Career officers in the U.S. military have long been wary of the Special Operations Forces best suited to the task. In the view of the regular military, such "snake eaters" have tended to be troublesome, resistant to spit-and-polish discipline and rulebooks.
The US CIA has had a clandestine paramilitary unit about 150 strong from its Special Operations Group (SOG). The SOG or "snake eaters" are virtually a independent 'secret army' with their own mission. The SOG are part of the CIA's Directorate of Operations, whose primary mission is to conduct clandestine intelligence-gathering. This includes traditional case officers, who work out of U.S. embassies or under business or journalistic cover. The Special Activities Division directly controls the CIA's 'secret soldiers'.
The highly secret CIA capability provided by the Special Activities Division, consists of teams of about half a dozen men who do not normally wear military uniforms. The Division can call upon the services of about 250 covert action specialists, pilots, communications experts and probably still has access to a number of professional assassins. Most are hardened veterans who have 'retired' early from the Special Forces The division's arsenal includes stealth helicopters, clandestine air assets and the unmanned aerial Predator drones equipped with high-resolution cameras and even Hellfire antitank missiles.
The CIA's Special Operations Group co-operates closely with the British SIS, SAS, and the US SEAL-6 and Delta Force, but has a rather more distant relationship with other US Special Forces such as the Green Berets, Rangers and US Marines who are really superb elite infantry rather than true Special Forces.
The SOG or "snake eaters" have their own dedicated annual budget. Depending on the particular unit, they are subjected to a gruelling training regime at 'The Farm' (Camp Peary) and other covert facilities in preparation for a wide variety of missions ranging from hostage rescue to deep-penetration reconnaissance behind enemy lines to small-scale strikes, sabotage, assassination and urban warfare. Lack of oversight carries the inherent risk of a return to the CIA's unbridled used of covert action to destabilize foreign regimes, stage coups and to carry out sabotage and assassination operations that so nearly brought about the destruction of the Agency by President Carter and Admiral Stansfield Turner in the late 1970's.
The quest for the perfect warrior is older than the history of Sparta. The perfect warrior could run longer, stay tougher, sleep less, and even be remotely deployed. In WWII, The Blitzkreig ran on methedrine developed by Nazi scientists - it was the "Methkreig" that rolled over Eastern Europe. There was little need to stop for food or sleep. Meth releases adreneline, deep rage and even psychotic violence. Kamikazi pilots fueled their fury with the same drug.
The Korean War gave rise to the notion of the mind controlled 'cyborg' - a machine-like, hypnotically-programmed, remotely deployable assassin or "Manchurian Candidate." Now "cyborg" has come to mean a bionically enhanced warrior with mechanical and psychoenergetic enhancements and defenses.
In the early 70s, Mankind Research Unlimited distributed a CIA directive, summarized in a brochure on the “Cybernetic Technique”. It discussed the Agency's development of a “means by which information in modest rate can be fed to humans utilizing other senses than sight or hearing. “The Cybernetic Technique,” based on Eastern European research," involves beaming information to individual nerve cells. The purpose, the directive states, is the enhancement of mental and physical performance. This tech has been weaponized as Synthetic Telepathy, V2K [Voice to Skull] and other forms of DEW [directed energy weaponry].
In all of its forms, superwarrior training also involves mind control programming, with and without drugs. It may mean using drugs in the field to create the desired mental state and/or to stave off the aftereffects of mind-bending trauma. CIA experiemented in the Viet Nam era with several psychoactive drugs during the MK Ultra era, from LSD to STP and BZ ~ and now with modafinil and propranalol.
Full Spectrum Dominance
The new generation of superwarriors will also be genetically enhanced. Implants, synthetic telepathy, and other transhuman enhancements will create super soldiers with computer-like minds, photographic memory and heightened psychic abilities.
There are already rumors of superwarrior prototypes, including those engineered for multidimensional and time travel ops and deep space missions. What this implies is mind-boggling to conjecture. But all military / scientific breakthroughs sound like scifi before they are realized. The dark technology is likely 50 years ahead of anything currently known. Both technology and the human mind have more potential than we can imagine.
Captain AmericaSuperhero of the Military-Industrial Complex
By Nick Turse
Even if you never read the comic book or watched the hopelessly low-production-value 1960s cartoon, chances are you've at least seen the image of Captain America -- the slightly ridiculous looking superhero in a form-fitting, star-spangled bodysuit. If you're still hazy on "Cap," he was Steve Rogers, a 4-F weakling during World War II who, through the miracle of "modern science" (a "super soldier serum") became an Axis-smashing powerhouse -- the pinnacle of human physical perfection and the ultimate American fighting-man.
