IN­CREASED CON­CERNS ABOUT CHEM­I­CAL WEAPONS

THE GROW­ING SCOURGE THAT THREAT­ENS OUR FU­TURE PART 1 OF 2

American Survival Guide - - GEAR GUIDE - BY AL J. VEN­TER

This is the first of a two-part se­ries that ex­plains some of the his­tory of the de­vel­op­ment and de­ploy­ment of chem­i­cal weapons, and it in­forms us about the sta­tus of cur­rent chem­i­cal war­fare threats abroad and at home. The sec­ond part will ap­pear in the Novem­ber issue of Amer­i­can Sur­vival Guide Mag­a­zine.

It would be un­wise to ig­nore the re­al­ity that chem­i­cal weapons might be used in some fu­ture con­flict. Post-war Egypt’s army dropped bombs filled with nerve gasses on rebel fight­ers in the Yemen Re­pub­lic in the 1960s. There­after, chem­i­cal agents were de­ployed on a mas­sive scale by both sides in the seven-year Iran/iraq con­flict.

Many of the victims were flown to Euro­pean hos­pi­tals for treat­ment, al­though it is curious that nobody protested at the time. More re­cently, res­i­dents of the be­sieged Syr­ian city of Aleppo have been struck down by mys­te­ri­ous chem­i­cal gasses sprayed on res­i­dents by Syr­ian air force he­li­copters.

It is worth re­call­ing that in March 1988, tyrant Sad­dam Hus­sein went on to mur­der up to 5,000 of his own peo­ple by us­ing chem­i­cal weapons against the civil­ian res­i­dents of the north­ern Kur­dish town of Hal­abja.

Ac­cord­ing to re­ports that emerged af­ter Gulf War 1 (Op­er­a­tion Desert Storm), the Iraqis re­peat­edly bombed the town with a va­ri­ety of nerve gasses that in­cluded sarin, soban, VX and tabun, as well as the blood agent hy­dro­gen cyanide.

Hu­man Rights Watch sub­se­quently re­ported that sur­vivors re­mem­bered the gas smelled of “sweet ap­ples.” They main­tained that peo­ple died in a num­ber of ways, which sug­gested a com­bi­na­tion of toxic chem­i­cals. Some victims “just dropped dead,” while oth­ers “died laugh­ing.” Still more took a few min­utes to suc­cumb, first “burn­ing and blis­ter­ing” or cough­ing up green vomit. Hardly a pretty pic­ture.

In all, it was es­ti­mated that some­thing like 12,000 peo­ple were af­fected—al­most all of them civil­ians. Thousands more have sub­se­quently yielded to com­pli­ca­tions that in­cluded re­lated dis­eases and birth de­fects.

MUR­DER­ERS WHO DIE WITH THEIR VICTIMS

The single big­gest prob­lem linked to mod­ern-day ter­ror­ism is that those who com­mit these crimes are not afraid to die while at­tempt­ing to mur­der in­no­cents.

Their creed is well worn, and a lot of peo­ple are pay­ing a price for what these ji­hadis be­lieve. In the process, they take many lives—the old, the young, the healthy and the dis­eased.

The 9/11 World Trade Cen­ter at­tack is a case in point. So is the mur­der of 55 Bri­tish com­muters in Lon­don in July 2005 by a group of youth­ful ji­hadis. More­over, sui­cide bomb at­tacks are a daily fea­ture of life in so many coun­tries east of Suez and in­creas­ingly in those parts of Africa where Is­lamic mil­i­tants are ac­tive.

There have been thousands of these ter­ror at­tacks dur­ing the course of the past decade. There will be more to come … .

We, in the West, have to ac­cept that this is a prob­lem that is go­ing to be with us for a very long time. We also need to ac­cept that some of the tac­tics em­ployed by these lu­natics of­ten defy logic.

We are now also crit­i­cally aware that the fa­natic who dis­sem­i­nates this ter­ror weapon—of­ten ac­cord­ing to their Qu­ranic be­liefs—em­braces the prospect of their own death in the process.

