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FlashHarry Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-25-04 07:38 PM
Original message
Sarin Gas Shell NOT WMD.
I posted this in the LBN thread, but I'll repeat it, because it's an important distinction:

Battlefield chemical weapons, though certainly horrible and probably illegal, are not technically WMD. Nuclear and biological weapons are, because they affect a vastly greater number of people, including noncombatants. Battlefield chemical weapons generally only affect enemy combatants (and sometimes friendly ones, depending on prevailing winds).
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Frodo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-25-04 07:41 PM
Response to Original message
1. How does a "battlefield checmical weapon"...
...know it's on a battlefield?

The difference between WMD and non-WMD is not the delivery method.

Sarin certainly qualifies as a WMD.


ONE shell, however, does not constitute "stockpiles of WMD" or "thousands of litres of Sarin" etc.
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FlashHarry Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-25-04 07:43 PM
Response to Reply #1
3. No, its effective radius does.
A shell that can kill a less than a hundred or so people (typically far less, before it disperses) isn't the same as a bio or nuke weapon that can kill thousands or millions. It's not even close.
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Frodo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-25-04 07:46 PM
Response to Reply #3
6. Not true.
Lots of biological weapons will only kill a handfull if they aren't dispersed properly - but they're still WMD. Smallpox is still a WMD even though we would quite possibly stop it with zero casualties (or well under 100 in a likely scenario).

And three litres of Sarin could kill quite a few more properly dispersed. This, of course, was not "proper dispersal"...

... but WMD is not defined by "success".


Obviously, nukes are at the top of the pyramid, but Sarin is on the list.

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FlashHarry Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-25-04 07:49 PM
Response to Reply #6
7. Delete!
Edited on Tue May-25-04 07:51 PM by FlashHarry
Oops.
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Frodo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-25-04 07:52 PM
Original message
It's "potential" not "success"
A nuke is an WMD even if it never kills anyone. This same shell in a crowded theater (properly mixed) could kill hundreds.


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FlashHarry Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-25-04 07:54 PM
Response to Original message
15. So, a weapon that kills hundreds is a WMD?
Then just about anything above a pistol is a WMD. There is a huge difference between a weapon designed to kill hundreds (though, that's a stretch--but I'll concede it could) and a weapon designed to kill hundreds of thousands.
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FlashHarry Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-25-04 07:51 PM
Response to Reply #6
10. MASS destruction.
How is that not tied to a weapon's "success?" Otherwise, it's just a "weapon of destruction," which is redundant, by the way.

Is a 2,000 lb. bomb a WMD? How about a fuel-air bomb? How about napalm? How about a really angry Marine with an M-60? What constitutes mass destruction?
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Frodo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-25-04 07:53 PM
Response to Reply #10
13. "non conventional" warhead.
Nuclear, biological, chemical.

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FlashHarry Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-25-04 07:55 PM
Response to Reply #13
16. That wasn't the rationale for war. WMD were.
You're shifting the argument. The operative word is mass.
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Frodo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-25-04 07:58 PM
Response to Reply #16
19. Answer to 10 & 15
Edited on Tue May-25-04 07:59 PM by Frodo
No, WMD requires that it be non-conventional.

That great big daisy cuter thing is not a WMD, but would kill more people than a Sarin shell.

Despite the terms in the acronym, WMD's are all non-conventional weapons that may - or may not - succeed in killing mass numbers of people.

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FlashHarry Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-25-04 08:00 PM
Response to Reply #19
21. What defines "non-conventional?"
Why isn't a fuel-air bomb "non-conventional?" And I don't think one needs to define a term that is already clearly defined by its very name! Again, you're adding qualifiers.
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w13rd0 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-25-04 07:54 PM
Response to Reply #10
14. One might say that policies that permit companies...
...to poison the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the foods we consume, result in many thousands of deaths annually. But they are subsidized contributors. Deaths are just a side effect and accepted cost of doing business. How does a madman strapped with a bomb qualify as more a WMD than that company and those policies? This isn't directed to you...just shouting in the wind.
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RummyTheDummy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-25-04 10:07 PM
Response to Reply #6
35. Sarin is the Kato Kaelin of WMD
It technically was once in the "business" but barely. If it's so effective at killing large numbers of people I'm wondering why it wasn't very effective when it released in the Tokyo subways years ago. One would think lots of people boxed in a subway car would be ideal conditions for Sarin.

But I'm sure you have an answer for that.
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RummyTheDummy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-25-04 10:07 PM
Response to Reply #6
36. Sarin is the Kato Kaelin of WMD
It technically was once in the "business" but barely. If it's so effective at killing large numbers of people I'm wondering why it wasn't very effective when it released in the Tokyo subways years ago. One would think lots of people boxed in a subway car would be ideal conditions for Sarin.

