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Wed Aug 28, 2013, 06:04 PM

I do believe I agree with Markos Moulitsas on a rather controversial assertion.

Question: Is chemical warfare a more barbaric way of killing than other means typically used in war?

His answer: No.

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/08/28/1234482/-Death-is-death-no-matter-how-it-s-delivered

Death is death, no matter how it's delivered

by kos

There is a bizarre obsession with the delivery mechanism of death, as if a wartime casualty cares how it was killed or maimed.

We're seeing it with the neocons and administration officials, who suddenly think its inexcusable that Syria has apparently deployed chemical arms against its populace. And it is! The use of such weaponry is barbaric and beyond the bounds of all civilized behavior. The people pulling the trigger are monsters.

But they were monsters before they dropped their unholy chemical concoction in that Damascus neighborhood. With over 100,000 dead in the conflict, there have been no shortage of monsters. No lack of uncivilized behavior. No deficit of barbarism.

So to pretend that a line has been crossed and that this kind of murder is somehow worse than that other kind of murder is bizarre. War is nasty business. That's why we oppose it and should do everything possible to avoid it. A war casualty doesn't care how he or she died. Not sure why the rest of us should.


So the question: is chemical warfare inherently more barbaric or nasty than conventional warfare?

My opinion: No.

Don't get me wrong. Chemical warfare IS barbaric. Sarin's nasty stuff. It's not a nice way to check out. But neither is being shot, stabbed, hit with shrapnel from a bomb, having a building fall down on you, getting flambeed by napalm, or the countless other ways people meet gruesome ends in war.

You think being blown up is quick? Maybe if you were right at ground zero of the bomb's blast radius, you'd be turned into fine red mist and your end would be quick. But more likely is that you're caught somewhere outside of ground zero, in the shrapnel range, and you take a chunk of metal in the gut. Worst case scenario: you don't actually die until next Tuesday, of systemic infection, as the medics run out of antibiotics and morphine, and the surgeons are so overloaded that they can't sew you up, so you get a nasty infection that kills you.

Really, the only WMD I personally think is truly worse than all the other barbaric means of murder is the nuclear bomb - it doesn't kill merely tens, or hundreds, or thousands on the outside. A nuke can kill tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands, or millions. It destroys entire cities, leaves vast areas uninhabitable and poisoned by fallout, and a decent sized nuclear exchange can actually wipe out all of civilization. Sarin has but a fraction of a nuke's destructive power. Maybe a really nasty bioweapon, a Captain Trips style global killer could fall into the same category, but chemical weapons fall into conventional levels of barbarism.

Flame on, but I think Kos is right.

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Arrow 52 replies Author Time Post
Reply I do believe I agree with Markos Moulitsas on a rather controversial assertion. (Original post)
backscatter712 Aug 2013 OP
alarimer Aug 2013 #1
MannyGoldstein Aug 2013 #2
backscatter712 Aug 2013 #6
magical thyme Aug 2013 #8
MannyGoldstein Aug 2013 #11
magical thyme Aug 2013 #16
elehhhhna Aug 2013 #12
MannyGoldstein Aug 2013 #15
elehhhhna Aug 2013 #19
DirkGently Aug 2013 #23
JoeyT Aug 2013 #34
Warpy Aug 2013 #3
BlueStreak Aug 2013 #10
magical thyme Aug 2013 #20
BlueStreak Aug 2013 #32
magical thyme Aug 2013 #39
Enrique Aug 2013 #4
elehhhhna Aug 2013 #14
magical thyme Aug 2013 #21
BlueStreak Aug 2013 #33
Fumesucker Aug 2013 #22
quinnox Aug 2013 #5
backscatter712 Aug 2013 #7
quinnox Aug 2013 #13
JI7 Aug 2013 #9
joeybee12 Aug 2013 #17
malaise Aug 2013 #18
Cleita Aug 2013 #24
GeorgeGist Aug 2013 #25
MADem Aug 2013 #26
cvoogt Aug 2013 #28
MADem Aug 2013 #43
cvoogt Aug 2013 #45
MADem Aug 2013 #47
cvoogt Aug 2013 #48
MADem Aug 2013 #49
cvoogt Aug 2013 #51
whatchamacallit Aug 2013 #30
GoCubsGo Aug 2013 #38
MADem Aug 2013 #42
MrModerate Aug 2013 #27
The Straight Story Aug 2013 #29
Spitfire of ATJ Aug 2013 #31
tinrobot Aug 2013 #35
cvoogt Aug 2013 #46
KoKo Aug 2013 #36
Link Speed Aug 2013 #37
jeff47 Aug 2013 #40
Enthusiast Aug 2013 #41
Cleita Aug 2013 #44
KittyWampus Aug 2013 #50
jollyreaper2112 Aug 2013 #52

