The Earth as a weapon in 21st Century of Wars
By Rahab S Hawa
While scientists, governments and concerned groups worry about increased industrial emissions of greenhouse gases and its effects on the planet, the role of the military in climate change has been ignored.
‘When environmental crises occur, it is usually only the civilian economy that is called upon to rectify the balance, while military programmes are rarely taken to task,’ says Dr Rosalie Bertell, renowned scientist and nuclear activist.
According to her, the military has got away scot-free from responsibility for polluting the environment and ecological disasters.
In her path-breaking book titled ‘Planet Earth: The Latest Weapon of War’ (2000), she cited examples from the Vietnam War, the Gulf War and the NATO bombing in Kosovo.
These wars have not only destroyed lives and property, they have contaminated large areas of land for years to come.
According to Dr. Bertell, the hundreds of burning oil fires during the Gulf War was the ‘worst man-made pollution event in history’. It led to environmental and climatic disasters worldwide.
Scientists worldwide predicted fiercer monsoons due to greater warming, acid rain, forceful storms and severe flooding all over the globe.
‘In time...a huge typhoon struck Bangladesh on 1 May, killing more than 100,000 people...Soviet scientists reported very high levels of acid rain in Southern Russia. Satellite images showed smoke and darkened snow in Pakistan and northern India,’ she said.
‘Astronauts [on] the space shuttle Atlantis reported so much haze shrouding the Earth. ...Researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences claimed that dense clouds from the Gulf War were also responsible for the disastrous floods which took place in their country,’ Dr. Bertell recalls in her book.
Heavy storms were reported over Eastern Europe. ‘There was severe flooding from Bavaria to Czechoslovakia with several deaths, destruction of farmlands, and bridges washed away. Rail lines throughout Austria were submerged and the Danube River reached record heights,’ she added.
In both the Gulf War and in Kosovo, depleted uranium ordnance was used by the US and NATO forces on a large scale. This has led to contamination of land, air and water with long-term effects on human health: just as in Vietnam, where the US military deliberately targeted the environment and destroyed and contaminated millions of acres of land with ‘Agent Orange’ and other toxic chemicals.
But this devastation pales in comparison to the havoc that the military is now capable of wreaking on planet earth.
The vast experiments that the military, especially the US, have been conducting over the decades involving experiments with the ozone layer, manipulation of the weather and use of wave technology to probe inside earth itself, is in preparation for wars that will be launched in the 21st century.
These atmospheric experiments and research ‘are not just about exciting scientific exploration. Space is the next battlefield’, meaning that the military is taking war into space. They are ‘going to fight in space,’ she quotes.
‘Because of the secrecy shielding military research, it is not always easy for the public to understand the possible consequences’, Dr Bertell says.
Beginning in 1946 in the Pacific, nuclear atmospheric testing by the US and later, the Soviet Union and the UK, have seriously damaged the environment.
According to Dr. Bertell, ‘the 300 megatons of nuclear explosions between 1945 and 1963 had depleted the ozone layer by about 4%’.
Although the first ozone hole had begun to heal in the 1980s, in 1986, civilian scientists established the existence of a second ozone hole in the Antarctic.
‘Scientists have estimated that a 1% loss of ozone would result in 1-3% more ultra-violet radiation reaching the Earth,’ she writes. ‘This would increase the skin cancer rate and affect all life forms,’ she added.
In the 1990s, US military experiments with nuclear-powered rockets increased and the launching of plutonium into space became a routine activity.
These nuclear-powered space missions were highly dangerous as plutonium could be dispersed over large areas of the earth in an accident.
According to Dr. Bertell, the first major space accident seriously affecting Earth took place in April 1964 when the US rocket SNAP-9A was aborted and the 17,000 curies of plutonium it was carrying scattered over the globe. The plutonium is still detectable in soil and the bones of people and animals.
‘In 1997, there were two SNAP-9A rockets in orbit - each carrying 17,000 curies of plutonium and each planning on [the] completion of their mission to disperse the plutonium as the 1964 rocket had done,’ she warns.
Because of the secrecy surrounding these space plans, the public are not aware of the dangers involved in these projects especially when ‘the history of the space programme is littered with disasters’.
The weapons of war in the new millennium would involve the use of planet earth itself as a weapon, harnessing the power of natural processes for war.
At the Peoples’ Health Assembly in December 2000 in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Dr. Bertell revealed to a shocked and incredulous audience that ‘the latest weapons in the arsenal of the US military is Planet Earth itself ... and weather will be one of the worst destructive weapons by the year 2025’.
Dr. Bertell was referring to how engineered earthquakes and tornadoes could wreak havoc on populations and nations.
According to her book, electromagnetic weapons ‘have the ability to transmit explosive and other effects such as earthquake induction across intercontinental distances to any selected target site on the globe with force levels equivalent to major nuclear explosions’.
For the past 40 years, the US military has conducted experiments on the earth’s atmosphere using waves and chemicals.