But I'm sure you have an answer for that.
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aquart Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-25-04 07:51 PM
Response to Reply #1
9. MASS destruction. That's the requirement.
Sarin dispersed in the open air is pretty damn useless.

That's why they tried it in a contained subway car. And it still didn't get that impressive a number.

Now a sufficient amount in the airducts of a sealed-windows building, we can talk WMD.
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Frodo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-25-04 07:56 PM
Response to Reply #9
17. There's my point
WMD or no WMD is not based on hoe well the enemy uses it. The Tokyo subway was a "screwup" on the part of the perps. Done correctly they would have killed hundreds.

We missed this opportunity more than a year ago. Sarin, VX etc were all on the list of the WMDs that Iraq had. Nobody said "oh, THOSE aren't WMDs!".

Because they are.


Again - but one shell is hardly relevant.
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FlashHarry Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-25-04 07:58 PM
Response to Reply #17
20. No they're not. They were wrongly lumped in from the start.
The chemical part of their holy triumvirate is a fallacy. Technically, WMD are either Nuclear or Biological. Chemical weapons are only WMD if introduced into the populace somehow--either through the air in mass quantities or in the water supply. A shell that contains Sarin, VX, mustard or any other gas is not technically a WMD, because it is designed to have a limited effect.
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Frodo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-25-04 08:13 PM
Response to Reply #20
24. Attention! Attention - Let's wrap this stuff up -
"WMD" is a POLITICAL term. Not a term specifically of how successfull a weapon is likely to be at killing people.

It's the modern equivelent of the British saying "oh, bad sport!" when the americans hid behind trees. There are rules for warfare - and one of them is that a really big bang (200lb bomb) is perfectly ok, but a gas that you can't see bu will kill you in a terribly painful fashion is NOT kosher.

It's a term of art more than fact.

BUT the fact is that "Sarin" has been on that list for a very long time - this is not something some bush appointee made up to make Iraq look worse than they are.

AND you're completely wrong on the facts. Biological weapons are NOT more deadly than chemical ones. Some are and some are not. Some are incredibly deadly, but you just have to take a pill to survive them. Some checmicals are also particularly dangerous.

It is fair to say that lumping chemical and biological weapons in with the far more serious nuclear ones might not be a "fair" comparison, but those were the ground rules when we went in to this conflict. Probably ALL of the WMD that Iraq had at some point in the past were of the "battlefield" variety - but it didn't make them any less "banned WMD".
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FlashHarry Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-25-04 08:51 PM
Response to Reply #24
27. You are utterly wrong.
Edited on Tue May-25-04 08:58 PM by FlashHarry
So, a conventional 2,000lb bomb isn't, but a Sarin shell is? That makes no sense. You're talking about the delivery mechanism of the "destruction," rather than its designed effective potential, as you put it. Why use the word mass at all, if you're only distinguishing between chemicals and TNT (which is technically chemical, by the way)?

That's the same fallacious argument that people use to against medical marijuana. A prescribed narcotic pill is socially acceptable, but a prescribed joint isn't. The only difference is its delivery mechanism. If pot came in a pill, it probably wouldn't even be an issue.

What I object to is the subversion of the language. The only difference between a weapon of mass destruction and a weapon is the word mass. The word destruction is explicit in one and implicit in the other, but common to both. The differentiator is the designed effective radius.

And, you're right WMD is now a political, rather than a military, term. It is a scare tactic. And, apparently, it has worked.

On edit: bio weapons are far more dangerous than chemical ones. A sarin gas attack on a train that kills twenty people is nothing next to a smallpox outbreak that can kill thousands. Yes, there are "pills" that can counteract bio weapons--if you can get them in time. If you're a healthy adult. If you're not poor and/or homeless. If you know you've been infected.

