Right-Wing Pundit Hypes Fictional North Korean EMP Threat

It was only a matter of time before the right wing would turn the current crisis on the Korean peninsula into a parody. It’s not entirely surprising that chief conspiracy theorist Frank Gaffney kicked things off on Thursday with an interesting theory about he thinks the real threat from North Korea is.

Gaffney told Laura Ingraham radio show fill-in host Raymond Arroyo that we should really be worried about the North Koreans putting one of their nukes on a ship to the West Coast, attaching it on a short-range missile and — don’t aim it at any particular large American city where it would inflict the most damage — but fire it up above the atmosphere creating the dreaded “Electro Magnetic Pulse” that will (supposedly) put the entire United States out of business for good:

GAFFNEY: They certainly have an abundance of shorter range missiles which could be brought close to our shores aboard ships. A capability that their Iranian partners, we know, have demonstrated. And by lobbing a relatively small, relatively unsophisticated nuclear weapon of the kind that they seem to have tested now three times on one of these short range missiles high over the United States and detonating it outside of our atmosphere, the North Koreans know they could inflict incalculable harm on this country, even perhaps with just one of these weapons.

And how would that work? Such a weapon detonated in space would trigger something called “Electro Magnetic Pulse,” a very powerful form of electromagnetic energy that would essentially damage or destroy every piece of electronic gear and particularly sensitive equipment like transformers that are the backbone of our electrical power grid. And if those go down, we cease to exist as a 21st Century society because without electrical power, look at Katrina as an example or what happened with Sandy more recently, except the power doesn’t come back on after a couple of days or a couple of weeks. It stays off and that means, really, returning us to kind of a pre-industrial society.

Listen to the clip here:

So the North Koreas will ship a nuke and a missile all the way to the United States — undetected — attach the nuke to the missile (a process they have yet to master) and launch it way up in the atmosphere while U.S. defense officials (particularly the Missile Defense Agency) are none the wiser. If that sounds like something out of a doomsday fiction novel (or a video game), you’re right.


As CAP’s Matt Duss once noted referring to Gaffney’s claim that Iran would pull off such a stunt, “it’s probably worth pointing out here that the likelihood of Iran, or anyone, actually pulling off such an attack is roughly the same as Iran building an enormous, space-bound vacuum cleaner and sucking up all of America’s oxygen.”

Gaffney — who is is director of the far-right Center for Security Policy and whose writing regularly appears in somewhat mainstream publications — is also one of the country’s most prominent Islamophobes and was the brainchild behind Rep. Michele Bachmann’s (R-MN) conspiracy theory she famously peddled last year that certain elements of the U.S. government were under the control of the Muslim Brotherhood (Bachmann got to keep her seat on the House Intelligence Committee after the widely-panned and criticized affair).

But what is the real threat from North Korea? ThinkProgress has a run-down here.