Imag­ine a com­mit­ted “fol­lower of the Prophet” board­ing a sub­way in New York with a small aerosol con­tainer hold­ing a few ounces of sarin nerve gas. This is not fic­tion—for two rea­sons: al-qaeda has al­ready de­clared its in­tent to kill Amer­i­cans in great numbers. Se­condly, the idea of us­ing aerosols to dis­pense poi­son gas has been fea­tured on sev­eral of its web­sites.

One needs to un­der­stand sarin very clearly, be­cause it could be used against our own forces in the not-too-dis­tant fu­ture. It is an ex­tremely toxic, col­or­less, odor­less gas that acts on the ner­vous sys­tem. It falls in the same cat­e­gory of sub­stances as pes­ti­cides, also known as “organophos­phates”; and even small amounts can cause death.

Be­cause sarin acts on the ner­vous sys­tem, it essen­tially dis­rupts all bod­ily func­tions. The pupils shrink to pin­points, the mouth and lungs fill with saliva and bod­ily fluid, and the heart be­gins to slow. Blood pres­sure, re­spon­si­ble for keep­ing a healthy per­son lu­cid and con­scious, de­creases, and the vic­tim loses con­scious­ness.

Victims might drown in their own se­cre­tions, while bow­els and blad­der spasm ex­tremely painfully and empty out. Some victims might ex­pe­ri­ence seizures, and death fol­lows quickly and mer­ci­lessly.

There are nu­mer­ous fac­tors cus­tom­ar­ily in­volved with the dis­sem­i­na­tion of chem­i­cal weapons. As a nerve gas, sarin has a high volatil­ity (the ease with which a liq­uid can be turned into gas). And, in its purest form, it is es­ti­mated to be 26 times dead­lier than cyanide.

A single va­porous drop in the at­mos­phere, once in­haled, will kill a hu­man within min­utes. It is lethal if skin con­tact is made with this chem­i­cal weapon, which is some­times re­ferred to as “GB” (G se­ries B). A per­son’s cloth­ing

IT WOULD BE UN­WISE TO IG­NORE THE RE­AL­ITY THAT CHEM­I­CAL WEAPONS MIGHT BE USED IN SOME FU­TURE CON­FLICT.

can re­lease sarin for about 30 min­utes af­ter it has come in con­tact with this poi­sonous killer. That can lead to ex­po­sure of other peo­ple and, if not kill them, make them crit­i­cally ill.

Crit­i­cally, the an­ti­dote for sarin poi­son­ing—at­ropine—is a cheap and ef­fec­tive med­i­ca­tion avail­able on just about ev­ery re­sus­ci­ta­tion cart in most hos­pi­tals in North Amer­ica. But with largescale at­tacks in ac­tive war zones, res­cue ef­forts could be fu­tile.

THE SYR­IAN GOV­ERN­MENT AND CHEM­I­CAL WAR­FARE

At the crux of it, to­ward the end of 2017, we are see­ing a lot about Syria’s civil war in the me­dia ev­ery day. Yet, there is only spo­radic men­tion of Pres­i­dent As­sad’s enor­mous ar­se­nal of chem­i­cal weapons. Some news re­ports have emerged from Syria that main­tain that these weapons have been “moved around,” pre­sum­ably to more-se­cure lo­ca­tions (or, as one Bri­tish tele­vi­sion re­port de­tailed re­cently, “pos­si­bly for use against gov­ern­ment en­e­mies”).

Al­most overnight, with more Amer­i­can forces en­ter­ing the Syr­ian theater of mil­i­tary ac­tiv­ity, it is im­por­tant that the chem­i­cal weapons issue in this on­go­ing con­flict be­comes more trans­par­ent.

For a start, it is no longer a se­cret that Pres­i­dent As­sad has these weapons of mass de­struc­tion and that a num­ber of his Scud-c guided mis­siles, many of which have been amassed on the coun­try’s bor­ders, have been tipped with sarin and VX nerve gasses. Sources in the Is­raeli cap­i­tal say the numbers of these Rus­sian­sup­plied mis­siles run into the hun­dreds.

