American Survival Guide - - TABLE OF CONTENTS - By Al J. Ven­ter

The on­go­ing and grow­ing scourge that threat­ens our fu­ture; part 2 of 2

This is the sec­ond of a two-part se­ries that ex­plains some of the his­tory of the de­vel­op­ment and de­ploy­ment of chem­i­cal weapons by en­ti­ties rang­ing from military units to civil­ians. It also clues us in on the sta­tus of cur­rent chem­i­cal war­fare threats abroad and at home. The first part of this se­ries ap­peared in the Oc­to­ber 2017 is­sue of Amer­i­can Sur­vival Guide.


Eric Croddy, for­mer se­nior re­search as­so­ciate at the Mon­terey In­sti­tute of In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies in Mon­terey, Cal­i­for­nia, high­lighted the de­vel­op­ment of the Soviet nerve gas, “novi­chok”—a new class of ex­tremely po­tent bi­nary nerve agents that make civil­ians thou­sands of miles from any war front as vul­ner­a­ble as peo­ple in the com­bat the­aters of the Mid­dle East.

It also gives chem­i­cal weapons an al­to­gether dif­fer­ent di­men­sion that most chem­i­cal war­fare (CW) spe­cial­ists, un­til rel­a­tively re­cently, were only able to spec­u­late about be­cause there was so lit­tle known about it.


Over the years, I was in reg­u­lar con­tact with Croddy—un­til he was grabbed by PACOM (U.S. Pa­cific Com­mand) and moved to Hawaii. He told me that “for a while, I thought novi­chok might never have ex­isted; but then, I learned the truth.”

What he dis­cov­ered was that the Sovi­ets had cre­ated a unique, toxic com­pound that was seven or 10 times more po­tent than other CW agents, such as VX, sarin and so­man. He ad­mits to hav­ing been awed by novi­chok’s re­mark­able po­tency.

Early re­ports spoke of this nerve gas as be­ing able to defy med­i­cal treat­ment; that it could fil­ter through all known West­ern gas masks; and that CW field de­tec­tors were not able to spot it. One of those who had worked with it said that strate­gi­cally, novi­chok has an­other ad­van­tage: It can be used in ul­tra-cold tem­per­a­tures and won’t freeze on the bat­tle­field like most other chem­i­cal war­fare agents. Worse, says Croddy, “… novi­chok bi­nary com­po­nents were specif­i­cally de­signed to be in­dis­tin­guish­able from civil­ian pes­ti­cide man­u­fac­ture. It can, or so it is claimed, be made in any fer­til­izer fac­tory,” he stated.

Sig­nif­i­cantly, a “bi­nary weapon” is made of two in­gre­di­ents that be­come lethal only af­ter they are com­bined—usu­ally, shortly be­fore det­o­na­tion—which makes them eas­ily and safely trans­portable. In con­trast, with uni­tary chem­i­cal weapons, such as VX and sarin (which was ac­quired by Syria, Iran and some other Mid­dle Eastern states, in­clud­ing Iraq—when Sad­dam Hussein was still around), the in­gre­di­ents are al­ready com­bined in the man­u­fac­tur­ing process. Uni­tary weapons, con­se­quently, are lethal from the start.


When first dis­clo­sures that Moscow had been work­ing on a suc­ces­sion of topse­cret bi­nary weapons pro­grams be­came public, the news could not have come at a worse time for the Rus­sians. It fol­lowed the sign­ing of a bi­lat­eral agree­ment be­tween the United States and the

Soviet Union in 1990 for both coun­tries to re­duce their re­spec­tive chem­i­cal war­fare stock­piles. The end of the Cold War was in sight. In any event, the 1972 tri­par­tite con­ven­tion among the United States, Bri­tain and the Soviet Union pre­cluded such ac­tiv­ity. As a con­se­quence, the rev­e­la­tions were a public re­la­tions dis­as­ter.

Thus, in 2002, the in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity was rocked when it read a re­port ti­tled “A Poi­soned Po­lice” in the weekly, re­cently un­cen­sored Moscow News. Writ­ten by Rus­sian sci­en­tist Dr. Vil S. Mirza­yanov, the article dis­closed that Rus­sia had been clan­des­tinely build­ing a new class of se­cret, highly ef­fec­tive bi­nary weapons all along. This pro­gram was so suc­cess­ful, he de­clared, that those in­volved were ac­tu­ally hon­ored with the Lenin Prize at a Krem­lin func­tion.