In the 1940s comic, Rogers had taken part in a super-soldier experiment, thanks to the interventions of an Army general and a scientist in a secret government laboratory. He was to be the first of many American super-soldiers, but due to poor note-keeping methods and the efforts of a Nazi assassin, he became the sole recipient of the serum. Today, however, the dream of Captain America turns out to be alive and well -- and lodged in the Pentagon. The U.S. military aims to succeed where those in the four-color comic book world failed. By using high technology and cutting edge biomedicine, the military hopes to create an entire army of Captain Americas -- a fighting force devoid of "Steve Rogers" or any other "Joe Average," and made up instead of super-soldiers whose human-ness has been all but banished.
The military has long been interested in creating an always-on, 24-hour fighting man. During the Vietnam War, the Army undertook extensive studies on the effects of sleep deprivation. At the time, however, all the military could offer was copious amounts of amphetamines to keep men wired for combat.
As in the Vietnam era, the military is again stretched thin and, with National Guard recruiting having fallen 12% below goal in the first three quarters of 2004, in need of troops. What better way to forestall future manpower crises than by creating two-for-the-price-of-one soldiers who never need to sleep?
To this end, the Department of Defense's blue-skies research outfit, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), currently has a "Preventing Sleep Deprivation Program." Its aim is to work on ways to enable a pilot "to fly continuously for 30 hours," Green Berets to carry out 48-72 hours of sustained activity, or "advancing ground troops [to] engage in weeks of combat operations with only 3 hours of sleep per night" -- all without suffering from cognitive or psychomotor impairments.
Scientists in the military-industrial-academic complex are hard at work for DARPA on this line of research. At Wake Forest University, for instance, researchers are studying a class of medicines known as "Ampakines" which are thought to be protective against the cognitive deficits ordinarily associated with sleep deprivation. At Columbia University, new imaging technologies are being employed as part of a program to study the "neuro-protective and neuro-regenerative effects" of an anti-oxidant found in cocoa. (In low-tech World War II, they just gave the grunts chocolate bars.) Who's conducting this line of research for DARPA? Why, researchers at the Salk Institute and also at that all-chocolate-all-the-time company Mars Inc. -- yes, the folks who bring you M&M's and Snickers!
At the same time, the Air Force Research Laboratory's Warfighter Fatigue Countermeasure program is looking into a drug known as Modafinil which can reportedly keep people awake for up to 88 hours without sleep; while researchers at the Naval Health Research Center (NHRC), the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center (SPAWAR), the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, and the U.S. Army Aeromedical Research Laboratory, among others, are working on sleep- (or-lack-thereof)-related projects.
Major Morality, You're Demoted. We're Promoting Corporal Punishment!
Sleepless soldiers are all well and good while the fighting goes on; but how does one prevent sleepless, anxiety-filled nights after those missions end? Once upon a time, it seems, most soldiers had a great revulsion against close-quarters killing. During World War II, it has been estimated that as few as 15-20% of American infantry troops actually fired their weapons at the enemy. By the Vietnam years, the military had managed to bring that number up into the 90-95% range! Obviously, the armed forces had found ways to turn American men into more efficient killers. But how to deal with the pesky problems of regret, remorse, and post-traumatic stress disorder?
Well, last year, writing in the Village Voice, Erik Baard raised the specter of the creation of a "guilt-free soldier," noting that researchers from various universities across the U.S. (including Harvard, Columbia, NYU, and UC-Irvine) were working on various methods of fear-inhibition and also memory-numbing by using "propranolol pills… as a means to nip the effects of trauma in the bud." He further reported that at Columbia, the lab of Nobel laureate in medicine Eric Kandel had "discovered the gene behind a fear-inhibiting protein, uncovering a vision of 'fight or flight' at the molecular level." When asked by Baard if he was funded by DARPA, Kandel answered, "No, but you're welcome to call them and tell them about me."
Will DARPA take Kandel up on his tacit offer? It seems only natural that a soldier unburdened by morals, ethics, or remorse would be the military's dream. But for now, DARPA seems fixated on another long-term project -- creating cyborg soldiers -- which might make an anti-morality morning-after (combat) pill superfluous.
