WASHINGTON – Those who complain the military should make love, not war, may be happy to know that on at least one occasion, military scientists were searching for ways to break down the enemy with aching desire.
Now known as the "sex bomb," or in saucier headlines, the "gay bomb," scientists considered developing a chemical weapon with aphrodisiac qualities that would make enemy soldiers hopelessly, physically attractive to one another so as to paralyze their ranks and destroy morale.
The plan was unearthed by a government watchdog group that said it was just the tip of the iceberg of covert chemical and biological programs in the U.S military.
"They've had some ideas that have been pretty nuts," said Edward Hammond, head of the Sunshine Project (search), which posts dozens of government documents it has fought to declassify under the Freedom of Information Act (search). The latest release is called "Harassing, Annoying and ‘Bad Guy' Identifying Chemicals," dated 1994, which details proposals for non-lethal weaponry by Wright Laboratory at Patterson Air Force Base (search) in Ohio.
Aside from the love bomb, other proposals in the declassified document include a chemical that would make the enemy's breath so bad he would stand out in a crowd of civilians, and one that would make the enemy attractive not to other humans, but to angry wasps and other predatory insects.
Captain Dan McSweeney, spokesman for the U.S. Marine Corps (search), told FOXNews.com that the proposals went nowhere, but were stuck in the archives and sent along with other files to the National Academy of Sciences (search), which a few years back reviewed non-lethal weapons capabilities.
"None of those ideas saw the light of day," McSweeney said. "It was put forth as some brainstorming effort … and they were rejected out of hand."
McSweeney added: "It is against the law, it is against the international chemical weapons ban, and the United States Department of Defense does not pursue those kinds of programs."
The ratification of the Chemical Weapons Convention Treaty (search) in 1997, which followed the Biological Weapons Convention Treaty (search) 20 years earlier, prevents the United States and other participating countries from creating, stockpiling or using toxic agents for warfare. Two exceptions are granted: The United States can use chemical weapons like tear gas for domestic law enforcement purposes and an executive order allows the military to reserve the right to use the same thing for "riot control" in wartime.
"The military does sometimes deploy with tear gas, and when they are given the authorization, they do use it," said McSweeney. "But we are not in the business of developing what most people consider chemical weapons."
The military does, however, develop so-called non-lethal weapons capabilities, and has long funded the Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate (search) out of Marine Corps Headquarters in Quantico, Va. Col. Gary Anderson (Ret.) said the military is developing systems there to take out the enemy while reducing civilian casualties.
"There are a lot of goofy ideas running around — a lot of fly-by-night companies that have a lot of strange ideas," he said, noting the "gay bomb" controversy. But a serious effort is being made to give soldiers weapons that stun or temporarily demobilize targets on the battlefield.
"To reduce the number of casualties — especially when [enemies] are using civilians as shields," said Anderson of the efforts.
The latest technology to come out of this field is called "Active Denial." According to official descriptions, it uses a transmitter to send a narrow beam of energy toward an identified target. The beam penetrates the skin 1/64 of an inch, heating the skin's surface. Test subjects have reported feeling as though they were on fire, but the feeling reportedly disappears when the beam is taken away, and it doesn't cause lasting injury. The technology is set to roll out this year, sources said.
Other existing non-lethal weaponry include beanbag rounds, tasers and paint balls, said McSweeney.
Hammond said his group has uncovered plenty of proof that the military continues to work on chemical programs, despite their illegality. He said the United States runs the risk of appearing duplicitous in that it invaded Iraq, in part because of Saddam Hussein's perceived chemical and biological weapons program.
Hammond also points out that chemical weapons designated as non-lethal can have fatal consequences. He gave the example of the use of a chemical gas deployed in October 2002 when hundreds of hostages were taken by terrorists in a Moscow theater. At least 129 hostages died in that incident due to the narcotic knockout gas used by Russian special forces on the scene.
Hammond argued that even the reserved right to use tear gas or other "riot control" agents in Iraq is wrong.
"Imagine if on the international news networks you had images of people lying on the ground, apparently dead, because of a gas used in Iraq," he said. "That looks like what Saddam did to the Kurds. The people who think that is a good idea are smoking something."
In response to the charge, McSweeney repeated that the military does not engage in any chemical or biological agent testing of any kind, and that Hammond's group has jumped to a lot of hasty conclusions based on obtained declassified documents.
"It's something we are very sensitive about because many people globally are following this very closely — that's not our only motivation. The other motivation is we don't do it because it's against the law," he said.
John Pike, director of GlobalSecurity.org, a clearinghouse for defense and intelligence information, said he believes programs must be tested to perfect the "riot control" agents that law enforcement and military reserve the right to deploy. He added that a harmless agent that would incapacitate hostage takers — and hostages — in crises are "greatly desired" but so far doesn't exist.
"That the military is reticent in acknowledging these programs is puzzling," he said. "The fact they are trying to hide it suggests to me that they might find something potentially embarrassing about them that they prefer not to acknowledge."