Dr. Mirza­yanov, a 26-year vet­eran of the Soviet CW pro­gram, and his as­so­ciate, Lev Fe­dorov, went public about novi­chok in what they termed were “the in­ter­ests of hu­man­ity.” For his ef­forts, Mirza­yanov was ar­rested and jailed for re­veal­ing state se­crets.

Also as­so­ci­ated with the ex­po­sure was Vladimir Uglev, an­other Soviet sci­en­tist. He said in an in­ter­view that he had helped in­vent the agent. Al­though he was locked out of his lab­o­ra­to­ries by the au­thor­i­ties, Uglev warned that un­less charges against Mirza­yanov and oth­ers were dropped, he would pub­licly dis­close the chem­i­cal for­mula of the con­tro­ver­sial bi­nary agent.

The ploy worked, even though it had been a bluff. Af­ter Yuri Ba­turin, se­cu­rity ad­vi­sor to the Rus­sian par­lia­ment, con­vinced him to keep the de­tails se­cret, Uglev ad­mit­ted he re­ally didn’t have the in­for­ma­tion. Mean­while, Mirza­yanov (af­ter his re­lease from prison) im­mi­grated to the United States, where there were Amer­i­cans who badly wanted to talk to him about those se­cret weapons pro­grams.

For his part, Fe­dorov has since writ­ten two his­tor­i­cal ac­counts of the Soviet Union’s de­vel­op­ment of chem­i­cal weapons.

An­other scan­dal fol­lowed not long af­ter­ward. Rus­sian Lieu­tenant Gen­eral Ana­toly Kunt­se­vich, a grad­u­ate of the (Soviet) Military Acad­emy of Chem­i­cal De­fense in 1958 and au­thor of more than 200 works, was dis­missed from his po­si­tion as head of the Cen­ter of Eco­toxime­try at the Acad­emy of Sciences In­sti­tute of Chem­i­cal Physics.

In a fu­ri­ous ex­change with his fel­low gen­er­als, he was charged with help­ing smug­gle a quan­tity of CW nerve agent pre­cur­sors to Syria. Un­like most of his col­leagues, who of­ten made no se­cret of the fact that they de­spised Arabs, this dis­si­dent of­fi­cer had al­ways main­tained close ties with the Syr­ian pres­i­dent’s ad­vi­sors.

Kunt­se­vich’s po­lit­i­cal sen­ti­ments can pos­si­bly be gauged from the fact that while all this was un­rav­el­ing, he tried to win a par­lia­men­tary seat in the Duma with Zhiri­novsky’s re­ac­tionary party (which had been tainted by nu­mer­ous anti-semitic ut­ter­ances).

It is of note that Kunt­se­vich (who shared the Lenin Prize for his work in bi­nary chem­i­cal weapons with three oth­ers) never de­nied his ac­tions. He jus­ti­fied his con­tacts with Syria on the ba­sis that it was all part of a deal that had been au­tho­rized un­der a “long-stand­ing con­tract obli­ga­tion” with the As­sad regime.

(It is worth men­tion­ing that fol­low­ing a visit to sev­eral For­mer Soviet Union [FSU] states, Ju­dith Miller, for­merly of The New York Times, vis­ited the so-called Chem­i­cal Re­search In­sti­tute in Nukus, Uzbek­istan. There, Soviet de­fec­tors and Amer­i­can of­fi­cials told her the in­sti­tute was the site of a ma­jor re­search-and-test­ing fa­cil­ity for chem­i­cal weapons.)

At that stage, the United States and Uzbek­istan had qui­etly ne­go­ti­ated a bi­lat­eral agree­ment to pro­vide 6 mil­lion dol­lars in Amer­i­can aid in de­con­tam­i­nat­ing and dis­man­tling one of the largest of these chem­i­cal weapons fa­cil­i­ties. In an in­ter­view in Tashkent with Uzbeki Deputy For­eign Min­is­ter Isan M. Mustafoev, the


com­ment to Miller was, “We were shocked when we first learned the real pic­ture.”

The Soviet Union was crum­bling in 1992, when more than 300 sci­en­tists at the plant packed their bags and headed home. Fol­low­ing a re­fusal by the Rus­sians to dis­close what had been go­ing on, Ms. Miller was able to visit the Chem­i­cal Re­search In­sti­tute, a closed military com­plex in Nukus in the semi-au­ton­o­mous re­pub­lic of Karakalpak­stan.

