The bombings of Tokyo and of Hamburg, each of which killed more people than the atomic bombings, heralded something new. These cities contained civilian populations and were without particular military significance. The object of dropping napalm jelly-gasoline upon Tokyo was to so demoralize the population through extermination of great sections of it, as to effect the defeat of the enemy. As Lewis Mumford has pointed out, this was the theory of mass extermination; it was because of such behavior that the war against fascism was presumably being fought.
All of the allies in the war against fascism, among whom are the world's primary antagonists, have fully adopted the national policy of genocide. The Soviet Union, China, the United States — and all of their satellites — believe in mass murder, indiscriminate extermination of entire populations whether belligerent or not, and in systematic genocide. This is the explicit and proudly proclaimed military consequence of their national policy. It is because the moral corruption and cultural degeneration of our world have advanced to this degree that the governments in question not only propose this horror, without compare, for other peoples but for their own. Each government makes victim the children of its country because of the acceptance of the fascist belief in mass extermination as a viable political practice for an entire nation.
The testing of nuclear weapons in the atmosphere has had the consequence of condemning millions of people to death because of bone cancer, blood cancer, genetic and somatic damage. Among the first victims of American testing have been American children. The number so affected is very large although the government of the United States lies about the treasonable consequences of its policy for its own people. Similar things are true of the Soviet government.
There is a further improvement on the barbaric doctrine of mass extermination which is to be foisted upon the school children of the respective countries for their loyal admiration and advocacy. This improvement is the effect upon future generations of human beings. The governments of today are saying that their limited vision and judgement are to be sufficient for all future generations of human beings. The germ plasm of our species is being drastically damaged. The possibility of future life is daily threatened and made unlikely.
Often it is said that political analysis must be scholarly and unimpassioned. I have tried to describe the conditions of our daily life. I cannot think of words of sufficient emotive strength to register my disgust with the policies of the governments of East and West. I believe that every sane human being must do all in his power to prevent these policies from being enacted or continued.
They are still dying in Hiroshima and in Nagasaki. Hundreds each year are dying because of the damage done through the fallout over Hiroshima and Nagasaki. With what right does the government of the United States poison the atmosphere, which is the atmosphere for all the peoples of the earth? What would that government say if the Pakistanis and the Indians in their dispute over Kashmir poisoned the atmosphere of the planet in the course of that dispute? With what right do these governments make the peoples of the world hostage to every petty squabble they might entertain?
The Americans maintain a fleet between the tiny islands belonging to China and the Chinese mainland itself. They maintain rockets trained upon the mainland of China, but they wax indignantly at the existence of an independent state whose policies differ from their own, namely Cuba. For the moment I am not passing judgement on this disparity of attitude. I am pointing out that the governments of the United States and the Soviet Union behave with colossal arrogance and with total indifference to the consequences for humanity of their particular paranoias.
I am heartened that there is still present a will to resist and I am convinced that until people fully comprehend the magnitude of what is being done in their name there is small hope for peace in the world. It is not sufficient to point out the evil of others, for that is often a reflection of one's own actions.
From what survives of his writings he does not appear as an amiable character. He was much addicted to contempt, and was the reverse of a democrat. Concerning his fellow-citizens he says: “The Ephesians would do well to hang themselves, every grown man of them, and leave the city to beardless lads; for they have cast out Hermodorus, the best man among them, saying: 'We will have none who is best among us; if there be any such, let him be so elsewhere and among others.'” He speaks ill of all his eminent predecessors, with a single exception. "Homer should be turned out of the lists and whipped." "Of all whose discourses I have heard, there is not one who attains to understanding that wisdom is apart from all." "The learning of many things teacheth not understanding, else would it have taught Hesiod and Pythagoras, and again Xenophanes and Hecataeus." "Pythagoras . . . claimed for his own wisdom what was but a knowledge of many things and an art of mischief." The one exception to his condemnations is Teutamus, who is signalled out as "of more account than the rest." When we inquire the reason for this praise, we find that Teutamus said "most men are bad."
His contempt for mankind leads him to think that only force will compel them to act for their own good. He says: "Every beast is driven to the pasture with blows"; and again: "Asses would rather have straw than gold."
As might be expected, Heraclitus believes in war. "War," he says, "is the father of all and the king of all; and some he has made gods and some men, some bond and some free." Again: "Homer was wrong in saying: 'Would that strife might perish from among gods and men!' He did not see that he was praying for the destruction of the universe; for, if his prayer were heard, all things would pass away." And yet again: "We must know that war is common to all and strife is justice, and that all things come into being and pass away through strife."
His ethic is a kind of proud asceticism, very similar to Nietzsche's. He regards the soul as a mixture of fire and water, the fire being noble and the water ignoble. The soul that has most fire he calls "dry." "The dry soul is the wisest and best." "It is pleasure to souls to become moist." "A man, when he gets drunk, is led by a beardless lad, tripping, knowing not where he steps, having his soul moist." "It is death to souls to become water." "It is hard to fight with one's heart's desire. Whatever it wishes to get, it purchases at the cost of soul." "It is not good for men to get all that they wish to get." One may say that Heraclitus values power obtained through self-mastery, and despises the passions that distract men from their central ambitions.
The attitude of Heraclitus to the religions of his time, at any rate the Bacchic religion, is largely hostile, but not with the hostility of a scientific rationalist. He has his own religion, and in part interprets current theology to fit his doctrine, in part rejects it with considerable scorn. He has been called Bacchic (by Cornford), and regarded as an interpreter of the mysteries (by Pfleiderer). I do not think the relevant fragments bear out this view. He says, for example: "The mysteries practised among men are unholy mysteries." This suggests that he had in mind possible mysteries that would not be "unholy," but would be quite different from those that existed. He would have been a religious reformer, if he had not been too scornful of the vulgar to engage in propaganda.
The following are all the extant sayings of Heraclitus that bear on his attitude to the theology of his day.
The Lord whose is the oracle at Delphi neither utters nor hides his meaning, but shows it by a sign.
And the Sibyl, with raving lips uttering things mirthless, unbedizened, and unperfumed, reaches over a thousand years with her voice, thanks to the god in her.
Souls smell in Hades.
Greater deaths win greater portions. (Those who die then become gods.)
Night-walkers, magicians, priests of Bacchus and priestesses of the wine-vat, mystery-mongers.
The mysteries practised among men are unholy mysteries.
And they pray to these images, as if one were to talk with a man's house, knowing not what gods or heroes are.
For if it were not to Dionysus that they made a procession and sang the shameful phallic hymn, they would be acting most shamelessly. But Hades is the same as Dionysus in whose honour they go mad and keep the feast of the wine-vat.
They vainly purify themselves by defiling themselves with blood, just as if one who had stepped into the mud were to wash his feet in mud. Any man who marked him doing this, would deem him mad.
Heraclitus believed fire to be the primordial element, out of which everything else had arisen. Thales... thought everything was made of water; Anaximenes thought air was the primitive element; Heraclitus preferred fire. At last Empedocles suggested a statesmanlike compromise by allowing four elements, earth, air, fire and water. The chemistry of the ancients stopped dead at this point. No further progress was made in this science until the Mohammedan alchemists embarked upon their search for the philosopher's stone, the elixir of life, and a method of transmuting base metals into gold.
