Get PJ Media on your Apple

Belmont Club

Advances in Malice

September 8th, 2013 - 2:25 am

When chemical weapons were first used by the German Army during the Great War they were rapidly countered by the British with their own gas. The result was that they were of no net benefit to either side when the other could reply in the same terms. Moreover, they were difficult to employ with precision and had tactical limitations. Eventually the artillery shell and aerial bomb became the preferred method of delivering poison gas, but by then countermeasures had advanced to nullify much of their potency. “By the end of the war, chemical weapons had lost much of their effectiveness against well trained and equipped troops. At that time, chemical weapon agents were used in one quarter of artillery shells fired but caused only 3% of casualties.”

Poison gas, however, remained effective however against unprotected civilians. And they were so used.

The British used adamsite against Russian revolutionary troops in 1919 and allegedly used mustard gas against Iraqi insurgents in the 1920s; Bolshevik troops used poison gas to suppress the Tambov Rebellion in 1920, Spain used chemical weapons in Morocco against Rif tribesmen throughout the 1920s[42] and Italy used mustard gas in Libya in 1930 and again during its invasion of Ethiopia in 1936. In 1925, a Chinese warlord, Zhang Zuolin, contracted a German company to build him a mustard gas plant in Shenyang, which was completed in 1927.

World War 2 saw the major combatants unwilling to use gas on a large scale against foes who could retaliate in kind. There was no net advantage. And even though the new nerve gases proved more lethal than the Great War toxins, they were eclipsed by dramatic arrival of the Atomic bomb. Who cared about Sarin when there were nukes?

And so chemical weapons lay in a kind of limbo. Too lethal to use with precision, too weak to compete with nukes. The interesting thing about the chemical weapons allegedly employed by the Syrian government against civilians, as described in a report of Richard Lloyd of Tesla Laboratories and Theodore Postol of MIT is how successful their users have been at creating a new niche. The chemical weapons examined were much more effective against civilian targets than if normal, military style gas shells were used.

The Dreaded Chemical Weapon

What a WMD Looks Like

What made the difference was the innovative dispersal system. The WMDs examined are simply a pipe rocket with a small metal barrel at the end. The tip of the pipe contains a small bursting charge rigged to go off at a height above the ground by the action of an altimeter thus peeling back the barrel of Sarin and showering it down on the unfortunates below.  There is nothing refined about it. Note how the barrel is filled, probably with an adjustable wrench and a tin funnel.

May require adjustable wrench

May require adjustable wrench

The drum device contains 18 times the more chemical payload than a 155 mm artillery shell. The Telegraph says that’s the reason why the civilian casualties were so high compared to previously observed attacks. “Prof Charles Postel, a US expert, said that the ‘very effective, very deadly’ rockets would have been capable of carrying up to 20 times more sarin than initially assumed. ” To delivery gas artillery shells, you need a precision manufactured artillery piece, trained gunners and shells manufactured to close tolerances just to deliver a pittance.  Those are hard to come by. With the barrel rocket you just fill her up by the gallon — in this case estimated at 50 liters — and let ‘er fly.

Although “a note from Janes Defence Weekly said that the individual number stamped on the rocket motors suggested the rockets were being mass-produced at an official weapons factory” it can be readily seen that the crudity of the weapon does not require a high degree of industrial prowess. You can make this in a decent machine shop.  Sarin gas has been around since the middle of the last century. The revolution is in manufacturing technology. What’s novel is someone has figured out a way to build weapons capable of killing a thousand people using nothing more than tools found in a garage.

The barrel-on-a-stick sarin rocket is of course useless against regular military formations. It has no range, no accuracy, nothing that would militarily recommend it against troops.  But as a civilian killer the delivery system is a gas — if one may pardon the pun. What’s innovative isn’t the chemical payload, but the industrial and manufacturing technology that potentially puts this killer in the hands of a terrorist cell.

Lindsey Graham raised eyebrows when he described the stakes in Syria as nothing short of existential. Graham said, “I believe that if we get Syria wrong, within six months — and you can quote me on this … there will be a war between Iran and Israel over their nuclear program. My fear is that it won’t come to America on top of a missile, it’ll come in the belly of a ship in the Charleston or New York harbor.”