While sev­eral Arab coun­tries were at­tempt­ing to ac­quire or de­velop their own weapons of mass de­struc­tion in the days af­ter Gulf War 1, Syria was in a class of its own when it came to chem­i­cal and bi­o­log­i­cal war­fare. For decades, the Da­m­as­cus gov­ern­ment had the big­gest chem­i­cal lab­o­ra­to­ries in the Mid­dle East.

IT IS WORTH RE­CALL­ING THAT IN MARCH 1988, TYRANT SAD­DAM HUS­SEIN WENT ON TO MUR­DER UP TO 5,000 OF HIS OWN PEO­PLE BY US­ING CHEM­I­CAL WEAPONS AGAINST THE CIVIL­IAN RES­I­DENTS OF THE NORTH­ERN KUR­DISH TOWN OF HAL­ABJA.

By the late 1990s, re­ports were cir­cu­lated in Wash­ing­ton and Lon­don claim­ing that Syr­ian Scud-c mis­siles were be­ing armed for long-range chem­i­cal weapons use—a wor­ry­ing de­vel­op­ment in an arms race in which range is as im­por­tant as a weapon’s abil­ity to do harm. (Of course, this was of sig­nif­i­cant in­ter­est to Is­rael, as well.)

The CIA be­lieved Syria had even de­vel­oped its own ver­sion of clus­ter bombs, which can re­lease dozens, or even hun­dreds, of small bombs from a single large Scud-c mis­sile. In ad­di­tion to his Scud-c mis­siles, Pres­i­dent As­sad has ac­cu­mu­lated mis­siles tipped with nerve gas that are ca­pa­ble of be­ing dropped from a fighter jet, thus al­low­ing for at­tacks on more-dis­tant cities.

The Is­raeli newspaper, Ye­dioth Ahronoth, quot­ing in­de­pen­dent U.S. an­a­lyst Harold Hough, reached the fol­low­ing con­clu­sions af­ter study­ing satel­lite im­agery of sus­pected Syr­ian mis­sile de­ploy­ment

sites: The Scud-c mis­sile has an es­ti­mated cir­cu­lar er­ror prob­a­ble (CEP) of about a mile. That made it im­prob­a­ble that it would be able to strike spe­cific mil­i­tary tar­gets. More likely, said Hough, the Scud-c could de­liver a chem­i­cal war­head to cre­ate mass ca­su­al­ties and havoc.

While most sys­tems be­hind con­tem­po­rary Scud mis­siles of the kind de­ployed in the Mid­dle East date from the World War II, it re­mains a rea­son­ably po­tent closerange weapon, es­pe­cially if tipped with a weapon of mass de­struc­tion. Ad­vances made by both Iran (with South African rocket sci­en­tists’ help), as well as North Korea, have added markedly to this clumsy weapon’s ef­fi­cacy.

FOR DECADES, THE DA­M­AS­CUS GOV­ERN­MENT HAD THE BIG­GEST CHEM­I­CAL LAB­O­RA­TO­RIES IN THE MID­DLE EAST.

WAG­ING WAR BY POI­SON­ING WA­TER SYS­TEMS

On a more ba­sic level, there is an­other threat rarely men­tioned by the au­thor­i­ties. Bri­tish and Amer­i­can forces serv­ing abroad share a com­mon bond: Ev­ery serv­ing man and woman needs safe, potable wa­ter. Re­cent U.S. in­tel­li­gence re­ports in­di­cate that wa­ter sup­plies in the Near East, Cen­tral Asia and even Africa could present ter­ror­ists with po­ten­tial tar­gets. Fur­ther, there are at least 20 doc­u­mented in­stances of the use (or the threat) of chem­i­cal or bi­o­log­i­cal agents against wa­ter sup­plies.

