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We’re ready for zombies

– The U.S. military has always been the one place in government with a plan, forever in preparation mode and ready to yank a blueprint off the shelf for almost any contingency. Incredibly, the Defense Department has a response if zombies attacked and the armed forces had to eradicate flesh-eating walkers to “preserve the sanctity of human life” among all the “non-zombie humans.”

Buried on the military’s secret computer network is an unclassified document, obtained by Foreign Policy, called “CONOP 8888.” It’s a zombie survival plan.

CONOP 8888, otherwise known as “Counter-Zombie Dominance” and dated April 30, 2011, is no laughing matter, and yet of course it is. As its authors note in the document’s “disclaimer section,” “this plan was not actually designed as a joke.”

Military planners assigned to the U.S. Strategic Command in Omaha, Nebraska, during 2009 and 2010 looked for a creative way to devise a planning document to protect citizens in the event of an attack. The officers used zombies as their muse. “Planners ... realized that training examples for plans must accommodate the political fallout that occurs if the general public mistakenly believes that a fictional training scenario is actually a real plan,” the authors wrote, adding: “Rather than risk such an outcome by teaching our augmentees using the fictional ‘Tunisia’ or ‘Nigeria’ scenarios used at (Joint Combined Warfighting School), we elected to use a completely-impossible scenario that could never be mistaken for a real plan.”

Navy Capt. Pamela Kunze, a spokeswoman for Strategic Command, acknowledged the document exists on a “secure Internet site” but took pains to explain the zombie survival guide is only a creative endeavor for training purposes.

CONOP 8888 is designed to “establish and maintain a vigilant defensive condition aimed at protecting humankind from zombies,” according to the plan’s purpose, and, “if necessary, conduct operations that will, if directed, eradicate zombie threats to human safety.” Finally, the plan provides guidance to “aid civil authorities in maintaining law and order and restoring basic services during and after a zombie attack.”

The “worst case threat scenario,” according to the plan, suggests a rather dark situation: a zombie attack in which there would be high “transmissibility,” lots of zombies eating lots of people, zombies infecting humans at a rapid rate, and little or no immunity and few effective countermeasures.

Under “Zombie Threat Summary,” the plan highlights the different kinds of zombie adversaries one might find in such an attack. They include not only vegetarian zombies (“zombie life forms originating from any cause but pose no direct threat to humans because they only eat plant life”); evil magic zombies (“EMZs are zombie life forms created via some form of occult experimentation in what might otherwise be referred to as ‘evil magic’ ”); and also chicken zombies.

“Although it sounds ridiculous, this is actually the only proven class of zombie that actually exists,” the plan states.

So-called “CZs” occur when old hens that can no longer lay eggs are euthanized with carbon monoxide, buried and then claw their way back to the surface.

The catalog of the walking dead also includes zombies that come from outer space; those deliberately created by bio-engineers; and humans who have been invaded by a pathogen that turns them into zombies.

The plan reviews, extensively, the various phases of saving the world from zombie rule and reads not unlike the phases of a counterinsurgency campaign.

If the military’s mantra is to “be prepared,” then writing a zombie survival guide – even if it is just for an imaginative exercise – makes sense. “I hope we’ve invested a similar level of intellectual rigor against dragon egg hatching contingencies,” one defense official quipped.

Gordon Lubold is a national security reporter for Foreign Policy.

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