Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The Gas Shells

Hot Air has video of Senator Rick Santorum announcing declassified information that about 500 gas-filled artillery shells have been found in Iraq. Senator Santorum's press release says:

June 21, 2006 Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA), Chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, joined Congressman Peter Hoekstra, (R-MI-2), Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, today to make a major announcement regarding the release of newly declassified information that proves the existence of chemical munitions in Iraq since 2003. The information was released by the Director of National Intelligence, John Negroponte, and contained an unclassified summary of analysis conducted by the National Ground Intelligence Center. In March, Senator Santorum began advocating for the release of these documents to the American public.

“The information released today proves that weapons of mass destruction are, in fact, in Iraq,” said Senator Santorum. “It is essential for the American people to understand that these weapons are in Iraq. I will continue to advocate for the complete declassification of this report so we can more fully understand the complete WMD picture inside Iraq.”

The following are the six key points contained in the unclassified overview:

  • Since 2003 Coalition forces have recovered approximately 500 weapons munitions which contain degraded mustard or sarin nerve agent.
  • Despite many efforts to locate and destroy Iraq’s pre-Gulf War chemical munitions, filled and unfilled pre-Gulf War chemical munitions are assessed to still exist.
  • Pre-Gulf War Iraqi chemical weapons could be sold on the black market. Use of these weapons by terrorists or insurgent groups would have implications for Coalition forces in Iraq. The possibility of use outside Iraq cannot be ruled out.
  • The most likely munitions remaining are sarin and mustard-filled projectiles.
  • The purity of the agent inside the munitions depends on many factors, including the manufacturing process, potential additives, and environmental storage conditions. While agents degrade over time, chemical warfare agents remain hazardous and potentially lethal.
  • It has been reported in open press that insurgents and Iraqi groups desire to acquire and use chemical weapons.

Technically, this means that the long-lost WMDs have been found. But these may not exactly be the WMDs the public had in mind. The public image associated with WMD stockpiles is probably a hill of diabolical looking devices in a gleaming underground facility like the doomsday machines in a James Bond movie. Five hundred old gas shells may technically be chemical weapons, but it wouldn't be what Hollywood would use for a prop. That doesn't mean the weapons couldn't have killed people. But the calculus on both sides of partisan aisle will not care so much about explosive or chemical payload so much as political impact. Even in their degraded state the shells probably could have killed a lot of people. Captain Ed says:

An artillery company could have laid down a very effective attack on an enemy position, quickly killing or disabling them in a manner outlawed for decades. Of course, that had been the entire point of the UN Security Council resolutions -- to strip Saddam of that capability -- and he obviously retained it, and lied about it.

 But. In politics there's always a but.

The next question will be why the White House did not release this information at the time of their discovery. Santorum's statement says, “The information released today proves that weapons of mass destruction are, in fact, in Iraq[.] It is essential for the American people to understand that these weapons are in Iraq. I will continue to advocate for the complete declassification of this report so we can more fully understand the complete WMD picture inside Iraq.” That implies that a broader analysis of WMD in Iraq exists -- and that it differs significantly from the common understanding shown thus far.

Some will claim that the release is strictly for political purposes. They may have a point, but I doubt it will have anything to do with domestic politics. If Bush wanted to use it for that, he would have done so in October 2004 and not in June 2006. This information changes the picture about our pre-war intelligence in time for the Iranian confrontation -- and I suspect that the White House wants to declassify it in order to convince European leaders that our intel actually paid off.

And then there's this from the Real Ugly American reporting on a news interview on TV.

General Tom Mcinerney is reporting on Fox Hannity and Colmes right now that that the administration has been keeping this low profile to avoid exposing 3 of the 5 members of the UN Security council; Russia, China, and France. McInerney says these weapons will be traced to these countries, and asserts it is well known that Russia helped Saddam move most of his WMD stockpiles out of Iraq before the war.

Well, who knows? But questions in Iraq have long moved past the stated casus belli of 2003. Saddam's a prisoner. His state is dismantled. The Sunnis, if not overthrown, are at least no longer in control. There is Shi'ite versus Shi'ite conflict in southern Iraq. Iran is not going to walk in and take over the whole place. The issues are different. The development of a missile weapons delivery system by North Korea now adds a dimension to Iranian efforts to acquire a nuclear weapons capability that wasn't there in 2003. In this context, a pile of 500 gas artillery shells though it is everything that 500 gas artillery shells ought to be, may not seem like a hill of beans in this crazy world. Count on the New York Times to realize that -- now.