A study com­pleted at the Naval Post­grad­u­ate School in Monterey, Cal­i­for­nia, by former Lieu­tenant Com­man­der Wil­liam Mon­day, U.S. Navy, cov­ered this as­pect in a the­sis ti­tled Think­ing the Un­think­able: At­tack­ing

Fresh Wa­ter Sup­plies. Com­man­der Mon­day’s orig­i­nal the­sis was sim­ple: Not only is an at­tack on our wa­ter sup­plies pos­si­ble, it also has the po­ten­tial to achieve mass ca­su­al­ties. The corol­lary here is that it all needs to be prop­erly planned and ex­e­cuted.

The in­for­ma­tion needed to do so is avail­able—and has been for decades— Mon­day de­clared. As he stated, it is “there for the tak­ing” on In­ter­net “cook­books.” It is in­ter­est­ing that al­most for the du­ra­tion of his stud­ies on the sub­ject, Com­man­der Mon­day’s men­tors were skep­ti­cal about his ob­jec­tives, and it says much that his re­port got an im­me­di­ate clas­si­fied rating af­ter it ap­peared. It re­mains un­der a heavy se­cu­rity re­stric­tion.

Com­man­der Mon­day cited sev­eral re­cent in­stances of chem­i­cal agents hav­ing been used against wa­ter sup­plies. An in­ter­est­ing case study in­volved the poi­son­ing of wa­ter tanks with potas­sium cyanide at a Turk­ish Army base out­side Is­tan­bul in March 1992. Two large, empty boxes were found along­side the wa­ter tanks, and the per­pe­tra­tor ap­peared to have gen­er­ated a layer of foam that caused sus­pi­cion and led to in­ves­ti­ga­tion. It was later con­cluded that the at­tack was ini­ti­ated by the Kur­dish PKK.

Sim­i­larly, in Ro­ma­nia dur­ing the De­cem­ber 1989 rev­o­lu­tion­ary fight­ing, the wa­ter sup­ply of the city of Sibiu was poi­soned with an organophos­phate.

The threat to wa­ter sup­plies in Third World coun­tries has prompted a dozen stud­ies in the United States in the past few years. Most cen­ter on a spe­cific theme: that Western forces in re­mote re­gions in­creas­ingly find them­selves with­out ad­e­quate sup­plies of good wa­ter.

Re­ports of this kind of ac­tiv­ity come from all over. The ITAR-TASS news agency re­ported

some years ago that work­ers at a chem­i­cal plant in Teb­nik in

Lviv Oblast threat­ened to re­lease poi­sonous waste into the

River Dni­ester un­less they were paid for the pre­vi­ous six months. In 1996, in China’s Guangxi Prov­ince, more than 200 stu­dents needed emer­gency treat­ment af­ter the well serv­ing the school’s kitchen was in­ten­tion­ally con­tam­i­nated with a toxic chem­i­cal.

There were two other in­ci­dents prior to that. The first in­volved Gen­eral Niko­lay Matveyev, who threat­ened to con­tam­i­nate the wa­ter sup­plies of the Rus­sian 14th Army in Ti­raspol, Moldova, with about 75 pounds of mer­cury. Shortly after­ward, dur­ing heavy fight­ing along the Thai-cam­bo­dia bor­der near Pailin, a dozen Kh­mer Royal Armed Forces com­bat­ants died af­ter drink­ing wa­ter from streams and ponds poi­soned by the Kh­mer Rouge.

A ready source of in­for­ma­tion on the sub­ject can be found in a book by Eric Croddy ti­tled Chem­i­cal and Bi­o­log­i­cal War­fare: An An­no­tated Bi­b­li­og­ra­phy. Croddy, for­merly a se­nior re­search as­so­ciate at the Monterey In­sti­tute of In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies in Monterey, Cal­i­for­nia, con­tended that the threat sud­denly be­comes much more of a re­al­ity if highly toxic or­ganic phos­pho­rous chem­i­cal war­fare agents are in­tro­duced into the equa­tion.

