WHEN A ROOSTER COMES HOME TO ROAST
Temecula, CA – Though some may think the title of 'The Great Satan' means evil, the article is more in the vein of 'death' in a tarot deck, meant in an alchemist way. As Satan has knowledge that isn't meant for mortal man because of its inherent danger, so this country has knowledge that should never have been discovered. Like CERN, perhaps some things are better left undone.
During the Cold War the competition between us and them continued with its one-upsmanship until finally the ideal weapon was theorized and proven mathematically. This dream to end Mankind was called the Neutron Bomb. Some of you younger readers may be saying 'how can a bomb named after a Saturday Morning kid cartoon be that bad?' Trust me, the bomb idea came before Jimmy's show.
What makes the Neutron Bomb so badass is red mercury. Bet you never heard of the stuff, right? Unfortunately ISIS has and like the Lost Ark, they have 'top men' working on it. This is what happens when you tell the world and your allies 'No' and really mean 'yes' in bomb development. Now this rooster may be coming back to roast U.S.red mercury. Read the latest after the jump.
Red mercury — precious and rare, exceptionally dangerous and exorbitantly expensive, its properties unmatched by any compound known to science — was the stuff of doomsday daydreams. According to well-traveled tales of its potency, when detonated in combination with conventional high explosives, red mercury could create the city-flattening blast of a nuclear bomb. In another application, a famous nuclear scientist once suggested it could be used as a component in a neutron bomb small enough to fit in a sandwich-size paper bag.
The Islamic State was seeking a weapon that could do more than strike fear in its enemies. It sought a weapon that could kill its enemies wholesale, instantly changing the character of the war. Imagine the price the Islamic State would pay.
To approach the subject of red mercury is to journey into a comic-book universe, a zone where the stubborn facts of science give way to unverifiable claims, fantasy and outright magic, and where villains pursuing the dark promise of a mysterious weapon could be rushing headlong to the end of the world. This is all the more remarkable given the broad agreement among nonproliferation specialists that red mercury, at least as a chemical compound with explosive pop, does not exist.
Legends of red mercury’s powers began circulating by late in the Cold War. But their breakout period came after the Soviet Union’s demise, when disarray and penury settled over the Kremlin’s arms programs. As declining security fueled worries of illicit trafficking, red mercury embedded itself in the lexicon of the freewheeling black-market arms bazaar. Aided by credulous news reports, it became an arms trafficker’s marvelous elixir, a substance that could do almost anything a shady client might need: guide missiles, shield objects from radar, equip a rogue underdog state or terrorist group with weapons rivaling those of a superpower. It was priced accordingly, at hundreds of thousands of dollars a kilogram. With time, the asking price would soar.
As often happens with durable urban legends, the red-mercury meme found just enough public support to assure an inextinguishable life. Chief among its proponents was Samuel T. Cohen, the American physicist and Manhattan Project veteran often called the father of the neutron bomb, who before his death in 2010 spoke vividly of the perils of nuclear terrorism and what he said was poor government preparation for such attacks. Cohen joined the red-mercury bandwagon as it gathered momentum in the early 1990s, staking a lonely position by asserting that the substance could be used to build nuclear weapons of exceptionally small size.
In one edition of his autobiography, he claimed red mercury was manufactured by ‘‘mixing special nuclear materials in very small amounts into the ordinary compound and then inserting the mixture into a nuclear reactor or bombarding it with a particle-accelerator beam.’’ The result, he said, ‘‘is a remarkable non-exploding high explosive’’ that, when detonated, becomes ‘‘extremely hot, which allows pressures and temperatures to be built up that are capable of igniting the heavy hydrogen and producing a pure-fusion mini neutron bomb.’’ Here was a proliferation threat of an order never before seen.
