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Analysis: Experts weigh in on Iraqi Playstations

By J. MARK HUFFMAN, UPI Science News

WASHINGTON, Dec. 27 -- The Sony Playstation 2 is acknowledged as the leading video game console and the envy of every kid, but could it be a major asset to the Iraqi military? Experts in both defense and video games say no, despite some concerns raised in U.S. intelligence circles.

WorldNetDaily, a news and opinion Web site, cited a secret Defense Intelligence Agency report stating as many as 4,000 of the game consoles have been purchased in the United States and shipped to Iraq late this year. The report expresses concern that the units could be linked together to form a powerful super computer, capable of many military uses, including control of missiles.

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FBI and U.S. Customs officials are investigating the claim, but even if it's true, Iraqi generals would likely be disappointed in the results anyway, a Playstation 2 expert told United Press International

"As shipped, the Playstation 2 does not have the capability to link processors in parallel. The idea that you can create a super computer by linking ten of these units together is wrong. That's not a capability of the Playstation 2 right out of the box," said Eric Newhouse, group manager at Videogame Review.com, a San Francisco-based game site.

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Newhouse agreed a major advantage of the Playstation 2 over a personal computer is its greatly enhanced graphics capabilities, but he questioned how valuable that would be to Iraqi military applications.

"The graphics capabilities would help for modeling and design functions, but for raw CPU issues like calculating missile trajectory, a powerful computer would be much better," Newhouse said.

John Carey, a Washington-based defense issues consultant, is also skeptical of the Playstation's usefulness to the Iraqi military, especially in controlling its missiles.

"The key Iraqi problem is accuracy. No matter how sophisticated their computers, those old Soviet-era missiles are just too inaccurate to be a threat. That's why our ships can operate in the region without becoming targets," Carey told UPI.

Carey, president of International Defense Consultants, said he was in the region during the Persian Gulf War and saw the state of Iraq's missiles at close hand. He doesn't think the use of video game consoles will increase Iraq's offensive capabilities.

"Where a computer might help is in defending yourself from attack," he said.

If Saddam Hussein did want to buy up large quantities of video game consoles, however, he would have an easier time getting them past U.N. sanctions than if he were buying regular computers. Video games are classified as toys, which are not closely scrutinized. Computer hardware, on the other hand, is banned under U.N. sanctions.

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The Japanese government has shown sensitivity to the issue, having slapped export controls on the game console upon its release last April.

The Sony Playstation 2 has been a hard-to-find item since it's introduction earlier this year. It features a 300 MHz, 128-bit CPU. It's prized by video game enthusiasts for its speed, sound reproduction and graphics.

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