“Violence is the first refuge of the incompetent.”
— Isaac Asimov
The Army Times reported on September 30 that a combat brigade, about 4,000 troops, which could be called on for “civil unrest and crowd control,” had been assigned inside the United States for the first time since Reconstruction.
Civil libertarians reacted immediately, noting the Posse Comitatus Act prohibits federal military personnel from acting in a law enforcement capacity within the United States. Peace activists condemned the decision as well. “It is a sad day for America when our government is preparing to protect itself by using the military on its own citizens,” Michael McPhearson, Director of Veterans For Peace, said in response to the news.
Now, in a December 1 story, the Washington Post reports that the Pentagon plans to have not just that 4,000, but 20,000 uniformed troops inside the U. S. by 2011. Dedicating 20,000 troops to domestic response “would have been extraordinary to the point of unbelievable,” Paul McHale, assistant defense secretary for homeland defense, said, but the realization that civilian authorities may be overwhelmed in a catastrophe prompted “a fundamental change in military culture.”
The report in the Post made no mention of “civil unrest and crowd control,” focusing instead on the troops’ ability to help state and local officials respond to a nuclear terrorist attack or other domestic catastrophe.
However, the Army Times report of September notes that the First Brigade Combat Team’s commander, Col. Roger Cloutier, said his soldiers will learn how to use the first ever package of so-called “nonlethal” weapons the Army has fielded, referring to crowd and traffic control equipment and weapons designed to subdue individuals without killing them.
“It’s a new modular package of nonlethal capabilities…they’ve been using pieces of it in Iraq, but this is the first time that these modules were consolidated and this package fielded, and because of this mission we’re undertaking we were the first to get it,” Cloutier added.”
Where are these unruly American crowds and who are the dangerous individuals these “nonlethal” weapons will be used on? Exactly what is in the Pentagon and local police department arsenals?
The answers are hidden in plain sight on the internet. Go on down the rabbit hole and find out. Here is a small sampling of what the Mad Hatter has in mind.
Raytheon Corp.’s Active Denial System, designed for crowd control in combat zones, uses an energy beam to induce an intolerable heating sensation, like a hot iron placed on the skin. It is effective beyond the range of small arms, in excess of 400 meters. Company officials have been advised they could expand the market by selling a smaller, tripod-mounted version for police forces.
The FN 303, from FN Herstal Corp., fires a .68 caliber, plastic shell loaded with optional orange dye and Oleoresin Capsicum (red pepper) that has “inflammatory properties that force the eyes to shut, while causing an intense stinging sensation to the skin, throat, and nose. The result is total incapacitance (sic) lasting for up to 45 minutes.” Range 50 meters.
M5 Modular Crowd Control Munition, with a range of 30 meters “is similar in operation to a claymore mine, but it delivers…a strong, nonpenetrating blow to the body with multiple sub-munitions (600 rubber balls).”
Long Range Acoustic Device or “The Scream,” is a powerful megaphone the size of a satellite dish that can emit sound “50 times greater than the human threshold for pain” at close range, causing permanent hearing damage. The L.A. Times wrote U.S. Marines in Iraq used it in 2004. It can deliver recorded warnings in Arabic and, on command, emit a piercing tone…“[For] most people, even if they plug their ears, [the device] will produce the equivalent of an instant migraine,” says Woody Norris, chairman of American Technology Corp., the San Diego firm that produces the weapon. “It will knock [some people] on their knees.” CBS News reported in 2005 that the Israeli Army first used the device in the field to break up a protest against Israel’s separation wall. “Protesters covered their ears and grabbed their heads, overcome by dizziness and nausea, after the vehicle-mounted device began sending out bursts of audible, but not loud, sound at intervals of about 10 seconds…A military official said the device emits a special frequency that targets the inner ear.”
In “Non-lethal Technologies: An Overview,” Lewer and Davison describe a lengthy catalog of new weaponry including the “Directed Stick Radiator,” a hand-held system based on the same technology as The Scream. “It fires high intensity ‘sonic bullets’ or pulses of sound between 125–150db for a second or two. Such a weapon could, when fully developed, have the capacity to knock people off their feet.”
