U.S. orders high-tech, non-lethal
weapons for Iraq

Friday, June 18, 2004

The United States is developing a range of non-lethal weapons for deployment in Iraq.

Officials said the Pentagon plans to establish a science and technology program to develop alternative methods that can be used instead of deadly force to maintain order in civil-military and other operations.

"You don't want to go into another person's country with the only option being lethal force, because that will turn the populace against you," said Alan Shaffer, the director for plans and programs with the Pentagon's Office of Defense Research and Engineering.

[On Thursday, the number of Iraqis killed in suicide attacks reached 41, most of them in a suicide car bombing in Baghdad. Iraqi officials said four Kuwaits and a Saudi national carried out the attacks, Middle East Newsline reported.]

Non-lethal weapons would help U.S. soldiers distinguish insurgents from civilians, particularly in riot control. U.S. troops have killed Iraqis in attempts to ensure that their protests would not develop into riots.

Officials said one nonlethal tool under development is what they term an "active-denial" microwave-like device. The system can be directed at a distance to heat up the moisture in a person's skin, causing a sharp pain.

"So, if a hostile crowd is moving toward you, you use the active-denial system -- they will stop coming," Shaffer said. "You get hit with the high-powered microwave and you run away."

Another nonlethal system under development is super-slick matting that can be placed around a building to help prevent insurgents from using trucks to breach security perimeters. Another innovation envisioned for crowd control uses a sticky foam substance that hardens.

Officials said the use of non-lethal systems could have prevented Al Qaida attacks on U.S. military targets in the Middle East. They cited the suicide bombing of the USS Cole in the Yemeni port of Aden in October 2000.

A heat-producing device, they said, would have prevented the suicide attackers from approaching the destroyer.

"We don't win hearts and minds if we shoot a sticky foam or shoot a laser out on someone that buys you time and space, but blinds the target permanently or is toxic," Shaffer said.

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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