Doctors for Disaster Preparedness


Delivered by Cresson Kearny at the 19th Annual Meeting of Doctors for Disaster Preparedness, July 15, 2001

An essential new part of American civil defense should be measures to make most Americans much more aware of the dangers they face from terrorists, and of what they can do to reduce those dangers.

The likelihood of those measures being taken depends on the state of American civil defense. So first let's consider American civil defense's future.

Until an attack kills at least several hundred people living in part of the United States, there will be no effective civil defense system designed to protect most Americans. That comprehensive system should include protection against terrorist attacks, by far the danger most difficult to counter, primarily because there are so many different kinds of terrorist attacks, and a few kinds can be extremely dangerous.

Most American communities have effective, ready-to-go responses to flooding, fires, hurricanes, earthquakes and other readily definable disasters. But no community has responses to disastrous terrorist attacks. Those responses are primarily responsibilities of the federal government, and of military forces.

Only after a deadly attack strikes, probably without warning, will the majority of Americans support an effective anti-terrorist civil defense system. That system would cost many billions of dollars and the loss of several traditional American peacetime rights.

The big majority of Americans will go on essentially denying that their lives are endangered by a large number of all-too-possible terrorist and other attacks.

Fortunately , realistic federal officials and other American leaders have concluded that especially the dangers from attacks using biological weapons are so great that spending many billions of dollars in attempts to find effective countermeasures is justified. I'm not qualified in the needed technologies. So today I'll largely confine my remarks to describing a much more likely danger, terrorists attacking with explosives.

In the past few years, terrorists worldwide have not used well-made biological, nuclear or chemical weapons. They have employed high explosives. Why?

I'm well qualified to answer that question, for first as the Jungle Experiments Officer of the Panama Mobile Force during the stressful years shortly before and during World War II, and later as an Army major recruited by O.S.S., I spent much of my time experimenting with high explosive weapons. I also taught American, Vietnamese and Chinese soldiers and civilians, and men of several other nationalities, how to make and use expedient explosive killing devices.

I believe that my work was needed, but found it distasteful. Some of the men I trained, especially several of the Chinese, impressed me as being merely expert old-fashioned terrorists, able when firing their pistols at night to hit pop-up targets quicker than I could with my Colt .45. In WW II no service weapons had luminous sights.

And I learned how to use the factory-made killing equipment that 0.S.S. issued to me and to men we experimenters called freedom fighters, and our enemies called terrorists.

I believe that the overwhelming majority of terrorists will continue for years to use mostly high explosives. And I'm confident that history will prove that this belief of mine is valid.

We experimenters concluded that small groups of freedom fighters who skillfully employ high explosives could kill and destroy more effectively than by using firearms.

F or individual freedom fighters acting alone, high explosive devices that they improvise following tested instructions are good weapons. And clever, factory-made killing gadgets, like those supplied to me by 0.8.8., are their best weapons.

I conclude that today terrorists are using high explosive weapons almost exclusively because they:

1. Are easier to obtain or make than biological, chemical or nuclear weapons.

2. Are dependable.

3. Have dramatic, prompt impact.

4. Are not likely to sicken or kill the terrorists using them.

Many terrorists are willing to die, but I believe most fear getting themselves killed before accomplishing their mission.

What measures should governments take to reduce the number of persons whom terrorists can kill or demoralize? One such measure that American federal and state governments and influential organizations should implement is to give repeated warnings to all Americans not to form or join large crowds during stressful times. For especially large crowds at widely publicized events in important cities practically invite terrorist attacks.

Hope of persuading most Americans during normal peacetime from staying away from such crowds received a setback right here in Las Vegas. That setback was the mass gathering celebrating Y2K, the start of the second millennium. The celebrants defied warnings to stay away. Multitudes congregated. No attack took place. And persons who warn of new disasters were and still are discredited.

