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Nonlethal Weaponry Presents New Dangers

March 10, 2004

I read with great interest "The Pentagon's Secret Scream" (Opinion, March 7). Let me say that I am no fan of President Bush. I became an independent because, over the years (58 in my case), I have learned that hypocrisy exists in both parties. Still, I find it troubling that we would question using a nonlethal technology in warfare because it might give someone an earache. I would think even permanent deafness is a welcome alternative. What am I missing? Is it a question of the long-term health ramifications? There are none in death. Lastly, I wonder if the parents of all the soldiers who've lost their lives in this conflict -- or any other, for that matter -- would think twice about using such technology if it might have saved their sons or daughters.

Jonathan Yarbrough

Manhattan Beach

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The makers of the military's new sonic weapon, which could cause permanent deafness, say that it's "designed to determine intent, change behavior and support various rules of engagement." American Technology Corp.'s chairman translates this mumbo-jumbo corporate-speak into plainer terms: "It will knock [some people] on their knees." In other words, it's a perfect tool for quashing dissent.

Let's say 100,000 Iraqis demonstrate in Baghdad to protest the new government that is chosen. What's to stop the U.S. military (or Iraqi police) from using this sonic weapon? They can surely claim that, regrettably, a handful of demonstrators got out of line, leaving them no choice but to "save lives" by inflicting pain and permanent deafness on thousands of innocent people.

And don't be fooled: It won't be long before U.S. police forces add this latest nonlethal weapon to the rubber bullets already used against American citizens who protest against government policies. Imagine if they publicized in advance of a demonstration that this sonic weapon would be on hand. How many people would show up? Excuse me, but this doesn't sound like democracy; it sounds like Saddam Hussein.

Katie Sweeney

Los Angeles

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