Heat Ray Too Scary for Iraq

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Many a DT reader will remember the so-called Active Denial System a giant millimeter-wave electromagnetic antenna mounted on a Humvee that could be directed at large, unruly crowds to disperse them without firing a shot in anger.

The ray heats the human skin to such an uncomfortable level that he has to retreat. It is the hallmark of the Pentagons non-lethal weapons development plan...and the most controversial.

Well, it looks like commanders in Iraq have been pleading for the device, which is pretty far along in its development. But fearing the post-Taser backlash from some groups, the Pentagon denied the technology in favor of more lethal methods.

It would be a familiar scene in Iraq's next few years: Crowds gather, insurgents mingle with civilians. Troops open fire, and innocents die.

All the while, according to internal military correspondence obtained by The Associated Press, U.S. commanders were telling Washington that many civilian casualties could be avoided by using a new non-lethal weapon developed over the past decade.

Military leaders repeatedly and urgently requested - and were denied - the device, which uses energy beams instead of bullets and lets soldiers break up unruly crowds without firing a shot.

It's a ray gun that neither kills nor maims, but the Pentagon has refused to deploy it out of concern that the weapon itself might be seen as a torture device.

Perched on a Humvee or a flatbed truck, the Active Denial System gives people hit by the invisible beam the sense that their skin is on fire. They move out of the way quickly and without injury.

On April 30, 2003, two days after the first Fallujah incident, Gene McCall, then the top scientist at Air Force Space Command in Colorado, typed out a two-sentence e-mail to Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

"I am convinced that the tragedy at Fallujah would not have occurred if an Active Denial System had been there," McCall told Myers, according to the e-mail obtained by AP. The system should become "an immediate priority," McCall said.

Myers referred McCall's message to his staff, according to the e-mail chain.

It seems this is the sort of catch-22 the military is in when it comes to non-lethals. The devices conjure up grim images of pain and discomfort when you look at what they do, so groups object to them often on human rights grounds and ethics.

But whats the alternative? Getting U.S. troops and other personnel killed, or using deadly force. So it looks like weve got a little ways to go before we can collectively wrap our minds around the issue and get these tools out to where theyre needed.

Watch a video of the ADS at work HERE. (Best line: "I think we had a crowd of two for about two seconds...")

And check out the entire story posted HERE on Military.com.

-- Christian

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