I began worrying about and fearing terrorists when as a very small boy I listened to Clinton Hall Kearny, my father, recount tales of violence he had seen in northern Mexico. There in wild Sonoran mountains just before the turn of the century, he ran a gold mine for two years. To do this, he had to maintain good relations with the ruthless, intelligent head of the successful outlaw band that had killed its way into being the only outlaw band based in that part of Sonora.

My father paid the outlaw chief protection money in gold to keep other outlaws/terrorists out of the area. That was a continuing bloody job that I enjoyed hearing my father tell me about, including the time he amputated the bullet-broken leg of one of the "good" outlaws. He had no guidance except a thick self-help medical book, and only tequila to deaden the pain!

The operation was a short-term success. The outlaw did not die from shock or loss of blood. But a few days later infections killed him. Within a few years my childish fear of terrorists changed into fascination with terrorists and hatred for them.

As a teenager, I was impressed when I saw what had happened to an area overwhelmed by terrorists and other outlaws. With friends I drove across a large grassland area in northern Chihuahua. There, rootless, uncontrolled bands of outlaw terrorists had killed or frightened away all the inhabitants. The ranch buildings all were abandoned. Antelope herds had replaced the cattle.

I saw no one. There was not even an extreme environmentalist, who no doubt would have been delighted to be in a land given back to the antelopes.

An overwhelming nuclear attack on the United States has become 'more unlikely, now that the Soviet Union has fallen apart. But millions of Americans continue to have unjustified fear of continent-spanning fallout radiation dangers from even one small nuclear weapon, such as terrorists may possibly acquire and explode. And I think that many older Americans, remembering that when young they were taught to go to the best available shelters against fallout, may lead unjustified movements into unprepared basements. There, infectious diseases and predatory opportunists, not radiation, would be the main dangers to crowded together people.

If terrorists with only one well made biological weapon were to skillfully disperse billions of anthrax spores or smallpox bacilli into the air of an American city , pulmonary infections fatal in a few days would result. Before those victims die, with no quarantine laws in effect in permissive America, some of the doomed would move into many states. There they would be sources of secondary infections. The secondary infections typically would be the ordinary types produced by the pathogens, much less deadly than the primary pulmonary types, but still very serious.

This encouraging fact probably is unknown to most of the small minority of Americans seriously concerned with the possibility of terrorists attacking with biological weapons in the United States.

I believe that these facts should be clearly stated in the information that should be transmitted to the American public.

Dangers from terrorists can be reduced if many citizens arm themselves so that they can shoot terrorists. And if terrorists are unexpectedly shot by armed Americans, dangers from terrorists will be reduced even more than if the same number of terrorists are eliminated by the authorities.

Of course, in some parts of the United States, anti-terrorist activists may run risks to themselves by:

Keeping their own guns.

Defending their traditional rights to buy firearms Opposing politicians and others who attempt to stop Americans from keeping ready-to-use guns in their homes.

Only enough of my scheduled time remains for me to mention potential dangers to the thyroid glands of millions of Americans. If terrorists or others ground-burst a nuclear weapon in the United States, and parts of the radioactive cloud containing radioactive potassium iodide is deposited where people live, then many unprotected persons will have their thyroid glands damaged or destroyed.

In this 2-ounce glass bottle [C.H.K. holds up the bottle ], there is enough potassium iodide (in dry, fine crystals) to protect a typical American family's thyroids. User instructions like those written on this bottle must be followed to saturate the family's unprotected thyroids with stable potassium iodide before the arrival of radioactive potassium iodide. Then their thyroids will be protected. Stable potassium iodide (KI) saturates the thyroid and blocks subsequent intake of any KI, including radioactive KI.

In Nuclear War Survival Skills [C.H.K. holds up a copy] complete explanations and instructions are given on pages 111 through 115. A few copies of the "Fourth Printing, April 1999" are available here today. And many copies can be bought at reasonable prices from the publisher, the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine, Cave Junction, Oregon 97523.

I hope that my short summary of worsening terrorist dangers will help motivate at least a few of you to become anti-terrorist activists.