The myth of harmless old poison gas

As predicted, liberals have been busily downplaying the news that between 2003 and 2006 our troops in Iraq have found ~500 warheads containing chemical weapons. The typical response to the news goes something like “aw heck, they’re old and degraded chemicals that pose no danger to anybody.”
Not so fast, my unhinged eager leftist friends. Those of us who prefer thinking to emoting have answers for you.
Jim Geraghty’s mustard gas smackdown of Alan Colmes got me thinking. How much would a batch of that nasty stuff degrade between being hidden after the First Gulf War and being unearthed this year? I read the passage of the UN letter quoted by Geraghty …

Iraq declared that 550 shells filled with mustard had been “lost” shortly after the Gulf War. To date, no evidence of the missing munitions has been found. Iraq claimed that the chemical warfare agents filled into these weapons would be degraded a long time ago and, therefore, there would be no need for their accounting. However, a dozen mustard-filled shells were recovered at a former CW storage facility in the period 1997-1998. The chemical sampling of these munitions, in April 1998, revealed that the mustard was still of the highest quality. After seven years, the purity of mustard ranged between 94 and 97%. Thus, Iraq has to account for these munitions which would be ready for combat use. The resolution of this specific issue would also increase confidence in accepting Iraq�s other declarations on losses of chemical weapons which it has not been possible to verify.

… and then I ran some rough numbers.
Let’s be as pessimistic as possible, giving the benefit of every doubt to our friends on the Bush-hating anti-war Left. Assume that the mustard gas started out in 1991 at 100% purity, and degraded to 94% in seven years. That’s roughly 0.88% decay per year. Now assume there’s an identical batch hidden somewhere else in Iraq, and it has continued to spoil at the same rate from 1991 until 2006. It would now be just under 88% pure.
I don’t know about you, but I’m not eager to get a whiff of that stuff, nor to get any of it on my skin. A mere 12% decrease in toxicity isn’t enough to bring the warm fuzzies back to my innards.
Here’s some more nitty-gritty on mustard gas in case you’re interested.
Now, let’s dispense with the “harmless Sarin gas” myth. Sarin is a binary agent, meaning that it’s made up of two different precursor chemicals. To deploy a binary nerve agent, you first mix the precursors and then scatter the resulting nasty gas around.
Storing a binary agent in its unitary (mixed) form doesn’t make much sense because it’s quite unstable and degrades quickly. The CIA has estimated that some unitary Sarin made by Iraq before and during the Iran/Iraq War had a shelf life measured in weeks.
The same CIA report indicates that Iraq solved that problem by both improving the purity of its Sarin precursors and storing the precursors separately to eliminate the degradation problem. This report says that binary munitions like Sarin will remain potent until they are destroyed by Coalition forces. Again giving the lefties the benefit of the doubt, let’s assume that this is the Coalition of 1991, not the 2003 version. This would maximize the time available to let the hidden Sarin munitions degrade.
But wait a moment. That would only happen if the Iraqis stored it in unitary form … which the report says they stopped doing. So we can presume that hidden Iraqi Sarin munitions would exist in binary form, and that means no degradation. Well, guess what’s already turned up in roadside bombs used against our troops in Iraq? You guessed it: Sarin artillery shells in binary form.
Now look at the key points in the declassified report released by Senator Santorum and Representative Hoekstra:

� Since 2003 Coalition forces have recovered approximately 500 weapons munitions which contain degraded mustard or sarin nerve agent. [Emphasis added]
� Despite many efforts to locate and destroy Iraq�s pre-Gulf War chemical munitions, filled and unfilled pre-Gulf War chemical munitions are assessed to still exist.
� Pre-Gulf War Iraqi chemical weapons could be sold on the black market. Use of these weapons by terrorists or insurgent groups would have implications for Coalition forces in Iraq. The possibility of use outside Iraq cannot be ruled out.
� The most likely munitions remaining are sarin and mustard-filled projectiles.
� The purity of the agent inside the munitions depends on many factors, including the manufacturing process, potential additives, and environmental storage conditions. While agents degrade over time, chemical warfare agents remain hazardous and potentially lethal.
� It has been reported in open press that insurgents and Iraqi groups desire to acquire and use chemical weapons.

Remember: binary agents stored as unmixed precursors are engineered specifically for long-term storage with minimal care. Where the first key point above refers to “degraded mustard or sarin nerve agent”, the logical way to read that phrase is with “degraded” referring to mustard agent and not referring to Sarin.
Again: unmixed Sarin does not degrade significantly if it’s stored properly. Nothing in the declassified report suggests that the Iraqis stored Sarin in its unitary form, nor that they alsways stored Sarin precursors so poorly that the stuff ended up being mixed (and then degrading to useless toxicity). To the contrary, past experience shows that Iraq stored at least some of its Sarin in binary form, and that terrorists have already used binary munitions against us in at least one roadside bombing.
So much for “harmless Sarin.”
You can find more detail on Sarin here, here, here, and here.