The metaphysics of Heraclitus are sufficiently dynamic to satisfy the most hustling of moderns:
"This world, which is the same for all, no one of gods or men has made; but it was ever, is now, and ever shall be an ever-living Fire, with measures kindling and measures going out."
"The transformations of Fire are, first of all, sea; and half of the sea is earth, half whirlwind."
In such a world, perpetual change was to be expected, and perpetual change was what Heraclitus believed in.
He had, however, another doctrine on which he set even more store than on the perpetual flux; this was the doctrine of the mingling of opposites. "Men do not know," he says, "how what is at variance agrees with itself. It is an attunement of opposite tensions, like that of the bow and the lyre." His belief in strife is connected with this theory, for in strife opposites combine to produce a motion which is a harmony. There is a unity in the world, but it is a unity resulting from diversity:
"Couples are things whole and things not whole, what is drawn together and what is drawn asunder, the harmonious and the discordant. The one is made up of all things, and all things issue from the one."
Sometimes he speaks as if the unity were more fundamental than the diversity:
"Good and ill are one."
"To God all things are fair and good and right, but men hold some things wrong and some right."
"The way up and the way down is one and the same."
"God is day and night, winter and summer, war and peace, surfeit and hunger; but he takes various shapes, just as fire, when it is mingled with spices, is named according to the savour of each."
Nevertheless, there would be no unity if there were not opposites to combine: "it is the opposite which is good for us."
This doctrine contains the germ of Hegel's philosophy, which proceeds by a synthesising of opposites.
The metaphysics of Heraclitus, like that of Anaximander, is dominated by a conception of cosmic justice, which prevents the strife of opposites from ever issuing in the complete victory of either.
"All things are an exchange for Fire, and Fire for all things, even as wares for gold and gold for wares."
"Fire lives the death of air, and air lives the death of fire; water lives the death of earth, earth that of water."
"The sun will not overstep his measures; if he does, the Erinys, the handmaids of Justice, will find him out."
"We must know that war is common to all, and strife is justice."
Heraclitus repeatedly speaks of "God" as distinct from "the gods." "The way of man has no wisdom, but that of God has. . . . Man is called a baby by God, even as a child by a man. . . . The wisest man is an ape compared to God, just as the most beautiful ape is ugly compared to man."
God, no doubt, is the embodiment of cosmic justice.
The doctrine that everything is in a state of flux is the most famous of the opinions of Heraclitus, and the one most emphasised by his disciples, as described in Plato Theaetetus.
"You cannot step twice into the same river; for fresh waters are ever flowing in upon you."
"The sun is new every day."
His belief in universal change is commonly supposed to have been expressed in the phrase "all things are flowing," but this is probably apocryphal, like Washington "Father, I cannot tell a lie" and Wellington's "Up Guards and at 'em." His works, like those of all the philosophers before Plato, are only known through quotations, largely made by Plato or Aristotle for the sake of refutation. When one thinks what would become of any modern philosopher if he were only known through the polemics of his rivals, one can see how admirable the pre-Socratics must have been, since even through the mist of malice spread by their enemies they still appear great. However this may be, Plato and Aristotle agree that Heraclitus taught that "nothing ever is, everything is becoming" ( Plato), and that "nothing steadfastly is" ( Aristotle).
But there is a deeper fallacy besides this obvious fact; that men need not live for food merely because they cannot live without food. The truth is that the thing most present to the mind of man is not the economic machinery necessary to his existence; but rather that existence itself; the world which he sees when he wakes every morning and the nature of his general position in it. There is something that is nearer to him than livelihood, and that is life. For once that he remembers exactly what work produces his wages and exactly what wages produce his meals, he reflects ten times that it is a fine day or it is a queer world, or wonders whether life is worth living, or wonders whether marriage is a failure, or is pleased and puzzled with his own children, or remembers his own youth, or in any such fashion vaguely reviews the mysterious lot of man. This is true of the majority even of the wage slaves of our morbid modern industrialism, which by its hideousness and inhumanity has really forced the economic issue to the front. It is immeasurably more true of the multitude of peasants or hunters or fishers who make up the real mass of mankind. Even those dry pedants who think that ethics depend on economics must admit that economics depend on existence. And any number of normal doubts and day-dreams are about existence; not about how we can live, but about why we do. And the proof of it is simple; as simple as suicide. Turn the universe upside down in the mind and you turn all the political economists upside down with it. Suppose that a man wishes to die, and the professor of political economy becomes rather a bore with his elaborate explanations of how he is to live. And all the departures and decisions that make our human past into a story have this character of diverting the direct course of pure economics. As the economist may be excused from calculating the future salary of a suicide, so he may be excused from providing an old age pension for a martyr. As he need not provide for the future of a martyr, so he need not provide for the family of a monk. His plan is modified in lesser and varying degrees by a man being a soldier and dying for his own country, by a man being a peasant and especially loving his own land, by a man being more or less affected by any religion that forbids or allows him to do this or that. But all these come back not to an economic calculation about livelihood but to an elemental outlook upon life. They all come back to what a man fundamentally feels, when he looks forth from those strange windows which we call the eyes, upon that strange vision that we call the world. No wise man will wish to bring more long words into the world. But it may be allowable to say that we need a new thing; which may be called psychological history. I mean the consideration of what things meant in the mind of a man, especially an ordinary man; as distinct from what is defined or deduced merely from official forms or political pronouncements... It is not enough to be told that a tom-cat was called a totem; especially when it was not called a totem. We want to know what it felt like. Was it like Whittington's cat or like a witch's cat? Was its real name Pasht or Puss-In-Boots? That is the sort of thing we need touching the nature of political and social relations. We want to know the real sentiment that was the social bond of many common men, as sane and as selfish as we are. What did soldiers feel when they saw splendid in the sky that strange totem that we call the Golden Eagle of the Legions? What did vassals feel about those other totems, the lions or the leopards upon the shield of their lord? So long as we neglect this subjective side of history, which may more simply be called the inside of history, there will always be a certain limitation on that science which can be better transcended by art. So long as the historian cannot do that, fiction will be truer than fact. There will be more reality in a novel; yes, even in a historical novel.
In nothing is this new history needed so much as in the psychology of war. Our history is stiff with official documents, public or private, which tell us nothing of the thing itself. At the worst we only have the official posters, which could not have been spontaneous precisely because they were official. At the best we have only the secret diplomacy, which could not have been popular precisely because it was secret. Upon one or other of these is based the historical judgment about the real reasons that sustained the struggle. Governments fight for colonies or commercial rights; governments fight about harbors or high tariffs; governments fight for a gold mine or a pearl fishery. It seems sufficient to answer that governments do not fight at all. Why do the fighters fight? What is the psychology that sustains the terrible and wonderful thing called a war? Nobody who knows anything of soldiers believes the silly notion of the dons, that millions of men can be ruled by force. If they were all to slack, it would be impossible to punish all the slackers. And the least little touch of slacking would lose a whole campaign in half a day. What did men really feel about the policy? If it be said that they accepted the policy from the politician, what did they feel about the politician? If the vassals warred blindly for their prince, what did those blind men see in their prince?