Blogger DanMyers said...

The moonbats are eating their own feet on this...

Not proof, so what they weren't there when Bush said they were, etc. This is worth it to see the left go insane....

Carl declassified it, just wait :-)

6/21/2006 09:09:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

I recall one of the early IED's used a mustard gas artillery shell, but the story had no legs.

Whether they found a stckpile in a bunker or just ones and twos spread across the country would be interesting to know.
Earlier reports were that the small number of shells reported found were from the Iran-Iraq War era. Some mixed in storage with normal HE rounds. Not specially marked.

Even 500 operational 155mm rounds though would need a lot of guns to create a fog. I imagine cannoneer can tell us how many rounds each gun could fire in a limited time frame. Counter battery from air or ground would limit a big gun's capacity, no matter how well camoflouged or dug in.

To dismantle the shells and reconstitute the sarin in another deployable weapons system would take some degree of expertise.

6/21/2006 09:10:00 PM  
Blogger DanMyers said...

I know - Karl....

Yes, DR - as would loading them initially..

6/21/2006 09:18:00 PM  
Blogger Annoy Mouse said...

The degraded weapons would likely be effective in an IED attack. A busy market place is a much more vulnerable target than a war hardened enemy with gas masks and MOPP gear.

I would consider that the existence of such devices would remain classified if there was uncertainty of other stockpiles or hidden assets. It is just the cloak and dagger games that are played on the level of international politics and saying that we got em and the the danger has been extinguished would only open up the possibility of being embarrassed by the existence of other material. Fact it would encourage it. If we screwed the Russians politically the Sword of Damocles’ would no longer be in effect and the Russians would have little incentive not to see that there was a chemical attack, as a way to say… FU the place is crawling with WMD and you’re too stupid to find them. Thanks for blaming it on us.

6/21/2006 09:26:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

Initially, danmyers, they controlled a State and could use it's resources to build and load the shells. That no longer is true.

While there may be experts and facilities available to the terrorists, their sarin gas capabilities must be vastly degraded since Saddam's fall, no?

6/21/2006 09:54:00 PM  
Blogger DanMyers said...

It is very possible, DR. The point is they were loaded once. Either by Iraqi forces or through foreign assistance.

I am not a chemical weapons expert, for that matter, I claim to be an expert at nothing. Procedures for transferring lethal gases from device to device is beyond my grasp. But, I bet I could learn it. I'd bet you could too. Do the research, fact check it with citations, purchase the necessary equipment and lose a few "early adopters" (somebody has to be first). Call the Russians, find out what this "titration" thing means (sounds like its an infidel thing). Not like anyone's ever thought of using Sarin for terror, right?

6/21/2006 10:08:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

As I recall the explaination by the talking head on the subject.
It is the high rpm's caused by the rounds spinning as it flys down range that activates the agent. The ability to mix the agents without that rotation was not possible, in the shell. Or by a secondary explosive mixing the stew.

Could these type shells, if others exist, be recycled into a terror weapon? Perhaps they can.

In Japan the subways were subject to a sarin attack, as I recall.
The Japanese terrorists brewed their own mix.
If the Enemy has the capacity to reformulate the artillery shells, they could, as likely, start from scratch.

The declassified existence of these shells, or 5,000 more, has little impact on the threat levels.

The Enemy has the capacity or not.

He has yet to deploy it, if he does.

6/21/2006 10:24:00 PM  
Blogger John (Useful Fools) said...

We don't yet know the kinds of shells found.

However, there was one shell used in an IED. It was a binary Sarin weapon (not Mustard Gas as commented above).

This has two implications:

1) Iraq had never been known to have binary weapons. This implies that they had hidden that capability from all inspectors over all the years.

2) Binary weapons should be much easier to use for terrorist purposes. The two ingredients are relatively inert and far less toxic. Hence a terrorist could remove the two components and transport them to a place of use. For example, the terrorist could mix them in a bug sprayer seconds before spraying the result into the air intake of a large building - killing thousands.

The report isn't that significant in terms of the casus belli (which we had in spades anyway - the WMD issue is one of many that were used, but the only one the MSM wants to mention). It does show that pre-invasion Iraq was dangerous in terms of terrorism, and that post-invasion Iraq is still dangerous in that regard. Who knows how many more of those shells are out in the thousands of weapons dumps? How many have been identified (not easy to do - they are unmarked) and taken away by terrorists, to be used in some future attack?

6/21/2006 10:41:00 PM  
Blogger jj mollo said...

