Death Rays and the Like

The Guardian, Australia

by Rob Gowland

The scientific boys and girls who work for the US military, products of some of the best educational institutions in the USA, recently showed off their latest effort to move human civilisation forward: a “crowd control” pain ray. Rejoicing in the relatively innocuous name “Active Denial System”, the new US weapon sends out a high-frequency electromagnetic ray. In other words, it is designed to do to demonstrators what a microwave oven does to porridge.

And you don’t have to stick the demonstrator in the oven for it to be effective: the ray has a range of “seven football fields”. Whoopee!

The US military has been experimenting with death rays for decades – as well as nerve gasses, neutron weapons, space-mounted X-ray weapons, etc, anything that might kill people while leaving property untouched.

It seems this policy has finally met up with another US phenomenon: the public backlash against the increasingly obvious way US government policy is being run by and for big corporations, to the growing detriment of the working stiffs who actually create the country’s wealth.

The Pentagon is clearly looking towards the day when they will have to defend the rich and powerful from the multitude of “have-nots”, who are not going to be satisfied with promises and propaganda forever.

The US military already trains for “subduing” civil disturbances, disturbances where the enemy to be “subdued” are not wily foreigners in turbans but typical Americans carrying peace placards!

Turning a “non-lethal” heat ray on them is a not particularly big step from that point. During the “occupy Wall St” protests police in New York herded demonstrators into fenced in areas and then turned their pepper sprays on them at close range. Pepper spray – like rubber bullets and tazers – is also defined as a “non-lethal” weapon, despite instances where the use of such weapons has resulted in fatalities.

According to Pentagon tests, people hit with the heat ray feel an intense, unbearable heat. Turn a weapon like that on to a struggling mass of people, some angry some frightened, and you have a recipe for panic and trampling. Especially if the weapon is in the hands of a soldier who has been taught to regard demonstrators as “the enemy” and who has also been told “not to worry, it’s non lethal”.

Demonstrations are made up of people of all ages and states of health. What is the effect of this heat ray on pregnant women? On a foetus? On someone with a heart condition?

And why is the military being trained to use this weapon against demonstrators anyway? We are constantly being told that the right to demonstrate against the government and its laws is a fundamental measure of our democracy. Well, is it or isn’t it? Gunning down demonstrators with a heat ray doesn’t sound very democratic.

US Marine Colonel Tracy Taffola, showing off the weapon to the media, boasted that: “It could be used across the military spectrum of operations, perimeter security, crowd control, entry control points, you name it. I think our forces will figure out the many different applications that it would have.”

I think that is just what people are afraid of.

The British tabloid the Globe and Mail reports that “Various development versions of the heat ray have been tested for years. One was sent to Afghanistan – but never used – in 2010.” That raises interesting questions: why send it and then never use it? Is it perhaps not so “non-lethal” after all?

The Globe And Mail also reports that “Police departments have shown interest”. I’ll bet they have. When you see how enthusiastically they embraced tasers when those babies became available, shooting people umpteen times with the electric shock weapons, giving police a long-distance way of inflicting pain on demonstrators seems like a very unsafe thing to do.

Among the comments that appeared on US websites about this news report was this one from Socialist, who suggested that “now is indeed time to leave the country”: “My nephew will be going abroad to attend university, he can get a quality education for a tiny fraction of the price of an equivalent US education (taught in English). When he graduates, he will not be a debt slave to the banksters.”

When an on-line correspondent asserted that “There is no place on the face of the earth that you or anybody else will be safe from Obama’s military”,Socialist responded with the commonsense argument: “However in relative terms, there are places that are less violent [than the USA], where essentials of life (like health care, education, quality food and housing) are much more affordable. The Empire, even with drones and all the technology, does not have the power to control everything. The Empire is more fragile than we can imagine. The quality of life in the US is far lower than many would care to admit.”

That last point is very real and is becoming recognised by more and more Americans, as the endless propaganda they are fed – about living in the greatest country on Earth – falls apart in front of their eyes. Just the other day I saw a television news report in which US primary school teachers referred to the schools they taught in as “third world” standard.

Every day that big oil companies and big banks and filthy rich hedge funds get additional tax breaks from the US government while consumer prices continue to rise (not least at the petrol pump), is a day when Americans are forced to look at the reality of the world and to compare it with the laughable fantasy they are fed as “the American dream”. The number who don’t bother to vote is a sad indication of their widespread rejection of that dream as bogus.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon and the corporations it serves continue to develop their weapons to suppress any attempt at a popular uprising. For they know that the current situation cannot prevail forever. And they intend to be ready.

The question is: will the people be ready?

*note: The Guardian is the weekly newspaper of the Communist Party of Australia. You can find the original article on their website here.

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