The great wizard, leader of the Wise, once known to all the world as a force for good, has turned bitter, fearful–and ambitious. Aping the ways of the evil he once fought–brutality, dominance, greed, terror–he descends to his secret laboratory, where, with black arts of alchemy and fiendish technology, he breeds a race of mutant warriors, “iron bodied and iron willed”: fierce fighters who can attack day and night, without rest, their combat spirit kept soaring by spikes of lightning from the wizard’s wand.
A scene from Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings, where the corrupted wizard Saruman fashions his monstrous Uruk-Hai to wage a relentless, remorseless war for dominion? No; unfortunately it’s a very real scheme now being pursued by the Pentagon, whose dope wizards and gene splicers are working on the creation of the “Extended Performance War Fighter,” the Daily Telegraph and Christian Science Monitor report.
Pentagon dark lord Donald Rumsfeld is shoveling billions of tax dollars into the research furnaces of federal laboratories and private universities across the land in the wide-ranging effort to spawn “super soldiers,” fired by drugs and electromagnetic “brain zaps” to fight without ceasing for days on end. The work is being directed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)–yes, the same outfit now laboring under convicted terrorist-conspirator John Poindexter to build the “Total Information Awareness” network that will allow the government to monitor the electronic records and communications of every citizen.
The DARPA “war fighter enhancement” programs–an acceleration of bipartisan biotinkering that’s been going on for years–will involve injecting young men and women with hormonal, neurological and genetic concoctions; implanting microchips and electrodes in their bodies to control their internal organs and brain functions; and plying them with drugs that deaden some of their normal human tendencies: the need for sleep, the fear of death, the reluctance to kill their fellow human beings.
The research is “very aggressive and wide open,” says Admiral Stephen Baker of the Center for Defense Information. Indeed, the U.S. Special Operations Command envisions the creation of “iron bodied and iron willed personnel” who can “resist the mental and physiological effects of sleep deprivation” while relying on “ergogenic substances” to “manage” the “environmental and mentally induced stress” of the battlefield. Their bodies juiced, their brains swaddled in Prozacian haze, the enhanced warfighters can churn relentlessly, remorselessly toward dominion.
And the term “creation” is not just fanciful rhetoric: some of the research now underway involves actually altering the genetic code of soldiers, modifying bits of DNA to fashion a new type of human specimen, one that functions like a machine, killing tirelessly for days and nights on end. These mutations will “revolutionize the contemporary order of battle” and guarantee “operational dominance across the whole range of potential U.S. military employments,” the DARPA wizards enthuse.
Of course, the Pentagon is not waiting on sci-fi technology to enhance the physical abilities of its warfighters; old-fashioned off-the-shelf “additives” have long been shoved down soldiers’ throats. For example, the use of amphetamines for pilots has been widespread for decades; during the first Bush-Saddam War, whole squadrons were cranked up on the stuff. Not only is the gobbling of speed officially sanctioned, it’s actively encouraged, even implicitly mandated–careers can be derailed for pilots who refuse to drug themselves.
The results of this dope-peddling were clearly seen on the new imperial frontier of Afghanistan last spring, when two U.S. pilots–hopped up on speed–killed four Canadian allies in a “friendly fire” bombing raid. The pilots, now facing legal charges, say Air Force brass pressured them into taking the mind-altering drug before the fatal flight.
But such glitches are inevitable in any grand scientific undertaking, and DARPA remains undeterred in its bold quest to “push the limits of human input/output,” advance the “symbiotic relationship between man and machine,” and customize “pharmaceutical technology” to “embolden the warfighter and his superiors,” as military scientists declared at a Pentagon-sponsored conference on “future warfare.”
What happens to the burnt-out husks of these “iron” soldiers after their minds and bodies have been eaten way by relentless modification and ceaseless toil is, of course, of no concern to the Bush Regime. Even now, the White House is cutting back on health benefits to military veterans–even going so far as to order veterans hospitals not to advertise their available services, lest broken soldiers actually seek to claim the promise of support their government once gave them. For men like Bush–protected scions of privilege who sit out wars in safety, in booze-addled luxury–such promises are just cynical sucker ploys, aimed at coaxing decent soldiers into acting as the hitmen of empire, then discarding them when they’re no longer needed.
How very strange it is: those who want to turn American soldiers into mindless, drug-addled mutants and send them off to kill and die in far-flung wars of imperial conquest are seen as patriots, noble leaders, doing the will of God; while those who would rather see these good men and women called home, treated with honor and respect–their talents and dedication applied solely to the defense of their own great country, not pressed into the service of a greedy, rapacious elite–are denounced as “traitors,” “anti-American agitators,” “allies of terrorism.”
But such is the inversion of values–the wisdom gone astray and turned to fell practice–that now rules in Bush’s Washington, and in the Pentagon’s fiery crucibles of war.
CHRIS FLOYD is a columnist for the Moscow Times and a regular contributor to CounterPunch. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org