There are aspects to this assertion that raise questions. One’s first reaction is that if the stakes were always so high, how come the alarm is being sounded only now? Didn’t the President say, only months ago, that the War on Terror was over?  That we could abolish nuclear weapons? Cut down the Navy, the Army, the Marines … the whole ball of wax? Didn’t he always find some way to delay or evade the numerous requests by Israel to do something about the Iranian bomb? Didn’t Obama, as recently as the Benghazi incident, not have Valerie Jarrett talking to the Iranians? Wasn’t everything fine as in “Detroit alive and Osama bin Laden dead” and until a few weeks ago?

Not so good

Not so good

And now they tell us of a sudden we’re yards from the precipice! Now Graham says that if the US doesn’t do something then “there will be a war between Iran and Israel over their nuclear program … it won’t come to America on top of a missile, it’ll come in the belly of a ship in the Charleston or New York harbor.”

So what changed?  Was the administration lying then or now? For their past soothing assurances cannot belong to the same set of facts as their present alarm. Yet Graham may be right.  This chemical bomb is an example of something which can be cobbled together in any machine shop  and proliferate.  What in principle prevents terrorists from building one of these babies and firing one from a truck to burst over Times Square on New Year’s Eve?

In truth, the Syrian civil war has had the unacknowledged effect of creating a Petrie dish that provided an incubator in which men with not very much intelligence but a whole lot of persistence and malice could develop new and crude weapons which will sooner or later appear elsewhere.  The Arab Spring is an environment where middling technology meets master-class hatred. The result is the pipe rocket, a kind of AK-47 of chemical weapons, a new IED, the monkey model of the Syrian Army’s weapons development program, such as it is.  It’s not a genius weapon, but it kills and cheaply. And if this does not proliferate, then inevitably something else will will climb out of this stew to haunt the world.

In the light of what is now known, the kind of limited Parthian shot the administration is proposing makes even less sense.  It will not dampen anything. It will not prevent the spread of anything for any length of time, not unless they bomb every car body repair shop in the Middle East. The problem is that they’ve created a kind of incubator for terror in which they swear never to intervene yet neither can they wall off. Already it is spreading to Jordan, Lebanon and Kurdistan. Almost certainly terror groups will strike outside of Syria perhaps with stocks captured from Assad or maybe just plain industrial chemicals will be used. The administration cannot be serious if they think a strike against Assad will be a one shot deal. As the National Interest put it, after the limited designer strike what does Obama do for encore?

If U.S. action does not deter future chemical-weapons attacks, or other large-scale and high-profile violence against civilians, the Obama administration will face greater pressure from to do more in Syria—possibly drawing the United States into a costly and open-ended civil war with no clear resolution in sight. How does President Obama plan to respond if Syria does not change its conduct? What if Syria retaliates against the United States directly or indirectly, through terrorist proxies?

Militarily useless but hell on civilians

Militarily useless but hell on civilians

The hegemon has gone. The whole idea of “leading from behind” implied a freedom from responsibility. Who is America’s man in Syria? That was no longer a question that interested Obama’s until of course it became his problem. As Andrew McCarthy put it brilliantly in the National Review Online, nobody can say what comes after Assad because “after all, to describe them accurately would be to admit that they do not exist in anything approaching the numbers capable of overcoming the Islamic supremacists on opposing sides of the civil war.”

What will spring up in the malevolent chaos created by the hegemon’s exit there at the center of oil and religion and hatred? Well only time will tell.


Did you know that you can purchase some of these books and pamphlets by Richard Fernandez and share them with you friends? They will receive a link in their email and it will automatically give them access to a Kindle reader on their smartphone, computer or even as a web-readable document.

The War of the Words for $3.99, Understanding the crisis of the early 21st century in terms of information corruption in the financial, security and political spheres
Rebranding Christianity for $3.99, or why the truth shall make you free
The Three Conjectures at Amazon Kindle for $1.99, reflections on terrorism and the nuclear age
Storming the Castle at Amazon Kindle for $3.99, why government should get small
No Way In at Amazon Kindle $8.95, print $9.99. Fiction. A flight into peril, flashbacks to underground action.
Storm Over the South China Sea $0.99, how China is restarting history in the Pacific
Tip Jar or Subscribe or Unsubscribe

Comments are closed.