As noted recently in the pages of the New Yorker, searching for perks to retain troops, the military is offering free cosmetic surgery (funded by taxpayer dollars) to "[a]nyone wearing a uniform." So right now "bigger breasts" are the type of implants the U.S. military is specializing in. (Military doctors performed 496 breast enlargements between 2000 and 2003.) However, if DARPA scientists have their way, the implants du jour of the future may be the product of the "Brain Machine Interface Program" which seeks "new high-density interconnects for brain machine interfaces that will allow [researchers] to monitor the brain patterns associated with a wide variety of behaviors and activities relevant to DoD [the Department of Defense]."
Monkeys, with electrodes implanted in their brains, have already been taught to use thought-power to do such things as move a robotic arm. But why stop there? A few years back, DARPA scientists succeeded in creating a "ratbot" --a living, breathing rat with electrodes implanted in its brain that could be controlled using a laptop computer. Today, DARPA researchers, not exactly heading up the evolutionary scale but evidently proceeding toward larger sized natural fighting machines, are working on a remote-controlled shark. And how long will it be until some researcher gets the bright idea of a remote-controlled soldier; short-circuiting free will altogether? The technology isn't there yet, but what happens when it is?
DARPA already has all sorts of programs designed to use high-tech means to prevent humans from "becoming the weakest link in the U.S. military." Take the "Neovision Program" whose goal is "using synthetic materials for a retinal prosthesis to enable signal transduction at the nerve/retina interface"; that is, creating devices to technologically-enhance or even re-conceptualize human vision as we know it. Or how about the Biologically Inspired Multifunctional Dynamic Robotics (BIODYNOTICS) Program, which aims to develop "robotic capabilities," inspired by biology –such as the movements of arms and legs-- "for national security applications."
Foodless Fighters? Water-free Warriors?
But what good is an always-on, morals-free cyborg soldier if s/he's caught in the classic quagmire of having recurring desires to eat and drink which simply must be met? How pathetically human! Not to worry. Today's soldiers might complain about choking down MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) but, if all goes well, tomorrow's might not have such worries.
Typical adults require about 1500-2000 calories per day, but Special Forces' troops may require as many as 6,000-8,000 calories per day while in the field. Taking time to eat, however, cuts into time that could be spent identifying targets or killing people, so DARPA's "Peak Soldier Performance Program" is investigating ways of "optimizing metabolic performance" to achieve "metabolic dominance" and so to allow future soldiers to operate at "continuous peak physical performance and cognitive function for 3 to 5 days, 24 hours per day, without the need for calories."
At the same time, the DARPA crew has instituted a "Water Harvesting Program" which seeks to "eliminate at least 50 percent of the minimum daily water supply requirement (7qts/day) of the Special Forces, Marine Expeditionary Units, and Army Medium-Weight Brigades" through initiatives such as deriving "water from air."
And when it comes to their meals, perhaps someday soldiers will be able forgo water altogether for long periods of time thanks to the efforts of the Combat Feeding Directorate of the US Army Soldier Systems Center in Natick, Massachusetts. Yes, the lab that created the "indestructible sandwich" (which boasts a three year shelf life) has now come up with a dried-food ration that troops can hydrate by urinating on it. And you thought military food was piss-poor to begin with!
Super-Suits: Can I Get This in Star-Spangled Spandex?
What can you say about Captain America's outfit? While certainly distinctive, his red, white, and blue threads were always a bit light on function. So what can we expect for the real Captain Americas of the future? They won't be clad in jingoistic jumpsuits. The Army's Natick Soldier Systems Center is currently supervising a seven-year, $250 million "Future Force Warrior" program, set to be rolled out in 2010, which will outfit soldiers with new, lighter body armor, an on-board computer, "e-textile" clothing (with wiring for computer systems woven into it), and a helmet with built-in night-vision, a computer screen monocle, and bone-conduction microphones. Add a decade onto the Future Force Warrior and the military aims to be rolling out "The Vision 2020 Future Warrior system," an all-black, sci-fi, storm-trooper outfit that looks like it came from a B-movie prop trailer. But both may seem so last year before they ever have a chance to encase a military body!
