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Cheney's fat finger is poised over a new button

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Bob Woodward, the famous investigative journalist who broke the Watergate story, is flogging another book. It's all about The Divided White House, etc., etc. Ho hum. But then ol' Bob let slip in a Terry Gross interview the other day that he can't talk about it ("...they asked me not to..."), but "new techniques and operations" are "killing hundreds of key people" in Iraq. In a war, he said, there are sometimes innovations like the airplane and the atomic bomb.

This got my attention. Might it be those un-manned missile carrying drones? They are certainly terrible enough weapons. But what else has been in the pipeline? Oh, yes.

Microwaves.

I looked up "microwave weapon." And there it was, videos and all. "The Active Denial System (ADS) weapon."

"The ADS fires a 95-gigahertz microwave beam, which is supposed to heat skin and to cause pain but no physical damage (New Scientist, 27 October 2001, p 26)

You can watch the DOD demo at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZCfTRECeIjgbr


Or the 60 minutes story: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T6bLmNqj4xA&feature=relatedbr

-among many, many others.

There's even a Fox News piece. They take turns burning their fingers on a miniature version of the thing. Ouch, ha ha, ok, your  turn. See? Non-lethal. That's Fox for you: comfort the comfortable, and afflict the afflicted. If this had been a time machine the Fox talking heads would have been sending their fingers five seconds into the future, and then shoving each other into the space the finger would arrive at seconds later to be poked. Oop! Live mike! Uh, and now folks, for something completely different... Where did they find eight-year-olds that tall?

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The Fox News and 60 minutes versions are puff-pieces that tout the system as "non-lethal," and nobody says "microwaves." They say things like "high fequency energy". There are lots of high-level woman experts who are even more reluctant to pronounce the word "microwaves". "...it's more powerful than...uh...other things you might think of..." said one. It is supposed to be a humane, harmless, but irresistable deterrent that "...drives them away with no harm done." The DOD version is simply bizarre, since they are obviously thinking in terms of silent, invisible death from the skies on command, but again, they extol the harmlessness of the thing. "It can pick the troublemakers out of a crowd." At last! A weapon that doesn't hurt anybody!

"Active Denial." Who thought up that name?

From issue 2509 of New Scientist magazine, 22 July 2005, page 26: "One person suffered a burn in a previous test when the beam was accidentally used on the wrong power setting."

"Wrong setting?" Like, "vaporize?"

Leaving aside that a button causing the sensation of being set on fire is a torturer's dream come true, of course a microwave transmitter is all too easily cranked up to lethal levels. All the other problems with weaponizing your basic kitchen appliance - such as warming up just your macaroni & cheese and not crisping the entire town - appear to have been solved in the ADS version.
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The truth is that it has never been a problem to make microwaves deadly. They come that way out of the box. The tricky part was to tame them sufficiently to cook your cup-o-noodles. Microwaves, which are radio waves, are famously lethal. My father learned this in WWII as a battleship's officer in charge of the new RADAR system. A man trying to paint the RADAR mast when that particular innovation was turned on fell to the deck, cooked from the inside. Well done. Dad didn't order the man up there. And we didn't get a microwave oven until they were in common use for about ten years. But perhaps I digress.

I can't come to terms with this. I can't even get my head around it: a focused beam, the same kind that cooks your lunch, aimed from an airplane miles away, can fry a person in his shoes before he knows he is dead. There have already been reports of "strangely burned" children. Could I be going nuts? By all that's holy, I sincerely hope so.

Has the Pentagon perfected Death Ray 1.0? Is that what Woodward isn't saying? He certainly has a reputation for sitting on revelations until he can sell them in book form. If it is true, and human beings are being summarily roasted to death in this excruciating manner, doesn't this change the world rather considerably? We need to think this through. For one thing it means any person on earth can be made to drop dead at the whim of that Dick Cheney.

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I'm an old Pogo fan. For some unknown reason I persist in outrage at Feudalism, as if human beings can do much better than this. Our old ways of life are obsolete and are killing us. Will the human race wake up in time? Stay tuned...

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