There are none so blind as those who will not see

Mark Steyn’s latest column on Iraq points out the blind insanity of the Democratic Party’s cut-and-run “war strategy.” Some good bits:

Sen. Joe Lieberman, Democrat of Connecticut, came out with a big statement on Iraq last week. Did you hear about it? Probably not. Everyone was still raving about his Democrat colleague, Rep. Jack Murtha, whose carefully nuanced position on Iraq is: We’re all doomed unless we pull out by next Tuesday! (I quote from memory.)

It must be awful lonely being Joe Lieberman in the Democratic Party these days. Every time he switches on the news there’s John Kerry sonorously droning out his latest pretzel of a position: Insofar as I understand it, he’s not calling for a firm 100 percent fixed date of withdrawal — like, say, Feb. 4, 2 p.m.; meet at Baghdad bus station with two pieces of carry-on. Don’t worry, it’s not like flying coach on TWA, you’d be able to change the date without paying a surcharge. But Kerry drones that we need to “set benchmarks” for the “transfer of authority.” Actually, the administration’s been doing that for two years — setting dates for the return of sovereignty, for electing a national assembly, for approving a constitution, etc, and meeting all of them. And all during those same two years Kerry and his fellow Democrats have huffed that these dates are far too premature, the Iraqis aren’t in a position to take over, hold an election, whatever. The Defeaticrats were against the benchmarks before they were for them.
These sad hollow men may yet get their way — which is to say they may succeed in persuading the American people that a remarkable victory in the Middle East is in fact a humiliating defeat. … In a week’s time, Iraqis will participate in the most open political contest in the history of the Middle East. They’re building the freest society in the region, and the only truly federal system. In three-quarters of the country, life has never been better. There’s an economic boom in the Shia south and a tourist boom in the Kurdish north, and, while the only thing going boom in the Sunni Triangle are the suicide bombers, there were fewer of those in November than in the previous seven months.

So Bush has chosen to embark on a project every other great power of the last half-millennium has shrunk from: the transformation of the Middle East. You can argue the merits of that, but once it’s underway it’s preposterous to suggest we need to have it all wrapped up by Jan. 24.

Read Steyn’s whole column, then give Good News From The Front a look. And you might want to revisit President Bush’s speech at the U.S. Naval Academy, too.
Don’t get down about the war. We are winning.

Supporting the troops means supporting their mission

Not too long ago I created a bumper sticker:

Support the troops

The point I was trying to make is now back in the news. It turns out that NPR’s Bob Sommer isn’t the only lefty who’s feeling prickly about yellow ribbons and “Support The Troops” stickers. UMass student Thomas Naughton’s self-described guilt spurs him to tear yellow “Support The Troops” ribbons from other people’s cars, as he explains in his The Daily Collegian column:

Guilt can only weigh on a person’s mind for so long before they crave the act of purgation; to get the weighty feelings of shame and responsibility out of the mind — or at least the guilty parties attempt to find some kind of peace if they cannot rid themselves of a screaming conscience that implicates and indicts its possessor.
That said, perhaps some readers will understand why my friends and I rip yellow ribbon “support the troops” magnets off of cars or wherever people have affixed them. By ripping off these ribbons, we find a way to deal with our guilt, as though with each ribbon swiped we take back a life that was taken by this senseless war started by our senseless president and those who support him.
I will never say, “support the troops.” I don’t believe in the validity of that statement. People say, “I don’t support the war, I support the troops” as though you can actually separate the two. You cannot; the troops are a part of the war, they have become the war and there is no valid dissection of the two. Other people shout with glaring eyes that we should give up our politics, give up our political affiliations in favor of “just supporting the troops.” I wish everything were that easy.

We say, “support the troops” so that we won’t feel guilty about saying “no” to war. We reason that if we say that we support the troops, somehow we aren’t monsters for not saying a word when the death tolls of U.S. soldiers climbed above 1,000. Those ribbons are yellow for a reason, they are not the mark of armed forces support, they are the mark of cowards.
Pundits on the radio advise their cowardly listeners to approach men and women in army uniforms and say “thank you.” I cannot do that. Every time I pass a person in uniform I look long and hard at them and all I can think inside to say is “I’m so sorry.” I want to apologize to them, to their families and to their friends. I feel sorry that we, the people, couldn’t control our own government at the outset of this conflict when most of us knew deep inside that it was a mistake.
Where are we now? Are we in a better place? Is the world safer for democracy? No, it is not safer and we are not in a better place. In this war that we are fighting to somehow avenge the deaths of the Sept. 11 tragedy, we have amassed a field of body bags, the number of which almost matches the number killed in the terrorist attacks four years ago.

