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Sonic attacks: Is this a new weapon of modern warfare?

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Dr KK Aggarwal    15 July 2018

Wars have been fought since ancient times and with time, the weapons of warfare have also evolved from spears, swords, daggers to more sophisticated weapons like rifles, machine guns, cannons, mines tanks, bombs, missiles, etc. to the advanced technology weapons of warfare of today.

Nuclear, biological (anthrax), radiological (Polonium-210) and chemical (sarin, chlorine, phosgene, mustard gas) weapons are collectively called as weapons of mass destruction as they have the capacity to cause death and destruction on a huge scale. These are used to either create selective terror or targeted attacks or cause mass casualty.

The aftermath of the use of these weapons has led to many laws, policies, resolutions and treaties, including humanitarian laws, prohibiting their use during war.

The use of nuclear bombs led to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, which prohibits acquisition/transfer of nuclear weapons or technology to achieve nuclear disarmament. Japan is still recovering from the Nagasaki and Hiroshima bombings. A lot of public health awareness has been created about biological agents to enhance preparedness against the increasing threat of bioterrorism or biological warfare. Similarly, the use of chemical weapons is also prohibited under international law. Even acceptable use of all types of conventional weapons in war time is governed by the Geneva Conventions.

More recently, there have been reports of sonic attacks. Diplomats in at least seven cities in four different countries have sought testing for strange symptoms, which include hearing loss, dizziness, tinnitus, balance problems, visual difficulties, headaches, fatigue, cognitive issues and sleeping problems.

The bizarre “sonic attacks” against diplomats began in Cuba, but have now spread to other countries with over 200 illnesses reported. It all started in the fall of 2016 when diplomats at the United States Embassy in Cuba reported some hearing loss and mild brain damage after hearing unusual and puzzling sounds. A similar phenomenon was reported earlier this year by an employee working at a US diplomatic facility in China, although that incident also remains unexplained.

Sonic and ultrasonic weapons are weapons of various types that use sound to injure, incapacitate, or kill an opponent. Some sonic weapons are currently in limited use or in research and development by military and police forces. Some of these weapons have been described as sonic bullets, sonic grenades, sonic mines, or sonic cannons. Some make a focused beam of sound or ultrasound; some make an area field of sound.

These incidents have caused the US govt. to issue an alert warning Americans traveling to China to seek medical attention if they experience “any unusual auditory or sensory phenomena accompanied by unusual sounds or piercing noises” similar to what was reported in Havana. The recommend “moving to a location where the sounds are not present instead of attempting to locate the source” of these sounds. They also recommended that persons traveling to Cuba should “reconsider” their travel plans.

These potential sonic attacks need to be investigated as their cause and source are still unknown. The CDC has joined a govt. investigation into these sonic attacks.

However, it is not just the CDC which should be examining this issue. Every country in the world should investigate this new potential “sound weapon” of warfare.

 

Dr KK Aggarwal

Padma Shri AwardeeVice President CMAAOGroup Editor-in-Chief IJCP Publications

President Heart Care Foundation of India

Immediate Past National President IMA

 

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