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Jan 15 2018

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January 13th – An Alternate History

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An Unthinkable Alternative…

Our brothers and sisters in Hawaii underwent an avoidable trauma this past weekend when a state employee accidentally tripped the EMS system, which broadcast a message  about an imminent ballistic missile attack on Oahu. This situation was tardily cleared up, and Oahu, indeed the nation, was never in any danger. Within hours of Saturday’s heart-stopper, the national conversation had again turned to “sh-thole countries” and other, equally less consequential fare.

However, in our speed to revert to norm, we barely took time to consider how truly lucky we were that it was only a false alarm. To bring home the point, below is an alternate history of what could have happened if the warning were real. Much of this is creative conjecture. The timing and blast effects are – horrifyingly – real, based on open source material.  I’ve tried to make the scenario as realistic as possible.

Read it and consider whether any part of our national conversation right now is worthy.

THE WASHINGTON POST

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Nuclear Weapon Detonates in Hawaii

Missile Fired from North Korea – Cataclysmic Damage and Loss of Life on Oahu – Panic in Continental US as Nation Awaits President’s Response

 

Washington (AP) – A North Korean nuclear weapon detonated over Oahu at 8:18am local time, yesterday. The explosion has caused catastrophic destruction and massive loss of life. The attack, launched from North Korea, represents the first use of nuclear weapons since 1945.

Speaking to the nation several chaos-filled hours after the attack, President Trump said, “On this darkest of days, after a dastardly, sneak attack, I pledge to each of you that the enormous resources of the United States will be dedicated to helping our citizens in Hawaii, and that the full power of our massive military will bring the perpetrators of this heinous crime to justice.”  

12 hours after the attack, huge firestorms continued to rage out of control on Oahu, from Mililani in the north, down through Honolulu, to Barbers Point and Diamond Head. The American naval base at Pearl Harbor, less than two miles from Ground Zero, is also believed to have suffered cataclysmic damage.

Sporadic reports from Kaneohe and other locations east of the blast zone, point to a complete collapse of public safety infrastructure, including local government, law enforcement, and fire and rescue. Many of the island’s medical facilities were within the area of conflagration. Shielded from the worst of the blast by the Koolau mountain range, points near Kaneohe have seen a massive influx of survivors, many suffering from radiation poisoning and other life threatening wounds, which has completely overwhelmed local capacity. Power remains out throughout the island with no prospect for return.

Shortly after the President’s address, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen briefed media, from an undisclosed location, outlining preparations for the largest humanitarian rescue and relief operation in American history. As she spoke, US Navy ships from San Diego were making preparations to get underway with relief supplies. Combat and cargo ships will sail in the next several days as supplies are loaded.  In addition, the Air Force’s Military Airlift Command (MAC) was mobilizing all available aircraft to air drop relief supplies near the less damaged hub on eastern Oahu.

There has been no official estimate regarding causalities. While President Trump referenced the attack as the “Bloodiest day in American history,” during his address, no Administration official has discussed the actual number of casualties. However, Saul Remmick, from the Union of Concerned Physicists (UCP) estimates that between 80-100,000 people died in the blast, with at least double that number injured. That staggering number would be close to the total of all US battle deaths in WWII. Experts believe that property damage could exceed $1 trillion.

Time Line for Destruction

The North Korean attack represented a “Bolt Out of the Blue” (BOOB) attack, a Cold War-era term for an attack without being preceded first by a rise in tensions. While rhetorical skirmishing between President Trump and Kim Jong-un  has been ongoing, their was no heighted military alert on either side of the DMZ. Intelligence reports found no evidence of an imminent North Korean missile or nuclear test. Indeed, a scheduled military exercise between the US and South Korea had been postponed on promise of talks between the two Koreas, all in the lead up to the Olympics, next month.

The attack was a complete surprise.

At 8:02am HST, imagery analysts at the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) in Colorado detected a heat signature, consistent with a ballistic missile launch, originating in North Korea. Intelligence experts were initially skeptical, as the launch did not originate from any known North Korean missile facility. Less than a minute later, the launch was formally confirmed by multiple sources.

This confirmation in turn, triggered a massive, never-before-initiated national emergency action plan.

5,000 miles away, at Mar-a-Lago, Secret Service agents rushed President Trump into a Chevy Suburban, taking him to an undisclosed location near the President’s property. Normal procedure would have been to get POTUS to the airport and the waiting E-4B “Doomsday” plane – a flying nuclear command center.  However, if Trump himself was the target, agents did not believe they could get him on-board an in the air with available time. Instead the decision was made to ride out a possible attack before moving the President to more secure facilities.

Simultaneously, under a top-secret protocol approved by the President in mid-2017, commanders of specific US Navy ships in the western Pacific, and the commander of the US Army base at Fort Greely Alaska, exercised delegated launch authority to fire anti-ballistic missiles at the incoming North Korean rocket. While the total number of missiles fired is unknown, these defensive measures failed.

At 8:06am HST, NORAD confirmed the target as Oahu. The local EMS system was activated, warning citizens of the ballistic missile threat. Cold War era sirens were activated shortly there after. In all, Oahu residents had less than 12 minutes to find safety.

The Attack

According the Department of Defense sources, the North Korean warhead detonated 2,500 feet above Honolulu International Airport, with and explosive force of nearly 400 kilotons, a much larger device than any thus far tested by Pyongyang, and roughly equivalent to warhead yields found in Russian and American arsenals.

