Killing Softly

Lois M. Scheel 1994

How does it feel to be killed softly? What a strange way to keep the peace: weapons that are kinder, gentler, a post-cold war strategy emerging from the U. S. Government's secret "black budget." Perhaps if these technology experts can come up with enough non-lethal weapons that "disable or destroy" without causing too much injury or damage, they can make war seem almost palatable and get on with their fun and games.

Here is a non-lethal laundry list described for the public:

(Excerpted from September/October 1994 issue of The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists from an article written by Steven Aftergood, Physicist.)

Infrasound: Very low-frequency sound generators could be tuned to incapacitate humans, causing disorientation, nausea, vomiting, or bowel spasms.

Laser weapons: Low-energy laser rifles could dazzle or temporarily blind enemy soldiers, or disable optical and infrared systems used for target acquisition, tracking, night vision, and range finding.

Supercaustics: These highly acidic chemical agents can be millions of times more caustic than hydrofluoric acid. They could destroy the optics of heavily armored vehicles, as well as tires and structural metals.

Biological agents: Microbial cultures can be "designed" to chew up almost anything. Scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory reviewed naturally occurring organisms that could be cultured to enhance certain characteristics. "As a result, we discovered a bacterium that degrades a specific material used in many weapons systems."

Acoustic beam weapons: High frequency acoustic "bullets" used against people would induce blunt-object trauma "like being hit by a baseball." According to a special technologies expert at Los Alamos, "Proof of principle has been established; we can make relatively compact acoustic weapons."

Combustion inhibitors: Chemical agents can be released into the atmosphere or introduced directly into fuel tanks to contaminate fuel or change its viscosity to degrade or disable all mechanical devices powered by combustion.

Mini-nukes: Mini-nuclear weapons with explosive yields of 100 tons ("The 'Soft Kill' Solution," March/April 1994 Bulletin).

Among the many other technologies under consideration in the Pentagon's non-lethal program are sticky foams to immobilize individuals, anti-traction chemicals to slicken roads and runways, high-power microwave generators, mechanical entanglements, holographic projectors, non-nuclear electromagnetic pulse generators, neural inhibitors, and wireless stun devices.

Now why can't these technology specialists work to find ways to enhance life instead of destroy...oh, oh. Mustn't forget that these new weapons are supposed to be non-lethal; even so, if they were actually put to use, they would certainly play havoc with natural resources not to mention promoting business for the nearest unscathed medical associations.