There is something we all know which can only be rendered, in an appropriate language, as realpolitik. As a matter of fact, it is an almost insanely unreal politik. It is always stubbornly and stupidly repeating that men fight for material ends, without reflecting for a moment that the material ends are hardly ever material to the men who fight. In any case no man will die for practical politics, just as no man will die for pay. Nero could not hire a hundred Christians to be eaten by lions at a shilling an hour, for men will not be martyred for money. But the vision called up by real politik, or realistic politics, is beyond example crazy and incredible. Does anybody in the world believe that a soldier says, 'My leg is nearly dropping off, but I shall go on till it drops; for after all I shall enjoy all the advantages of my government obtaining a warm water port in the Gulf of Finland! Can anybody suppose that a clerk turned conscript says, 'If I am gassed I shall probably die in torments; but it is a comfort to reflect that should I ever decide to become a pearl-diver in the South Seas, that career is now open to me and my countrymen!' Materialist history is the most madly incredible of all histories, or even of all romances. Whatever starts wars, the thing that sustains wars is something in the soul; that is something akin to religion. It is what men feel about life and about death. A man near to death is dealing directly with an absolute; it is nonsense to say he is concerned only with relative and remote complications that death in any case will end. If he is sustained by certain loyalties, they must be loyalties as simple as death. They are generally two ideas, which are only two sides of one idea. The first is the love of something said to be threatened, if it be only vaguely known as home; the second is dislike and defiance of some strange thing that threatens it. The first is far more philosophical than it sounds though we need not discuss it here. A man does not want his national home destroyed or even changed, because he can not even remember all the good things that go with it; just as he does not want his house burnt down because he can hardly count all the things he would miss. Therefore he fights for what sounds like a hazy abstraction, but is really a house.
But the negative side of it is quite as noble as well as quite as strong. Men fight hardest when they feel that the foe is at once an old enemy and an eternal stranger, that his atmosphere is alien and antagonistic; as the French feel about the Prussian or the Eastern Christians about the Turk. If we say it is a difference of religion, people will drift into dreary bickerings about sects and dogmas. We will pity them and say it is a difference about death and daylight; a difference that does really come like a dark shadow between our eyes and the day. Men can think of this difference even at the point of death; for it is a difference about the meaning of life.
Men are moved in these things by something far higher and, holier than policy; by hatred. When men hung on in the darkest days of the Great War, suffering either in their bodies or in their souls for those they loved, they were long past caring about details of diplomatic objects as motives for their refusal to surrender. Of myself and those I knew best I can answer for the vision that made surrender impossible. It was the vision of the German Emperor's face as he rode into Paris. This is not the sentiment which some of my idealistic friends describe as Love. I am quite content to call it hatred; the hatred of hell and all its works...
The perspective of the apocalypse appears pessimistic. Things are bad and they're going to get worse. But always, with this pessimistic attitude, there is a contrasting sense of future hope. There is a promise of salvation. The war is coming, the battle is going to be fierce and unavoidable, but there is a promise of deliverance in the midst of all the conflict. There is a transcendent reality, a promise, a certainty, that the Bible conveys. That reality, that promise is that God is in control. God will ensure that no matter how bad things get on earth, they will not get so bad that all hope is lost.
The final battle is actually a series of battles that begin during the seven-year Great Tribulation with what is known as the Battle of Gog and Magog.
Now the word of the LORD came to me, saying, "Son of man, set your face against Gog . . . and prophesy against him, and say, Thus says the LORD God: "Behold, I am against you, O Gog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal"... After many days you will be visited. In the latter years you will come into the land of those brought back from the sword and gathered from many people on the mountains of Israel, which had long been desolate; they were brought out of the nations, and now all of them dwell safely. You will ascend, coming like a storm, covering the land like a cloud, you and all your troops and many peoples with you'"(Ezekiel 38:1,2,8,9).
Ezekiel paints a picture of a massive army descending upon the Land of Israel. The troops are led by Gog who is the leader of the land of Magog along with the other lands of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal. Although these names are mentioned in Genesis 10 as sons of Japheth, we have a strong indication of which nations they represent today. Magog, Meshech and Tubal were tribes of the ancient world between the Black and Caspian Seas, which today is southern Russia. The tribes of Meshech and Tubal have given their names to cities of today, Moscow and Tobolsk. Rosh is believed by some to be where the name "Russia" came from.
When you consider that Moscow is almost a straight line due north from Jerusalem, it could very well be that a confederation of nations led by Russia are behind this first Tribulation battle. Ezekiel tells us that three other countries join with them: Persia, Ethiopia and Put. We know that Persia is Iran. The others appear to be African nations, perhaps including Libya. Together these nations attack the Land of Israel in the mountains of Israel. Their armies are placed from the northern end of the valley of Jezreel down into the areas of the south, Beer Sheva and the Negev. Jerusalem is in the middle of these mountains, and this is where the armies converge in a massive invasion.
The Bible says that these armies will cover the land just like a storm cloud. Ezekiel depicts Israel as a nation of unwalled cities, vulnerable to her enemies. Israel's defenses will be lowered because she believes she will be protected by the treaty she signed with the Antichrist three and one half years earlier. But Israel is betrayed. The attack comes and the nations of the world stand back and watch. They expect to see Israel destroyed, but they discover that there is a far greater power fighting for Israel than the sum total of all the nations. The LORD God himself.
"I will call for a sword against Gog throughout all My mountains," says the LORD God. "Every man's sword will be against his brother. And I will bring him to judgment with pestilence and bloodshed; I will rain down on him, on his troops, and on the many peoples who are with him, flooding rain, great hailstones, fire, and brimstone" (Ezekiel 38:21,22).
There is going to be mass confusion among Israel's enemies as God's earth-shattering, miraculous intervention strikes. These people are going to be utterly slaughtered. In fact, Ezekiel tells us it will take Israel seven months to clean up after the battle. Even so, the battle of Gog and Magog is only the prelude to this final battle, often referred to as Armageddon. It demonstrates to Israel her folly in having trusted in the peace treaty or in power or leaders other than God. She discovers that the only one worth putting trust in is the LORD.
The supernatural defeat of the armies of Gog and Magog serve as the pretext for the Antichrist to invade the Land of Israel. He has succeeded in his plan for world domination. Thanks to the manipulation of his partner, the false prophet, he has an economic stranglehold on the world. Between the signs and wonders performed by the false prophet and the miraculous healing of a mortal wound the Antichrist received during an assassination attempt, all the peoples of the world are actually worshiping the Antichrist as some kind of a guru-god. All the peoples, that is, except for the Jewish people. His blasphemy in the Temple has made our people see the light and they have turned away from him. The Antichrist thought that the federation of Gog and Magog would do havoc in the Jewish nation, but he was wrong. So his ultimate plan for annihilating Jews now comes into play. Finally, we arrive at the main event. The campaign of Armageddon.
Armageddon is a combination of two words; Har meaning mountain and Meggido, which is an actual hill overlooking the valley of Jezreel. Megiddo was one of the fortified cities of King Solomon. Today, you can visit the ancient ruins of the city and look out over the Jezreel Valley. Israel has a key military base right there and there is the constant buzz of military aircraft taking off and landing in the midst of the lush surroundings of fertile farmland.
