Monday, July 18, 2005

Road to Armageddon

So, last I left off I was discussing Aum Shinrikyo's first murders. By the mid '90s, the group had approximately 40,000 members in New York, Russia, Japan, Germany and Sri Lanka and one billion dollars in assets. They had also managed to attract members with advanced degrees in physics, applied physics, and organic chemistry. They did NOT appear to have attracted many experts in the biological sciences. Some of these people were very successful individuals. So why were they attracted to this rather odd religion? I am Japanese-American but that doesn't mean I have the answer. I will say that the Japanese tend to take things to extremes; if a little bit is good, then a huge amount is desirable, e.g. a very strong educational system, or more pruriently, the management at strip clubs passing out magnifying glasses to their patrons. The extremism of the cult may have appealed to Aum Shinrikyo's recruits. In any event, Aum Shinrikyo was a dangerous mixture of apocalyptic religion, wealth, resources, and technologic expertise. Asahara's motivations are difficult to parse out; his theology changed over the years and madmen are not noted for their organized thought processes. He did preach that a nuclear war between Japan and the U.S. would occur in 1997 and that ultimately, the entire world population would be dead except for a small group of Aum Shinrikyo. At least initially, however, the stated goal of the cult was the prevention of the apocalypse. Apparently toward that end, in 1989-1990 he attempted to gain political power by running candidates for the Japanese Diet (parliament). His party was soundly defeated which ended his goal to become the leader of Japan through peaceful means. The group began to investigate biological, chemical and nuclear weapons, i.e. cholera, anthrax, botulinum toxin, Q fever, ebola virus, sarin and VX nerve gas agents, and the black market purchase of nuclear weapons from the former Soviet Union. They had some difficulty manufacturing anthrax and botulinum; VX, although highly lethal in small doses, does not evaporate well and works best as an aerosol. The group decided upon sarin and set up a laboratory to manufacture large quantities. The first sarin attack occurred on June 27, 1994, in the Kita-Fukashidistrict of Matsumoto in central Japan. Seven people were killed and hundreds injured. The targets were three judges who were set to hear a court case against the group. To be continued


Blogger Jeff Huber said...

Thanks, Karen, for reminding us that terrorism isn't just an Islamic thing.


7/19/2005 08:04:00 AM  

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