The initial burst of light from the weapon, more powerful than the sun, permanently blinded anyone looking in that direction. People through the entire Hawaiian Islands chain were able to see the flash, even though it was daytime.

Based on initial thermal imaging from satellites and scientific modeling of the explosive force, nuclear experts believe that the immediate thermal impacts vaporized the airport and immediate surrounding area. Asphalt on the H-1 and H-2 highways began to melt immediately. Paint on the ships at Pear Harbor burned off. A person, standing three miles away, would have had their clothes burst into flames.

The blast wave that came next would have obliterated everything within a two-mile radius with a force equal to six times the maximum sustained winds of a Category 5 hurricane. Although the power of the blast wave dissipated quickly, the force is still capable of  blow out windows and significantly damaging non-concrete structures past five miles away. Afterward, the combination of thermal effects from the explosion, coupled with the winds created by the blast wave, created a mass conflagration that consumed a huge area of Oahu.

Leadership Reaction

Press Secretary Sara Sanders released the following background on the President’s activities from the moment he was ushered off the golf course.

In the Suburban, the President was put on the phone with Chief of Staff John Kelly, who advised POTUS of the impeding attack. On that call, the President ordered COGCON 1, the Continuity of Government plan that would evacuate top political and career government personnel to hardened facilities to ensure that the government would continue to function. The President next called Vice President Pence, ordering him to leave Washington, DC immediately for a secure facility to ensure the line of succession.

President Trump reached his bunker just as the nuclear weapon detonated over Oahu.  Briefed on the attack by  military commanders, the President ordered US strategic nuclear forces to stand up to DEFCON 1 for the first time in history.

On that order, nuclear armed B2’s and B-52’s took to the air to circle and await orders, Minuteman missile silos prepared for launch, Trident strategic missile submarines in port were ordered immediately to sea, while those already on patrol cleared for action. However, with no additional missile warnings, the President deferred immediate nuclear retaliation until he could consult with a larger group of advisors.

Looking at his military aide carrying the nuclear “football,” Trump was said to have remarked, “Don’t you go anywhere. Your day is about to get very busy.”

 North Korean Denials

US preparations for a nuclear retaliatory strike were complicated by developments in North Korea immediately after the missile launch.

According to senior Administration officials, only moments after the missile took off, diplomatic channels were flooded with frantic North Korean efforts to reach American and South Korean officials to explain that the attack had been a mistake. While this has been dismissed as a North Korean ruse by senior policy makers, intelligence sources confirm that there is an appearance of a real power struggle in Pyongyang, with scattered reports of security forces fighting each other in the streets, adding an element of uncertainty and urgency regarding control of North Korea’s nuclear weapons.

A dozen hours after the attack, there has been no appreciable increase in North Korea’s military readiness. There has also been no word from Kim Jong-un, or other senior North Korean representatives.

Russia and China Weigh In

After the attack on the United States, Russian President Vladimir Putin publicly stood down Russian strategic forces and immediately canceled all conventional exercises. In a call with Vice President Pence, Mr. Putin offered condolences to the American people, and any material support which Russia could provide.

The Chinese reaction was quite different. While conveying “the deepest sympathies of the Chinese people” regarding the attack on Hawaii, China also noted that the American nuclear alert was “disproportionate and destabilizing given the current level of tension in the region.”  

In a separate statement, the Ministry of Defense said that, “China would take all precautions consistent with its national defense and the current international situation.” While making no mention of possible US military retaliation against Pyongyang, The Ministry warned that the use of nuclear weapons near Chinese borders would have “the most profound and negative consequences.”

 Intelligence officials confirmed early Sunday that China’s mobile ICBMs had left their hardened shelters and disbursed, while the Manchurian military command has gone on full alert. It is unclear what posture the Chinese government will take on any US retaliatory strike.

Domestic Reaction

News of the nuclear attack on Hawaii created panic across the continental United States. Saturday afternoon saw a mass exodus from cities across the eastern and western seaboard, creating the worst national traffic jam in history. Panic purchases of food, and water cleaned out most retailers within hours. Car accidents robberies and shootings have overwhelmed local and state law enforcement, while spot shortages of fuel have left motorists stranded.

In Washington, DC, the mass helicopter evacuation of top officials created fear that the capital itself was under threat of attack, adding to the general pandemonium.

Governors Jerry Brown (D-CA) and Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) called up National Guard troops to maintain order. In New Jersey and Virginia, both of whom were inaugurating new governors on Saturday, incoming and outgoing Administrations worked together to manage the crisis.

Next Steps

Speaking on background, Administration officials confirmed that President Trump will be returning to the White House today. While many see this as an act of confidence, even defiance in light of the North Korean attack, others believe that, in light of Chinese warnings, the President has effectively taken nuclear retaliation off the table, and may delay a US response further until the North Korean political situation becomes clearer.

Despite questions about a nuclear response, Pentagon officials have confirmed that a massive transfer of American conventional military assets to the western Pacific – including additional naval units, Air Force fighter jets and Army troops and Marines have been ordered, indicating the Administration was preparing for all contingencies.

In a sign of the continued high tensions, most government officials moved to secure locations under COG will remain there indefinitely – including Vice President Pence – while the President and the White House staff stay in DC. White House sources indicate that President will address the nation, from the White House, sometime Sunday afternoon.

The next 48 hours may be the most critical in our nation’s history.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Unthinkable Alternative…

 

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