Nonlethal weapons such as high-power microwave devices should be used on American citizens in crowd-control situations before being used on the battlefield, the Air Force secretary said Tuesday.
The object is basically public relations. Domestic use would make it easier to avoid questions from others about possible safety considerations, said Secretary Michael Wynne.
Lauren Weinstein posted his reaction to Dave Farber’s Interesting People mailing list,
I kept hoping that I was getting it wrong.
But no, it means what it says. Our own Secretary of the Air Force is concerned that new “non-lethal” weapons systems might injure foreigners on the battlefield, with devastating negative PR as a result. His suggested solution? Test the stuff on U.S. citizens first! You know the type — unruly crowds, protesters, perhaps folks trying to crash large Bush rallies (are there still large Bush rallies?)
In any case, I suppose that the Air Force chief’s theory is that it would be so difficult for U.S. citizens to successfully sue the government if their brains, eyes, or gonads are fried by the latest microwave weapon, that our own populations are a less risky target — rather than tempting global condemnation if something goes wrong outside the country. You know how distracting global condemnation can be.
I’m all for appropriate and complete empirical testing of novel systems that are being pushed into deployment — be they computers, non-lethal weapons, or the “alternative” interrogation techniques that we’re told render the Geneva Conventions obsolete. But perhaps a rule when it comes to the latter two categories should be that those persons who propose these so-called “safe” technologies and techniques should be willing to test them on themselves first, before placing other citizens into the crosshairs.
As for the Secretary of the Air Force — Rumsfeld must love this guy.
I suspect that what the Secretary really meant was that by using the weapons here, we could demonstrate how fundamentally harmless they really were.
At least, I hope that’s what he meant. Of course, the trouble is that “high-power microwave devices” and other Active Denial Systems have not been demonstrated to be all that harmless, especially if used outside laboratory conditions.
He did mean that, didn’t he?