And that's just taking into account the actual damage. What about the hysteria? What about the damage to the economy? What about the inevitable further curtailing of civil rights? An isolated chemical attack isn't anywhere in the same league as a bio attack. And remember, we're talking about a single shell here, not a thousand-gallon cache of Sarin.
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Bandit Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed May-26-04 10:12 AM
Response to Reply #1
39. No more so than any high explosive round is ~ In fact less so
Gas is not an effective weapon as it dissipates so quickly and doesn't stay put. It swirls back toward the good guys often. It has been determined by most analysts that chemical warfare is no where near as deadly as high explosive rounds. It does have a psychological effect though. Biological and nuclear are the only true WMDs.
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tabasco Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-25-04 07:42 PM
Response to Original message
2. Especially a degraded lefttover 20-year old un-fireable shell.
The attempts to portray this as WMD are almost as pathetic as the rosebush centrifuge parts and the hydrogen trailers.
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still_one Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-25-04 07:44 PM
Response to Reply #2
4. from Yahoo...
"...several military officials have said the shell may have been an older one that predated the 1991 Gulf War..."
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FlashHarry Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-25-04 07:45 PM
Response to Reply #4
5. In fact, the insurgents may not have even known it was a sarin shell.
That being said, it's pretty nasty stuff and should be banned from modern warfare.
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w13rd0 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-25-04 07:50 PM
Response to Reply #5
8. Heck...
...I'm for banning modern warfare.
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Djinn Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-25-04 08:02 PM
Response to Reply #8
23. coz no-one was killed in the fisrt world war? (nt)
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w13rd0 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-25-04 08:14 PM
Response to Reply #23
25. WWI was "modern" by my standards...
...I say the wars should be waged only by wealthy landowners and CEOs, since they've got a stake in the outcome, and armed solely with machetes. But that's likely unrealistic. They'd get their asses kicked.
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FlashHarry Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-25-04 09:05 PM
Response to Reply #25
31. WWI was "modern" by any standards.
At least the weapons were. The tactics often weren't. How do you tell somebody to "go over the top" into a rapid-fire Lewis gun? Gallipoli, anyone?
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FlashHarry Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-25-04 09:04 PM
Response to Reply #8
30. Good point. Me, too. N/T
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aquart Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-25-04 07:53 PM
Response to Reply #5
12. Or anything else.
Bad sarin. No excuse to exist.
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Yupster Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-25-04 08:54 PM
Response to Reply #5
28. That's my guess
The bad guys just found a stockpile of artillery shells and used them. They probably never knew it was anything special.

They do now though. I hope they don't have a 100 more of them and the expertise to use them better next time.
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Ilsa Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-25-04 07:52 PM
Response to Original message
11. NBC reported that it predated the 1991 war;
I wonder how degraded the sarin was. I know some soldiers got sick, but they went back to duty almost immediately, didn't they? I read where this stuff loses effectiveness over time, and if the conditions are poor (high humidity, etc), it becomes even less effect as certain molecules breakdown in a moist environment.
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jonnyo Donating Member (57 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-25-04 07:58 PM
Response to Original message
18. The Military Facts About Chem and Bio Weapons
People should get a little educated on weapons. You can do far more damage with a standard cluster bomb then any chem or bio weapon.

The little known military tactical fact about chem and bio is that it makes a really piss poor weapon. If it didn't, you could bet your ass the U.S. would be using them.

They are not the poor man's atomic bomb. They're not all that cheap, they're difficult to handle, they have short shelf lives, they're unpredictable in battle conditions, they're fairly easy to defend against with little advanced notice and they deliver very little kill for the buck compared to plain ol' conventional weapons.

They're a boogieman being used to scare the ignorant into closing their eyes and hiding under their beds while our resources are stolen from us.

They'd be better classified as Weapons of Mass Annoyance that could easily backfire on the user at anytime. Maybe that name is too long or something, but it's more accurate then WMD.

And, quite frankly, is it really all that more scary to die from a splash of nerve agent than it is to have a cruise missile slam into your house ripping and burning the flesh from your body while your sitting down to dinner and then lying there to slowly bleed to death while you listen to the screams of your dieing family?

I just don't think so.
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FlashHarry Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-25-04 08:01 PM
Response to Reply #18
22. Exactly. N/T
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mike1963 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-25-04 09:36 PM
Response to Reply #18
33. Exactly, jonnyo! And welcome to DU
I don't know who gets to decide the definition of WMD but I will never be convinced that anything but noo-ku-ler qualifies.
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newyawker99 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed May-26-04 09:23 AM
Response to Reply #18
38. Hi jonnyo!!
Welcome to DU!! :toast:
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oneighty Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-25-04 08:22 PM
Response to Original message
26. Weapon of (Mass) destruction
is nuclear only; where the fissionable mass is reduced to sub particles and release of binding energy.

The rest is political.

IMO. 180
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jmowreader Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-25-04 09:00 PM
Response to Original message
29. Chemicals make decent obstacles
Hell, you can make a pretty fair obstacle with no chemicals, just the chemical agent markers. Just pick an area, put up some chemical signs, and stick a guy with a mortar up on the hill.

While the troops are getting buttoned up to go through the obstacle, you blow their shit away.

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crossroads Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-25-04 09:09 PM
Response to Original message
32. Thanks for posting the difference
as there are certain people just waiting to say to me, "I told you they would find them!" lol.
:kick:
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FlashHarry Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-25-04 10:03 PM
Response to Reply #32
34. Glad to. We need to take back the language. N/T
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UTUSN Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-25-04 11:13 PM
Response to Original message
37. But---But---HANNITY Announced as Breaking News That WMD Were Confirmed
This afternoon he breathlessly, with his ignorant certainty, said that the ASSOCIATED PRESS was CONFIRMING that it WAS sarin gas, and that THAT is THAT, and EVERYTHING Shrub ever did was now CONCLUSIVELY justified.
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