With the Bush Administration's and Pentagon's great preference for bigger and better and scarier weapons over anything as wussy as sane and well-reasoned strategies, can it be any surprise whatsoever that we have a new weapon - the Goodbye machine - designed to make people scarce in a public gathering? [Ed. note: If it works, I assume the Bushies will start using it on the White House press corps starting with octogenarian Helen Thomas and moving on to NBC's David Gregory who they want fired and charged with treason for asking tough questions.]
As you can likely imagine, I seriously and profoundly doubt this weapon is quite so tender and delicate and non-harmful as they allege.
The crowd is getting ugly. Soldiers roll up in a Hummer. Suddenly, the whole right half of your body is screaming in agony. You feel like you've been dipped in molten lava. You almost faint from shock and pain, but instead you stumble backwards -- and then start running. To your surprise, everyone else is running too. In a few seconds, the street is completely empty.
You've just been hit with a new nonlethal weapon that has been certified for use in Iraq -- even though critics argue there may be unforeseen effects.
According to documents obtained for Wired News under federal sunshine laws, the Air Force's Active Denial System, or ADS, has been certified safe after lengthy tests by military scientists in the lab and in war games.
The ADS shoots a beam of millimeters waves, which are longer in wavelength than x-rays but shorter than microwaves -- 94 GHz (= 3 mm wavelength) compared to 2.45 GHz (= 12 cm wavelength) in a standard microwave oven.
The longer waves are thought to limit the effects of the radiation. If used properly, ADS will produce no lasting adverse affects, the military argues.
Documents acquired for Wired News using the Freedom of Information Act claim that most of the radiation (83 percent) is instantly absorbed by the top layer of the skin, heating it rapidly.
The beam produces what experimenters call the "Goodbye effect," or "prompt and highly motivated escape behavior." In human tests, most subjects reached their pain threshold within 3 seconds, and none of the subjects could endure more than 5 seconds.
"It will repel you," one test subject said. "If hit by the beam, you will move out of it -- reflexively and quickly. You for sure will not be eager to experience it again."
But while subjects may feel like they have sustained serious burns, the documents claim effects are not long-lasting. At most, "some volunteers who tolerate the heat may experience prolonged redness or even small blisters," the Air Force experiments concluded.
The reports describe an elaborate series of investigations involving human subjects.
The volunteers were military personnel: active, reserve or retired, who volunteered for the tests. They were unpaid, but the subjects would "benefit from direct knowledge that an effective nonlethal weapon system could soon be in the inventory," said one report. The tests ranged from simple exposure in the laboratory to elaborate war games involving hundreds of participants.
The military simulated crowd control situations, rescuing helicopter crews in a Black Hawk Down setting and urban assaults. More unusual tests involved alcohol, attack dogs and maze-like obstacle courses.
In more than 10,000 exposures, there were six cases of blistering and one instance of second-degree burns in a laboratory accident, the documents claim.
[Ed. note: I do have one little question, however. Won't the "Goodbye" weapon get in the way of those innocent young schoolchildren and grateful old ladies the Pentagon and other Bushies keep insisting will run out to greet American troops with blown kisses, bouquets of flowers, and warm, fresh slices of falafel berry pie? I would think so.]