AVOIDING ARMAGEDDON: Our Future. Our Choice

Martin Schram, Author
Martin Schram, Author . Basic $26 (356p) ISBN 978-0-465-07255-2
Hardcover - 300 pages - 978-1-904132-36-3
Paperback - 256 pages - 978-0-465-07256-9
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This companion book to a PBS series (airing April 14–17) details the threats facing the U.S. today—from nuclear, chemical and biological attack and from terrorism—and outlines possible solutions. Schram, a syndicated columnist for Scripps-Howard, succeeds admirably in translating eight hours of documentary footage into anecdotal prose. There is a wealth of historical and statistical detail here (for example, that there are 32,000 nuclear bombs and warheads on the planet, all but 2,000 belonging to the U.S. and Russia), but Schram lets the interviews carry the book. Thus Leonid Smirnoff, a former foreman at a Russian chemical-research site, tells how he easily siphoned off enriched uranium to sell on the black market, enough for a terrorist to build a nuclear bomb. An Iraqi defector who worked on Saddam Hussein's nuclear program details how, in 1956, the U.S. gave Iraq the Manhattan Project reports through its ill-advised Atoms for Peace program. In discussing chemical threats, Schram details efforts by companies like DuPont and Dow after WWI to sell legislators on the idea of "humane" chemical warfare. Also alarming is the section on Project 112, in which the U.S. Army and Navy targeted populations in American cities in secret open-air biological tests. The centerpiece of the section on terrorism is an informative series of interviews with Rohan Gunaratna, an expert on al-Qaeda. Gunaratna notably singles out terrorist propaganda as a powerful fund-raising and recruitment tool that must be dismantled if the war on terror is to succeed. The final section of the book outlines solutions aimed at addressing the poverty and political unrest around the world that he says foster terrorism and other potential threats. (Apr. 1)

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