Top Rated Comments   
It's probably not in the skill set of the Obama clown posse, but instead of a meaningless cruise missile lob, the islamofascists need to see Thor's hammer. Seeing as we don't know who is a bigger bunch of a**holes, how about an equal opportunity bitchslap. After a short warning to evacuate non-combatants, how about a massive fuel air explosive drop on a Hezbollah stronghold in the Bekaa valley and another one in the mountains of Yemen or the northwest territories of Pakistan. For good measure, take out a pirate village in Somalia.
As the old rock n' roll song said, "let's give them something to talk about..."
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
"What’s innovative isn’t the chemical payload, but the industrial and manufacturing technology"
3-D Printing. The Genie is out of the bottle. The limiting factor is not the delivery system, there already were ships and small airplanes and trucks, but the manufacture and handling of the lethal agent. Someone has to use a tin funnel and an allen wrench to fill the rocket. Someone has to assemble the radioactive core of even a crude dirty nuke. Doing that without killing yourself before killing your enemy is not trivial.

Senator Graham is right. Having typed that sentence I can now assume that Hell has frozen over and the laws of nature are abandoned, or stopped clocks are working in anticipation of the Rapture. As wretchard said the problem is not the truth of the problem but the prior denials and ineffectiveness of the response.

We need to abandon the fantasies that have sapped our strength and wasted our resources. We need to identify the threat, Totalitarianism as currently manifested by Islamism, and attack it with every resource we have. That includes the military as well as cultural weapons. We harnessed all our assets, intellectual as well as lethal to the fight against Communism. While we do not need exactly the same military and cultural structure that was optimized to confront the Soviets during the Cold War we do need one that is at least as deep and robust as the one we built between the 1940s and 1980s.

Our weakness began when we allowed Gramscian rot to weaken our education system and spread through our intellectual and cultural systems. Under Obama that has now entered our shrunken military where it will further weaken us. It is difficult to fight totalitarians using all the tools of a free society while keeping the liberties that not only make us worth fighting for but which are the source of those tools, intellectual and military, needed for victory. The Communists exploited that problem to enable their Gramscian advances and the Islamists have parasitically advanced in that path.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
The only thing we have to fear is ...

Reality.

======

The life expectancy of the firing crews is not good.

Sarin is so nasty that ANY leakers / blow back cramps your style.

In fact, leakers are such a problem that the Pentagon gave up on straight Sarin many decades ago.

=======

INRE WWI gas attacks. The German Army came to really regret gas warfare, for the normal winds travel from west to east -- about 95% of the time.

Their first use of Chlorine had to wait, wait, wait until the wind was blowing towards the British.

Nature was not on their side. Even the topography of northwest Europe goes against the Germans. Due to geology, it's easier to attack from west to east than vice versa. The rare exceptions -- the invasion corridors of history -- channel the Hun to a shocking degree. This is best noted in Bismark's day. The Germans found that they were deflected towards the northwest.

This bias is the actual source of the WWI opening gambit. By coming through Belgium, the Germans stayed away from the topography that frustrated them forty-years earlier. The downside was that it (Belgium's invasion) threw Britain from ally to enemy within hours. Two hundred years of diplomacy went overboard in a trice. Britain held its nose and allied with its chronic enemies: Russia and France!

=====

0bama has been sitting on a volcano -- and essentially lying to the American public all this time.

Sarin is nothing compared to the atomics that Iran has in store.

Barry is in so far over his head he needs to resign. As it stands, he will go down in history as America's last Black President -- if not last President, period.

51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (63)
All Comments   (63)
Sort: Newest Oldest Top Rated
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Word comes today that the Egyptian Army, as a result of it's assault into Gaza, has found thousands of shoulder fired rockets stored in homes and mosques. This includes not only the ubiquitious RPG-7 but also large numbers of SAM-7 Strela heat seeking antiaircraft missiles.

Looks like they found the missing Libyan missiles - and they were not in Syria but in Gaza. So it was the MB doing arms smuggling to Gaza, not the CIA taking them to Syria. This explains the cry of "Morsi sent us" when our Bengahzi operation was blown sky high.

This gets curiouser and curiouser the more we find out. Maybe Obama is so insistant on airstrkes in Syria because there is something there he wants blown up. Dead men tell no tales and a Tomahawk can sure make forensics difficult.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
That's a heckuva nice Rosh for El Al
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment

Well that's a relief, in relative terms anyway, if true. Benghazi was simple incompetence, and the haste to strike Syria is simply a cover-up of an embarrassing mistake. I find that more plausible than some of the other explanations, anyway.

