Friday, January 26, 2007

Active Denial System. A Military Metaphor

To perfectly complement the political ‘active denial system’ that Bush and the neocons have been using lo these many years, the US military this week publicly demonstrated its own high-tech hardware-based Active Denial System.
The military ADS focuses skin-penetrating millimeter waves that make a person up to five-hundred yards away feel like they are being cooked.
The whole idea is to disperse gatherings of people who might not like you without charging them down on horseback with drawn sabers or pelting them with rubber bullets, tear gas, water cannon, regular bullets or cluster-bombs.
The director of the ADS development program, Marine Colonel Kirk Hymes thinks that “non-lethal weapons are important for the escalation of force, especially in the environments our forces are operating in”.
Given that the Marines are mostly operating in Iraq and that the ADS won’t be deployed until 2010 (5 years later than originally promised), I can only assume the Colonel anticipates a re-run of the 2006 mid-term elections.
When news of the ADS first surfaced, various civil-rights groups expressed concern that it might be used domestically against peaceful demonstrators to quell political dissent—but of course that would require some kind of fascist sensibility of the government and administration to happen, wouldn’t it? And that’s not what the ADS system is for--says the military.
Instead it is intended to protect our troops from crowds of foreign civilians that may or may not be plotting against our soldiers to prevent them from accomplishing their mission without resorting to lethal means, which is where the real benefit lies--says the military.
After all, what civilian wouldn’t be grateful for being zapped with microwaves rather than being shot or blown up? What soldier wouldn’t be grateful for not having to shoot someone he or she is not certain isn’t actually a civilian? And what politician wouldn’t prefer that a soldier sent into a foreign country to liberate its citizens and establish democracy inflict only momentary pain and discomfort on liberated citizens from 500 yards rather than kill them all and sort everything out later, lest ‘freedom’ prove to be messier than anticipated?
To illustrate how this system would work let us imagine a scenario:
Real US troops have overthrown an evil dictator ‘Sodom’ in the imaginary country of Mesopotaminarnia.
Despite having been greeted with sweets and flowers, the old dictator’s minions plot to repel the noble US forces who have just established sweet, sweet democracy. So the die-hards exploit the new democratic principles they’ve been given and organize a protest march.
The participants proceed to the nearest contingent of the new democratic authority, the US Army, to present their demands and grievances.
The US Army, having been subjected to random attacks from an informal collection of ‘Sodomites’ and with limited communication between the soldiers and the civilians, will be obliged to assume that the protest is just a tactic of the insurgents and might have to resort to lethal response.
However, with the new ADS they could simply ‘zap’ the crowd before they got too close and thus preserve democracy and freedom without killing anyone in the process by persuading them not to assemble or petition authority through the scientific magic of focused millimeter waves!
Now let us imagine a real scenario for Colonel Kirk Hymes to ponder:
Several hundred clearly unfriendly locals converge and march towards a US military enclave in an urban area. The US military can’t tell the agitators from the ordinary civilians, but the threat to their authority is clear—the civilians are challenging US military authority. Rather than using deadly force to repel the perceived threat they employ the ADS and dissuade the mob from proceeding.
As an ADS unit is directed against the mob, it begins to disperse. But as the ADS is a Humvee with a 5-foot square vertical slab on top and requires “line of sight” deployment it’s pretty easy to spot. So whilst the $350,000(?) ADS is being concentrated on the mob an auxiliary in a nearby building or a car (that the ADS beam can’t penetrate and isn’t focused-on anyway) can destroy it with an $1,000 RPG or just disable it with a $15 clip of 7.62 mm AK-47 ammo fired at its beam-focusing array.
One Iraq-based soldier said his base was often approached by Iraqis that he suspected were actually reconnoitering in preparation for a future attack and that the ADS would be useful to prevent that sort of thing.
Well, soldier, if that guy approaching your base might be “the enemy” on a recce, why don’t you just fire an 18-cent warning shot instead of waiting 3 years until you can warn him away with a half-million dollar microwave? Or you could kill him, just to be on the safe side—it’s not like you’ll go to jail for it.
According to Global Security the ADS cost $40 million to develop and I can only assume the unit cost would fall somewhere in the $100,000 to $250,000 range (not including the Humvee and assuming KBR isn’t providing it).
Also ADS was commissioned to provide non-lethal troop protection against small-arms fire which is universally reckoned at 1000 yards—the ADS range is actually only half that. Oh, and it has to be a nice day to be effective too. One other thing; apparently the military hasn’t tested it against anyone using a dustbin lid as a shield .

