Thursday, June 12, 2008

Questionable judgment

The Marines have been performing urban warfare exercises here in Indianapolis for a few days now, and aside from the inevitable protests, they have come off smoothly. This afternoon I was able to witness some of them directly.

A helicopter gunship much like this one did a number of "touch and go" landings in Ellenberger Park, 100 yards from my house. Between the landings a number of aerobatics were performed; some obviously attack maneuvers, like tight turns and dives at treetop level, some defensive, such as a zoom climb that began at treetop and went up like a gray comet. The heavy thumping sound of the rotor blades spoke of vast power barely controlled, but the aerial maneuvers were a graceful dance that belied their purpose. It was beautiful to watch.

It was also completely irresponsible.

This wasn't an air show, where all aerobatics- by law- are performed along the flightline or over empty fields beyond, so that should an accident occur, there is only ground to fall on. These maneuvers were being performed above homes full of families. They weren't being performed at thousands of feet; sometimes not even hundreds of feet- when I said "treetop", I was speaking of tens of feet altitude. Should something have happened, it would not have been a choice of whether a house would be hit, but which one.

I'm not being Chicken Little here- accidents do occur. Even the Blue Angels and the Thunderbirds have had their accidents, and helicopters are by their very nature the least reliable of all flying machines. Don't tell us here in Indianapolis, where in 1987 an A-7 D Corsair crashed through the lobby of a Ramada Inn, that it can't happen.
Yes, I know that statistically the odds of an incident were very low, but it was a risk that need not have been taken at all. The ground troops need a live city to practice urban warfare in, but helicopter units do not. There are abandoned neighborhoods, and in this economy, a lot of abandoned industrial parks they could have used- if, for some reason, they couldn't have used mockups. Nothing happened this time, but only because they had a good dice roll. I hope policies are changed before they come up snake eyes.


Robin Edgar said...

Speaking of eyes Joel. . . maybe the U.S. military and government wanted the people of Indianapolis to see their urban warfare exercises. Maybe they weren't all that concerned about a potential accident. After all it wouldn't be the first time that the U.S. military has put innocent American civilians at risk in their war games would it?

Joel Monka said...

As far as I know, yes it is the first time- at least for the traditional military. I know of the CIA doing experiments on civilians that involved danger, and I'm sure other intelligence agencies have as well, though I can't recall exact incidents. But Infantry war games and Air Force exercises have always been held on military reservatiuns, away from the public.

Robin Edgar said...

AFAIAC The CIA is a branch of the U.S. military and certainly a department of the U.S. government. You might want to browse through this in any case.

Here a few highlights -

1947 The CIA begins its study of LSD as a potential weapon for use by American intelligence. Human subjects (both civilian and military) are used with and without their knowledge.

1950 Department of Defense begins plans to detonate nuclear weapons in desert areas and monitor downwind residents for medical problems and mortality rates.

1950 In an experiment to determine how susceptible an American city would be to biological attack, the U.S. Navy sprays a cloud of bacteria from ships over San Franciso. Monitoring devices are situated throughout the city in order to test the extent of infection. Many residents become ill with pneumonia-like symptoms.

1951 Department of Defense begins open air tests using disease-producing bacteria and viruses. Tests last through 1969 and there is concern that people in the surrounding areas have been exposed.

1953 U.S. military releases clouds of zinc cadmium sulfide gas over Winnipeg, St. Louis, Minneapolis, Fort Wayne, the Monocacy River Valley in Maryland, and Leesburg, Virginia. Their intent is to determine how efficiently they could disperse chemical agents.

1953 Joint Army-Navy-CIA experiments are conducted in which tens of thousands of people in New York and San Francisco are exposed to the airborne germs Serratia marcescens and Bacillus glogigii.

1953 CIA initiates Project MKULTRA. This is an eleven year research program designed to produce and test drugs and biological agents that would be used for mind control and behavior modification. Six of the subprojects involved testing the agents on unwitting human beings.

1956 U.S. military releases mosquitoes infected with Yellow Fever over Savannah, Ga and Avon Park, Fl. Following each test, Army agents posing as public health officials test victims for effects.

1965 Prisoners at the Holmesburg State Prison in Philadelphia are subjected to dioxin, the highly toxic chemical component of Agent Orange used in Viet Nam. The men are later studied for development of cancer, which indicates that Agent Orange had been a suspected carcinogen all along.

1966 U.S. Army dispenses Bacillus subtilis variant niger throughout the New York City subway system. More than a million civilians are exposed when army scientists drop lightbulbs filled with the bacteria onto ventilation grates.

1977 Senate hearings on Health and Scientific Research confirm that 239 populated areas had been contaminated with biological agents between 1949 and 1969. Some of the areas included San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Key West, Panama City, Minneapolis, and St. Louis.

Joel Monka said...

I knew of half of those things, but I think my point still stands- those were experiments by the various intelligence agencies. Which was horrible, and in a better world would have resulted in prison sentences. But the Infantry has tried to keep things that go boom from the public.

Robin Edgar said...

"those were experiments by the various intelligence agencies."

Right. . .

I had no idea that the U.S. Navy was an intelligence agency Joel. Ditto for the U.S. Army and Department of Defense.

Joel Monka said...

Were you unaware that the Army and Navy run their own intelligence services?

Robin Edgar said...


You really will go to rather extreme lengths to wiggle out of the fact that the U.S. military, i.e. the U.S. Army, Navy, and Air Force etc. have at times put civilians at risk in the military exercises and tests. I am perfectly aware that the various branches of the military have their own internal intelligence services Joel but it is obvious that it was not just these internal intelligence services that conducted the large scale exercises and tests that I have spoken about here.