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RICHARD LARDNER IN WASHINGTON
US MILITARY commanders in Iraq have repeatedly requested the deployment of a new non-lethal weapon to avoid civilian casualties - only to have their requests turned down by a Pentagon fearful that it might be seen as a torture device.
Essentially a ray-gun that neither kills nor maims, it uses energy beams instead of bullets and lets soldiers break up angry crowds without firing a shot.
Mounted on a Humvee or a flatbed truck, the Active Denial System gives people hit by the invisible beam the sense that their skin is on fire. They move out of the way quickly and without injury.
In August 2003, Richard Natonski, a US marine corps brigadier-general who had just returned from Iraq, filed an "urgent" request with officials in Washington for the energy-beam device.
The device would minimise what Natonski described as the "CNN Effect": the instant relay of images depicting US troops as aggressors. A year later, Natonski, by then promoted to major-general, again asked for the system, saying a compact and mobile version was "urgently needed," particularly in urban settings.