And yet--if the Benghazi consulate was the center for retrieving these missiles or stopping their export--why was there no backup? Does "oops, we forgot" really make sense there?
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Maybe the CIA letters of transit signed by Charles de Gaulle were questioned at the Israeli border.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
WTF Josher?
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
https://www.facebook.com/marie.claude.984

Zorrobama and Bernadollande

The Planet new Justiciers of the Planet

51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Cher questions Syria intervention. http://twitchy.com/2013/09/08/finally-cher-weighs-in-on-syria/

When you've lost Cher ...
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
OT, anybody; got this from a friend today in case there's something to it:

'' [I] have seen some article links on FaceBook about something going on in South Carolina involving the Savannah River Works. Eyewitness reports of a 250+ vehicle, large truck convoy made up of oversized containers and heading toward South Caroline. ''
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Derrekite “No one in their right mind would go head to head with the US Military.”

Vey true. That’s why the only guy in town with a tennis raquet never gets to play any tennis matches. It doesn’t matter how overwhelming U.S. Force is, America has set itself up so that it can never win another war. Why? Because a war is won by destroying the enemy’s will to fight.

These days America goes in with unmatchable force and knocks everything down. No one else in town has a tennis raquet so it’s no contest. Then what happens? America spends time, money and military resources STRENGTHENING the enemy’s will to fight. Except the enemy won't fight with tennis raquet, it will use other weapons.

Won’t some American leader PLEASE define the American interest and convince the world that the American interest will be defended. America needs to destroy the will of its enemies to attack American interests. Destroy the will to bring down clearly defined American interests. Make clear that overwhelming force will be used to protect the American interest, followed by a quick farewell.

Make the world believe that the scene will play out something like this. Make them believe it. If they believe it then you won’t have to actually do it. “Get your hands off that American interest or else. Oh you can’t hear what I’m saying? Whack! “. But no American leader has been able to define the American interest and anyway the world has now come to believe that America is absurd. The credibility of an American threat has to be rebuilt.

The sad thing is that most commentators here know that the American interest in the Middle East is centred around preventing Iran and anyone else getting Nuclear weapons; preventing any war that involves Israel and preventing a tidal wave of refugees from the Middle Eastern conflicts flooding Southern Europe. It isn’t rocket science. Surely some American leader can add to that and expand the definition of American interests to the global level.

Maybe that leader might be someone who does not belong to the American ruling dynasties – Kennedy. Bush, Clinton. Good grief there are 300 million Americans. Surely you can find a leader there who is not from the ruling dynasties and is not some “Brand Barack”.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Sarah Palin?
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Sarah Palin?
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
...That's what the Liberals are doing with California gun laws. Just as they have done in D.C., Conn., Mass., N.Y. and Colo. No more coexist, but their mission is to conquer.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Lindsay Graham said: Lindsey Graham raised eyebrows when he described the stakes in Syria as nothing short of existential. Graham said, “I believe that if we get Syria wrong, within six months… there will be a war...My fear is that it won’t come to America on top of a missile, it’ll come in the belly of a ship in the Charleston or New York harbor.” And that is why Lindsay is expiditing the process for bringing foreign boats, airplanes, railroads, trucks, and 30,000, 000 people into America. Amazing to consider the heights of insanity our leaders have gone in their ideological fanaticism toward globalism. Invade the world invite the world. Perhaps when tue tugboat moors into Charleston and detonates its WMD cargo the enemy will do us a favor by ensuring Lindsay is one of the first casualties. But then that would be asking to much. People like Lindsay and McCain and Schumer are the best friends the enemy has inside America. God help us.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Spengler, a little earlier today, put out the idea (borrowed though it is) of including Iran in an authorization to use force.

Intriguing as is thought is, it doesn't go far enough. Rather than Authorizing his 0'ness to do anything, it should Direct the President to do something.

I counter suggested that what we actually need to do draw up Articles of War, and formally declare such. We even that on December 8th.

Remember, declarations of war do not have to be in response to a direct attack. 1812 and 1845 are direct examples.

The debate would be momentous. And fruitful. Then, at least, the Congress would have to draw up a bill of particulars and like in any trial, convince the people. Regardless of out come, notice will be taken.

I am so tired of pussy-footing around. Fish, bait, cut.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
It's much worse, If your town has any large chemical storage tanks for sanitation of water you have a very old type of WMD gas.
Unguarded most are by anyone except a night watching meter reader and valve turner.
It looks like Chemical carpet bombs and rockets are in everyone's future.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
1 2 3 Next View All