Tuesday, July 19, 2005

More Fun with Doomsday

The second sarin attack was the Tokyo subway gassing. According to this CDC report,
"On the morning of March 20, 1995, packages were placed on five different trains in the Tokyo subway system. The packages consisted of plastic bags filled with a chemical mix and wrapped inside newspapers. Once placed on the floor of the subway car, each bag was punctured with a sharpened umbrella tip, and the material was allowed to spill onto the floor of the subway car. As the liquid spread out and evaporated, vaporous agent spread throughout the car...The attack was carried out at virtually the same moment at five different locations in the world's largest city: five trains, many kilometers apart, all converging on the center of Tokyo [where key government agencies were located]. The resulting deaths and injuries were spread throughout central Tokyo."
Twelve people died and more than 5,000 were injured. Japanese police agencies believed that the goal was the instigation of Armageddon. Alternate theories held that it was an attempt to: 1) distract the police from a planned raid upon the group's main headquarters, or 2) destabilize the government, which would lead to Asahara's control of Japan. In any case, the attack did not kill as many as one would expect; the sarin they produced probably contained impurities. Also, if they had chosen a different dispersal method that produced aerosolized droplets, for example, far more deaths would have occurred. The Japanese authorities began arresting members of Aum Shinrikyo within 48 hours, although some perpetrators took years to apprehend. Asahara was arrested in his meditation chamber at the group's compound. Since Asahara refused to cooperate with his court-appointed lawyers, his trial lasted almost 8 years. He was sentenced to death by hanging on February 27, 2004. His case is under appeal. Twelve other members of the group were sentenced to death and five others received life sentences for the sarin attacks, the Sakamoto killings, the murders of dissident cult members, and others. More than 190 members have been convicted of lesser charges. In 1999, the group changed their name to Aleph and disavowed violence, although a recruit died on Jan. 3rd, 2005 during a "training accident". Aleph is closely monitored by Japanese authorities. Keroyon, a separate group created by former members, was involved in the Sept. 10, 2004 beating death of a 36-year-old female recruit. Both groups still worship Asahara. So what's the point? Morbid curiosity? Well, yes, but I was interested in the different motivations and capabilities of terrorist groups. Extremist religious groups with delusional leaders may wish to commit apocalyptic crimes for no rational reason. They have no boundaries. If Aum Shinrikyo had recruited biological scientists with expertise in recombinant DNA, they could have produced a lethal bioweapon. For example, genetically manipulate a flu virus, culture it to produce large quantities, spray the mixture liberally in airports and mass transit systems throughout the world, and voila, you've killed more than 99% of the human race. Still, Aum Shinrikyo made many errors, despite their considerable resources. A religious group may be insane enough to want to attack but too insane to adequately prepare and implement the attack. Bin Laden, on the other hand, may be motivated by hatred, but he isn't crazy or stupid; according to his fatwas, he realizes the tremendous difficulty in seeking to undermine the U.S., but, hey, you never know until you try. He doesn't expect to achieve the complete destruction of Western nations but he does want a united Islamic state, the Caliphate, that stretches through Northern Africa, through the Middle East and into central Asia. This state could fight back against the military and economic power of Western nations. First and foremost, al Qaeda is a political group and their activities are crafted to create a political effect. That is why they are less scary than Japanese Buddhist terrorist groups -- or, for that matter, any religiously motivated crazies with money, some technical ability, and a violent theology. My remarks are a short summary of a complex case. A great deal more material can be found on the web. The following are the links I used in researching this blog: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tokyo_subway_sarin_gas_attack http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aum_Shinrikyo http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sakamoto_family_murder http://english.aleph.to/ http://www.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/getarticle.pl5?fd20050327pb.htm http://www.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/getarticle.pl5?nn20040228a6.htm http://religiousmovements.lib.virginia.edu/nrms/aums.html http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/VX http://www.bt.cdc.gov/agent/sarin/basics/facts.asp http://www.state.gov/s/ct/rls/45394.htm http://www.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/getarticle.pl5?nn20040228a4.htm http://www.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/getarticle.pl5?nn20040226b6.htm http://library.nps.navy.mil/home/tgp/aum.htm http://www.fas.org/irp/congress/1995_rpt/aum/index.html http://www.nasog.net/intelligence/terrorism/organizations/Aum_Supreme_Truth.htm http://www.georgetown.edu/sfs/programs/stia/students/vol.02/chiricom.htm http://www.nci.org/index.htm http://www.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/getarticle.pl5?nn20040529a2.htm http://www.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/getarticle.pl5?nn20041022a6.htm http://www.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/getarticle.pl5?ed20040711a1.htm http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/EID/vol5no4/olson.htm Technorati tags: , , , , ,

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