“… in one room stood a large test cham­ber into which smaller an­i­mals were placed for test­ing … an­other room con­tained tread­mills for dogs and dozens of test­ing har­nesses to cram dogs’ muz­zles into gas masks, leav­ing their bod­ies ex­posed,” she re­ported. The de­vice en­abled sci­en­tists to ex­pose ei­ther the dogs’ skin or lungs to lethal chem­i­cal agents, Uzbeki and Amer­i­can ex­perts told her.

Ms. Miller ex­pressed the view that in­for­ma­tion had been slowly emerg­ing about hun­dreds of open-air chem­i­cal tests at the Nukus plant and on the neigh­bor­ing Ustyurt Plateau. She de­scribed the plateau as an equally in­hos­pitable desert sev­eral hun­dred miles west of the Aral Sea, which Uzbek­istan and Kaza­khstan share.



With all that said, it is im­por­tant for Amer­i­cans to be aware that their coun­try leads the way in haz­ardous ma­te­ri­als re­sponse—in­clud­ing po­ten­tial at­tacks that might in­volve chem­i­cal weapons—be­cause, sim­ply put, it has to.

The is­sue was orig­i­nally en­cap­su­lated by Dr. James W. Boone, vice pres­i­dent of the Oper­a­tion Re­spond In­sti­tute, Inc. in Washington, D.C. His view was that ‘‘ … to­day’s emer­gency re­spon­ders— po­lice, fire and med­i­cal—need to help as never be­fore in gaug­ing the cor­rect re­sponse to haz­ardous ma­te­ri­als in­ci­dents. First re­spon­ders need to know im­me­di­ately if haz­ardous ma­te­ri­als are in­volved and what steps to take. If they do not, they might be­come the first ca­su­al­ties.”

Is­sues are com­pounded by the fact that there is al­most as much move­ment of dan­ger­ous ma­te­ri­als on U.S. roads, rail­ways, ships and air­lines as the rest of the world put to­gether. Ac­ci­dents in­volv­ing some of these sub­stances are se­ri­ous; and the news­pa­pers reg­u­larly carry re­ports of them.

Now, there is an­other di­men­sion: in­ter­na­tional ter­ror­ism. A wider and more-di­verse va­ri­ety of weapons has be­come avail­able to in­sur­gent groups. Add to that the threat of bi­o­log­i­cal or chem­i­cal weapons (some of which have al­ready been used, such as VX nerve gas in the Tokyo sub­way in 1995), and the po­ten­tial for a catas­tro­phe is real.

Europe and parts of Asia are not far be­hind. Ef­fec­tively, the man­age­ment of haz­ardous ma­te­ri­als world­wide has be­come big busi­ness. The re­spon­si­ble au­thor­i­ties have been par­tic­u­larly ac­tive in the United States. In re­cent years, more than 100 cities

have qui­etly em­barked on a se­ries of emer­gency train­ing pro­grams to counter the threat of this kind of war­fare. Mock chem­i­cal and bi­o­log­i­cal war­fare at­tacks have been held in San Fran­cisco, Chicago, sev­eral New York bor­oughs, Hous­ton, Los An­ge­les and else­where.

Sig­nif­i­cantly, this ac­tiv­ity is se­cret: The me­dia have been barred from most demon­stra­tions. Ex­er­cises have in­cluded fil­ter­ing non­lethal pathogens through New York’s sub­way sys­tem and us­ing the wind to waft sim­u­lated chem­i­cal agents on­shore in the San Fran­cisco area.

Ev­ery po­lice force in the coun­try has been cir­cu­lar­ized by the re­spon­si­ble au­thor­i­ties, and all have been pro­vided with in­struc­tions re­gard­ing how to re­act should there be such an at­tack. Among sev­eral best sell­ers to thou­sands of mu­nic­i­pal, state and gov­ern­ment de­part­ments is a pub­li­ca­tion ti­tled Jane’s Chem-bio Hand­book, which is avail­able to any­one.