In the United States, he ex­plained, the al­low­able con­cen­tra­tion of sarin in drink­ing wa­ter is 0.5 parts per mil­lion (ppm)—that is, if no more than 5 liters of this wa­ter is drunk dur­ing any one day and pro­vided it is not con­sumed on more than three con­sec­u­tive days. It should be noted that these val­ues are for adults. Chil­dren and ba­bies can with­stand only one-tenth to one-hun­dredth of this amount, Croddy ex­plains.

“This means that the max­i­mum daily dosage of sarin is 2.5mg, or 7.5mg in three days. For tabun, an­other nerve gas, the al­low­able con­cen­tra­tion is 1.5 to 2 ppm.” Thus, he states, it is en­tirely pos­si­ble to poi­son large reser­voirs.

The con­clu­sion of this ar­ti­cle ap­pears in next month’s issue of Amer­i­can Sur­vival Guide. There, au­thor Ven­ter fills us in on sev­eral re­cent ex­am­ples of the use of chem­i­cal weapons and de­scribes some pretty dis­turb­ing con­cerns about po­ten­tial at­tacks on the United States of Amer­ica.

RE­CENT U.S. IN­TEL­LI­GENCE RE­PORTS IN­DI­CATE THAT WA­TER SUP­PLIES IN THE NEAR EAST, CEN­TRAL ASIA AND EVEN AFRICA COULD PRESENT TER­ROR­ISTS WITH PO­TEN­TIAL TAR­GETS. FUR­THER, THERE ARE AT LEAST 20 DOC­U­MENTED IN­STANCES OF THE USE (OR THE THREAT) OF CHEM­I­CAL OR BI­O­LOG­I­CAL AGENTS AGAINST WA­TER SUP­PLIES.

Be­low: Part of the af­ter­math of al­leged Syr­ian gov­ern­ment chem­i­cal at­tacks in Da­m­as­cus in Au­gust 2013 (Photo: Hu­man Rights Watch)

Bod­ies of victims of a sus­pected chem­i­cal at­tack on Ghouta, Syria, Au­gust 21, 2013 (Photo: Eyevine)

A photo of a Bri­tish mus­tard gas bomb used in World War I, circa 1915 (Photo: Wiki­me­dia Com­mons)

French in­fantry­men wear pro­tec­tive gear in an­tic­i­pa­tion of gas at­tacks from the Ger­man op­po­si­tion dur­ing World War I.

Some of the large num­ber of civil­ian ca­su­al­ties in the Syr­ian chem­i­cal weapons at­tack on Aleppo (Photo: United Na­tions)

The chem­i­cal war­fare sym­bol is used to iden­tify weapons, agents, work ar­eas or con­tam­i­nated lo­ca­tions where these tox­ins might be present.

Above:

Work­ers in pro­tec­tive suits un­load chem­i­cal war­fare mu­ni­tions from trans­port con­tain­ers for later det­o­na­tion and de­struc­tion in a blast fur­nace on March 05, 2014, in Mün­ster, Ger­many.

Left: This is a demon­stra­tion model of a U.S. M190 Hon­est John chem­i­cal war­head with M143 sarin bomblets, circa 1943. (Photo: U.S. Depart­ment of De­fense)

A father cra­dles his in­fant twins, who were killed in a Syr­ian chem­i­cal at­tack in April 2017. (Photo: Ap/alaa al-youssef)

Victims of a World War I mus­tard gas at­tack. This toxin can cause a mul­ti­tude of symp­toms and in­juries, in­clud­ing death, depend­ing on the level and ar­eas of ex­po­sure.

In this lit­eral ex­am­ple of the blind lead­ing the blind, these men of the 55th Bri­tish Di­vi­sion were ca­su­al­ties who lost their sight af­ter a poi­son gas at­tack dur­ing World War I.

This photo from a pre-world War II gas mask drill in Lon­don shows the lack of un­der­stand­ing of the po­ten­tial im­pact that chem­i­cal weapons can have on the hu­man or­gan­ism.

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