Response to backscatter712 (Original post)

Wed Aug 28, 2013, 06:08 PM

1. I agree too

Certainly no more barbaric than drone attacks from a distance.

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Response to backscatter712 (Original post)

Wed Aug 28, 2013, 06:09 PM

2. But gas makes it easier to inflict wholesale death

And the survivors have injuries that are, by and large, even more gruesome.

That's why gas was broadly denounced and abandoned after WWI.

I hope we don't need to relearn this lesson, as we relearned the lessons of bank deregulation. Sometimes there's a really good reason for things.

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Response to MannyGoldstein (Reply #2)

Wed Aug 28, 2013, 06:19 PM

6. I agree that in an ideal world, chemical weapons would be out of line.

But in that ideal world, explosives wouldn't be a weapon of war either - they're pretty indiscriminate. Hell, look at the MOST discriminate way explosives are used in war - our use of drones and cruise missiles, guided by computers designed to hit a target with an accuracy of a few feet. They were designed because generals were tired of being called to the carpet for "collateral damage." And we're still blowing up weddings and childrens' funerals.

Same thing goes for napalm, which is only the modern incarnation of a very ancient technique of war: setting things on fire. As people near Yosemite know very damned well right now, fire is rather indiscriminate.

Point being: War sucks, and the modern technology of war is cruelty incarnate. Chemical weapons are nasty, and something that shouldn't be contemplated in a civilized world, but the same thing goes for virtually every other weapon of war. Submarines were at one point condemned as being what would today be a "weapon of mass destruction" - a weapon so despicable they shouldn't be used at all.

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Response to MannyGoldstein (Reply #2)

Wed Aug 28, 2013, 06:20 PM

8. WWI had mustard gas, and the laws were written because it was the first mass killings they'd seen.

Note that WWI was before the US dropped nukes, which killed innocent civilians on a massive scale and, unless you were vaporized at ground zero, in a horrific firestorm or from radiation sickness hours or days or weeks later. And left survivors maimed and dying of cancer. And birth defects for their offspring and for their offspring.

That also was before the US dropped Agent Orange and Napalm on Vietnam, which also kill on a massive scale, left behind maimed, killed from cancer, and left generations of children with birth defects.

Also before the US dropped white phosphorus and uranium, which also kill on a massive scale and left behind maimed, cancer and birth defects that are just beginning to emerge.

We have not only mass killed people on multiple occasions to appease the OIL GODS, but maimed up to 3 generations of their unborn and not yet conceived. We lost any moral high ground long ago. We have no right to go around the world saying, "Do as we say, not as we do."

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Response to magical thyme (Reply #8)

Wed Aug 28, 2013, 06:22 PM

11. And we've effectively sheathed nukes as well.

Yes, it all sucks. And hopefully we can ban them all. But if we can't ban *any* weapons, we'll never ban *all* weapons.

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Response to MannyGoldstein (Reply #11)

Wed Aug 28, 2013, 06:27 PM

16. well banning, like charity, begins at home. we could start by destroying enough of our nukes so that

we only have enough destroy life on earth one time over.

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Response to MannyGoldstein (Reply #2)

Wed Aug 28, 2013, 06:24 PM

12. easier versus what?



But gas nothing, imo. It's all the same. We like to delude ourselves that faster and bloodier is better or more noble. I can argue for faster on humanitarian grounds. But humanitarian war rules? Please. The results are all still the same.

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Response to elehhhhna (Reply #12)

Wed Aug 28, 2013, 06:27 PM

15. So we should start using nukes again?

I think that banning all weapons would be great, but we need to start somewhere.