The establishment largely dismissed him. ‘‘If he did ever reveal evidence, I never saw it,’’ said Peter D. Zimmerman, a nuclear physicist who served as chief scientific adviser for the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency at the time. He added, ‘‘I would have seen it, at that point in history.’’ Jeffrey Lewis, a nonproliferation analyst at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies in Monterey, Calif., put matters less delicately, saying Cohen followed a classic formula for conspiracy theories, mixing ‘‘nonscientific mumbo jumbo’’ with allegations that governments were withholding the truth. ‘‘I could never figure out where Sam Cohen the physicist ended and Sam Cohen the polemicist began,’’ he said.
Russian news organizations in the 1990s nevertheless relayed claims of red mercury’s destructive potential at face value, and foreign news outlets occasionally repeated them, boosting the material’s credibility and mystique. Britain’s Channel 4 elevated the material’s profile with two documentaries — ‘‘Trail of Red Mercury’’ and ‘‘Pocket Neutron’’ — that presented, according to their producers, ‘‘startling evidence that Russian scientists have designed a miniature neutron bomb using a mysterious compound called red mercury.’’ Cohen held a news conference after one broadcast to say it confirmed his fears.
Outside this circle of the faithful, red mercury faced doubters. The substance was almost everything but scientifically verifiable. It was not even reasonably explicable. ‘‘Over all it doesn’t make much sense,’’ an engineer at Los Alamos National Laboratory wrote to a supervisor in 1994. It was also devilishly elusive, turning up in tales of smuggling mafias but never quite finding its way to a law-enforcement body or nuclear agency for proper frisking. When hopeful sellers were caught, substance in hand, it reliably turned out to be something else, sometimes a placebo of chuckle-worthy simplicity: ordinary mercury mixed with dye. The shadowy weaponeer’s little helper, it was unobtainable in the post-Soviet world.
Among specialists who investigated the claims, the doubts hardened to an unequivocal verdict: Red mercury was a lure, the central prop of a confidence game designed to fleece ignorant buyers. ‘‘Take a bogus material, give it an enigmatic name, exaggerate its physical properties and intended uses, mix in some human greed and intrigue, and voilà: one half-baked scam,’’ the Department of Energy’s Critical Technologies Newsletter declared. In 1998, 15 authors from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, which helps maintain the American nuclear-weapons stockpile, published an article in The Journal of Radio Analytical and Nuclear Chemistry that called red mercury ‘‘a relatively notorious nuclear hoax.’’ In 1999, Jane’s Intelligence Review suggested that the scam’s victims may have included Osama bin Laden, whose Qaeda purchasing agents were ‘‘nuclear novices.’’ The most accommodating theory held that red mercury might have been a Soviet code name for something else — maybe lithium-6, a controlled material with an actual use in nuclear weapons — and traffickers re-purposed the label for whatever nuclear detritus they were trying to move.
A true believer of the legends might interject that official skepticism in public did not preclude another discussion playing out on classified channels. But when WikiLeaks published American diplomatic cables in 2010 and 2011, snippets of the internal red-mercury dialogue were consistent with the public statements. In 2006, according to one cable, Sri Lanka notified the American Embassy in Colombo of concerns that the Tamil Tigers, a secessionist militant group, had tried to procure the substance. ‘‘Red Mercury is a well-known scam material,’’ a State Department nonproliferation official told the embassy. ‘‘There is nothing to be concerned about.’’
Few people are more familiar with the lingering red-mercury assertions than Zimmerman, who later became director of the Center for Science and Security Studies at King’s College in London. For years, he canvassed his peers in nuclear-weapons and nonproliferation communities. He asked about the substance in conferences. He brought it up in one-on-one sessions with weaponeers from multiple countries and scientists from the former Communist bloc. He concluded that the substance was not just ‘‘hot air, myth, smoke and mirrors’’ but also ‘‘a con job.’’
Some of the stories he’d heard, he said, resembled ‘‘an old Jack Benny routine.’’ He paused to be straightforward and clear. Red mercury (or, for that matter, any mercury compound of any color), he said, had no nuclear-weapons application of any sort. The particulars of its supposed martial utility do not square with basic science. ‘‘It cannot be true,’’ he said, and spoke as if restating a longstanding challenge. ‘‘I have plenty of times staked my reputation on these statements, and no one has ever called me on it.’’