The Jezreel Valley is a place of great historic significance. Deborah and Barak were victorious over the Canaanites there, Gideon defeated the Midianites there, King Saul was slain there, Jehu killed Ahaziah there and King Josiah was slain by the Egyptians there. Even Napoleon Bonaparte marched past Megiddo in his effort to win the Middle East. This military genius called it the most natural battleground on the whole earth. It should be no surprise that the plain of Armageddon is a gathering place for the armies of the Antichrist.
Warren Buffet, the "Oracle of Omaha," board member and a sponsor of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, and the 2nd wealthiest man in the world said in 2002 before an annual meeting of the shareholders of his company, Berkshire Hathaway: "We are going to have something in the way of a major nuclear event in this country. It will happen. Whether it will happen in 10 years or 10 minutes or 50 years... it is a virtual certainty."
More than one American city being victim of nuclear terrorism combined with the credible threat of other attacks would pose a threat to our very existence as a modern nation. Perhaps even far worse than the direct blast and radiation damage of nuclear terrorism would be the compounding effects due to the likely near total disruption of society and critical systems on which it depends. In this case casualties from the explosions and radiation could represent way under half the potential victims...
New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina is but a very small taste of what a nuclear terrorist attack would do. The more massive casualties may result not from the direct effects of blast and radiation as horrendous as this would be but from starvation, disease and civil conflict caused by chaos, panic and systems breakdown of our very fragile computerized society. The government and the public are almost completely unprepared either psychologically or on a practical level to cope with or recover from a nuclear terrorist attack in all its horrific dimensions.
Moreover the pattern of al Qaeda is to duplicate the same terror method in either a series or in multiple simultaneous attacks as they did in 911 and many other incidents. Whether it is al Qaeda using IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) along roadsides against the US Army in Iraq or the terrorist group Hamas in Israel employing walking suicide bombers on public buses, once radical Islamic terrorists find a method that works they just keep using this technique dozens and dozens of times.
The Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS) and many writers on the subject of terrorism since 911 have underrated the risk of nuclear terrorism in general instead focusing mostly on other terrorist methods. The reason stated for the low risk being the supposedly very small probability terrorists could obtain the required fissionable material, construct and deliver a nuclear device.
Moreover DHS threat assessments and planning are based on scenarios involving only an isolated nuclear terror attack on a single city and only the direct damages from the explosion and radiation.
Even if one assumes the DHS is correct and (non-state) terrorists would have a prohibitively difficult time in acquiring the fissile material and constructing crude nuclear explosive devices the same assumption certainly does not stand if the "terrorists" are sponsored by a rogue nuclear terror sponsoring nation like North Korea or Iran.
The suggestion of a high risk of state-sponsored nuclear terrorism would then immediately bring the argument that the MAD doctrine would certainly dissuade any rogue state leader from dare giving nukes or bomb core material to terrorists.The M.A.D doctrine (Mutual Assured Destruction -- meaning no first use of nukes since it would certainly mean the annihilation of perpetrator) has limited deterrent value against the first use by rogue state actors employing nuclear terrorist weapons for a couple of reasons.
Although having entirely different perspectives the likes of Kim Jong II of North Korea or President Ahmadenejad of Iran may not be deterred for both tactical reasons and/or due to personal belief systems that share a common sense of omnipotence. Kim Jong II, a sociopath, who allowed millions of his own people starve to death several years ago might not be greatly concerned by loosing a few million more in a US nuclear retaliatory strike as long as he was likely to survive in one of his palatial deep underground bunkers with his "joy brigade" of adolescent women sex slaves and large stocks of his favorite food, wine and DVDs. As for president Ahmadenejad, a religious fanatic of a more extreme variety than is Osama bin Laden, Allah and the "12th Imam" are behind him and if he be gloriously martyred in the climactic battle with the "Great Satan:" it is a sure ticket to heaven, a paradise in which he firmly believes he will continue to live in far greater glory and splendor than in this earthly existence. The very fact that Ahmadenejad happens to be the president of a country of 70 million people does not mean that he does not think and act like the suicidal religious fanatic which he is.
To some extent these rogue leaders should be viewed as terrorists who hijacked a country and who don't have normal values or the fear of death that even the leaders of the post war Soviet Union had.
Even if one gives the benefit of the doubt to the opinion that "rogue state" leaders like Kim Jong II and president Ahmadenejad are more rational and less deranged in their behavior this may not necessarily lessen the risk by much. These rogue leaders may even calculate rationally that the risk (of atomic terrorism) is worth it if in destroying America it gets the 'Yankees' off their backs who they may believe with some good reason are trying to assist their oppressed subjects into staging a US supported "rogue regime rollback" revolution. The rogue leader may even feel less of a threat to his personal security from a US nuclear retaliatory strike than from the vengeance of his subjugated citizens. The US nuclear retaliatory strike may even have the added benefit of turning the rage of his surviving subjects away from him and towards the United States.
Moreover, the growing proliferation of terrorist organizations, new nuclear states and large poorly secured stockpiles of nuclear material in the former USSR means that any rogue leader and potential atomic terror sponsor would be only one of several potential state and non state actors with both motivation and/or potential means to commit such a crime. A more rational "rogue state" leader may simply calculate as many rational criminals who are later caught do all the time that they can get away with being accomplices of nuclear terrorism -- after all what better way to destroy evidence at the crime scene than by vaporizing both the terrorist foot soldier witnesses and the nuclear device at the center a multi kiloton fireball hotter than the sun!
One of the crucial dilemmas for the US president would be: with only 'hearsay' and flimsy circumstantial evidence pointing to the guilt of a rogue state even after the US homeland suffers the horror of atomic terrorism, would the president be willing to kill millions of innocent civilians who are oppressed victims just because the tyrant who rules them by terror might have been an accomplice in the atomic attack against America?
It is perplexing to this author why some other authors on this subject as well as DHS (Department of Homeland Security) examine mainly scenarios of a single isolated nuclear terrorist incident in one city... If the terrorists can build one of these crude nuclear cannon devices they could assemble a dozen of them in the same small machine shop with the same small number of staff. The consequent panic and breakdown of the fragile order of our society following an atomic terrorist attack which is more likely than not to follow the pattern of other radical Islamic terrorist methods will be profound and will not end with one isolated incident in one city.
What DHS (Dept. of Homeland Security ) does not take fully into account in its planning and disaster response preparations is the compounding and cascading effects of paralyzed critical systems, especially if the severe effects of EMP (nuclear-induced Electro Magnetic Pulse) are present...
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) rates the probability of nuclear terrorism as so low that only a tiny percentage of their time and budget is devoted to thwarting and/or mitigating the degree of calamity of nuclear terrorist attacks should they occur.
Is this appropriate? To put it in very blunt terms of human lives at risk: what would be the very worst case scenario one could reasonably expect from another (non-nuclear) terrorist incident involving airplanes vs. a bad case scenario of nuclear terrorism keeping to the same al Qaeda pattern? Probably it would be something like the August 2006 plan of Pakistani immigrant terrorists in Britain busted by Scotland Yard to blow up approximately 10 US bound commercial jet liners over the US east coast. It was estimated by British &. US authorities that in the worst case if such an attack was 100% successful it would have resulted in fatalities just under the 3000 which occurred on 911.