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Response to MannyGoldstein (Reply #15)

Wed Aug 28, 2013, 06:34 PM

19. Btw, IIRC "we" are the only country to have used them.


If any nation uses them in the future, my money' son us.

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Response to MannyGoldstein (Reply #2)

Wed Aug 28, 2013, 06:57 PM

23. They aren't great weapons. The outrage contains hypocrisy.

Horrifying way to die -- yes, as noted. But as also noted it's not as though a firebomb or shrapnel or bullets are humane.

But chemicals are also messy and inconvenient to store, and require having your own troops lug all the special gear and carry antidotes.

A shift in the wind can throw everything off target, or hit a new, unintended target.

Entering the area after "victory" requires precautions, gear, etc.

And wealthy countries, anyway, have many more effective ways to inflict mass casualties at this point.

The "moral obscenity" may have meant something more once, but at this point it looks like double-talk. A Hellfire missile lobbed into a village, followed by another to wipe out the rescuers, is not one iota less obscene, save for the claims they are delivered upon the "right" targets by the "right" attackers.

No question chemical weapons should be banned. So should anti-personnel mines, cluster bombs, and extra-legal drone strikes.

We love to tell people their killing is egregious and reprehensible and morally unacceptable, but mostly when we don't like them, and not because we aren't willing to do the same through "more acceptable" means.

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Response to MannyGoldstein (Reply #2)

Wed Aug 28, 2013, 08:26 PM

34. Chemical weapons vs. Incendiary weapons

would be one of the most gruesome slideshows ever conceived. I don't think it would be possible to pick out which was more horrible with any degree of certainty, but it certainly doesn't come much worse than burns.

Incendiary weapons are also illegal to use on civilians, but we've done it, and the people in charge are still walking around free.

Our moral high ground is below sea level.

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Response to backscatter712 (Original post)

Wed Aug 28, 2013, 06:10 PM

3. The problem with chemicals

is that they tend to drift into areas they were never intended to go and that is the reason for the ban, not any inhumane qualities. There is little less humane than being burned and buried under the rubble of one's home and left to die of dehydration, infection and shock over the next four days.

Kos is definitely right. Besides, this country maintains massive stocks of chemical weapons. We have nothing to say on the subject.

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Response to Warpy (Reply #3)

Wed Aug 28, 2013, 06:21 PM

10. And they are relatively easy to turn over to terrorists

Basically it isn't much more complicated than bug spray.

But I generally agree with Kos. The fact is that our Drone strikes are pretty damned indiscriminate. And we did all sorts of illegal cluster bombing in Iraq, not to mention loading "depleted" uranium on thousands of missiles, leaving that country a radioactive wasteland.

How are these things any better than chemical weapons?

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Response to BlueStreak (Reply #10)

Wed Aug 28, 2013, 06:35 PM

20. They aren't any different, but they didn't exist back in WWI. The red line was drawn at

gas back when it was the newest, biggest and baddest killer on the block.

It's like a long forgotten law about not driving your pigs down the street that still sits on the books. Nobody bothered to update it, and now it just provides a convenient law for the sheriff to pull out when he wants to bully somebody in the "out" crowd. Their pig slips the gate, and the sheriff -- who lets his cows, bulls, sheep and goats run wild through the streets -- shows up to teach them a lesson in street etiquette.

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Response to magical thyme (Reply #20)

Wed Aug 28, 2013, 08:25 PM

32. I agree with you.

And nobody's arguing chemical weapons are just dandy. But I don't see any moral difference between a chemical agent and a "Daisy cutter". They are all WMDs.

Today's new thing that has everybody crapping in their pants is the autonomous killing robots. In a few years' time the public will probably have the same freak-out about those things as they do today about chemical weapons.

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Response to BlueStreak (Reply #32)

Wed Aug 28, 2013, 09:00 PM

39. that is my point. there is no difference.

It's like when a barn manager told me not to worry about the crazy shooting because it was transplants coming up from NY and CT, not locals.

She looked totally confused when I thanked her because it made me feel much better to know that if I got killed it would be due to a transplant's bullet, not a local's. Because, you know, after I'm dead I'll really care who's bullet killed me.