Earlier this year, Dr. Steven G. Wax, the director of DARPA's Defense Sciences Office (DSO), addressed members of the academic, corporate, and military communities and told them that the mech-suit worn by Sigourney Weaver in the movie Alien was fast becoming a reality. While various clunky exoskeletons have been produced since the 1960s, Wax indicated that "breakthroughs in structures, actuators and power generation -- with a bit of help from advanced microelectronics" left DARPA capable of creating a workable "external structure that can move unobtrusively with a soldier and still carry more than 100 pounds with no effort by the wearer." And through its "Exoskeletons for Human Performance Augmentation" program, DARPA claims to be en route to creating even more advanced "self-powered, controlled, and wearable exoskeleton devices and/or machines" specifically designed, of course, to "increase the lethality" of U.S. soldiers.
Food for Thought
In a world where many still lack access to adequate clothing, despite it being decreed a basic human right in 1948, DARPA is pouring massive sums into building costly robotic suits. In a world where 800 million people suffer from malnutrition and 1 billion lack access to potable water, food and water are only made "sexy" when DARPA researchers figure out how a few (well armed) people in the global North can do without them on military missions (generally in the global South). There's no DARPA-esque organization involved in actually solving the most pressing problems in the world. And yes, while some in the developing world could benefit from possible DARPA spin-off, trickle-down innovations like futuristic prosthetic limbs, many, many more could benefit from low-cost, low-tech public health initiatives. Of course, many would have no need for high-tech prosthetics if, for so many years, the U.S. military hadn't pumped so much money into weapons, especially landmine research and production. (In Vietnam, for instance, as many as 3 million landmines and "800,000 tons of war-era ordnance" may still lie in the ground.)
DARPA's chunk of the vast Pentagon budget is a cool $3 billion, a sizeable hunk of which is now being devoted to creating real-life Captain Americas or, more accurately Captain DARPAmericas. Like so many DARPA projects, the agency's efforts to craft the super-soldiers of tomorrow typify the ultimate in sci-fi thinking. What was once the stuff of comic books and futuristic movie serials is now assumed to be America's military future.
In reality, however, most DARPA projects fail to meet their ultimate goals. During the Vietnam War, massive amounts of money, firepower, and high-tech weaponry proved unable to stamp out an enemy that regularly used punji sticks (sharpened bamboo) as a weapon. Today in Iraq, billions upon billions of dollars in military and intelligence spending for satellites, state-of-the-art surveillance devices, stealth bombers, fighter jets, tanks, Bradley Fighting Vehicles, Humvees, heavy weapons, night-vision devices, high tech drones, experimental weaponry and all the trappings of Technowar, though capable of killing large numbers of people, are again unable to stop resistance fighters who lack heavy armor, airpower, spy satellites, body armor, or high-tech gear and fight with AK-47s -- a rifle designed in the 1940s -- pickup trucks, and bombs detonated by garage-door openers. Captain DARPAmerica -- an always on, never hungry or thirsty, morality-free, remote-controlled soldier-- is a frightening prospect; but odds are, even if such DARPA projects pan out, the high-tech super-soldier of our future will fail too, due to underlying conceptual flaws and the ceaseless hubris of U.S. military planners that typified the American experience in Vietnam and continues to do so in today's war in Iraq.
Further, DARPA imagines the future through the lens of the present. Its projects are largely typified, at their core, by the very opposite of blue-sky thinking, being mired in the mindset and premises of today (or even yesterday). Where Pentagon seers envision an Army of unstoppable comic-book heroes, they may well find over-wrought, strung-out soldiers, suffering from the still unknown side-effects that are sure to come from interfering with basic human functions like sleeping and eating. They will be clad in temperamental gear that will prove vulnerable to yet undeveloped, but sure to be cheap, crude, and effective jamming devices and counter-measures. Odds are, the Pentagon would be better off investing in Captain America outfits. Not only would it be infinitely cheaper, but who's gonna mess with a platoon clad in star-spangled spandex?
Nicholas Turse is doctoral candidate at the Center for the History & Ethics of Public Health in the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University. He writes regularly for Tomdispatch on the military-corporate complex as well as for the Village Voice.
Copyright C2004 Nick Turse
Dead Souls: The Pentagon Plan to Create Remorseless “Warfighters”
January 14, 2008
Penny Coleman at Alternet.com gives us a look at a new program designed to dull the moral sensibilities of American soldiers in combat on the imperial frontiers: Pentagon, Big Pharma: Drug Troops to Numb Them to Horrors of War.
But as we’ll see below, this attempt to peddle magic pills to chase away the horrors of war is just one front in a long-term, wide-ranging “warfighter enhancement program” — including the neurological and genetic re-engineering of soldiers’ minds and bodies to create what the Pentagon calls “iron bodied and iron willed personnel”: tireless, relentless, remorseless, unstoppable.
