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Tasers and Ray Guns – The “Soft-Kill” Option

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Harper’s has a sublime report on the Army’s latest weaponry, unfortunately accessible only to subscribers. Over the past decade and more, weapons manufacturers have been pushing the Pentagon on what they call “soft-kill”, non-lethal “crowd dispersal” machines. They can utilize sound (via ear-drum shattering frequencies), or, as Ando Arike describes in his report, intense microwave beams that heat one’s skin to 130 degrees, causing mortal pain – but, as the Pentagon hastens to point out, “non-lethal” pain.

The implications of a device of this nature are enormous. Ando cites a 60 Minutes piece, what he rightly calls “essentially a twelve-minute Pentagon infomercial” emphasizing the “huge numbers of  lives that could be saved” via this technology – the riots in Iraq we could quell peacefully, the protests we could “disperse” without firing a shot, etc. You know those darn Iraqis are always rioting over some fool thing or another.

More troubling is the recent deployment of the 3rd Infantry Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team from Iraq to various American cities to help with “crowd control” in the coming social unrest as oil and other resources become scarce.

The obvious danger of these weapons, and what almost no mainstream outlet has bothered to mention, is that they will eventually be used against the American populace. The First Amendment rather explicitly states our right to assemble, but these weapons render that right obsolete. Who decides which gatherings have become “unruly”, for which “limited force is necessary”?

Unless the nature of their “movement” changes radically, I have little doubt the “Tea Party” protesters will have very much to worry about, but what of the anti-war protesters? One needs only to recall the various “anti-globalization” protests on which the US government employed tear gas, rubber bullets, and sound guns to see how far the government is willing to go.

In earlier days, governments often had no choice to break up a gathering except by lethal violence, and an arms race has developed for the most effective method to disperse crowds without killing them. As Ando remarks, the proliferation of digital media has given truth to the phrase “the world is watching.” – and no one likes a massacre.

Enter the “Ray Gun”. That rather slavish MSNBC article presents it in the brightest possible light, but the result still looks pretty grim. The thing makes you feel like you’re on fire, as Fox News enthusiastically reports. You have no time to think or decide what to do. Your only instinct is “Run.”

The practical value of this for totalitarianism must be enormous, but our press has shown it nothing but enthusiasm. This article from Gizmodo must be read to be believed (emphasis mine):

The U.S. military has developed a non-lethal ray gun that makes people feel like they’re on fire. Yes! It’s supposed to be used in places like Iraq and Afghanistan (where else?) in order to disperse crowds and get people to cooperate. It uses millimeter electromagnetic waves to penetrate the skin and raises body temperature to 130 degrees Fahrenheit near instantly. Combine this with other top notch U.S. military technology and it’s pretty easy to see why we’re number one, now and forever.

“Where else” indeed. I can just imagine some Pentagon hack writing with special care to inject some colloquialisms – to appeal to the kids, of course.

But even our hallowed institutions have succumbed to the Ray Gun’s unnatural charms, like the BBC, whose only quote is of a military flunky describing the device by saying:

“This is a breakthrough technology that’s going to give our forces a capability they don’t now have,” defence official Theodore Barna told Reuters news agency.

“We expect the services to add it to their tool kit. And that could happen as early as 2010.”

Anyone who thinks these devices will only be used in Iraq or Afghanistan has some serious optimism. If the Army has already deployed several contingents to the US, and they have added this device to their repertoire, then I think it’s only reasonable to assume they will use it.

I’m not sure Ando mentions this in his article, but we can also drop this whole bit about the weapon being “non-lethal” and “harmless”. Anyone with a high-school knowledge of chemistry or physics knows that microwave frequencies are carcinogenic.

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Written by pavanvan

March 6, 2010 at 10:14 pm

Posted in War

Tagged with , , , , , ,

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