While still liv­ing in the United States, I was in­vited to visit a Fed­eral HAZMAT train­ing in­stal­la­tion run by the U.S. De­part­ment of En­ergy. The 120-acre area lies ad­ja­cent to the for­mer Han­ford nu­clear weapons man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­ity in eastern Washington (state). This is the Volpen­test Haz­ardous Ma­te­ri­als Man­age­ment and Emer­gency Re­sponse (HAM­MER) Train­ing and Ed­u­ca­tion Cen­ter on the out­skirts of Rich­land, Washington.

The es­tab­lish­ment is one of the big­gest in the world and is ex­ten­sive, host­ing spe­cial­ists in­volved in these dis­ci­plines from all over the United States, as well as from a se­lect range of for­eign coun­tries. More re­cently, it ac­quired a law en­force­ment train­ing cen­ter that in­cludes 10,000 ad­ja­cent acres of shooting ranges and tac­ti­cal train­ing fa­cil­i­ties.

The fa­cil­ity is man­aged by Fluor Daniel Han­ford. Karin Mcgin­nis, a di­rec­tor of the cen­ter, told me that the aim was to serve clients in a va­ri­ety of fed­eral agen­cies (in­clud­ing the State De­part­ment, FBI and Se­cret Ser­vice), state and tribal gov­ern­ments, la­bor unions, aca­demic in­sti­tu­tions, in­dus­try, pro­fes­sional as­so­ci­a­tions and oth­ers. Its strength is the as­ton­ish­ing num­ber of re­al­is­tic props that have been set up in the semi-desert ter­rain, where re­al­is­tic reen­act­ments of dis­as­ters are per­formed.

Last word on this topic goes to Dr. Jane Ori­ent, who pub­lished what is re­garded to­day as a sem­i­nal article on the sub­ject in The Jour­nal of the Amer­i­can Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion: “Chem­i­cal and Bi­o­log­i­cal War­fare: Should De­fenses be Re­searched and De­ployed?”

I quote: “Dr. Ori­ent made ob­ser­va­tions that were stri­dent at a time when such mat­ters were re­garded by the med­i­cal world as ar­cane; es­pe­cially where they con­cerned Third World nations and their re­la­tion­ships to the West.”


She pointed out that against civil­ian pop­u­la­tions, chem­i­cal and bi­o­log­i­cal weapons were ex­tremely at­trac­tive be­cause of sim­ple eco­nomics. Ca­su­al­ties might cost $2,000 per square mile with con­ven­tional weapons, $800 with nerve gas—and a sin­gle dol­lar with bi­o­log­i­cal weapons. This was a ground­break­ing prog­no­sis, and her peers ac­knowl­edged it ac­cord­ingly.


News of the use of chem­i­cal weapons in sev­eral mod­ern-day con­flicts has been com­ing to light on an al­most reg­u­lar ba­sis.

Rus­sian and Syr­ian war­planes at­tacked the small, but strate­gic, rebel town of Khan Sheikhoun (lo­cated about 30 miles south of the city of Idlib in north­ern Syria) early on April 4, 2017, killing dozens of peo­ple, al­most all of whom had been asleep when nerve gases were dis­persed.

Six weeks later, Washington dis­closed that the Is­lamic State (IS) ter­ror group has formed a chem­i­cal weapons cell sit­u­ated in Syria along the Euphrates River Val­ley, not far from the em­bat­tled city of Mo­sul.

The on­go­ing sce­nario is hor­rific and hardly iso­lated. Apart from threat­en­ing to use clan­des­tine IS agents to move some of these weapons onto Amer­i­can soil, there were two chem­i­cal at­tacks by the Is­lamic State on Kur­dish Pesh­merga forces last De­cem­ber and Jan­uary.

Re­ports have since emerged that Syria’s Pres­i­dent As­sad—hav­ing de­clared that all his chem­i­cal weapons as­sets had been handed over to United Nations in­spec­tors—ac­tu­ally re­tained enor­mous sup­plies of nerve gases. These in­clude sarin, VX and tabun. A sin­gle drop of any one of them on a hu­man’s skin will re­sult in death within min­utes.

All that was un­der­scored by news­pa­per re­ports in Bri­tain and Is­rael (fol­low­ing leaks by the Mos­sad) that As­sad had re­tained hun­dreds of tons of chem­i­cal weapons af­ter he had as­sured United Nations weapons in­spec­tors that ev­ery­thing had ei­ther been de­stroyed or handed over. Spe­cific de­tails came from Syr­ian Bri­gadier Gen­eral Za­her al-sakat, who had de­fected to the West.

