CNN Claims AF Secretary Wants to Test Weapons on Protestors
CNN puts a curious headline on a seemingly innocuous AP story: “Air Force chief: Test weapons on testy U.S. mobs.”
Wow. That right-wing SOB has some nerve!
Scroll to story:
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. “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,” said Wynne. “(Because) if I hit somebody with a nonlethal weapon and they claim that it injured them in a way that was not intended, I think that I would be vilified in the world press.”
So, he’s saying that 1) “weapons” designed for crowd control situations should be used in crowd control situations; 2) that we shouldn’t use said weapons overseas if we wouldn’t use them for similar purposes at home; and 3) that doing otherwise would send a bad signal. Those statements are not only non-controversial, they’re obvious.
Further, he’s not advocating testing said “weapons” on American crowds, he’s advocating the deployment of state-of-the-art systems that have been previously tested as safe but effective in the type of situations for which they are designed.
Since at least the early 1990s, when it became clear the U.S. military would be engaging in peacekeeping missions on a regular basis, there has been R&D on systems that would minimize civilian injuries while simultaneously accomplishing the mission and protecting our forces. Global Security has an excellent summary page. Some highlights:
Non-lethal capabilities expand the number of options available to commanders confronting situations in which the use of deadly force is not the preferred response. Non-lethal capabilities provide flexibility by allowing forces to apply measured force with reduced risk of serious non-combatant casualties, but in a manner that provides force protection and effects compliance – ensuring the success of the military mission.
Political, diplomatic and economic demands dictate that future operations, where possible, minimize U.S. casualties while limiting collateral civilian casualties and collateral damage to civilian objects. Crowd control in conducting peacekeeping and humanitarian assistance missions is as likely a task for the Army as is destroying enemy armor and infantry forces in war.
This function is analogous to civilian riot/crowd control operations. Indeed, police forces use non-lethal “weapons” like tear gas, rubber bullets, and water hoses on a regular basis. If R&D for the military produces systems that can do the job better, if would be silly not to take advantage of them.
UPDATE: CNN’s headline did its trick, judging by these reactions from around the blogosphere.
Steve Soto thinks this could be a key Democratic talking point: “Cast the GOP and the White House as nutcases who openly talk about using American citizens as guinea pigs for weapons tests.”
Holden: “What a frightening, fascist moron Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne is. . . . I don’t recall Wynne protesting the US military’s use of napalm, white phosphorus, and cluster bombs in Iraq but now he’s worried about injuring enemy soldiers on the battlefield.” Uh, we don’t use non-lethal weapons on enemy soldiers on the battlefield. We use the oui-lethal ones for that.
Cernig: “Because, you know, the Bush/Cheney administration is all about inflicting excrutiating pain on Americans…and inflicting excrutiating pain is exactly what this weapon is designed to do. In testing, they wouldn’t let subjects wear contact lenses in case it fried their eyeballs!” Right. Because they were, um, testing it. Regardless, Wynne’s point is that, if we’re not willing to use it in domestic situations, we shouldn’t use it overseas, either, for crowd control purposes.
I should note too that the alternative to non-lethal weapons has traditionally been lethal ones. There is a mob psychology that sometimes infects otherwise peaceful crowds, especially if a couple of agitators/thugs/drunks get the violence started. Absent non-lethal means of dealing with a riot (or, as the legend has it, a single Texas Ranger) police have the alternatives of letting the riot get out of hand, risking innocent life and property, or resorting to lethal force. A microwave device would be much preferable to either of those alternatives, no?