This news release is going to convince exactly no one. Santorum is universally despised by liberals. The real purpose is to make him look important. His base will see that he actually has contacts in the White House.

6/21/2006 10:41:00 PM  
Blogger blert said...

I’ve visited this topic months ago.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this information is only now being disclosed: Zarqawi is finally dead. You can take it to the bank that he’d used them if he knew what he had his hands on.

Fortunately, Saddam went against all prior practice and produced binary shells that looked identical to high explosive rounds. This puts the unlawful combatants in a quandary. Drilling into a binary round to recover its values is exactly how you’d set off a conventional round. They need to identify these munitions in order to use them, which is the very thing Saddam designed away from.

His intent was to be able to use them right under the eyes of French officers ‘assisting’ his defense against Iran in the mid eighties.

If they knew what they were doing the unlawful combatants would be able to inflict devastation way beyond 9-11 with these shells. You can forget about battlefield use in the classic sense: these are perfect terror weapons.

A single round of Sarin could kill thousands.

Mustard gas is so primitive that it is no challenge to produce. It’s a ninety-year old munition. Still, it’s a horrific killer.

I would not be surprised to find out that Zawahiri has nixed the use of chemical attacks reasoning that we would nuke him and many others.

Of course, Zawahiri was not able to control Zarqawi, the ultimate loose cannon.

As it goes with Sarin so too germ warfare.

Bush & Co are letting this cat out of the bag because it builds its case against Iran and Russia. The nuclear threat is trumping concern over these nasties.

As to the chemistry specifics, I must bite my tongue, and would encourage all others to do likewise. Don’t offer up any technical advice whatsoever regardless of how well known you might think your points are. We are being read.

6/21/2006 11:44:00 PM  
Blogger blert said...

desert rat said…

“Whether they found a stckpile in a bunker or just ones and twos spread across the country would be interesting to know.”

They have been picked up retail at IED sites for many months. There are steady references to such discoveries on milblogs as if they were as common as bacon and eggs.
We’re talking both chemical warhead rockets and artillery rounds.

The reason for all of the IED casualties is attempts to disarm them when it is suspected that poison gas is probable. Otherwise, IEDs would be blown in place.

So, these rounds are a significant source of American casualties right now. Yes, they are deployed by the unlawful combatants. Yes, are forcing use to do very risky things. Many a maimed American gave his limbs to this fight.

6/21/2006 11:55:00 PM  
Blogger RWE said...

I can only assume that the fact that the Iraqis "missed" 500 older chemical shells that were in storage is due to the fact that had a lot of newer WMDs they had to worry about disposing of. If those were the only ones they had you can bet they would know where they were.

If you only have one car you know what it's condition is at all times. If you have 6 vehicles sitting in your yard you very probably don't know if one of the less often driven ones has a dead battery.

Or situation is like discovering there were no Japanese aircraft carriers in September 1945 and concluding that therefore they could not have launched the attack on Pearl Harbor - so our war was unjustified.

6/22/2006 05:15:00 AM  
Blogger Pofarmer said...

"This news release is going to convince exactly no one. Santorum is universally despised by liberals. The real purpose is to make him look important. His base will see that he actually has contacts in the White House."

I think Santorum and a few others are getting sick of getting hit in the head with the "There were no Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq in 2003" (said in a bufoonous barotone) every time a "debate" on Iraq comes up.

6/22/2006 05:18:00 AM  
Blogger Phydeaux said...

Let's get real about "Weapons of Mass Destruction". There is really only one: nuclear.

Poison gas' effectiveness depends totally on weather conditions (especially wind and/or rain,)and surprise, meaning whether or not the intended victims can flee the area affected. It's true that a liter of sarin can kill a thousand people - but only if the thousand people line up and receive their assigned doses. Gas has a nasty reputation mostly because of the horror of its use in World War I. There, the front lines were immobile, and the troops submerged in the stuff just had to sit there and take it. It wasn't used in WW II at all, not because of its horror, but because it wasn't militarily significant in a war of movement. High explosive simply provided much more bang for the buck. (Sorry about the pun.)

As a terror weapon, it's pretty good for inciting fear, but it's really not a big killer. Consider the 1995 Tokyo attack. Several gallons of sarin were used on ideal targets: subway cars. No rain or wind to worry about, and no place for the victims to go. Several thousand people were affected. All of 12 died. Bad, but hardly a World Trade Center worth of death.

