9/11 gave the U.S. military industrial complex the excuse to kill besieged people in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and penned in Gazans (via Israel) without getting their hands dirty or even leaving the comforts of home or the security of a military base.
But Americans should be very wary of the high tech weapons being tested on unsuspecting “insurgents.” If military developments follow their historical path, these weapons will be made available for domestic law enforcement in the very near future.
Today, under the Obama “era of change,” barely a week goes by where we don’t see a mention of small groups of Pakistanis killed in the night by unmanned U.S. military drones.
More often than not, the initial reports of bombed terrorist targets turn out to be fabrications, or to be more charitable, “miscalculations” that resulted in the deaths of innocent children and villagers. But when we learn of these accidental killings of nameless, faceless “insurgents” by our drones, robots, and ever more wicked cluster bombs it doesn’t even warrant an apology from our government. To apologize implies the act will not be repeated.
Like gamblers watching their families and jobs disintegrate, weapons manufacturers and politicians just can’t stop playing an expensive deadly game.
The use of robots and unmanned drones has exploded since 2001 with Congress funding hundreds of billions of dollars for development of advanced high tech weaponry. Over 12,000 robots are currently in the front lines in Iraq and Afghanistan, a feat lauded by leaders eager to please military contractors and their lobbyists.
“Basically, the robot is our answer to the suicide bomber,” H.R. “Bart” Everett, technical director for robotics at the Navy’s robotics lab in San Diego told the San Diego Union-Tribune.
This savage hypocrisy of “hands-off” killing apparently escapes the notice of Congress and military leaders.
One of the most clever pieces to win the support of government check-writers is the remote-controlled Predator, a flying robot that provides real-time data on troop movements, enemy locations and weather. Fitted with two Hellfire missiles, the MQ-1 Predator Hunter/Killer has been used in Iraq as early as 2003 and more frequently in Pakistan to “take out” suspected enemies.
In January, Bill Moyer’s Journal on PBS reported that 38 suspected U.S. missile strikes have killed at least 132 people in Pakistan villages since last August. The kills included “suspected” insurgents and children.
Wars are increasingly run like a video game. In fact, weapons companies use game controllers modeled after Playstations and Xboxes. Sitting on a base or a home office here in the U.S. you can kill with a click of a mouse or a push of a button on a joystick.
How many points do you get for a child under 10, a woman over 80?
P.W. Singer, a senior fellow at The Brookings Institution, has published a popular book about robotics and the military called, “Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century.”
In an interview Feb. 4 on American Public Media’s “Marketplace” program Singer called the focus on high tech weaponry a “historic revolution” on par with the atomic bomb.
“It’s not just changing how we fight, but who fights at the most fundamental level where we have people that are at war, but they’re not physically at war,” Singer said.
“They’re really sitting at home. It’s creating all sorts of psychological disconnects, challenges, you know. . . . There’s a Predator drone pilot who put it this way to me: “You’re going to war for 12 hours, shooting weapons at targets, directing kills on enemy combatants. And then you get in the car and you drive home. And within 20 minutes you’re sitting at the dinner table talking to your kids about their homework.”
The stress of that poor virtual fighter! One wonders: Did he consider that his video game may have caused a real child like his own beautiful child to be blown to bloody bits just before he sat for dinner?
Rather than condemning the Playstation war in the interview, Singer emitted a boyish awe of the technology. However, he did raise some ethical concerns that our immoral politicians refuse to acknowledge.
“There are hundreds of Americans, if not thousands of Americans that are alive right now because of robots taking over their roles in things like defusing IEDs in Iraq. But there’s the flipside to that equation, which is, does it make you cavalier about the use of force? In a democracy, you know, the concern is to keep your public linked with your military in our defense policy. What happens as you move more and more people out of harm’s way? You know, we already don’t have a draft. We don’t buy war bonds. So you may have these already lowering bars to war hit the ground.”
What’s on the drawing board?
Our national debt notwithstanding, the U.S. government remains committed to funding more technological weaponry. The Air Force has developed an aircraft equipped with a chemical laser to shoot down missiles in early flight. Boeing, Northrup Grumman and Lockheed Martin are under contract to produce the weapons.
Other military lasers in development employ solid state crystals, helium and neon gasses, fluorescent dyes, and carbon dioxide. The military has also announced that it’s developing a new non-lethal directed-energy beam weapon called the “pain beam” because it burns the surface of the skin.
Perhaps the pain beam weapon will be available to law enforcement by the time the next Democratic and Republican National Conventions roll around.
But there’s no reason to wait for advanced crowd control weapons. New Scientist magazine recently reported that taser stun guns are now wireless, and with double the range. Commercial production of the XREP stun gun is underway and the military – as well as U.S. police departments — are expected to be using the weapons by the end of this year, according to the magazine.
Civilian weapon lovers shouldn’t feel left out. Personal laser weapons are available for public purchase right now.
Information Unlimited, a company based in Amherst, New Hampshire, promotes dozens of laser ray guns, stun guns, plasma thermal guns and microwave cannons and launchers (a microwave-based laser has been suspected of downing the plane of Sen. Paul Wellstone) on its web site for public purchase. All you need to do is sign a hazardous equipment affidavit.
The new age of sci-fi warfare has arrived. On your doorstep.
Kathlyn Stone is a Twin Cities, Minnesota-based independent journalist who has covered general news, and business, international trade, and health care news and policies for public and professional audiences since 1980.
Articles by Kathlyn Stone at MWC News http://mwcnews.net/KathlynStone