Naughton’s column caught Michael Medved‘s attention today, and his invitation to Naughton to come on the air has so far gone unanswered. No big surprise there.
When I created my bumper sticker I pointed out the same brand of self-serving lefty illogic that Naughton chews on. Though he and I come down on opposite sides in the debate over the war (not to mention respect for property rights), we both understand that in this war it’s not possible to meaningfully support the troops while also believing that the troops are engaged in a criminal military adventure.
My recommendation? Get two stickers and give one to a liberal relative or friend.
More blogging:
QandO
Marine Corps Moms
Angry in the Great White North
Mark Nicodemo
This Untamed Fire Of Freedom
Precinct 333
Grim’s Hall
Clear and Present
Joobo the King of Wisdom
A Word From The Right
The Eyrie
A Logical Voice (agrees with Naughton)

Ayad Rahim on the Syrian-trained headchoppers

Ayad Rahim opened today’s Dennis Prager Show with a report from Iraq on Syria’s involvement in the training of jihadist headchopping savages who later terrorized Baghdad and Fallujah.

Iraqi state television aired a video yesterday showing what the U.S.-funded channel said was the confession of a captured Syrian officer, who said he trained Iraqi terrorists to behead people and build car bombs to attack American and Iraqi troops.
He also said the terrorists practiced beheading animals to train for decapitating hostages.
Later, Al Iraqiya aired another round of interviews with men it said were Sudanese and Egyptians who also trained in Syria to carry out attacks in Iraq.

More at Instapundit.

My new advertiser and my new home

First of all, I’d like to welcome a new advertiser here, WMD: The Murderous Reign of Saddam Hussein. It’s a new movie, and even if you don’t see it up on the marquee at your local 20-screen megaplex, you can get a DVD for yourself at the very reasonable price of $19.95.
The creative minds behind this project include Brad L. Maaske, Jano Rosebiani, Victor Davis Hanson (a brilliant military historian and thinker), Evan Coyne Maloney (sane Americans’ answer to Michael Moore), and Judith Mendelsohn Rood. My copy of the DVD is on its way here, and when I get a chance to watch it I’ll let you know if it’s as good as it looks to be. In the meantime you can browse some good reviews here or check out the trailer here.
An excerpt describing the project:

Alarmed by the lack of outcry against the atrocities committed by Hussein’s regime, Maaske set out to uncover the truth surrounding the under-reported acts of atrocity committed directly by or under the command of Saddam Hussein, along with Iraq’s links to global terrorism and America’s military action to remove Hussein from power. Central to the story are eyewitness accounts and never-before-seen footage of chemical attacks, murders and torture leveled against the population of Iraq dating from Saddam’s corrupt rise to power and spanning more than two decades.

Although many filmmakers have chosen to ignore the horrific atrocities that the Iraqi people had to endure under Hussein and the sacrifice that American soldiers have made to free them from these atrocities, WMD directs the viewer to the little-known facts. Regardless of anyone’s political views, the story of Saddam Hussein’s evil reign, and the horrors that were thankfully ended by bringing this reign to an end, is one that all Americans should know.

Give WMD: The Murderous Reign of Saddam Hussein a look. I know I will.
Now, my second announcement. I’m moving on Saturday, so for the next several days my access to the ‘net will be spotty at best. I’ll be back in the saddle by Monday with a nice high-speed connection (or so Comcast assures me).
See you then if not sooner!

Good news from Afghanistan, Part 9

Remember that other country we liberated? The one that disappeared from the media’s radar after a successful election? It’s still there, and Chrenkoff’s got the latest good news.

As the old riddle goes, if a tree falls in the forest and no one’s there to hear it, does it make a sound? Or more importantly, if a country like Afghanistan is getting back on its feet and there’s no one to report it, does it actually happen? As far as the people of Afghanistan are concerned, thankfully yes; as far as the rest of the world, all too often the answer is no. That’s why it’s so important that the stories of Afghans – and those who are helping them – be told.

Bravo, Afghans.