A nuclear terrorist attack, however, may involve a half dozen or so crude multi kiloton uranium gun type bombs going off in the same number of cities resulting in the mass evacuation of the majority of major US urban areas due to threats that the terrorists still have many more terrorist nukes in other US cities. This author has examined all the multi-faceted implications of such an attack... and given the total un-preparedness of our government and society the probability is that there could be at least tens of millions of fatalities within the 1st year alone if the multiple atomic terrorist ground bursts were accompanied by one high altitude Scud launched EMP (nuclear generated Electro Magnetic Pulse) detonation over New Jersey crippling northeast electrical based infrastructure. The majority of the fatalities would not be from atomic bomb blast and radiation but from disease and starvation. Juxtapose that with 2500 people perishing in a very bad aviation terror incident like the August 2006 plot and one comes up with a probable death ratio of 16000 to 1!
The Cannons of Armageddon, Alexander Monroe
Biblical dateline events fall within a 7000 year period from the tall of Adam to the end of the Millennium. According to the Bible, the dateline for the second coming of Jesus is 6000 years after the fall of Adam — 2000 AD. This dateline includes Apocalyptic events; which will be the most horrible to come on man. A large part of Biblical prophecy addresses this dateline. The seventh thousand years is the Millennium, the Sabbath of Creation. The end of mortal man comes after the Millennium; after Satan is released again on the earth for a short season.
The 6000 year dateline is the most important since the Great Flood. In the days of Noah, the people were baptized (immersed) in water; without repentance. Only eight souls survived. In the last days, the people are to be baptized with fire; without repentance. Few will survive.
"Come near, ye nations, to hear; and hearken, ye people: let the earth hear, and all that is therein; the world, and all things that come forth of it. For the indignation of the LORD is upon all nations, and his fury upon all their armies: he hath utterly destroyed them, he hath delivered them to the slaughter." (Isa. 34:1,2)
"Therefore hath the curse devoured the earth, and they that dwell therein are desolate: therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men left.' (Isa. 24:6)
Only one-third of Israel is to survive (Zech. 13:9): and evidently less than 10% of the Gentiles. "For the day of the LORD is near upon all the heathen (Gentiles)... they shall be as though they had not been." (Obad. 1:15,16) Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, and Rome all took Israel captive. Where are they today? Now the world has taken Israel captive. In 70 AD the Gentiles destroyed over 90% of the Jews: and the rest were taken into slavery.
A correct understanding of the events surrounding the Apocalyptic dateline, and how to escape, is essential to survival. The Bible defines the dateline of mortal man as shortly more than 7,000 years. Thousand year and two thousand year datelines are significant; even as each day of the creation marked significant events. The first thousand years of mortal man (4000 BC to 3000 BC) saw the fall of Adam; which made him the light of mortal man. The second thousand years (3000 BC to 2000 BC) saw the Great Flood: and union of the waters above the firmament with those under the firmament. Abraham was born about 2000 years after Adam and before Jesus. The third thousand years (2000 BC to 1000 BC) saw the covenant of God with the seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob: as the chosen seed of God forever. The fourth thousand years (1000 BC to 0) saw the birth of Jesus, the spiritual light of the world. The fifth thousand years (0 to 1000 AD) saw the apostasy of the Jews (and their destruction), the crucifixion of Jesus and opening of the gospel to the spirits in prison, the resurrection of Jesus, Satan cast out of heaven, the beginning of Satan's beast, and the gospel dispensation to the Gentiles (and their apostasy). The sixth thousand years (1000 AD to 2000 AD) evidently saw the return of the gospel to the Gentiles (and their second apostasy): and will see the beginning of the destruction of the world. The first two thousand years was the Patriarchal time (4000 BC to 2000 BC), the second two thousand years was the time of Israel (2000 BC to Jesus), the third two thousand years was the time of the Gentiles (Jesus to 2000AD). The end of the 6000 years will mark the return of the time of Israel.
The seventh thousand years will see the final destruction of the wicked, the gathering of the House of Israel as the people of God, crowning of Jesus as King of the world, Satan bound for a thousand years, the end of Satan's beast, the first resurrection, and the Sabbath of Creation. After this Millennium, mortal man will continue for only a short season. Satan will gather all the nations of the earth against the city of God; and mortal man will be destroyed by fire. Time will be no more; and man will enter an immortal and eternal state.
The first problem encountered when establishing datelines is our calendar. All of these datelines use our current (Gregorian) calendar. According to Biblical chronology, Apocalyptic events and the second coming of Jesus are to occur near the beginning of the seventh thousand years. This dateline occurred on January 1, 2001. Our calendar, though, was shifted 4 years in the sixth century. Herod was alive when Jesus was born. Since Herod died in 4 BC, the most accurate date offered for the birth of Jesus is 4 BC. This would place the return of Jesus about January 1, 1997. It is evident that even this date is in error.
The exact amount of error in our calendar would be unknown, had Jesus not given the sign of the beginning of the last generation; and the dateline of His return. "...Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled... Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled." (Luke 21) This prophecy was fulfilled in 1967, when Jerusalem came under the control of Israel. Biblical generations are 40 years, this would place the return of Jesus in 2007 by our calendar.
Terrorism is seldom a lone act. When Dr. Baruch Goldstein entered the Tomb of the Patriarchs carrying an automatic weapon, he came with the tacit approval of many of his fellow Jewish settlers in the nearby community of Kiryat Arba. When the five Aum Shinrikyo scientists boarded subway trains in Tokyo headed towards the Kasumigaseki terminal and unleashed their deadly containers of sarin gas, they were acting according to the instructions of their organization's leaders. When Rev. Paul Hill stepped from a sidewalk in Pensacola, Florida, and shot Dr. John Britton and his security escort as they prepared to enter their clinic, he was cheered by a certain circle of militant Christian anti-abortion activists around the United States. When Mohammad Atta and other members of the al Qaeda network boarded commercial airlines in Boston and Newark which minutes later plunged into the twin towers of the World Trade Center, eventually causing them to crumble into dust, they came as part of a well-orchestrated plan that involved dozens of coconspirators and thousands of sympathizers in the United States, Europe, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere throughout the world.
As these instances show, it takes a community of support and, in many cases, a large organizational network for an act of terrorism to succeed. It also requires an enormous amount of moral presumption for the perpetrators of these acts to justify the destruction of property on a massive scale or to condone a brutal attack on another life, especially the life of someone one scarcely knows and against whom one bears no personal enmity. And it requires a great deal of internal conviction, social acknowledgment, and the stamp of approval from a legitimizing ideology or authority one respects. Because of the moral, ideological, and organizational support necessary for such acts, most of them come as collective decisions—such as the conspiracy that led to the release of nerve gas in the Tokyo subways and the Hamas organization's carefully devised bombings.
