Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Coming Soon to an Anti-War Protest Near You: Microwave Weapons

Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne is recommending the use of “non-lethal” weapons on U.S. citizens in “crowd control” situations before using them in foreign combat. (LINK)

One such weapon is the Active Denial System (ADS). This baby shoots a 95-gigahertz microwave beam, which heats the skin to an “intolerable” level within seconds, causing people to reflexively jump out of the beam's path. It is considered non-lethal because Air Force tests have shown that it does not cause permanent physical damage--that is, if you are not exposed to the beam for more than a few seconds. Tests have not been done to determine what might happen to persons who are, say, incapacitated and unable to escape the beam. For all anyone knows, longer exposure could cook a person to death. (LINK)

Secretary Wynne is aware of the potential harm of these non-lethal weapons--not only the harm they might pose to people, but the harm to public relations. He is concerned that, if these weapons are used on the battlefield and someone is injured “in a way that was not intended" (i.e., cooked to death), the U.S. might be “vilified in the world press.” Therefore, in his view, the U.S. should first demonstrate its willingness to cook its own citizens to death, as this would make the practice more acceptable when it is introduced elsewhere. That is why he proposes using the weapons on unruly crowds in this country--at war protests, for instance. It's a p.r. move.

Your government loves you.