People just accept lines of BS hook, line and sinker without a moment's thought.

Death by daisy cutter, by napalm, by white phosphorus, by agent orange, by sarin...it's an excrutiating, senseless death. And "collateral damage" are human beings, civilians caught in the crossfire who just want to be left the fuck alone to live their lives in peace.

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Response to backscatter712 (Original post)

Wed Aug 28, 2013, 06:15 PM

4. the neocons and the administration didn't "suddenly" make this distinction

Kos doesn't even acknowledge the history of chemical weapons bans, which makes this editorial pretty beside the point.

by the way, I agree with him that "war is a nasty business", but does he think we should get rid of the concept of war crimes? I sure don't.

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Response to Enrique (Reply #4)

Wed Aug 28, 2013, 06:25 PM

14. Let's simplify by making the making of war a war crime.

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Response to elehhhhna (Reply #14)

Wed Aug 28, 2013, 06:37 PM

21. any first strike should be the war crime.

Self defense allowed only when you have been hit. Not you think they may hit you. Not they looked at you funny while walking by.

Only when you've been hit may you hit back.

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Response to elehhhhna (Reply #14)

Wed Aug 28, 2013, 08:26 PM

33. What a concept. War is a war crime.

Everything else is just arguing about degrees.

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Response to Enrique (Reply #4)

Wed Aug 28, 2013, 06:45 PM

22. There has been a defacto elimination of the concept of war crimes

Given that we have a whole passel of high leve war criminals running around the US who have never had a worry about being indicted, arrested, tried and sentenced for their war crimes.

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Response to backscatter712 (Original post)

Wed Aug 28, 2013, 06:18 PM

5. Chemical weapons are banned for good reasons

 

Markos doesn't know what he is talking about here. He should do some research on just how deadly chemical weapons can be.

That said, I don't think the USA should get involved at this time. If Assad started lobbing chemical weapons on a regular basis, then yea, that would be way too much to allow.

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Response to quinnox (Reply #5)

Wed Aug 28, 2013, 06:20 PM

7. I agree with your second point.

Blowing things up in Syria isn't going to solve this problem. It's only going to escalate the conflict and make the suffering worse.

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Response to backscatter712 (Reply #7)

Wed Aug 28, 2013, 06:24 PM

13. I agree, this would be a dumb move to get involved. Obama maybe stuck his foot in his mouth when he

 

started talking about "red lines". He painted himself into a corner. Now, he is fucked. Either way he goes.

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Response to backscatter712 (Original post)

Wed Aug 28, 2013, 06:20 PM

9. the idea of Chemical attacks being viewed this way is nothing new, it was the case long before OBama

you can disagree with it. but has nothing to do with the obama administration.

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Response to backscatter712 (Original post)

Wed Aug 28, 2013, 06:31 PM

17. And when a child is killed by chemicals instead of a bullet through the head...

Does the mother of that child grieve more??

This whole outrage is insanity when so many have already been murdered.

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Response to backscatter712 (Original post)

Wed Aug 28, 2013, 06:33 PM

18. How many Iraqis did his own government kill?

How many Pakistanis are killed with drones weekly?

Spare me - death is death regardless of who does the killing and not one of the murderers is in a position to speak about morality.

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Response to backscatter712 (Original post)

Wed Aug 28, 2013, 07:04 PM

24. I think there is an honorable death notion in a battle to go down

fighting the enemy. May the best man win. However when you are bombed, poisoned or otherwise killed without having a means of defending yourself and when the victims are innocents like children and unarmed civilians, it takes on the appearance of genocide and people get disgusted. However, war hasn't been fought in an honorable way for centuries now, if it ever was. The idea of a noble war is probably just romantic fiction.

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Response to backscatter712 (Original post)

Wed Aug 28, 2013, 07:07 PM

25. I thought Kerry's disappointment ...

that there wasn't any blood or visible wounds to be telling of his mindset.

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Response to backscatter712 (Original post)

Wed Aug 28, 2013, 07:30 PM

26. Kos is a barbaric nitwit.

A bullet to the head is much more humane than being suffocated to death, along with everyone around you, old or young, innocent or warfighter, in excruciating pain over a period of hours or days.

