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August 30, 2007

Pentagon Says “No” to Pain-Ray Gun; AP Writer Uses It as Excuse to Editorialize

The headline caught my eye: “Pentagon nixes ray gun weapon in Iraq.” To be fair, the article does have a lot of information on the Active Denial System and why the Pentagon is turning it down. I suspect that the first reason will make some of the Ace’s readers’ blood boil:

It's a ray gun that neither kills nor maims, but the Pentagon has refused to deploy it out of concern that the weapon itself might be seen as a torture device. … The main reason the tool has been missing in action is public perception. With memories of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal still fresh, the Pentagon is reluctant to give troops a space-age device that could be misconstrued as a torture machine.

So they think it’s a PR problem to save the lives of U.S. troops and Iraqi civilians. (I’m not sure why they think images of troops confronting a mob with loaded rifles are better than troops confronting mobs with Active Denial.)

This is one occasion when you cannot blame the lawyers:

Reviews by military lawyers concluded it is a lawful weapon under current rules governing the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a Nov. 15 document prepared by Marine Corps officials in western Iraq.

I think it is fair, though, to say that Abu Ghraib and the abuse scandals will continue to have long-lasting effects on the military. This also falls under the heading of “Avoidable Mistakes.”

Back to the article: the Pentagon also cites the weapon’s cost and the fact that it still isn’t ready for production. Defense contractor Raytheon disagrees. (Raytheon calls it Silent Guardian; the product page is here.)

Mike Booen, Raytheon's vice president for directed energy programs, said the company has produced one system that's immediately available.

"We have the capacity to build additional systems as needed," he said.

It will not surprise you that the AP’s factual writing gives way to editorializing. The writer of the piece feels that you need these crucial images to set the tone (they are the first two paragraphs):

Saddam Hussein had been gone just a few weeks, and U.S. forces in Fallujah, west of Baghdad, were already being called unwelcome invaders. One of the first big anti-American protests of the war escalated into shootouts that left 18 Iraqis dead and 78 wounded.

It would be a familiar scene in Iraq's next few years: Crowds gather, insurgents mingle with civilians. Troops open fire, and innocents die.

I won’t bore you with the writer’s numerous other diversions. NOTE: if you click through, the article is spread out over three pages.


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posted by Gabriel Malor at 03:16 AM

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