is to unite over a holy book, to unite on the Quran. And that, they can’t do. It wouldn’t even occur to them. So that’s how it’s going to happen.
Archangel Gabriel told the Prophet: ‘No further prophets will come. Only, I’m going to come down to earth three times, and three things will be removed. [First] I will remove the mind, [next] I will remove courtesy and shame, [then] I will remove the abundance of the earth. The Quran will remain on the shelf. Then I will come [for the last time].’
The rules of the Four Books have been abolished. They exist, but nobody looks at them.
They’re going to destroy the earth with their own hands. There are many Sayings about the end of the world, one from Medina states: ‘Your world will not end, except that human beings will destroy their world with their own hands.’ The end!
Another Saying: after the Battle of Uhud, they’re going towards Medina. ‘Do you see those mountains?’ says the Prophet of God. ‘The time will come when those mountains are carded like cotton.’ Softer than soil, he says ‘cotton.’ What’s going to end the world? The atom. What’s going to tease [mountains] like cotton? The atom. Mercy will depart from human beings. Not yet [though].
Democracy, multiple parties and their children: illicit gain and illicit lust. The world will go down with these. I’m telling you the back and the front of it. Write these down in your books.
The atom will become so powerful that even peasants will possess it. By that time, Turkey will have the atom [bomb], too.
Obedience to the Torah, the Gospel, the Quran will be abolished. Human beings will be much more merciless than they are today. God will remove mercy from human beings. After that, Heaven forbid, a human being won’t be worth as much as a cat. People will murder each other.
The Apocalypse is going to take place at the time of the Dusk Prayer. That’s why the Obligatory (fard) part of the Evening Prayer is before the customary (sunna) part: for the sake of that last generation. This is a secret and a symbol.
America will bomb, let’s say, England with the atom. England will bomb America. America will bomb China. China will bomb France. And thus everyone will bomb everybody else.
There’s another Saying: ‘An egg stood on end in the west [in Africa] will be seen from the east [in Egypt, and vice versa].’ It’s going to be that flat, that is.
The bombs of today destroy only living things. Those will burn both the living and the nonliving, will turn them to ashes. The seas will invade the land surface, creating mud from the ashes, quiver quiver quiver. And what will happen then? God forbid, America, Russia, Europe will all become as flat as can be. I answered this [in 1987]: outer space. Whoever has a spaceship will rush out to space. The longest survivors will last five years.
Doomsday will come in a hundred or two hundred years. As long as sainthood lasts, it won’t come. God and God’s Prophet know, Doomsday will come with the atom, let me tell you that.
The Third Adam
The astronaut who returns to earth after nuclear war will be the Third Adam. But he won’t return in an ordinary way. He will come back with a new justice, he will establish God’s justice on earth.
The Third Adam will establish justice. He will bring [God’s] mercy even if he had been a sworn communist. This cannot be any other way. He will come with the spirituality and maturity of the Prophet of God. I’ve said this before. Because the Quran is final. Nothing else comes after it.
Question: So the Quran will be preserved?
Yes. And if God wills, He won’t burn the Ka'ba or the place of our Prophet in Medina.
The pen is mightier than the sword
Thirty years ago, I decided that all humankind should abandon war and fight with the pen. Things are slowly going in that direction. Thirty years ago [in 1962, the year of the Cuban Missile Crisis]. We don’t want the sword now either, enough of the sword. Let them all be filled with belief, with faith. Let all weaponry end, let them all return to the Quran. What need is there for weapons when there’s the Quran? Without deviating from our Prophet, fight with the pen. The form of combat has changed now. Not the sword, the pen. Sound judgment.
The Turks, the Seljuks, the Ottomans – may they all rest in peace – came with the sword and went with the sword. They gave their heads and seized, it left their hands without taking any heads. They took possession of so many lands. Where are those now? The Quran is favorable, God’s command permits it. [The Prophet said:] ‘I take pride in the numbers of my community.’ So the sword doesn’t work, it’s more the pen that works.
The way out
America has come to the top now. But can it maintain it? They have to issue a decree from the United Nations. Whichever government manufactures weapons, they have to pounce on it and destroy it. Not with weapons, but with the pen. If they do this, maybe the world will have some peace and quiet. Weapons, aircraft, tanks – may God destroy them all, for the sake of His Beloved Prophet.
The United Nations has to do it. Weapons are prohibited. The government that manufactures them is to be removed from power. There is no other solution.
In order to avoid this, the United Nations has to dwell on it. It has to take things under its jurisdiction. It has to remove conditions that violate the Torah, the Gospel and the Quran. Only the United Nations can take care of this. There’s God’s blessing, but no work. If God and God’s Prophet guide to the right way, if the United Nations take it in hand, only that way can they solve this problem. Otherwise it’s impossible.
Of the nearly two hundred nations now extant, one person who is wisest, most cultured and who loves his country and nation should be chosen from each. Those chosen should love humanity and other nations as much as their own. From among these, the most intelligent seven should again be selected by examination, plus twenty or thirty members. These should compose the United Nations.
Then, all kinds of weapons and all war should be prohibited. When war erupts anywhere, the representatives of the parties concerned should first try to resolve differences between themselves. If they can’t resolve it, the rest (the UN) should intervene to stop it.
Next, hunger. After war, hunger too should be eradicated. Whatever it takes should be done to achieve this. Without weapons and hunger, humanity will be able to maintain peace for a while. In time, smaller countries would join bigger nations [in regional alliances, somewhat in the manner of the European Union]. Small states would give way to large states, and in the absence of weapons the latter would live in peace. This means not just toxic (NBC) weapons, but all weapons. This is the only solution. There is no other way.
Someone has to follow this through. Humanity is going. Let’s unite it, let’s bring it together while we still have the chance.
May God’s Prophet guide to the right way, may it bud from the United Nations. Otherwise it’s going, the snake will pour out its venom. Humankind is going to oblivion. Do Prayers and pray a lot. Not just for yourself, for all humanity. May this fire be extinguished. May fire be replaced by love.
(Note: First and Last. John Hersey’s Hiroshima (1946) will remain the classic account of the survivors. Susan Southard's Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War (2015) has just been published; see here for an excerpt.)
UPDATE Dec. 30, 2015: A SAC Atomic Weapons Requirements Study for 1959 similar to the Nuclear Yield Requirements manual mentioned in the article has just been declassified. See this and the links given there.