Coleman takes specific aim at the “Psychological Kevlar Act,” aimed at reducing the alarming spread of soldier suicides and post-traumatic stress disorder spawned by the illegal invasion of Iraq. The program relies heavily on dosing soldiers with Propranalol, which, “if taken immediately following a traumatic event, can subdue a victim’s stress response and so soften his or her perception of the memory,” as Coleman notes. “That does not mean the memory has been erased, but proponents claim that the drug can render it emotionally toothless.” She continues:
But is it moral to weaken memories of horrendous acts a person has committed? Some would say that there is no difference between offering injured soldiers penicillin to prevent an infection and giving a drug that prevents them from suffering from a posttraumatic stress injury for the rest of their lives. Others, like Leon Kass, former chairman of the President’s Council on Bioethics, object to propranolol’s use on the grounds that it medicates away one’s conscience…Barry Romo, a national coordinator for Vietnam Veterans Against the War, is even more blunt. “That’s the devil pill,” he says. “That’s the monster pill, the anti-morality pill. That’s the pill that can make men and women do anything and think they can get away with it. Even if it doesn’t work, what’s scary is that a young soldier could believe it will.”
It is “a kind of moral lobotomy,” says Coleman, whose husband killed himself after coming home from the Vietnam War. She puts the bill — which is being sponsored by Robert Kennedy Jr., among others — in the historical context of military training:
Since World War II, our military has sought and found any number of ways to override the values and belief systems recruits have absorbed from their families, schools, communities and religions. Using the principles of operant conditioning, the military has found ways to reprogram their human software, overriding those characteristics that are inconvenient in a military context, most particularly the inherent resistance human beings have to killing others of their own species. “Modern combat training conditions soldiers to act reflexively to stimuli,” says Lt. Col. Peter Kilner, a professor of philosophy and ethics at West Point, “and this maximizes soldiers’ lethality, but it does so by bypassing their moral autonomy. Soldiers are conditioned to act without considering the moral repercussions of their actions; they are enabled to kill without making the conscious decision to do so. If they are unable to justify to themselves the fact that they killed another human being, they will likely — and understandably — suffer enormous guilt. This guilt manifests itself as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and it has damaged the lives of thousands of men who performed their duty in combat.”
Killing the soul is the ultimate aim of those who seek to create tools for empire, instead of recruiting citizens to defend the Republic from attack. I wrote about this in 2004 (Manufacturing Intent:The Army’s Cult of Killing Leaves a Generation Gap):
Yet despite the vast tonnage of celluloid and printer’s ink devoted to [the] praise [of the “greatest generation” soldiers of WWII), what is perhaps the truest, highest measure of their worth has been almost universally neglected. And what is this hidden glory, which does more honor to the people of the United States than every single military action ordered by their corruption-riddled leaders during the past fifty years? It’s the fact that in the midst of history’s most vicious, all-devouring, inhuman war, only about 15 percent of American soldiers on the battlefield actually tried to kill anyone.
In-depth studies by the U.S. Army after WWII showed that between 80 to 85 percent of the greatest generation never fired their weapons at an exposed enemy in combat, as military psychologist Lt. Colonel Dave Grossman reports. Many times they had the chance, but could not bring themselves to do it. They either withheld their fire altogether or else shot into the air, to the side, anywhere but at the fellow human beings – their blood kin in biology, mind and mortality – facing them across the line…These were not “warriors,” bloodthirsty automatons with stripped-down brains and cauterized souls, slavering in Pavlovian fury at the bell-clap of command. No, they were real men, willing, as Grossman notes, to stand up for a cause, even die for it, but not willing, in the end, to transgress the natural law (implanted by God or evolution, take your pick) that says: Do not kill your own kind – and every person of every race and nation is your own kind.
…But far from celebrating this example of genuine glory, the military brass were horrified at the low “firing rates” and anemic “kill ratios” of American soldiery. They immediately set about trying to break the next generation of recruits of their natural resistance to slaughtering their own kind. Incorporating the latest techniques for psychological manipulation, new training programs were designed to brutalize the mind and habituate soldiers to the idea of killing automatically, by reflex, “at the bell-clap of command,” without the intervention of any of those inefficient scruples displayed by their illustrious predecessors.