Biological weapons are even worse as a terror weapon. Again, they're dependent on weather conditions for their immediate effects, and the target doesn't know there's even been an attack until the incubation period has elapsed. This is not good for producing the desired headlines. The other problem is that once the attack is discovered, it can be countered quite easily: the quite effective 2001 anthrax attack was countered by that superweapon "penicillin", and again killed only 5. There's always a fear that somebody will come up with a superbug. But for a terrorist, a superbug comes with the problem that contagion knows no borders, and sooner or later what goes around comes around. For these and other reasons, biological agents have never been used in modern warfare, and likely never will.

Nuclear weapons truly are weapons of mass destruction. The clumsy, low-yield Hiroshima bomb killed in the neighborhood of 50,000 people. Now THAT's mass destruction. Don't sweat the gas and bugs.

6/22/2006 06:11:00 AM  
Blogger Cannoneer No. 4 said...

Official figures declare about 1,176,500 non-fatal casualties and 85,000 fatalities directly caused by chemical weapon agents during the course of the war. [WWI]

It is unfortunate, Phydeaux, that some readers here might mistake your ignorance for wisdom.

6/22/2006 07:02:00 AM  
Blogger timmiejoebob said...

The Joint Resolution to Authorize the Use of United States Armed Forces Against Iraq of October 2, 2002 begins with 23 separate clauses justifying use of force against the Hussein regime in Iraq. 21 of those identify casus belli. The other two spell out the presidents powers to make war. 9 of the casus belli relate to the possession, production, capability to produce, or the use of WMD. The resolution is very clear that the definition of WMD includes nuclear, biological and chemical. The other 12 clauses list additional justifications including two with lengthy lists of UN resolutions that had been continually defied.

There were clearly ample justifications for the war in addition to WMD. There was international and domestic agreement on the existence of WMD. Yet somehow the loyal opposition can only utter a single, well-worn retort to any attempt at serious discussion: "Bush lied. There were no WMD." Well, Bush did not lie. Neither did Kerry, Biden, Chirac et al.

This doesn't matter all that much for those of us that felt the war was necessary for many reasons. We always suspected that our 2 year long "rush to war" gave Saddam ample time to cover his tracks on WMD. It didn't really matter. It was long past time for him to go.

It also doesn't matter all that much to the neo-marxist left. Kos thinks they march to his drumbeat, but he's a hubristic puppet of a very well entrenched world-wide socialist establishment. The leftists care little for the truth, being far more concerned with using any means necessary to oppose the hegemony of the Anglosphere.

Where the release of information on WMD discoveries in Iraq is pivotal today is the same place it was three years ago. That is among those who supported the war early on, but turned against it later because failure to find WMD removed what for them was the only justification for war. Now those same people either must admit yet again that they were hasty, or admit that they just don't like not getting invited to all the right cocktail parties.

Much will be made of the Bush Administration's choice to keep this classified. I applaud them. They have shown yet again that they have a job to do and they're going to do it regardless of what mud the Dems and the left can sling about. Force protection is a much higher priority than wasting time arguing with people that just want to pick a fight, any fight.

Besides, the real scandal, the burning question of the day that threatens to split the vast right wing monolith is this: Why is Instapundit's Lane Bryant Babe hotter than Belmont's?

6/22/2006 08:24:00 AM  
Blogger Cannoneer No. 4 said...


6/22/2006 08:30:00 AM  
Blogger BigLeeH said...

My take on the administration's reluctance to release this stuff is that they have hoped, and continue to hope to find more. There have been occasional stories about chemical weapons in Iraq -- a few old chemical shells here, some questionable dual-use facilities there -- and they never had any legs. In fact, the anti-war pundits used them as the exception that proved their rule: See, they said a few old, and probably ineffective artillary shells -- hardly the stockpiles we were led to expect.

So, since there are real intelligence costs to releasing the information, and since its release in fits and dribbles would dissipate its political effect, they have been hoarding it, hoping to add a major find that would more capture the public's attention, both in the US and internationally. Their access to information about ongoing small finds would tend to keep them hopeful about the possibilities of larger ones.

6/22/2006 09:28:00 AM  
Blogger Tony said...

It will be interesting to watch how this story will be ignored, minimized, dismissed. Just like the take-down of the vastly dangerous AQ Khan network, just like the surrender of all those wmd programs in Libya (Iraq's?), just like the defeat of Saddam after 12 years of feckless UN Security Council resolutions, just like incredible corruption by Saddam of France and Russia.

