Increasing numbers of Chileans are starting to wonder if the deadly earthquake that struck a month ago was not natural but man-made.
A rumour started on the internet claims that the US military provoked the 8.8 quake on 27 February using an “earthquake machine” it has developed as part of a larger plan to use natural hazards as a weapon.
The conspiracy theory is based on the idea that suspicious things are going on at the HAARP (High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program), a mysterious weather and radar experiment centre based in rural Alaska, which routinely swallows billions of dollars in US government funding. The centre emits high-frequency radio waves that are beamed up to the ionosphere (the uppermost part of the atmosphere) where they are naturally converted to extremely low frequency waves, useful in military applications like communication with submarines deep in the ocean. Tapping into the massive energy of the ionosphere also opens up a host of science fiction scenarios where the atmosphere’s energy is channeled and manipulated by evil American forces bent on provoking “natural” disasters.
Like the mysterious Area 51 in Nevada where the US Air Force has long been accused of hiding captured aliens, the HAARP conspiracy taps into the seemingly endless power of the US government to control everything (the weather in this case). It also plays on deep-rooted sensitivities over Washington’s history foul play in the region (in Chile’s case, the often clandestine support of dictator Augusto Pinochet who was backed by the Nixon administration.)
The internet-based conspiracy theory blames HAARP for the quake and describes the distant Alaskan military operation as a machine designed to zap apart tectonic plates to induce an earthquake. How the HAARP radio waves cause earthquakes is top secret (of course) but Chilean newspaper La Nacion, funded by the government, pushed the conspiracy with a headline “HAARP: Science or earthquake machine?”
The article in La Nacion grimly concludes, “The HAARP [conspiracy] appears to be more serious” and cites no less a scientific authority than Jesse “The Body” Ventura, the former pro-wrestler and ex governor of Minnesota who claims that HAARP is a weather weapon.
Hugo Chavez has pushed the HAARP allegations with gusto. Beginning with the Haiti quake in January, Chavez used Vive, a state-run Venezuelan TV station, to suggest that the US caused the devastating Caribbean tremor as a test run for a planned tectonic attack on Iran. But even if the US could provoke earthquakes, I have to ask, why would they target Haiti [little strategic value, perpetually underdeveloped] or Chile [one of their few allies in the region]? An earthquake devastating Venezuela? That follows a kind of perverted Cold War logic, but Chile?
Chavez more than most politicians understands the political value in stirring up that cloud of deceit and deception, which is the legacy of President George Bush’s administration. In this case the dusty memories of the Bush years are an effective smokescreen for those who wish to build on public fear and paranoia about US foreign policy. But with enough real crises in the world, do we really need to invent any more?