Even those acts that appear to be solo ventures conducted by rogue activists often have networks of support and ideologies of validation behind them, whether or not these networks and ideologies are immediately apparent. Behind Yitzhak Rabin's assassin, Yigal Amir, for instance, was a large movement of Messianic Zionism in Israel and abroad. Behind convicted bomber Timothy McVeigh and Buford Furrow, the alleged attacker of a Jewish day-care center, was a subculture of militant Christian groups that extends throughout the United States. Behind America's Unabomber, Theodore Kaczynski, was the strident student activist culture of the late 1970s, in which one could easily become infected by the feeling that "terrible things" were going on. The 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center was initially thought to be the work of only a small group of individuals linked to a blind Egyptian sheik; only later was it found to have wider connections to the worldwide al Qaeda network of Islamic activism associated with Osama bin Laden. In all of these cases the activists thought that their acts were supported not only by other people but by a widely shared perception that the world was already violent: it was enmeshed in great struggles that gave their own violent actions moral meaning.
This is a significant feature of these cultures: the perception that their communities are already under attack—are being violated—and that their acts are therefore simply responses to the violence they have experienced. In some cases this perception is one to which sensitive people outside the movement can readily relate—the feeling of oppression held by Palestinian Muslims, for example, is one that many throughout the world consider to be an understandable though regrettable response to a situation of political control. In other instances, such as the imagined oppression of America's Christian militia or Japan's Aum Shinrikyo movement, the members' fears of black helicopters hovering over their homes at night or the allegations of collusion of international governments to deprive individuals of their freedoms are regarded by most people outside the movements as paranoid delusions. Still other cases— such as those involving Sikh militants in India, Jewish settlers on the West Bank, Muslim politicians in Algeria, Catholic and Protestant militants in Northern Ireland, and anti-abortion activists in the United States—are highly controversial. There are sober and sensitive people to argue each side. In many cases, such as in the terrorist acts perpetrated by the al Qaeda activists associated with Osama bin Laden, specific political grievances are magnified into grand spiritual condemnations.
Whether or not outsiders regard these perceptions of oppression as legitimate, they are certainly considered valid by those within the communities. It is these shared perceptions that constitute the cultures of violence that have flourished throughout the world—in neighborhoods of Jewish nationalists from Kiryat Arba to Brooklyn where the struggle to defend the Jewish nation is part of daily existence, in mountain towns in Idaho and Montana where religious and individual freedoms are thought to be imperiled by an enormous governmental conspiracy, and in pious Muslim communities around the world where Islam is felt to be at war with the surrounding secular forces of modern society. Although geographically dispersed, these cultures in some cases are fairly small: one should bear in mind that the culture of violence characterized by Hamas, for example, does not implicate all Palestinians, all Muslims, or even all Palestinian Muslims.
I could use the term "communities" or "ideologies" of terrorism rather than "cultures" of violence, but what I like about the term "culture" is that it entails both things—ideas and social groupings—that are related to terrorist acts. Needless to say, I am using the term "culture" beyond its narrow meaning as the aesthetic products of a society." Rather, I employ it in a broad way to include the ethical and social values underlying the life of a particular social unit.
Terror in the Mind of God, Mark Juergensmeyer
Looking down on the broad plain of Esdraelon stretched out from our feet, it is impossible not to remember that this is the greatest battlefield of the world, from the days of Joshua and the defeat of the mighty host of Sisera, till, almost in our own days. Napoleon the Great fought the battle of Mount Tabor; and here also is the ancient Megiddo, where the last great battle of Armageddon is to be fought.
—Lieutenant H.H. Kitchener, 1878
Peace is rare in Israel. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the Jezreel Valley. For four thousand years, this region has suffered almost constant warfare. Indeed, one may seriously ask if there has ever been a time when the rulers of the area, whether local or foreign, were not at war. The turbulent history of all Israel, and Judah, Canaan, and Palestine, is reflected in microcosm in this blood-soaked little valley, for virtually every major invader of Israel has had to fight a battle in the Jezreel Valley. At least thirty-four bloody conflicts have already been fought at the ancient site of Megiddo and in adjacent areas of the Jezreel Valley, with the fateful battle of Armageddon possibly still to come. Egyptians, Canaanites, Israelites, Midianites, Amalekites, Philistines, Hasmonaeans, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Muslims, Crusaders, Mamlukes, Mongols, Palestinians, French, Ottomans, British, Australians, Germans, Arabs, and Israelis have all fought and died here.
The Jezreel Valley is a place of firsts: here Thutmose III fought the first battle known in recorded history anywhere in the world; here Gideon conducted the first known night campaign; here the Mongols lost their first major battle ever during their sweep across Asia and the Middle East. It is also a place of endings: here Saul fought his last heroic battle; here Josiah met his doom; here Armageddon is expected to take place. The names of the warring generals and leaders who have fought in this small valley reverberate throughout history: they include Thutmose III, Deborah and Barak, Sisera, Gideon, Saul and Jonathan, Shishak, Jehu, Joram, Jezebel, Josiah, Antiochus, Ptolemy, Vespasian, Saladin, Napoleon, and Allenby, to name but a few of the most famous.
The names of those who have died in battle in the Jezreel Valley also strike a familiar chord: they include many of the leaders named already and others, such as Labayu, ruler of Bronze Age Shechem; the Canaanite general Sisera; Saul, first king of Israel; Jonathan, son of Saul and heir to the throne of Israel; Joram, king of Israel; Jezebel, wife of Ahab and queen mother of Israel; Ahaziah, king of Judah; Josiah, king of Judah; the Mongol general Kitbuqa; and a great many others.
Warfare in the Jezreel Valley has always been a combination of open-air fighting and hit-and-run guerrilla tactics. This unholy mixture is a result of the geography of the land. The horses and chariots of the Canaanites and Israelites have given way to the tanks and airplanes of the Israel Defense Forces, and swords and bows have been replaced by machine guns and hand grenades, but the tactics remain similar. Evidence of history repeating itself abounds, therefore, such as General Allenby's successful emulation in the twentieth century of the tactics used by Pharaoh Thutmose III at Megiddo more than thirty-four hundred years earlier.
Throughout history, Megiddo and the Jezreel Valley have been ground zero for battles that determined the very course of civilization. It is no wonder that the author of Revelation believed that Armageddon, the penultimate battle between good and evil, would also take place in this region. The area of the Jezreel Valley can be compared to the meeting place of two tectonic plates, where the stress and strain frequently result in cataclysmic, earthshaking events of immense magnitude, whose reverberations are felt far away, both geographically and temporally. What is it about this area that prompts such a continuous state of warfare? Only continued study of the military history of the region will yield answers to this question. One thing is, however, already crystal clear. Regarding the battles fought in the confines of the Jezreel Valley over the past four thousand years, one might well paraphrase the immortal words of Sir Winston Churchill: "Never in the field of human conflict have so many fought so often over so little space."
On July 27, when the Japanese Supreme War Council met to consider Japan's response to the Potsdam Declaration, Foreign Minister Togo was still attempting to find some way to end the war with honor. He stated his opinion that the declaration did not demand Japan's unconditional surrender explicitly and therefore should be regarded as a moderation of Allied terms. The Japanese military leaders, however, were not yet prepared to consider surrender; they demanded a strong statement from the government condemning the declaration. It is a testament to Togo's fortitude and skill that, despite the vehement opposition of the militarists, he was able to persuade the council and the cabinet that Japan should await further developments before responding to the declaration, while trying to determine the intentions of the Soviet Union. Unfortunately, the next day, the Japanese press reported the government's response in a way that would challenge the most creative imagination. Domei, the semiofficial Japanese news agency, interpreted Togo's statement that the government had not yet made a decision on the Potsdam Declaration to mean that the government would ignore the declaration. When translated by American officials, the Japanese response was treated not only as a rejection of the Potsdam Declaration but as a contemptuous one at that.