The Institute for Non-Lethal Defense Technologies at Penn State University is testing a “Distributed Sound and Light Array Debilitator” a.k.a. the “puke ray.” The colors and rhythm of light are absorbed by the retina and disorient the brain, blinding the victim for several seconds. In conjunction with disturbing sounds it can make the person stumble or feel nauseated. Foreign Policy in Focus reports that the Department of Homeland Security, with $1 million invested for testing the device, hopes to see it “in the hands of thousands of policemen, border agents and National Guardsmen” by 2010.
New Scientist reports that the (I’m not making this up) Inertial Capacitive Incapacitator (ICI), developed by the Physical Optics Corporation of Torrance, California, uses a thin-film storage device charged during manufacture that only discharges when it strikes the target. It can be incorporated into a ring-shaped aerofoil and fired from a standard grenade launcher at low velocity, while still maintaining a flat trajectory for maximum accuracy.
Aiming beyond Tasers, the Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects Agency, (FY 2009 budget: $1B) the domestic equivalent of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), plans to develop wireless weapons effective over greater distances, such as in an auditorium or sports stadium, or on a city street. One such device, the Piezer, uses piezoelectric crystals that produce voltage when they are compressed. A 12-gauge shotgun fires the crystals, stunning the target with an electric shock on impact. Lynntech of College Station, Texas, is developing a projectile Taser that can be fired from a shotgun or 40-mm grenade launcher to increase greatly the weapon’s current range of seven meters.
“Off the Rocker and On the Floor: Continued Development of Biochemical Incapacitating Weapons,” a report by the Bradford Disarmament Research Centre revealed that in 1992, the National Institute of Justice contracted with Lawrence Livermore National Lab to review clinical anaesthetics for use by special ops military forces and police. LLNL concluded the best option was an opioid, like fentanyl, effective at very low doses compared to morphine. Combined with a patch soaked in DMSO (dimethylsufoxide, a solvent) and fired from an air rifle, fentanyl could be delivered to the skin even through light clothing. Another recommended application for the drug was mixed with fine powder and dispersed as smoke.
After upgrades, the infamous “Puff the Magic Dragon” gunship from the Vietnam War is now the AC-130. “Non-Lethal Weaponry: Applications to AC-130 Gunships,” observes that “With the increasing involvement of US military in operations other than war…” the AC-130 “would provide commanders a full range of non-lethal weaponry from an airborne platform which was not previously available to them.” The paper concludes in part that “As the use of non-lethal weapons increases and it becomes valid and acceptable, more options will become available.”
Prozac and Zoloft are two of over 100 pharmaceuticals identified by the Penn State College of Medicine and the university’s Applied Research Lab for further study as “non-lethal calmatives.” These Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), noted the Penn State study, “…are found to be highly effective for numerous behavioral disturbances encountered in situations where a deployment of a non-lethal technique must be considered. This class of pharmaceutical agents also continues to be under intense development by the pharmaceutical industry…New compounds under development (WO 09500194) are being designed with a faster onset of action. Drug development is continuing at a rapid rate in this area due to the large market for the treatment of depression (15 million individuals in North America)…It is likely that an SSRI agent can be identified in the near future that will feature a rapid rate of onset.”
Not surprisingly, the Air University, Maxwell AFB publishes an extensive bibliography on these weapons, but since 2001 it’s been civilian academia’s turn to belly up to Uncle Sam’s rapidly growing trough. In addition to Penn State’s Applied Research Lab, run as part of its Homeland Security Initiative, the University of New Hampshire established the so-called Non-lethal Technology Innovation Center with a grant from the so-called Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directory, and John Hopkins University and MIT are just two of many other colleges chasing federal grants for this work.
All of which seems to prove the old saw that, even if you’ve got 120 kinds of hammers, “When all you’ve got is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.” With shot and shell or “The Scream” and “Puke Ray,” we must bend to Empire’s will or suffer the consequences.
MIKE FERNER is author of “Inside the Red Zone: A Veteran For Peace Reports from Iraq.”