And it worked. The dehumanization process led to a steady rise in firing rates for U.S. soldiers during subsequent conflicts. In the Korean War, 55 percent were ready to pump hot lead into enemy flesh. And by the time the greatest generation’s own children took the field, in Vietnam, the willingness to slaughter was almost total: 95 percent of combat troops there fired with the intent to kill.
And today in occupied Iraq, the brutalizing beat goes on. “Kill, kill, kill, kill, kill, it’s like it pounds in my brain,” a U.S. soldier told the Los Angeles Times last week. Another shrugged at the sight of freshly slaughtered bodies. “It doesn’t bother me at all,” he said. “I’m a warrior. My soldiers, they are all warriors. They have no problems. There’s no place in this Army for men who aren’t warriors.” Said a third: “We talk about killing all the time. I never used to be this way…but it’s like I can’t stop. I’m worried what I’ll be like when I get home.”
…Yet strangely enough, this new model army, imbued with eager “warrior spirit,” has not produced the kind of lasting victories won by the reluctant fifteen-percenters of yore. It was stalemated in Korea, defeated in Vietnam, chased out of Lebanon and Somalia, balked in Afghanistan…and is now [bogged down] in bloody quagmire [in Iraq].
Could it be that the systematic degradation of natural morality and common human feeling – especially in the service of dubious ends – is not actually the best way to achieve national greatness?
But the endless efforts to raise “kill rates” are just part of the picture. As I noted in the Moscow Times back in 2003, “warfighter enhancement” is being taken to whole new levels of technological advancement – and moral depravity. I’m doing further research on the current state of the “enhancement” programs, but they are still going full-bore since the time the excerpts below were written:
Pentagon dark lord Donald Rumsfeld is shoveling billions of tax dollars into the research furnaces of federal laboratories and private universities across the land in the wide-ranging effort to spawn “super soldiers,” fired by drugs and electromagnetic “brain zaps” to fight without ceasing for days on end. The work is being directed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
The DARPA “war fighter enhancement” programs — an acceleration of bipartisan biotinkering that’s been going on for years — will involve injecting young men and women with hormonal, neurological and genetic concoctions; implanting microchips and electrodes in their bodies to control their internal organs and brain functions; and plying them with drugs that deaden some of their normal human tendencies: the need for sleep, the fear of death, the reluctance to kill their fellow human beings.
The research is “very aggressive and wide open,” says Admiral Stephen Baker of the Center for Defense Information. Indeed, the U.S. Special Operations Command envisions the creation of “iron bodied and iron willed personnel” who can “resist the mental and physiological effects of sleep deprivation” while relying on “ergogenic substances” to “manage” the “environmental and mentally induced stress” of the battlefield. Their bodies juiced, their brains swaddled in Prozacian haze, the enhanced warfighters can churn relentlessly, remorselessly toward dominion.
And the term “creation” is not just fanciful rhetoric: some of the research now underway involves actually altering the genetic code of soldiers, modifying bits of DNA to fashion a new type of human specimen, one that functions like a machine, killing tirelessly for days and nights on end. These mutations will “revolutionize the contemporary order of battle” and guarantee “operational dominance across the whole range of potential U.S. military employments,” the DARPA wizards enthuse.
Of course, the Pentagon is not waiting on sci-fi technology to enhance the physical abilities of its warfighters; old-fashioned off-the-shelf “additives” have long been shoved down soldiers’ throats. For example, the use of amphetamines for pilots has been widespread for decades; during the first Bush-Saddam War, whole squadrons were cranked up on the stuff. Not only is the gobbling of speed officially sanctioned, it’s actively encouraged, even implicitly mandated–careers can be derailed for pilots who refuse to drug themselves.
The results of this dope-peddling were clearly seen on the new imperial frontier of Afghanistan last spring, when two U.S. pilots — hopped up on speed — killed four Canadian allies in a “friendly fire” bombing raid. The pilots, now facing legal charges, say Air Force brass pressured them into taking the mind-altering drug before the fatal flight.
But such glitches are inevitable in any grand scientific undertaking, and DARPA remains undeterred in its bold quest to “push the limits of human input/output,” advance the “symbiotic relationship between man and machine,” and customize “pharmaceutical technology” to “embolden the warfighter and his superiors,” as military scientists declared at a Pentagon-sponsored conference on “future warfare.”