See, Al Gore REALLY won the election in 2000, and Karl Rove REALLY stole the election from Kerry in Ohio, and Bush is REALLY responsible for the Katrina flooding. Pay no attention to your lying eyes.

6/22/2006 09:33:00 AM  
Blogger Eggplant said...

Wretchard said:

"The public image associated with WMD stockpiles is probably a hill of diabolical looking devices in a gleaming underground facility like the doomsday machines in a James Bond movie. Five hundred old gas shells may technically be chemical weapons, but it wouldn't be what Hollywood would use for a prop."

The Hollywood scenario about WMDs is what I expected and still require for validation. Finding 500 old artillery shells from the Iran-Iraq war isn't good enough (just war surplus junk). I still suspect the Iraqi WMDs were hauled off via Syria and stashed in the Bekaa valley. This issue won't resolve itself until there is a regime change in Syria or someone reveals the weapons cache to the world.

6/22/2006 09:53:00 AM  
Blogger RWE said...

timmejoebob hasn't met Sonia yet, has he?

6/22/2006 12:12:00 PM  
Blogger dueler88 said...

there are tactical, strategic and political reasons to release information, or not realease information, about Sarin/Mustard WMD's.

the theory that keeping their existence hush-hush was a political calculation to keep France and Russia on the buddy list is very plausible, but not yet proven. the domestic political concerns are probably chump change compared to the international ones.

what is relevant to the immediate situation at hand are the strategic and tactical issues. if the existence of WMD's suddenly became widely known, especially if it was accompanied by a description of what they look like, EVERYBODY would be looking for them - not just the U.S. military. it's the chemical weapons version of the California Gold Rush. everybody wants to get their hands on something valuable - to either use it or exchange it for something of value with somebody who wants to use it.

coalition forces obviously want to be able to collect and dispose of ALL of it so that it doesn't get used against anybody, miltary or otherwise. if everybody knew they were finding WMD, they would inevitably be scattered around the country, and perhaps the world, to be used by whoever wants to use them, and for whatever reason.

once the known materials are out of coalition forces' control, they become a tactical obstacle to be overcome in day-to-day actions to restore order and security. will the guys on the front lines have to start carrying their gas masks and plastic bunny suits on patrol again? and how do you protect noncoms from sarin? and that's just the beginning of alterations to the tactical picture.

their existence also becomes a strategic obstacle, wherein whoever gets them becomes a regional or worldwide "player". that being said, if i was a terrorist, i don't think i'd tell anybody that i had one - i'd let the body bags do the talking for me.

the answer to why they have remained secret could be as easy as the desire to maintain our capability to operate effectively in the theater. hmm - could Bush be that strong of a tactical/strategic thinker?

6/22/2006 02:14:00 PM  
Blogger Wu Wei said...

Secretary Rumsfeld on WMD in a press conference today:

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, there has been a lot made on Capitol
Hill about these chemical weapons that were found and may be quite
old. But do you a real concern of these weapons from Saddam's past
perhaps having an impact on U.S. troops who are on the ground in Iraq right now?

RUMSFELD : Certainly. What has been announced is accurate, that there have been hundreds of canisters or weapons of various types found that either currently have sarin in them or had sarin in them, and sarin is dangerous. And it's dangerous to our forces, and it's a concern.

So obviously, to the extent we can locate these and destroy them, it is important that we do so. And they are dangerous. Anyone — I'm sure General Casey or anyone else in that country would be concerned if they got in the wrong hands.

They are weapons of mass destruction . They are harmful to human beings. And they have been found. And that had not been by Saddam Hussein, as he inaccurately alleged that he had reported all of his weapons . And they are still being found and discovered.

6/22/2006 02:31:00 PM  
Blogger Tony said...

Eggplant sez: The Hollywood scenario about WMDs is what I expected and still require for validation.

You mean like the AQ Khan network? That was a regular Dr. No operation there.

Or perhaps the wmd facilities Libya surrendered? I think it was either here at Belmont or in some other worthy joint I heard the theory that it would have been impossible for Libya to have devoted the manpower and finances to build the gear that they gave up ... therefore it was likely Iraq's - who had the manpower and resources and known intention and history of such development.

So, you might have had your gleaming Hollywood scenario already. Twice!

It's been tough, but this war represents vast improvements over the course of events in the 90's, when we slept under a false blanket of "no threats" and the UN resolutions.

6/22/2006 02:57:00 PM  
Blogger william christie said...

