The flight of butterflies and other weaponized marvels

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Who can keep up with the terrible news these days. As with the dismantling of the environment (today’s story in the New York Times, “Bush proposes change to allow more thinning of the forests” — without recourse to environmental impact studies, of course), there’s at least a piece of devastating weaponry news every day.

Once upon a time, weapons articles were for technical researchers, military wonks, or futuristic dreamers. Now, we better all be paying attention. This administration loves weapons. Adores them actually. The only thing it seems to like better is stepping across or blurring meaningful boundaries that stand between all of us and horrific acts. Life under the “rules” of that generic beast war is terrible enough, but improvements are fast upon us.

When it came to weapons, yesterday there was no end of (bad) news: It was reported that the US was stockpiling land mines, many on the British island of Diego Garcia — Britain, unlike us, is a signatory of the treaty banning the weapons — for use in an Iraqi war. (“The Pentagon is preparing to use anti-personnel land mines in a war with Iraq, despite U.S. policy that calls for the military to stop using the mines everywhere in the world except Korea by 2003,” USA Today reported. To read more USA today click here

At the same time, the Bush administration released conveniently unclassified sections of the curiously named National Strategy to Combat Weapons of Mass Destruction, which essentially threatens to nuke Iraq, should Saddam order chemical or biological attacks on US troops. The key words are: “The United States will continue to make clear that it reserves the right to respond with overwhelming force — including through resort to all of our options [my italics]- to the use of WMD against the United States, our forces abroad, and friends and allies.” This elaboration of the Bush policy of preemption is what passes for subtle from this administration and its spin doctors evidently were quick to indicate that plans also included an implicit threat to use nuclear-armed “bunker busting” missiles in an Iraqi war. So much for preventing the use of weapons of mass destruction.

Before turning to the third bit of weapons news of yesterday, let me mention two less obvious examples of our weaponizing world. A toy company, oddly named Ever Sparkle Industrial Co. has released a new toy for children, 3 and up, called Forward Command Post. “It looks like Barbie went ballistic. The bombed-out dollhouse has a busted balustrade, crumbling bricks, bullet holes pockmarking its pretty pastel walls and, what’s worse, it has been commandeered by fatigue-clad soldiers toting assault rifles.” (To read more, go to “All I Want for Christmas is a Bombed-Out Dollhouse,” by Krista Foss of Canada’s Globe & Mail To see the bombed-out dollhouse and read more about it click here
It’s gotten some press attention, but you really have to see it to believe it. It also crosses a toy line. Take a look yourself.

Then there was James Gorman’s charming piece deep in the New York Times today, “Flight Tests on Butterflies Disclose Free Spirits,” describing a new study that shows butterfly flight to be a marvel of nature of almost unimaginable complexity. But it turns out even “free spirits” have their uses as in the following passage: “There is also a challenge and an opportunity for the creators of micro-air vehicles, small autonomous flying machines that could be used for spying.” To read more Gorman click here
The truth is we simply can’t grasp the degree to which our world is being weaponized.

Okay, then, here’s my question for the morning: who were those North Korean scuds on that unflagged ship on its way to Yemen supposed to be used in defense against? Djibouti? The story, as yet, makes no sense, kind of like the five-legged cows in the clouds in those old “what’s wrong with this painting” illustrations. Let’s forget the boarding on the high seas, an act that in my childhood stories was invariably attributed to the work of pirates. Forget that we’re delighted to sell missile technology — ours, of course — to our chosen allies (as are the Brits). There’s a piece (or two or three) missing from this puzzle, though it’s all clearly part of our seat-of-the-pants version of global domination.

A fine article below, from the always interesting reporters of Asia Times, reminds us, among other things, that like almost everything else imperiling in the world today, scud missile technology, first given to the North Koreans by the Egyptians (!), originally dropped through the cracks in the cold war — like weaponized anthrax, smallpox, proliferating nuclear weapons, and so on. Tom

Scuds across the sea
By Aidan Foster-Carter
Asia Times
December 12, 2002

First, a question. What makes the news? As of Wednesday morning, the top story pretty much everywhere was the interception by Spanish warships and American inspectors of a North Korean vessel, 600 miles east of the Horn of Africa. It was carrying a dozen or so Scud missiles, apparently bound for Yemen.

But what is the story here, exactly? After all (and I quote), “this is not exactly a development that is new”. Whom do I quote? None other than US Deputy Secretary of State Dick Armitage, as he arrived for talks in Beijing – which will doubtless include how to stop Pyongyang’s recently admitted nuclear program. He went on: “As a major proliferator, the North Koreans apparently have been caught.”

To read more of this Asia Times piece click here