While the Japanese government gave further consideration to the Potsdam Declaration, the U.S. Air Force went into action. At 2:45 in the morning of Sunday, August 6, the Enola Gay, the B-29 carrying "Little Boy," lifted off the Tinian runway. Five and one-half hours later, at 8:15 Hiroshima time, the bomb was dropped from an altitude of 31,000 feet. Forty-three seconds later it detonated 1,800 feet above the city. Aboard the Enola Cay, tailgunner George Caron described the scene from a distance of eleven miles and 29,000 feet of altitude as a "peep into hell."
...The Japanese government did not receive a complete description of the attack on Hiroshima until August 8. Lieutenant General Seijo Arisue, who headed the investigating team that flew to the city, reported: "When the plane flew over Hiroshima there was but one black dead tree, as if a crow was perched over it. There was nothing but that tree. . . . The city itself was completely wiped out." The Japanese soon realized that only an atomic bomb could produce such destruction.
Years later, it was possible to make a more complete assessment of what had happened at Hiroshima. At the hypocenter of the explosion, with a TNT equivalent of twenty kilotons, the temperature reached several million degrees centigrade. The shock wave created by the explosion was strong enough to break windows fifteen kilometers from the hypocenter. Four kilometers away, buildings ,were charred. Three kilometers away, about ninety percent of the buildings had experienced fire and blast damage. Within a two-kilometer circle, only ashes, fist-size pieces of rubble, and a few shells of reinforced concrete buildings remained. Thirteen square kilometers of the city were razed, including forty-two of the city's forty-five hospitals. Of Hiroshima's 340,000 population, 130,000 were dead by November 1945 and an additional 70,000 had died by 1950. Included among these casualties were twenty American airmen who were being held in Hiroshima as prisoners of war... Those who survived the blast had to deal with nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, and blood disorder— all symptoms of acute radiation sickness. They also had to endure the profound psychological effects of their ordeal, which included guilt that they had survived while others had not, and anxiety about their future health and the impact of radiation on their descendants. The Research Institute for Nuclear Medicine and Biology at Hiroshima University estimated that, by the mid-1950s, the risk of cancer increased 30 or 40 times the norm. An increase in stillbirths, birth defects, and infant mortality was also clear in the 70.000 pregnancies examined in the study. There is, of course, no way to measure the entire magnitude of the human suffering caused by the atomic conflagration of Hiroshima.
While the Japanese government was assessing the effects of the attack on Hiroshima, it received another shock, one that added immeasurably to the pressure toward surrender. At one hour after midnight, Tokyo time, on August 9, Soviet forces attacked the Japanese army in Manchuria... [T]he Soviet leader realized that the use of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, coupled with what he considered the lenient terms offered in the Potsdam Declaration, made Japanese surrender only a matter of days. Any Soviet delay could bring about a Japanese capitulation before the Soviet Union received the opportunity to claim its full share of the spoils.
Ten hours after the Soviet attack, the Japanese Supreme War Council met in Tokyo. Foreign Minister Togo insisted that it was absolutely essential for Japan to comply with the Potsdam Declaration before another Japanese city was destroyed by an atomic bomb. The militarist faction, however, continued to demur. In addition to demanding the retention of the emperor after the war, the militarists insisted on two other conditions before they would accept surrender: (1) Japan would not be occupied after the war, and if that could not be obtained, Japan must be occupied only minimally; and (2) Japanese war criminals would be tried by Japanese courts. Because Togo considered the militarists' demands excessive, the meeting of the council adjourned without reaching a decision.
By this time, however, it was too late to avoid the loss of a second Japanese city. At 10:58 a.m. local time, on August 9, "Fat Man," the plutonium bomb, was dropped on Nagasaki. Ironically and tragically for that city, Nagasaki was selected as the target only after the B-29 carrying the bomb could not see Kokura, the primary target, because of dense cloud cover over that city. The second atomic attack on Japan occurred two days earlier than originally planned because poor weather was anticipated on August 11, and because the Truman administration wanted to create the impression, by a rapid follow-up to the Hiroshima attack, that the United States possessed more atomic bombs than it actually did.
The destruction of Nagasaki sealed the fate of Japan. Over the continued opposition of the militarists, who still wanted to prolong the war, the emperor decisively intervened to bring the conflict to an end. The Japanese government, on the morning of August 10, agreed to accept the terms of the Potsdam Declaration. Only one condition was attached: "that the said declaration does not comprise any demand which prejudices the prerogatives of His Majesty as Sovereign Ruler."
When President Truman assembled his advisers on the morning of August 10 to weigh the Japanese message, the question that dominated the meeting was... : Should the United States redefine unconditional surrender to permit retention of the emperor? After heated debate among the participants, Truman accepted a compromise...: the United States would agree to retention of the emperor provided that "from the moment of surrender the authority of the Emperor and the Japanese Government to rule the state shall be subject to the Supreme Commander of the Allied powers, who will take such steps as he deems proper to effectuate the surrender terms." In addition, the American reply stated: "The ultimate form of government of Japan shall, in accordance with the Potsdam Declaration, be established by the freely expressed will of the Japanese people."
On August 11, following acceptance by Britain, China and, with reluctance, the Soviet Union, the American reply was transmitted to the Japanese. Even at this late date, however, neither the cabinet nor the Supreme War Council could reach a decision on the American terms. Again the intervention of the emperor was necessary. In a short speech to his ministers on August 12, Hirohito said the American terms should be accepted. "Unless the war be brought to an end at this moment," he said. "I fear that the national polity will be destroyed, and the nation annihilated." Hirohito's ministers accepted the imperial will. During the night of August 14, Japan transmitted her decision to surrender to the United States. Truman announced the Japanese capitulation at 7:00 p.m. Washington time, the same day. On September 2, 1945 the war with Japan officially ended when the instruments of surrender were signed aboard the U.S.S. Missouri in Tokyo Bay.
Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year. No man has learned anything rightly, until he know that every day is Doomsday.
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882).
No matter how positive your outlook, the entrance of the human race into the third millennium can hardly be considered one of dazzling promise and unbridled optimism. As far as perspectives on the coming centuries are concerned, doom and despondency are without doubt the new rock and roll. As the implications of climate change have become ever more frighteningly apparent and a global crusade against terrorism threatens to destabilize an already creaking framework of nations, pundits and prophets have fallen over themselves to inform us that it can't be long before our cosy, comfortable world falls apart... I know, because I have been just as guilty of promulgating gloom and despair as the next eschatologist. In A Guide to the End of the World: Everything You Never Wanted to Know, I considered—in what I hope was a reasonably informed and balanced manner— those global catastrophes that threaten our world and our race: asteroid and comet impacts, volcanic super-eruptions, giant earthquakes, and mega-tsunami, the prospects for a new ice age and the coming hothouse Earth...