Interesting analysis from a former "spook" -

The story begins in April of this year, when a team of intelligence analysts, assigned to the Army's National Ground Intelligence Center (NGIC) published an exhaustive report on the continued recovery of chemical weapons in Iraq. Their report clearly noted that the weapons were clearly manufactured before the first Gulf War. However, the NGIC analysts also observed that some of the weapons remained in good condition (suggesting an Iraqi effort to preserve them), and posed a potential threat to coalition forces, if they fell into the hands of insurgents. From what I'm told, the report contained a full listing of all chemical weapons discovered in Iraq since the fall of Saddam, cut-away diagrams of the weapons, locations where they were found, and their potential lethality if employed by terrorists.

Obviously, the NGIC report ran against the conventional wisdom that "Iraq had no WMD" after the U.S.-led invasion, and (to its credit), the organization published the report, which was posted on INTELINK (the intelligence community's classified intranet) in April of this year. In that forum, the report could be easily accessed by anyone with access to the system, the proper security clearance, and a valid need-to-know. From an analytical standpoint, the team at NGIC did their job, and they deserve tremendous credit for publishing their report. That's what analysts are supposed to do--tell the truth, and let the chips fall where they may, even if their findings run contrary to popular assumptions and political agendas.

Shortly after the NGIC item was posted on INTELINK, Senator Santorum learned of its existence, and began pressing the Army for more information, and declassification of the report's key findings. At this juncture, however, political agendas and bureaucratic tail-covering became a factor. A GOP source sent me a copy of Senator Santorum's letter, requesting information on chemical weapons in Iraq, back in April. Amazing (or, perhaps not-so-amazingly), both NGIC and the Army's Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM) ignored Santorum's request. Normally, DOD agencies are supposed to respond to a request from a member of Congress within 48 hours; the Army ignored Santorum's request for more than a month. In fact, Santorum and Hoekstra didn't get their information until the Intelligence Committee chairman obtained a copy of the NGIC report and reportedly "hit the ceiling." After that, the Director of National Intelligence, Ambassador John Negroponte, agreed to declassify portions of the report, which were released yesterday.

6/22/2006 03:27:00 PM  
Blogger Wu Wei said...

This year old article reports cases in which US troops were injured by nerve gas in Iraq. Use of nerve gas in an IED is mentioned.

6/22/2006 04:34:00 PM  
Blogger Alexis said...

Speaking of spooks, the CIA is at it again.

(There's also a link from Drudge.)

Unnamed "intelligence officials" pointed out that the weapons were "in poor condition".

One wonders if certain CIA officials engineered this episode in order to discredit Republican congressmen. It looks as though this story will be spun into yet another "Republicans cried wolf" episode, irrespective of what the reality is.

It seems that Washington infighters spin like a top.

6/22/2006 10:09:00 PM  
Blogger Red A said...

Now, imagine if we had never invaded Iraq and one of those 500 shells was used on a NYC subway attack.

Would the liberals excuse Bush by saying they were old shells, and that Saddam basically had come clean, yadda yadda yadda?

6/22/2006 11:04:00 PM  
Blogger Phydeaux said...

Now, now Cannoneer. Perhaps a difference in panic level, but certainly not ignorance.

Poison gas was and is nasty stuff. The 85,000 WWI deaths you reference speak for themselves. But that was out of a total military death toll of around 9 million - hardly evidence of an unusually effective weapon. And as I noted, the victims for the most part had to stand there in the trenches and take it, barrage after barrage. Terrorist targets are unlikely to be so accommodating.

The weapon in the Tokyo attack was indeed sarin - one of the nastier agents around - that when employed under ideal conditions killed only 12 people. In concentrated quantities, it's deadly. But it's awfully difficult to deliver enough agent to a large area to achieve the concentration required for mass deaths.

The point is that there's nothing especially deadly or effective about chemical or biological weapons that puts them in the same league with nukes. Good old non-WMD high explosive is just as effective at killing people and is a lot easier to manufacture, handle, and employ. The main value of gas and bugs to terrorists lies in the fact that their effects are wildly exaggerated in the public mind, making their use more important psychologically than in the actual damage they can cause.

6/23/2006 03:11:00 AM  
Blogger Fenrisulven said...

The point is that there's nothing especially deadly or effective about chemical or biological weapons that puts them in the same league with nukes

You really don't understand the material. NBCs are WMDs. And biological weapons far surpass nukes. A super-flu brought in by suicide bombers could easily kill 80% of the population. You think 200 million is spare change?

6/26/2006 08:11:00 AM  
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