Monday, 18 September 2006

Environmentally responsible warfare

According to an absolutely serious, even po-faced, report in the Sunday Times yesterday:
BAE Systems, one of the world’s biggest arms manufacturers, is designing a new generation of ‘green’ munitions”, cutting out “dangerous compounds which can harm the environment and pose a risk to people"

Apparently, among the exciting possibilities under consideration are lead-free bullets, quieter warheads to reduce noise pollution, safer and sustainable artillery, biodegradable plastic for missiles, and grenades that produce less smoke. There have also been experiments to see if explosives can be turned into manure (before they are let off?)

Many will be reassured to learn of these initiatives, which should do much to improve the image of the arms manufacturers. Up to now they have been widely believed to be concerned only with finding better ways of killing people; it is good to know that they are developing ways of doing it quietly and without leaving toxic residues.

However, there is nothing new about the idea of conducting a battle without actually hurting anybody very much: back in the thirties Beachcomber came up with the concept of a powerful gas called Bracerot (nowadays it would be BraceRot, I suppose). In the event of an infantry attack, huge clouds of the gas would be blown towards the enemy troops and when it reached them their braces (or suspenders, if they were American) would quickly disintegrate, their trousers (or pants) would fall down round their ankles, and the advance would be brought to an ignominious halt.

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