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The Joys of Art

Monday, September 12, 2005

Bush's God is speaking to him again

That means more death and destruction to follow....Sigh President "mental case" Bush....President George Wacko Bush.....Remember he says one thing and then he does another.....

Underscoring the unpopularity of the devices, defense officials working on the program, called Spider, declined to call the weapon a land mine. They opted instead for generic descriptions like "networked munitions."

The Spider has the same function as a field of land mines — to prevent anyone from crossing a piece of territory, either by killing them or scaring them away. But unlike a traditional minefield, it is designed to be monitored by a human operator, who can activate the system by computer when somebody enters the protected area.

It can also be set to function like a traditional minefield, without any human monitoring, officials involved with the program said in recent interviews. But they insisted that option would only be used in rare cases, with approval by senior officers on the ground.

Military officials said the system answers critics' complaints about traditional mines, chief among them that they remain a hazard long after a conflict ends, killing or maiming civilians who accidentally set them off. The new mines either turn themselves off or their batteries run out after 30 days, leaving them inert, officials said.

According to the United Nations, more than 110 million unexploded land mines litter the planet, with mines a threat in at least 68 countries. The worst casualties from them have occurred in Afghanistan, Angola and Cambodia.

American officials contend that U.S. mines are not a significant contributor to the land mine problem worldwide. But according to New York-based Human Rights Watch, U.S. mines are present in 29 countries. The United States stopped exporting mines in 1992.

The U.S. military last used land mines in combat during the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

The Pentagon has mines ready for use to defeat a potential North Korean invasion of South Korea. Military officials regard the narrow Korean peninsula as favorable for anti-personnel mines because they expect any North Korean invasion of the south would involve large movements of infantry across relatively limited corridors.

Enter the Spider.

"It's an alternative to the persistent mines that are coming out of the inventory," said Doreen Chaplin, division chief for network munitions at the Army's Picatinny research center in New Jersey. "It's much more than your old anti-personnel mines."

Human Rights Watch disagrees, saying the mines' capability to detonate automatically, not by an operator, violates international consensus on such weapons.

Last year, President Bush backed away from a Clinton-era policy of giving up all anti-personnel mines by 2006, assuming the Pentagon could develop an alternative by then. The new policy allows indefinite use of mines with deactivation features on the assumption they pose little threat to civilians.

The Bush administration has said it will not join the Ottawa treaty that bans anti-personnel mines. Ratified by 143 countries, the pact bans the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of anti-personnel mines and stipulates that mined areas be cleared within 10 years. The United States, China and Russia are among 51 countries that have not ratified the treaty.

A provision of the treaty prohibits signatories from assisting other countries whose actions would violate it. Steve Goose, director of the arms division at Human Rights Watch, said NATO allies who are part of the treaty could balk at working with the U.S. if the American military wanted to use mines during a joint operation.

While Spider is "better than a traditional anti-personnel mine," Goose said, "it's objectionable."

Spider does comply with a less-stringent conventional weapons accord that says mines must deactivate themselves within 90 days, Goose said. The U.S. is a party to that convention.

A single Spider system would involve up to 84 "munitions," each a small disc with six miniature, single-shot grenade launchers. When a nearby tripwire is triggered, one or all the grenades will fire, depending on the setting.

The disks can also be loaded with plastic balls as a nonlethal weapon, Chaplin said.

In December, the Army will decide whether to begin low-rate production of Spider. If that goes forward, the weapon could be ready for initial deployment to the 2nd Infantry Division in South Korea by 2008, Chaplin said.

The military has spent $100 million developing Spider, she said.

The U.S. is using some of the technology developed under the Spider program in another system, called Matrix, that is available to commanders in Iraq, military officials said. Matrix includes some of the remote monitoring gear used in Spider to manage a field of traditional Claymore mines, which are explosives detonated only when a soldier activates them.

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