Reading Defense Tech it looks like the U.S. army in Iraq will actually get some of those “Project Sheriff” vehicles.

Essentially it’s a Humvee or other factory vehicle with some special modifications.  Those include “sonic weapons”, which is essentially a targeted, very loud sound that would make someone want to run away.  They will also be equipped with very intense, bright lights that would make someone (temporarily) blind.

Probably the most infamous of its weapons is the “pain ray” or the “microwave gun”.  This is the device that’s supposed to aim a 95 GHz beam that penetrates your skin just enough to cause intense pain but without permanent burns.
The vehicle also has what’s known as a “dazzler” or dazzler detector, which is supposed to be able to automatically track a sniper (via the light glancing off the scope), train the guns on the source and automatically fire at the sniper.  The military’s been fooling around with the combination of these projects for a while.

Defense Tech quotes a subscription-only insider publication as saying the Army just got the OK to send 3 of these vehicles to Iraq to be used in actual operations.

The theory behind these vehicles is that it gets crowds to disperse without killing anyone.  And while crowds in Iraq may conceal hidden fighters or snipers or grenade chuckers or anything else, most crowd control situations do not occur in warfare.  Most crowd control issues are domestic law enforcement situations.

It might be 10 years before these things are field tested on Iraqis etc. but sooner or later these things are going to be used by police.  At home.  And even if it’s not in the United States, some tinpot dictator who is in favor with the U.S. is going to get their hands on one of these and use it to break up crowds.

On the one hand, it would prevent things like last May’s Andijan massacre in Uzbekistan.  On the other hand, it would also prevent things like democratic revolutions.  Imagine if Kuchma had a few of these in 2004 and rolled them into the central square in Kiev, shrieking the super-loud sonic blasters and flash-burning the crowd?  Is that really what we want?

The defenders of these vehicles say it will save lives in Iraq (the civilians), that other techniques like tear gas are not always effective.  Well techniques like using dogs and firehoses worked just fine in Birmingham in 1963, didn’t they?  That’s because it’s not the technology that’s the issue – it’s the way it’s perceived.

Shooting and killing civilian protesters is obviously something to be avoided.  But sonic blasters and microwave rays are just going to further anger the people they’re trying to disperse.  It seems like a typical American solution – spend millions of dollars on a very short-range goal while completely avoiding the longer range planning.

But hey, look on the bright side.  When the U.S. is occupying some more countries for the sake of “nation building” 10 years from now, we can safely disperse any crowds who are hostile to their overlords.


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