Disgusting.

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Response to MADem (Reply #26)

Wed Aug 28, 2013, 08:05 PM

28. not humane

I understand where you're coming from but;

A bullet to the head = not humane.
Sarin gas = not humane.
Murder = not humane.

None of these are humane and I personally don't believe in there being a matter of degrees in this.
0 + 0 = still 0.

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Response to cvoogt (Reply #28)

Thu Aug 29, 2013, 08:10 AM

43. I agree with you that they are not humane.

I do not agree that there isn't a "matter of degree" associated with this. One, done properly, is quick, the other is torture.

Imagine, if you will, this scenario--it's down to this choice:

YOU are gonna die. You can't escape. Your captors have given you two options.

Pick your method--a bullet, or sarin.

I dunno about you, but I'd take the bullet.

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Response to MADem (Reply #43)

Thu Aug 29, 2013, 12:49 PM

45. But that is not the scenario

Victims in Syria are not presented such a choice. They are simply shot, gassed, bombed, etc. with no choice at all.

I agree that in such a hypothetical scenario there IS a matter of degree, but in the case of Syria I don't see how humaneness figures into any of the killing. The lack of a choice on the part of the victim indicates (to me) a lack of matter of degree, even if the perpetrators may have thought "hey, let's use sarin to inflict even greater carnage and draw out the suffering."

I am not trying to say that somehow chemical weapons are just as bad as bullets and should not be treated as especially heinous. I do think they are especially heinous, but that any form of war is organized murder and that is never humane. The humane thing is to not kill at all. Anything else is just degrees of "un"-humaneness rather than degrees of humaneness. So maybe we can agree there is a matter of degree, but not degree of humaneness, quite the opposite in fact?

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Response to cvoogt (Reply #45)

Thu Aug 29, 2013, 07:14 PM

47. Well, I don't like killing. I don't. We live in a world where it happens, though.

When it's time for a chicken dinner, we chop off the head--quickly. We don't gas the bird with a substance that makes the bird choke on their own vomit.

When the dog has intractable cancer and can't go out to poop, can't eat, and is in daily agony, we don't administer sarin to the dog. We knock 'em out and quickly stop their heart. That is "humane" (even though we're talking about a dog).

I don't like the death penalty, but we kill humans the same way. You can use a term other than "humane"--like say "less cruel" --- but the bottom line is any time you draw out the suffering, it's wrong. It is monstrous, barbaric, vicious. And when you inflict it wholesale on civilians of all ages, from children to the elderly, while they are asleep in their beds, that's just unacceptable.

And now, we're learning that the reason they killed all those little kids is because some rebel(s) tried to assassinate al-Assad--it was a revenge attack.

Horrible. I don't think it's something the world should turn away from.

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Response to MADem (Reply #47)

Fri Aug 30, 2013, 12:42 PM

48. You know I do agree with you

And I agree with your scenarios on animals and how we treat them. In the Syrian situation I just don't see how humaneness enters into the picture; I have trouble believing either side thinks "let's use bullets instead because that's more humane". The gov't may very well think "let's use sarin gas because it is more cruel", though ... but that is a form of reduced humaneness, just increased "un"-unhumaneness. We're talking about opposite sides of the same coin here, I think.

"but the bottom line is any time you draw out the suffering, it's wrong" - I agree. At the same time, what's even more wrong is to inflict suffering to begin with, but of course we do live in a world where war is still a fact of life - I recognize that.

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Response to cvoogt (Reply #48)

Fri Aug 30, 2013, 12:53 PM

49. I believe Richard Engel's account with regard to this terrible event.

I also believe that Maher al-Assad wanted to be "the opposite of humane"-- he didn't want to just kill a bunch of people, he wanted to inflict a great deal of suffering as an act of revenge for the attempted assassination of his brother.

And he did do that.

Details here: http://investigations.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/08/28/20231217-assad-assassination-attempt-may-have-prompted-chemical-weapons-strike?lite

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Response to MADem (Reply #49)

Fri Aug 30, 2013, 01:12 PM

51. Thank you

That was an informative account, and sounds very plausible / likely to me.

