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Published:March 24th, 2010 12:00 EST
bhut jolokia a red chili pepper

Indian Military Seeks to Weaponize Chili Peppers

By Geoff Dean

 The bhut jolokia, a red chili pepper grown and eaten in the northeast region of India, is no mere spicy pepper. On the Scoville scale of spiciness (who knew?), it scored a 1,000,000 Scoville units. Compare that to tabasco sauce (2500 to 5000 units), jalapeno peppers (2500 to 8000 units) and habanero peppers (up to 400,000 units). The bhut jolokia, literally the "ghost pepper", was certified as the world`s hottest by the folks at Guinness, (not the brewery, mind you,) in 2007.

bhut jolokia

 As spicy as it is, it is a popular item in Indian dishes (in small amounts, I presume) and is used as a medicine for stomachaches and as a way to fight India`s "crippling summer heat", according to an AP report. I can see the potential heat fighting properties (spicy food is used to battle heat and humidity across Asia) but the stomachache idea is a little harder for me to fathom. Oh well, what do I know?

 Anyway, (my articles seems to contain this word in abundance), the Indian military has come up with a plan to pack grenades full of the ghost pepper and use them in counter-insurgency missions. The idea is that the extreme pungency could be used to flush inusrgents out of caves and hiding places and to temporarily choke and incapicate them. Furthermore, it has no lasting damaging effect so collateral damage would not be a concern, except for the occasional innocent bystander spiced out of his gourd. If that were not enough, it has no environmental side effects, either. It may be the perfect weapon.

 Indian police have already experiment with the spicy pepper in crowd control in unruly Assam state in northeast India and have provided some women with mace-style spray canisters for protection against sexual predators and attackers. It has also been spread on the walls of Indian jungle military bases to keep away "marauding elephants" and has been declared highly effective at all these tasks by scientists at India`s "Defense Research and Development Organization" based in Assam.

 If the weapon is effective, bio-degradable, and causes no collateral damage, it is time to spread its use all over the world. Cluster bombs filled with spicy peppers? Nuclear warheads full of ghost peppers? Mutually Assured Spicification?

 I have only two concerns. Or more. How long is it before farmers and fields of bhut jolokia become military targets? Will there ultimately be a red pepper black market? Someday soon, will Palestinians and Israelis be firing peppers back and forth?

 And how long before former Vice President Dick Cheney gets word of this? Is there a memo banning red pepper torture? Who needs waterboarding if you can spice the living daylights out of an interrogee?