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Your Ad Here The Pentagon's Deadly Pets


The US Pentagon has enlisted the aid of animals as weapons and sensors for wartime since world war two, with some experimentation earlier. Pigeons have been used to guide missiles, crickets to detect enemy troops, bats, beetles, dogs, sea lions, whales, dolphins, and more.

But of all the animals inthe Pentagon zoo, the admirals and generals still love the dolphin best. With sonar capabilities and intelligence, grace of movement, and an emotional afiity for humans (unfortunate for the dolphin), it has become the biological weapon of choice.

The CIA was first into the sea with dolphins. In 1964, at a cocktail party in Annapolis, a CIA-connected research and development entrepreneur named James Fitzgerald joked to an admiral that dolphins might lend a hand in sonar experimentation. The admiral took Fitzgerald seriously and introduced him to a relative who was a CIA specialist in underwater warfare.

Fitzgerald set up shop on a small finger key just off the naval base at Key West, Florida, where the United States had stored its nuclear warheads during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Astounding results came quickly. A dolphin could tell the difference between aluminum and copper, could acoustically "see" a three-inch ball 200 yards off underwater in total darkness, and could be quickly taught to push or pull 110-pound payloads through a hundred miles of open sea. Dolphins also learned toplant magnetic satchels on the hulls of ships, although they often misplaced their dummy explosives underneath the yachts of some very surprised sportsmen. The CIA covered these mistakes by explaining that the dolphins were part of an experiment for the Bureau of Marine Fisheries.

All in all, the venture was proceeding nicely. James Fitzgerald was happy to translate the dolphins' capabilities into "Pentagonese", referring to the dolphins as living, breathing submarines. "For operational purposes," he bubbled, "you can consider a cruising speed of five knots, an operating speed of ten, and a flying speed of twenty. They develop the shaft horsepower at cruising speed... with a fuel rate of fifteen pounds of fish a day."

Apparently satisfied, the CIA went ahead with its first scheme. Anchored off Havan like a rumrunner, a disguised CIA yacht released a dolphin from a special stern porthole beaneath the surface. The dolphin swam down an acoustic "path" that was laid by sonar beams sent from the dolphin ship to the harbour. The dolphin helped obtain information about the power plant of a Russian nuclear- powered ship by placing instruments against the hull of the vessel.

Dolphins continued to be draped in the Stars and Stripes. They were secretly sent to locate a nuclear warhead that had accidentally been dropped in shallow water off Puerto Rico. The mishap occurred soon after a similar incident near Palomares, Spain, in 1966. "The Pentagon never informed the American people of the Puerto Rico incident," commented a former CIA dolphin researched, "because it did not want to alarm public opinion or own up to the bumbling breakdown of its 'fail-safe' system."

The warhead was found by underwater divers and electronic devices, but the dolphins demonstrated that they could locate the acoustic signature of sunken bombs in the future, and that they could be helicoptered to unfamiliar territory without becoming disoriented.

With the development of the Polaris missile, which can be launched underwater, submarines -- especially nuclear-powered submarines -- gained tremendous destructive potential. The navy and the Pentagon placed passionate emphasis on research for submarine defense and, at the same time, for systems that could locate Russian submarines. When the United States withdrew from Vietnam, the dolphin underwater-defense team was sent to guard a submarine base in the Philippines. Plans wre also made to deploy a second squadron around the nuclear submarines in Holy Loch, Scotland. Navy admirals believed that dolphins should be mass trained to find Russian submarines. On an important inspection of the secret Hawaiian dolphin-training center, an admiral from Pearl Harbour ordered researchers to "immediately produce a demonstrable prototype system capable of being delivered to open ocean sites, via air, surface ship, or submarine, that would be able to locate, identify and tag Russian submarines" with underwater sound transmitters.

If successful, the program would solve the central problem of the navy's silent warfare, tracking missile-firing submarines. A by- product would be the development of techniques that would mask the noise of operating US submarines by disguising them as schools of dolphins. Since dolphins are only able to dive about a thousand feet [regularly],the navy also wanted to enlist the services of killer and pilot whales.

But if the full deployment of dolphins and whales as a mobile underwater DEW line would solve a defense problem for the Pentagon, it would only create one for the whales and dolphins themselves. In the linear logic of the Pentagon, a weapons system like the dolphins can be blocked oly by a countersystem or by elimination of the original system. If the Soviets are forced to build an armada of whales and dolphins to counter the US, the logic of the Pentagon leads to a clear Orwellian solution: liquidate dolphins and whales in pre-emptive strikes. As early as 1956 "Naval Aviation news" reported "another successful mission against killer whales off the coast," which "destroyed hundreds of killer whales with machine guns, rockets and depth charges."

Micheal Greenwood worked with the Pentagon's dolphins for some time, before vowing "...never again would I sit down out of fear or career interest, when I had something important to say relating to the integrity of research that I was any way involved with." Soon after, when it was suggested that he train dolphins to retrieve advanced harbour mines from Chinese waters and tag Russian submarines, he balked.

The decision affected his career, leading to threats of demotion and a public speaking on the problem. But the testimony was sidestepped as the issue was a "military matter."

Other animal researchers, like B.F. Skinner, have no problems with the concept of letting dolphins die for men. He was convinced that the distinction between animals and humans was the central ethical questions.

Dr. John Lilly dismissed Skinner's distinctions with a wry smile. "Skinner thinks that any non-human animal can only feed, fight and run away. Not only are whales and dolphins as intelligent as we are, but their ethics are more highly development that those of most humans." Lilly feels that whales operate under a "negative golden rule." They act towards humans as they want humans to acttowards them. When the navy bombed them, they did not try to retaliate, but rather to try to teach by example.