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Response to MADem (Reply #26)

Wed Aug 28, 2013, 08:13 PM

30. Right...

How many shooting victims actually receive Ye old humane bullet to the head? I'm learning people will say the dumbest stuff to win an argument.

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Response to whatchamacallit (Reply #30)

Wed Aug 28, 2013, 08:50 PM

38. You beat me to it.

Not to mention that many of those who do receive that "Ye old humane bullet to the head" don't die from it Instead, they live with all sorts of brain damage that I would not wish on anyone. The lucky ones die.

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Response to whatchamacallit (Reply #30)

Thu Aug 29, 2013, 08:06 AM

42. More than die immediately from the painful, gruesome, grisly effects of sarin poisoning.

I'm learning people will say the dumbest stuff to win an argument.

INDEED.

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Response to backscatter712 (Original post)

Wed Aug 28, 2013, 07:59 PM

27. When you get right down to it . . .

If you have enough of them handguns are weapons of mass destruction. They just do it retail rather than wholesale. Anyone out there think we don't have enough of them?

Here's another question: are biological weapons (by which I mean live viruses and/or bacteria) worse than chemical weapons?

There I'd say yes precisely because of the Captain Tripps scenario mentioned in the OP.

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Response to backscatter712 (Original post)

Wed Aug 28, 2013, 08:09 PM

29. Well then the US should use them more often, less damage to infrastructure and such

Since the people will be dead anyway.

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Response to backscatter712 (Original post)

Wed Aug 28, 2013, 08:25 PM

31. Israel takes gas personally.

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Response to backscatter712 (Original post)

Wed Aug 28, 2013, 08:34 PM

35. I think banning chemical weapons is a good start.

Let's ban a lot more types of weapons while we're at it.

In fact, let's not stop until the only weapons left on the planet are Nerf guns and water balloons.

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Response to tinrobot (Reply #35)

Thu Aug 29, 2013, 12:51 PM

46. hear hear

/nt

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Response to backscatter712 (Original post)

Wed Aug 28, 2013, 08:37 PM

36. Thanks..that's good to hear from Marcos...but, DUH..others

already figured that out!

Is he losing viewers that he came out with this...since most of us know his Background...so left the site because of his views?

Got some Push Back from the KOSAKS on the latest War Intervention?

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Response to backscatter712 (Original post)

Wed Aug 28, 2013, 08:46 PM

37. The first thing we would do, throw the oldest ones in the well

 

then we would toss the kids in. We would usually get the intel that we needed, that way.

My Lai was nothing compared to the shit that went on every day.

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Response to backscatter712 (Original post)

Wed Aug 28, 2013, 09:10 PM

40. Problem with your theory

Really, the only WMD I personally think is truly worse than all the other barbaric means of murder is the nuclear bomb - it doesn't kill merely tens, or hundreds, or thousands on the outside. A nuke can kill tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands, or millions. It destroys entire cities, leaves vast areas uninhabitable and poisoned by fallout, and a decent sized nuclear exchange can actually wipe out all of civilization.

This is also true of chemical weapons. Sure, the poisoned area is poisoned by neurotoxin instead of radiation, but that's just as fatal, right? You can also easily get similar numbers of dead with chemical weapons.

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Response to backscatter712 (Original post)

Thu Aug 29, 2013, 05:11 AM

41. Joining in on the killing is the real travisty.

Escalating the killing in the name of stopping it fall short on logic.

We need to get this nation out of the hands of the Neo-Cons and the MIC. Or are they now one and the same?

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Response to Enthusiast (Reply #41)

Thu Aug 29, 2013, 12:39 PM

44. They now seem to be one and the same. n/t

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Response to backscatter712 (Original post)

Fri Aug 30, 2013, 12:57 PM

50. Is beating someone to death because they are gay more heinous that just beating someone to death?

When it comes to Law and Society, intentions matter.

That's why we have laws against hate crimes here in the USA.

Edit- Assad forces are INTENTIONALLY targeting civilians.

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Response to backscatter712 (Original post)

Fri Aug 30, 2013, 01:37 PM

52. agreed

Pretending some weapons are beyond the pale implies there are civilized ways of murdering people.

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