Sakat, for­merly head of As­sad’s chem­i­cal war­fare pro­gram in the

Syr­ian army’s Fifth Di­vi­sion, told London’s Daily Tele­graph in a re­port dated April 14, 2017, that As­sad’s regime failed to de­clare large amounts of sarin pre­cur­sor chem­i­cals and other toxic ma­te­ri­als that had been held back. He added that these chem­i­cals and toxic ma­te­ri­als have since been used in WMD at­tacks on sus­pected rebel towns.

How­ever, the Mid­dle East is not the only re­gion where chem­i­cal weapons have re­cently been used to kill peo­ple.

Kim Jong Nam, the half-brother of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un, was mur­dered by one of Un’s spy agen­cies at Kuala Lumpur In­ter­na­tional Air­port on Fe­bru­ary 13, 2017. He was dis­creetly ac­costed by two women at the air­port ter­mi­nal while on his way to board a plane to the Chi­nese ter­ri­tory of Ma­cau. Both were later ex­posed as agents of North Korea’s se­cret in­tel­li­gence ser­vice. Nam died on his way to the hos­pi­tal fewer than 20 min­utes later, ac­cord­ing to Malaysian in­ves­ti­ga­tors, who said the women had sur­rep­ti­tiously pricked him in the back with a nee­dle laced with a VX nerve agent.

It is no­table that in a re­cent video re­leased in May 2017 by the Is­lamic State fea­tur­ing a pur­port­edly Amer­i­can fighter us­ing the han­dle “Abu Hamza al-am­riki,” pho­tos of var­i­ous lo­ca­tions for fu­ture at­tacks in the United States were dis­played. These in­cluded the Las Ve­gas Strip, New York’s Times Square and sev­eral banks in Washington, D.C., along with some ma­jor base­ball and NFL sports cen­ters.

In the past, chem­i­cal war­fare at­tacks on civil­ians were per­ceived as threats other coun­tries had to deal with. Un­for­tu­nately, as mo­ti­va­tion and au­dac­ity among Amer­ica’s en­e­mies in­crease, and the bar­ri­ers to ac­qui­si­tion and de­ploy­ment re­cede, it makes more sense than ever to learn as much as pos­si­ble about this range of threats and plan—to the de­gree it’s pos­si­ble—to de­fend your­self from this in­sid­i­ous men­ace.

A Malaysian HAZMAT team con­ducts a de­con­tam­i­na­tion oper­a­tion at the Kuala Lumpur In­ter­na­tional Air­port al­most two weeks af­ter Kim Jong Nam was as­sas­si­nated there with a lethal dose of VX nerve agent.

A man car­ries a child fol­low­ing a sus­pected chem­i­cal weapons at­tack of a makeshift hos­pi­tal in the town of Khan Sheikhoun, north­ern Idlib prov­ince. (Photo: Syria Pic­ture Files)

Turk­ish ex­perts carry a vic­tim of an al­leged chem­i­cal weapons at­tack in the Syr­ian city of Idlib at a lo­cal hos­pi­tal in Rey­hanli, Hatay, Turkey. (Photo: Wiki Photo)

Syria de­nies us­ing chem­i­cal weapons— de­spite these pic­tures (and au­top­sies on dead chil­dren). (Photo: Hu­man Rights Watch)

Left: The body of a vic­tim of a Syr­ian chem­i­cal at­tack on the out­skirts of Da­m­as­cus is moved out of the killing zone.

Be­low: U.S. Am­bas­sador to the United Nations Nikki Ha­ley shows pic­tures of Syr­ian vic­tims of chem­i­cal at­tacks as she ad­dresses a meet­ing of the Se­cu­rity Coun­cil on Syria at United Nations head­quar­ters. (Photo: United Nations)

Above: This was a chem­i­cal weapons in­stal­la­tion in Libya that was even­tu­ally de­stroyed by NATO at­tacks. (Photo: NATO Head­quar­ters)

Right: Men search for their rel­a­tives among the bod­ies of Syr­ian civil­ians who were ex­e­cuted.

Be­low: U.S. Air Force air­men from the 437th Air­lift Wing carry a sim­u­lated ca­su­alty to a se­cure lo­ca­tion dur­ing a mock gas at­tack as part of an ex­pe­di­tionary com­bat skills train­ing.

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

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