I have little doubt that some readers were left running scared or, in the case of one senior citizen who regularly contacts a colleague to check if it's safe to come out yet, barricaded in a basement flat with several hundred tins of corned beef for company. Without question, professional survivalists will have taken on board accounts of the threat posed by global catastrophes, nodded sagely at one another, and gone back to polishing their machine pistols with renewed vigour. This, however, was not the purpose of the book. Rather, its publication in 2002 constituted an awareness-raising exercise designed to drive home the point that our planet is a far more dangerous place to live than most of us appreciate. Its principal lesson taught that the period of relative cosmic, geological, and climatic calm during which modern society had developed and prospered could not last for ever. Throughout the 4.6 billion-year history of the Earth, our planet's crust had been pounded by asteroids and comets, rent by devastating earthquakes and volcanic super-eruptions, drowned by giant waves, and episodically buried beneath kilometre-thick ice sheets. While they were so infrequent that we had yet to see their like, such global geophysical events were not going to stop happening just because we had arrived on the scene. Furthermore, we were making prospects for a comfortable nature far worse through triggering the most rapid period of climate change in recent Earth history.
Three years on, how do things look? Well, not much better, it must be said. The horrifying Indian Ocean tsunami has claimed more than a quarter of a million lives in over thirty countries — local and tourist alike — and provided a shocking and timely reminder that Nature's worst can affect the entire planet or a substantial portion thereof. The events of Boxing Day 2004 have at last focused attention on the potentially enormous scale of future natural catastrophes. So far, however, there is little evidence to suggest that we will be better prepared next time. Furthermore, the events of 11 September 2001, and the nebulous war on terrorism that they spawned, have raised the prospect of endless civil strife in addition to the natural threats our ever more challenged society faces. The capability of our race to wipe itself out has attracted increasing re-examination: less this time with respect to the nuclear holocaust, but more in relation to rather more exotic terminations arising from new avenues in science and technology. Way out in front in the race for champion gloom-monger is former Astronomer Royal. Martin Rees, who—in his book Our Final Century—gives us just a 50:50 chance of surviving the next hundred years. No super-eruptions or asteroid collisions are implicated here, however; the end, according to Rees, is far more likely to be all our own work. Perhaps we will all disappear beneath a sea of grey nano-goo, surrender to the next bout of killer chicken virus, or disappear in a puff of space-time as an over-enthusiastic experimental physicist inadvertently triggers a phase transition in the state of the cosmic vacuum. Or maybe we will succumb to climate change—without question the most disturbing of all potential threats because its effects are already becoming apparent. Despite the protestations of a bunch of illiterati (at least when it comes to climate science) who continue—in the face of crushing evidence to the contrary—to peddle the message that contemporary global warming is a natural phenomenon and nothing to be concerned about, new research and observation has ensured that prospects for the impact of climate change over the next hundred years appear increasingly bleak.
The picture painted, then, continues to be far from a bright one—6 billion or so of us, shoehorned together on an overheating planet that is increasingly riven by pollution, natural catastrophes, man-made disasters, and civil strife. The prophets of doom are still out in force, either proselytizing on the imminence of Nature's revenge or portending the end of our race and our planet by our own hand. But can things really be so bad, and if they are, is there nothing we can do? With 4 million people killed by an estimated 50,000 natural disasters during the twentieth century, it seems we remain unable to cope with the common-or-garden threats of flood, storm, earthquake, and volcanic eruption. What then, could we possibly do if faced with the prospect of an asteroid impact or a volcanic explosion great enough to affect everyone on the planet? Well actually, quite a bit—provided we put our minds to it...
...[T]here are measures we may take to avoid, mitigate, or manage the worst effects of future global catastrophes, but that does not mean that we will necessarilv take them. If the current ineffectiveness of the Kyoto Protocol aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions is anything to go by, there is a sufficient absence of political will even to address a catastrophe that is already upon us, let alone one that may lie thousands of years down the line. Furthermore, the chances are that many of the inventions or methodologies put forward as potential solutions to our problems may never be possible, while others carry such enormous risks that their use or implementation can never be sanctioned. Inevitably, science and technology are cast to play leading roles in tackling the worst Nature can throw at us in the future, and herein lies another problem. Gone is the post-World War II optimism, driven by the white heat of science, that saw the advent of nuclear power, man landing on the Moon, and the non-stick frying pan. Now this has been replaced by worries about the environment, the human condition, and the state of the world in which our children and their children will live. Science is no longer viewed by the majority as a cure for all ills; instead it is becoming increasingly regarded—true or not—as the source of many of the problems we face today. On the public's radar screen of science awareness, the conquest of space now barely registers—despite George W's election-year Martian crusade—while nuclear power as an energy miracle has just about dropped off the edge. Instead, shining bright and clear, bang in the screen's centre, are those issues that have the potential to impinge directly upon every inhabitant of the planet: human cloning, genetically modified organisms, climate change, threatening new diseases, and the rapidly expanding field of nanotechnology.
The judicious application of science and technology can help to solve some of the problems we have created for ourselves or that Nature forces us to address, but will a society increasingly mistrustful of scientists and technologists and their work permit this? How can society be persuaded, for example, that industrial-scale pumping of carbon dioxide into the deep ocean, as a means to reduce the concentration of the gas in the atmosphere, is a good and safe thing to do, when industrial technology has contributed in the first place to the bulk of a 30 per cent rise in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by releasing the gas into the atmosphere? How can the designers and builders of the world's nuclear arsenals make a convincing case for launching nuclear warheads over our heads and into space in an attempt to divert an asteroid that may or may not have our name on it? There is little doubt that techno-fixes to address future natural global threats will face considerable opposition. In some cases, this is no more and no less than they deserve. Swinging comets past the Earth in order to pull it into an orbit further from the Sun, thereby cooling it down, has recently been proposed by a NASA team. Clearly, such an outlandish scheme is going to struggle to find global acceptance ahead of simply living more sustainable and energy-efficient lives. One would hope that concerns over the see-saw effect—science and technology attempting to correct a problem they were responsible for, but making the situation worse, then trying another tack and making things worse still—are likely to prevent any such proposals being tried. Would you trust NASA scientists to determine correctly the new orbit needed for the Earth's temperature to be ameliorated, bearing in mind that in 1999 they lost a Mars probe because they failed to make a simple conversion from imperial units into metric ones?
Nevertheless, the application of science and technology is critical to reducing the impact of global natural catastrophes in the future. Without their twin benefits we will fail to have any real impact on climate change, nor will we be able to forecast a future volcanic super-eruption, or nudge off course an asteroid that is heading our way. Certainly science and technology together cannot be considered a panacea, nor will they provide a protective shield behind which our race and our planet can sleep soundly forever. In concert, however, they can present us with part of the solution to climate change and supply us with the means to detect potential global catastrophes far enough in advance, either to prevent them happening at all or, at the very least, to allow us some breathing space to prepare for the inevitable and maximize the chances of the fabric of our society surviving relatively unscathed. Crucially, a scientific and technological approach cannot be successful in isolation, but must be accompanied by other measures. In the case of climate change, these must involve modifying the way we live our lives, both as individuals and collectively. Similarly, our response to an asteroid impact or a super-eruption that we are unable to prevent is likely to entail drastic changes in the way our society currently operates, almost certainly involving changed priorities and a greater restriction on personal freedoms as we seek to recover and rebuild.
Surviving Armageddon, Bill McGuire