One doesn’t commonly associate the slogan “make love not war” with the U.S. military. Indeed, the United States military is feared and formidable precisely because it has proven so effective at conceptualizing clever and innovative ways to search, find and destroy, often with the simple push of a button. However, in a departure from these hostile traditions, in 1994 the Wright Laboratory, part of the U.S. Air Force, produced a three page proposal for a “gay bomb”.
Documentation obtained by the Sunshine Project, an anti-biological weapons non-governmental organization, found that the Ohio-based Wright Lab requested a 6 year, $7.5 million grant to create a variety of non-lethal weapons. The bluntly titled project, called “Harassing, Annoying and ‘Bad Guy’ Identifying Chemicals” reads like a bawdy proposal penned by a Bond Villian- Auric Goldfinger perhaps?
It proposed a bomb “that contained a chemical that would cause enemy soldiers to become gay, and to have their units break down because all their soldiers became irresistibly attractive to one another”. While the laboratory also came up with similarly questionable ideas, such as bad-breath bombs, flatulence bombs and bombs designed to attract swarms of stinging insects to enemy combatants, one has to admit that the gay bomb is certainly the most novel.
The Pentagon maintains that the love affair with the gay bomb idea was brief. However, the Sunshine Project thinks the Pentagon doth protest too much, finding that they “submitted the proposal to the highest scientific review body in the country for them to consider”. Indeed, the proposal’s information was submitted to the National Academy of Sciences in 2002.
The Pentagon certainly admits giving the project consideration, releasing a statement affirming: “The department of defence is committed to identifying, researching and developing non-lethal weapons that will support our men and women in uniform.”
Nonetheless, the project never made it off the ground. But the question remains: how did they even come up with such an idea? Perhaps the best clue lies in the political climate at the time. When newly elected President Bill Clinton attempted to lift the ban on homosexuals in the military, there was a din of saber rattling, pitchfork sharpening and moral hand-wringing from the military brass.
The general consensus among many leaders of the military was touted by the Department of Defence, “Homosexuality is incompatible with military service.” And that allowing gay people in the military would pose a security risk and disrupt the needed order for the military to be effective.The resulting Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (later fully called Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Pursue, and Don’t Harass) compromise, which has since been struck down, was less than thrilling for the Pentagon at time.