Attempts to gain control of the weather, through environmental engineering with experiments involving laser and chemicals to ascertain whether they could damage the ozone layer over an enemy; cause damage to crops and human health through exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays, have been carried out by the military.
Chemicals like barium and lithium have been released above the ozone layer creating spectacular light displays and glowing artificial clouds, which were seen in North America during the 1980s and early 1990s.
These compounds are most destructive of the ‘ozone layer’ and cause further chemical changes to the earth’s atmosphere.
According to Dr. Bertell, ‘changes in the earth’s atmosphere bring about corresponding changes in the Earth’s weather and climate’.
Another method is the use of very low frequency electromagnetic waves in weather modification experiments. These waves can pass through solid earth and oceans and have been used by the military to probe the upper atmosphere and the inner structure of the earth.
These pulsed, extremely low frequency (ELF) waves, for instance, can be used to convey mechanical effects and vibrations at great distances through the Earth. They can manipulate the weather, creating storms and torrential rains over an area.
These waves have the potential to generate earth movements. ‘It has the capability to cause disturbance of volcanoes and tectonic plates, which in turn, have an effect on the weather,’ she states.
For example, earthquakes are known to interact with the ionosphere (the atmosphere 50-373 miles above the earth’s surface). In fact, many of the earthquakes that occurred in recent years were preceded by certain unexplained phenomena, says Dr. Bertell.
Some of the examples in her book include the Tang Shan earthquake in China, which occurred on 28 July 1976, and left 650,000 people dead. The catastrophic event was preceded by an airglow, said to have been caused by Soviet ELF wave experiments to heat the ionosphere.
The other was the San Francisco earthquake. According to Dr. Bertell, unusual ultra low frequency waves were detected in California on 12 September 1989. These waves grew in intensity and finally subsided on 5 October. On 17 October, they appeared again with signals so strong that they went off the scale. Three hours later, the earthquake took place.
In fact, a Washington Times report in March 1992 said, satellites and ground sensors detected mysterious radio waves or related electrical and magnetic activity before major earthquakes in Southern California, Armenia, Japan and Northern California between 1986 and 1989.
The earthquake that hit Los Angeles on 17 January 1994 was also preceded by unusual radio waves and two sonic booms.
‘These strange coincidences have never been explained ... it seems highly probable that some of these earthquakes have been a result of human activity, not natural forces,’ said Dr. Bertell.
Tellingly, the US Secretary of Defence, in 1997, commented on new threats posed by terrorist organizations ‘engaging in eco-type terrorism whereby they can alter the climate, set off earthquakes, and volcanoes remotely through the use of electromagnetic waves’.
‘The military has a habit of accusing others of having capabilities they already hold,’ said Dr. Bertell in response.
These experiments by the military on the earth’s atmosphere have seen an increase in freak weather throughout the globe, says Dr. Bertell.
‘Between the 1960s and the 1990s, major natural disaster rates have increased by a factor of 10,’ she adds.
According to her, the EL Nino in 1997-98, which was blamed for abnormal weather conditions worldwide, was actually preceded by violent disruptions and climatic destabilisation a year earlier.
In 1996, Dr. Bertell described the severe flooding that occurred in the Indian subcontinent affecting Nepal, India and Bangladesh in which millions were left homeless. In China, floods killed hundreds while tens of thousands had their homes and property destroyed.
At the same time, Canada was hit by torrential rains, flooding, tornadoes, hail and thunderstorms - all very abnormal climatic conditions destroying property, livestock and lives.
Heavy snowfall, not seen in decades, appeared in South Africa, cutting off food supplies and taking lives due to the extreme cold.
During the week ending 19th July, earthquakes rocked the French Alps, Austria, Southern Italy, Northeast India, Japan, Indonesia, the Kamchatka peninsular, and Southern Mexico. In New Zealand, a volcano erupted.
Tremors were reported in Kenya, Germany, the Greek Islands, Turkey, northern Sumatra, Bali, the central Philippines, New Zealand’s North Island, eastern Japan, central Chile, El Salvador and the Alentian Islands, all within the week ending 26 July, she reported.
According to her, ‘While some of the events of 1996 may have been ‘acts of God’, certainly, the overall volume and ferocity was anything but normal’.
‘Because of the intimate connection between the Earth’s atmosphere and its weather, it is not surprising to find that military activities have had an impact on local and regional weather patterns,’ she writes.
The fact that military activities can cause freak weather by accident as well as deliberately as part of geophysical warfare, is indeed a frightening prospect for the planet.
More so, when we know so little about ‘the natural cycles of Earth and the impact of human activities on it to make good predictions of what will happen when human activities interfere with them,’ she says.
‘Moreover, such predictions are based on the natural history of our planet and are meaningless in the face of random experimentation on major Earth systems in the upper atmosphere and the bowels of the planet,’ she adds.
Clearly, ‘the military is also contributing to some of the most intractable survival problems of the twenty-first century,’ she notes.