Perhaps it was his way of springing into action, that staring. Perhaps the goat in the story reminded him that if he stared long and hard enough, he could will the planes to change course. For the WOW three-part series Crazy Rulers of the World, which begins airing November 7 at 8PM on Channel 4 in England, journalist Jon Ronson spent three years researching the history of various wacky US military training programs that are having an impact on the current Bush administration. Staring at goats with intent to kill is one of them. Walking through walls is another. Really. Forget that within weeks of 9/11 the FBI started using psychics to predict future terrorist attacks; as far back as the early ’80s, the military has been involved in paranormal activities.
In Crazy Rulers‘ first part, “The Men Who Stare at Goats,” Ronson discovers US military intelligence tactics that, until he showed up, had been closely guarded secrets. He tracks down Lt. Col. Jim Channon – a kind of hybrid of Timothy Leary and Colonel Kurtz – in his leafy hideaway. Channon’s love-bead theories of war back in the hippie days of Vietnam, when he headed up the First Earth Battalion (click on official document above), included soldiers carrying baby lambs into hostile territory (who would harm Lamb Chop?) and greeting the enemy with hugs. He tells Ronson that uniforms would have had built in loudspeakers playing either indigenous or discordant, disorienting music. War without firearms.
Ronson learns firsthand the powers of the Predator, an orange plastic tool the size and shape of a small wrench that holds multiple means of instantly incapacitating a man. He learns about Project Jedi, about fasting for days, about Goat Lab (formerly Dog Lab), where the logical next step after bending silverware – staring at goats until their hearts stop – was practiced and studied. He visits with (retired) Major Stubblebine, who recalls having attempted and attempted to walk through his office walls, he and the walls both being composed of molecules, after all. It seems the theory was that an enemy, knowing the US troops were capable of such feats, would surely retreat.
As Dr. Ray Hyman, a CIA contract psychologist, tells Ronson – who, by the way, is quite intrepid – “There’s just as much nuttiness within our CIA and defense department as there is outside of it.”
The Crazy Rulers of the World is WOW’s sequel to its Secret Rulers of the World, and is based on Jon Ronson’s book, which will be published in the UK and US simultaneously as a companion to the series and will be serialized in the Guardian. Below are the book’s two covers, one Yank, one Brit. But which is which?