And yet a generation after the hype first burned bright, shopworn legends of red mercury’s powers, lodged in fringe provinces of the popular imagination, continue to surface, rekindled by shifting casts of jihadists, tomb looters, smugglers, journalists, YouTube salesmen and other wannabe profiteers. One thing about red mercury: If it’s not nuclear, it’s viral.
How much was the Islamic State willing to pay. The answer was vague. The Islamic State would pay, ‘‘whatever was asked.’’ Up to $4 million — and a $100,000 bonus — for each unit of red mercury matching that shown in a set of photographs sent over WhatsApp, the mobile-messaging service.
The images showed a pale, oblong object, roughly the length of a hot-dog bun, with a hole at each end. It bore no similarity to the red mercury that smugglers often described — a thick liquid with a brilliant metallic sheen. It appeared to be a dull piece of injection-molded plastic, like a swim-lane buoy or a children’s toy. But it had an intriguing resemblance that hinted at how the Islamic State’s interest might have been piqued: It was the exact likeness of an object that in 2013 the Cihan News Agency, one of Turkey’s largest news agencies, had called a red-mercury rocket warhead.
In that case, three men were said to have been arrested near Kayseri, a city in central Turkey. Cihan’s coverage followed the familiar arc of red-mercury hype. Footage shot at night showed officials in protective suits and masks approaching a van. The news presenter reported the operation in matter-of-fact tones, noting that the seized rocket component ‘‘was examined by six different institutions, including the Turkish Atomic Energy Authority, all of which found that it contained the material red mercury. The liquid can cause large explosions and is worth $1 million per liter. Red mercury is used for intercontinental rocket systems and hydrogen bombs.’’
With that validation, the photographs traveled on social media, finding their way to the Islamic State. ‘‘Red mercury has a red color, and there is mercury that has the color of dark blood,’’ the source said. ‘‘And there is green mercury, which is used for sexual enhancement, and silver mercury is used for medical purposes. The most expensive type is called Blood of the Slaves, which is the darkest type. Magicians use it to summon jinni.’’
This primer — passionate, thorough, outlandish to its core — fits a type. In meetings with smugglers in several towns along the border, red mercury inhabited the fertile mental terrain where fear and distrust of authority meet superstitious folklore. Descriptions of the material varied slightly in detail and sharply in price, and there were ample contradictions. But there was a remarkable consistency in several intricate legends and origin stories, even among people who did not know one another and who were separated by many miles.
‘‘It has two different types: hot and cold,’’. The cold form, ‘‘spiritual mercury,’’ he said, ‘‘can be found in Roman graveyards.’’ He added: ‘‘Kings and princes and sultans used to take it to the graves with them.’’
Cold red mercury, these smugglers said, could not be used for nuclear weapons; that was the role of hot red mercury, which had a more recent origin. Only sophisticated laboratories manufactured it, and the hot red mercury available in Syria had come from the Soviet Union ‘‘in a specially maintained box with equipment and a manual and special gloves.’’
Hot red mercury was sometimes offered for sale in Syria and could be useful for the Islamic State, which has a cadre of former Iraqi officials who would know how to harness its power. But buyers could easily make a grievous mistake. ‘‘It is not only about getting the red mercury. ‘‘The very small box needs special equipment to open it, and special reactors to work with it. If you open this box, a radius of eight kilometers around you will be destroyed.’’
If red mercury seemed a perfect fit for the particular nature of this brutal, shadowy war — an apocalyptic weapon for a terrorist group driven in part by the belief that we are approaching the return of the Mahdi, the final defeat of infidels and the end of the world — it was not making itself easy to get. In June, Turkish news agencies reported another red-mercury bust, this time of a pair of Georgians only to be arrested in Ankara before they could unload it. The authorities kept this red mercury.
None of this was verifiable, either. The Turkish government declined to answer questions about its red-mercury arrests over the last two years. You can’t be too careful in the red-mercury game.
(This report is heavily edited to condense facts and redact names - Ed)