The beam apparently takes 1-2 seconds to have its complete effect (supposedly without residual harm), and the pain disappears immediately when out of the beam (assuming the military isn’t lying about this).
I’ve found nothing yet on the focus area of the beam which would indicate how many individuals might be targeted at one time, so how big and how spread-out would the hypothetical mob have to be before a single ADS unit would be overwhelmed by the “threat” and the troops have to resort to tear gas or ;ethal force?
The whole supposition of this system is that if an unarmed coordinated mob of a specific size approaches an armed group of soldiers along a direct and restricted path and in plain view then the soldiers can disperse them with the ADS instead of killing them.
As a general rule that kind of activity doesn’t take place in the middle of an internal shooting war, nor when a foreign military occupation serves as the ultimate authority over civic life—because who the hell is going to march in the streets en-masse when just going shopping can get you killed, and who is going to protest en-masse against armed foreign soldiers without the support of an effective civil-rights infrastructure to protect them?
The only circumstance in which ADS can be optimally employed is when civilians engage in urban organized public protest where and when they can have the confidence and the right to do so granted by civil authority, without the potential of significant bodily harm.
Though ADS may well have been sincerely developed as a combat weapon, it is essentially useless in that regard. As a civilian control weapon it holds much more promise.
When you spend tens of millions of dollars on something you thought was a neat idea only to find out it is crap (which if you’d actually thought about it you would have realized long ago), the choice is either to abandon your efforts or re-apply them and that’s much easier to do when the money spent wasn’t your own and the people who approved of your idea are as stupid as you are. Ergo instead of acknowledging your idiotic and wasteful mistake you simply move the goalposts, re-task the project and thereby negate your incompetence. Rinse and repeat.
A public majority has finally challenged the conceptual and civil 'active denial system' of Bush and the Republicans but the system remains and continues to be deployed.
By the same token the physical, military Active Denial System also remains and is intended to be deployed.
Both systems are useless to the public and to the military. Dismantling the political 'active denial system' will take years, but dismantling the ADS need only take days.
All the research conducted could conceivably be redirected to medical and industrial applications that might provide social benefits, given some careful consideration and critical informed imagination.
But that’s never been the hallmark of Bush’s administration, nor the military that has been once again but perhaps more significantly than ever suborned to political rather than military objectives.
The military Active Denial System is a perfect physical complement to the philosophical and “intellectual” political and cynically pragmatic 'active denial system' of the entrenched Republican Party and its current titular chief, President Bush.
Both systems depend on denial of practical reality and sound reason to exist and flourish; the political system succeeded for a time precisely because of denial but though it has finally been proven to be a failure it has yet to be fully excised.
The military Active Denial System is also literally built around denial as I think I’ve already illustrated and it too can be disproved but without ever having to be applied in the real world.
It cannot serve its stated military purpose and its only other possible function is to serve a political purpose—to suppress organized political dissent by the very people who have paid for the system with their tax dollars and will pay a much heavier price should the ADS be allowed to flourish.
As it did with the politicians in the mid term elections the public can and should employ its own active denial system and stop further development and deployment of the ADS--not because of its ironic symbolism but becuase it is an insiduous device and a complete waste of money.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

State of the Union 2007

On September 20th 2001 George Bush addressed the Congress and the nation thusly:
In the normal course of events, Presidents come to this chamber to report on the state of the Union.
Tonight, no such report is needed. It has already been delivered by the American people.
I doubt he’ll use that line this time, what with election results and his approval ratings and all.

In this speech the least hardest-working President in politics revealed his and the nation’s future:

Our war on terror begins with Al Qaeda, but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated…we will direct every resource at our command…to the disruption and to the defeat of the global terror network.

But rather than draw a comparison to WW II as he and his cohorts have done subsequently, Bush drew on a more recent and more limited example of war;

This war will not be like the war against Iraq a decade ago, with a decisive liberation of territory and a swift conclusion

Indeed, why would the Global War on Terror be like the regional Gulf War? As the public majority has known for at least two years Bush’s declared “global war” was already focused primarily on the territory of Iraq (even before the invasion of Afghanistan) and the swift conclusion of Iraq's ‘liberation’.
But at this time even the best-informed skeptics couldn’t know the true import of this single remark.

Bush, the Republicans and a conservative cabal chose to use the most impressive “irregular” attack in history to launch a war of aggression using the world’s most powerful military against a weak but oil-rich country under false pretenses to satisfy their egos, their bank accounts and their lust for power over America and the world by exploiting like-minded supporters and bullying dissenters; bending all government resources not to preserve and promote freedom for all but to destroy it for all, save for a privileged few.

It is this powerful minority that has chosen to define America in the 21st Century not by the principles of its constitution and its Bill of Rights; not by self-evident truths, nor government of, by and for the people but by a war of aggression and the illegal occupation of a single country, Iraq, for the interests of a self-righteous, self-important and self-serving few.

But in 2007 a majority in America now holds these truths to be self-evident:

"That whenever any Form of Government become destructive to these ends it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it…But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.
Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States."

In 2007 absolute "Tyranny over these States" is not being impressed by a King of Great Britain, but by a King in our capitol, George Bush, propped on his throne by legions of courtiers.

The real State of the Union is much as it was at the moment of its inception, and as insurmountable as the power and rule of government appears to be today, it appeared so then when England ruled.

It is not a King nor a single misbegotten adventure that defines the state of a nation, nor the President that defines the State of the Union—it is We, The People.
Just as the Colonies warned the King, so the November elections warned the President—change your policies or we will make our own. Govern according to our needs or we will govern ourselves.

According to the latest Newsweek poll 68% oppose Bush’s escalation of troop deployments to Iraq, his personal approval rating is it 31%, on Iraq is just 32%, and not forgetting the post- election exit polls that showed the majority's major policy concerns were inversely proportional to Republican political priorities.
So after six year’s of exclusively Republican rule Bush and his cohorts have largely united this nation not behind them but against them. Whatever verbal concessions Bush might make about “mistakes” in his 2007 address, the people have spoken and continue to speak against his policies and his party’s rule.
The State of the Union is a shambles (to put it kindly) not through circumstance but precisely because of his and his Party’s direct ‘governance’.

If there is any reason to listen to Bush’s State of the Union address at this juncture it is not to search for hope in his singular American vision but to confirm once and for all the hope in our collective vision for a united nation, a truly United States of America.

As Bush famously said in his speech that September of 2001, “You’re either with us or against us”.
President Bush has been against ‘us’ for six years now, and now the majority is against him, personally and politically. The only meaningful acknowledgement of that fact would be if he were to announce his resignation.

In essence that is the real State of the Union.