March 8, 2003

Bombs Bursting in Airwaves

Kevin Sites, a CNN reporter in Kuwait, has been sharing personal reflections on the soon-to-be war front with readers of boingboing via email. Here’s an excerpt from his latest (read his entire post here):

For most of the journalists here in Kuwait, this is the fear and this is the joke; that for all our technology—our videophones and portable dishes, our Thurayas, and Iridiums and Neras, our digital cameras and laptop editing systems—we could end up covering this war with wind up film cameras.
It’s on the grapevine that the U.S. Air Force has developed an electro magnetic pulse weapon at Kirtland Air Force that could be used in war against Iraq. The concept is devastating simple; flying over the target area, the military emits a microwave swath, which basically fries the electronics of any appliance or device in its path.
Like a giant switch, when the EMP weapon is flicked on, the lights go out. People, however, are supposedly spared—unless they happened to be wearing a pacemaker or are hooked up to other life sustaining machinery. The EMP weapon does not apparently differentiate between cell phones and hospital respirators.
Tactically, it could help to end the war more swiftly, by denying Iraq any military communications. The order to fire a chemical weapon may be eliminated along with the chain of command.
But the EMP weapon is the boogeyman of TV network news executives’ dreams, since it has the same consequences for the media. With our reliance on satellites and microwave technology—TV is particularly vulnerable. Technologically we become deaf, dumb and blind´┐Żand may have to revert to technology that hasn’t widely been used to cover news since the mid to late 70’s.
How ironic that in the first Gulf War viewers around the world were awed by both the techno savvy and intestinal fortitude it took for CNN to broadcast from Baghdad while under a thunderstorm of thousand pound bombs. While this time the pictures on every channel could have the look and feel of the muddy film footage air lifted out of jungles during the Vietnam.

Related Stories:
High-power Microwave (HPM) / E-Bomb, (via
Bridges, Borders and Scenes from Kuwait , Kevin Sites’ most recent official CNN story

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