May I let my voice be a clarion call. I will use these words for justice. I will use these words for truth. And humour.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008


Officially called the "Active Denial System"

Here's some weird propaganda on 60 minutes about a non-lethal raygun called the Active Denial System by those who want to use i. The decisions regarding its use, and the settings in which it is shown and suggested for use shows how messed up the war machine really is. In the video, there are a couple things that are preposterous and stinky at the same time.

1. They present what they call a "realistic" scenario, in which marines dressed up as anti-war protesters, are attacking American soldiers by shouting at them and throwing rocks. From the video:

"The targets here are people. Military volunteers creating a scenario soldiers might encounter in Iraq. [Shouts from military actors of 'go home!' and 'no more war' and 'get out of my country' along with throwing rocks.] Angry protesters advancing on American troops, who have to choose between backing down and opening fire. Off in the distance, a half a mile away, the operator of the raygun has the crowd in his sights. [He says over the bullhorn, 'Individuals, this is your final warning -- leave this area now.' To which the protester actor military volunteers reply, 'We will not leave! You leave!]'

Its interesting that the raygun operator refers to the group as "individuals." I wonder how well that psychology actually works in the field. Its highly interesting that in this example, they are using it on war protesters, albeit those of the supposedly Iraqi variety. The danger is that there are people who would use it for domestic control. This device is only a tool. It could be used for awesome purposes. Imagine if the U.S. military (or better yet, the U.N.) marched into Myanmar (or Somalia in 1995, or other places where its difficult to supply humanitarian aid) with 20 of these, and telling the dictatorial warlords, "We ARE bringing food, shelter, and clothing to these disaster victims, we will not be killing anybody to do it, and you will be unable to stop us." That would be a potential Good use of this technology. But if its used to suppress freedom of speech or the freedom to peaceably congregate, or the freedom of protest, or to disperse protesters and quiet their voices, that's a Bad Thing.

2. Sue Payton, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force, uses the statement, "We have war-fighters that are in harm's way..." War-fighters? Does she mean soldiers? Or does she mean people who fight against war, a.k.a. "peace protesters."

And here's the scary part that keeps my worries well-founded: In 2006, Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne was quoted as saying that the device should be used first on Americans, because "if we're not willing to use it here against our fellow citizens, then we should not be willing to use it in a wartime situation.

WHAT???? Our military uses giant bombs and guns in wartime situations, and while I'd prefer they didn't, I'd like to further think that they would not be willing to use those first against our fellow citizens. AND using a non-lethal weapon like this in a combat zone could be a first step in drawing down the violence, instead of having to use live munitions.

At another point, as a reason for using it as a crowd-control device, the statement gets made "You never ever want something like this to be thought of as a torture weapon." A conspiracy-oriented person might think that the military/government would want to set a context up using certain frames and words that make it seem good, and then get (or give themselves) a bit more free license to do something less just with it.

Note here that the Air Force representative said "You can be sure that if they continue to come at you, they're not a tourist. They're probably a terrorist or an adversary who wants to do you harm." In this, she tacitly implies the right of the military to be chasing people off and scattering them from whatever it is they're doing that is dangerous, or deemed unlawful, inappropriate, unnecessary, or dissent-oriented.

This is really a freedom versus freedom issue, and is what the creation of the U.S. constitution and the bill of rights were designed to clarify. It really does go all the way back to the founding of our country. I believe it was Foucault who said the state is the one who has the authorized use of violence. But that authority wears pretty thin in some places, especially when its impinging on the freedoms of its own citizens. The bill of rights is designed to protect freedom of speech.

So what happens when the government declares certain areas off-limits to free speech, or designates certain areas as "free-speech zones" implying that other areas are not, at least temporarily? And more importantly, if a device like this is used as a weapon to control people (which it likely would be), who are its users going to be controlling, and in what ways? Will they be suppressing free speech? Or will they be clearing away truly dangerous people who would endanger a merit-worthy mission? That's a big difference. In either case, it's potentially better not to have to use lethal power against people, but again, using lethal or non-lethal power to coerce people's actions is a serious infringement on their freedom, so the reasons need to be clear and up-front.

Overall, this device may have some good uses, but its definitely got some bad uses as well.

OK time for bed, and sweet dreams, hopefully not about the A.D.S., or any of those scary "waiting tables all night long and not getting paid" dreams. Yeech.

pax hominibus,
agape to all,

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