What happens to the burnt-out husks of these “iron” soldiers after their minds and bodies have been eaten way by relentless modification and ceaseless toil is, of course, of no concern to the Bush Regime. Even now, the White House is cutting back on health benefits to military veterans — even going so far as to order veterans hospitals not to advertise their available services, lest broken soldiers actually seek to claim the promise of support their government once gave them. For men like Bush — protected scions of privilege who sit out wars in safety, in booze-addled luxury — such promises are just cynical sucker ploys, aimed at coaxing decent soldiers into acting as the hitmen of empire, then discarding them when they’re no longer needed.
How very strange it is: those who want to turn American soldiers into mindless, drug-addled mutants and send them off to kill and die in far-flung wars of imperial conquest are seen as patriots, noble leaders, doing the will of God; while those who would rather see these good men and women called home, treated with honor and respect–their talents and dedication applied solely to the defense of their own great country, not pressed into the service of a greedy, rapacious elite–are denounced as “traitors,” “anti-American agitators,” “allies of terrorism.”
But such is the inversion of values — the wisdom gone astray and turned to fell practice - -that now rules in Bush’s Washington, and in the Pentagon’s fiery crucibles of war.
Statement Before The House Armed Services Subcommittee on Terrorism, Unconventional Threats, and Capabilities
Max Boot, Senior Fellow for National Security Studies
June 29, 2006
One recently retired SF colonel wrote to me a few weeks ago: “The current problem with SOCOM is that it is unbalanced. Most of the leadership and planning staff have come from the DA [Direct Action] side. They have no understanding of UW [Unconventional Warfare]. To the degree that they are starting to develop an appreciation for it, it is only as an enabler for DA operations. In other words, they want to cherry pick techniques developed to wage unconventional war and use them to support conventional commando operations.”
Another more senior, retired SF officer emailed to complain of the “total USSOCOM preoccupation with raiding—SOF orientation on Special Operations and absolutely none on Low Intensity Conflict. OSD-SOLIC [Office of the Secretary of Defense, Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict] only has fulfilled 1/2 of its charter. Low Intensity Conflict died around 1990-91.”
Similar concerns have been aired in print—for instance in Sean Naylor’s Armed Forces Journal article, “More Than Door Kickers” (March 2006), which quoted yet another retired SF officer (Lieutenant Colonel Mark Haselton), complaining, “My concern is that all we’re focused on is direct action, to the absolute exclusion of all other things.... If we the spend the rest of our lives ‘capturing and killing’ terrorists a the expense of those SF missions that are more important—gaining access to the local population, training indigenous forces, providing expertise and expanding capacity—we’re doomed to failure.”
When I hear such complaints coming from so many “snake eaters” for whom I have such high respect, I take them seriously, and I think the members of this Committee should too. SOCOM has created the best commando forces in the world, but it will take more than commandos to win the war on terror.
An Unconventional Warfare Command?
The question is, what to do about this? Is it possible to get SOCOM to refocus more on Unconventional Warfare and less on Direct Action? Probably not. Already SOCOM has transferred most of its psy-ops and civil affairs capabilities—areas of scant interest to most Navy SEALS, Army Rangers, or Delta Force operatives—to the regular army. And, as Naylor noted, of the eight top flag officers at SOCOM’s headquarters at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida, not one spent his career in Special Forces. (General Bryan “Doug” Brown, the SOCOM commander, once served on an A-Team as an enlisted man many decades ago, but his specialty as an officer has been special operations aviation.) The institutional culture of SOCOM is so firmly fixed in favor of “kicking down doors”—and so much of its funding is directed for such purposes—that it is doubtful that any amount of outside pressure, even from this Committee, will change the dominant mindset very much, especially when the Office of the Secretary of Defense remains so fixated on such missions.
For this reason there is growing interest within the U.S. Army SF community in creating a new Joint Unconventional Warfare Command within SOCOM—a UW equivalent to the Joint Special Operations Command which encompasses units like Delta Force (a.k.a. 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta) and Seal Team Six (a.k.a. Naval Special Warfare Development Group, or DevGru), and focuses on Direct Action missions. An Unconventional Warfare Command could bring together Army Special Forces, civil-affairs, and psy-ops by essentially expanding the role of the Army Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. According to a paper commissioned by the Army Special Operations Command Futures Center, this new command “could fight the GWOT [Global War on Terror] by organizing,training, equipping and/or leading indigenous assets to conduct subversion, sabotage and intelligence activities directed against groups practicing terrorism or against nation-states supporting terrorism directed against U.S. interests throughout the world.”