SFC Paul Smith to receive Medal of Honor

Sergeant 1st Class Paul Smith will receive the Medal of Honor (posthumously) next month. For all Medal of Honor citations, see the incongruously-named Congressional Medal of Honor Society. There’s more general info at Wikipedia.
I’ll bet President Bush mentions Segreant Smith in his State of the Union address tonight.
Hat tip: Michelle Malkin

UPDATE: Can anybody tell me what the Medal of Honor Flag looks like?
UPDATE 2: A study in contrasts.

There’s hope for leftists

I’m heartened to see that at least one young reflexive Bush-hater can see his error after speaking to Iraqis. An excerpt:

You may think that you have felt dumb before, but let me tell you something: until you have stood in front of a man who knows real pain and told him that you are against your country’s alleviation of his country’s state-sponsored murderous suffering, you have not felt truly, deeply, like a total f****** moron.
I still am no Bush fan, and I know that America got lied to. I know we shouldn’t have gone, and I think Rove is as evil as they come. But through all this deception and lying, through all this dismemberment and pain, America has wrought a beautiful, fantastic side effect: joy, freedom and a hope for peace. Does it take lies and misdirection to do this?? Is this what the other side of justice is? I feel like such a whiner and I don’t know what to think anymore. Ultimately, in total defiance of my mother and grandmother�s teachings, two wrongs have made a right and my moral compass is tired and busted.
I can’t tell the difference between the good guys and the bad guys, and I want a clear cut mandate, some lines to believe along. But there aren’t any. There’s just right and wrong and following your heart of hearts. And for the first time in my life, I can say that I was wrong to be compulsively critical of the current administration without seeking my own truth.

A neocon in the making, perhaps?
Hat tip: She Who Will Be Obeyed

UPDATE: SMASH reponds, and gets a response.

Join the Toy Jihad!

Special Ops CodyMatt Heidt is right. The jihadis in Iraq are getting desperate for any kind of success. But now they’ve really begun to circle the drain; they’ve begun making hostage videos of toy soldiers.
razanne.jpgDo the Jihadi Joe action figures who took John Adam “Special Ops Cody” hostage get 72 Barbie dolls if they die for Allah? Silly me, I meant 72 Razanne dolls (see photo to right), not the blonde-haired Western she-devils.
Of course, you can just take the mercenary’s shortcut … for $644.40 you can buy 72 Razannes and have Paradise on Earth (after about 7 business days for shipping and handling). But the company doesn’t ship to Belarus, Indonesia, Liberia, Pakistan, Nigeria, or Romania … so if you’re plotting Toy Jihad© there, you’ll just have to blow your plastic self up at a Barbie Fashion Show Mall.
Speaking of ridiculous jihadis (yes, yes, I know it’s redundant), do you remember Evil Bert appearing with Osama?

Evil Bert

Click on the unaltered (I swear!) picture below for all the background info.

Your Sesame Streets will run with the blood of infidels!

Too funny. I sense a photoshopping contest approaching …

UPDATE: Save Elmo!
UPDATE 2: When will it end? Oh, the humanity …
UPDATE 3: At least we caught Osama, so we’ve got that goin’ for us. Which is nice.
UPDATE 4: The blogosphere gutted this farce in short order. I love this hobby.
UPDATE 5: The geniuses at Democratic Underground took the bait … hook, line, and sinker.

Iraq’s George Washington

Citizen Z thinks he’s identified the “George Washington” of Iraq’s brand-new democracy:

How lucky are we, and the Iraqi people, that the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani is who he is? Consider:

  1. He’s the number one religious leader in Iraq.
  2. His followers comprise the 60% Shi’a majority there.
  3. He doesn’t want to run the country himself.
  4. He believes in keeping the government separate from the religious order.
  5. He doesn’t want to fight a war with the Sunnis.
  6. He believes Iraq’s leaders should be elected and he lent his own credibility to the cause of getting out the vote.

Take away any of these characteristics and we could be facing a very different situation in Iraq. So I ask again: How lucky is that? It’s on the order of blessed, in my opinion.

Meanwhile, Israpundit has an opinion on “insurgents” and leftists, and links to an NYT article touching on Sistani’s surprising forebearance to date.
I’ll grant that Sistani’s so far been remarkably democratic, but that’s about all I’ll grant. Personally, I’ll defer giving Washingtonian praise to anybody in Iraq until they’ve got a stable constitutional republic over there. I think they’ve got a very good shot at it, mind you, and I still support our mission there. I’m just not ready to count chickens yet.

Iraq election coverage

Friends of Democracy will be rounding up news of the election in Iraq on Sunday. Click on the banner below to get up to speed.

Iraq election news

This post will stay at the top o’ the blog through early Sunday evening.

UPDATE: Give Live in Baghdad a look, too. It’s a blog run by Ayad Rahim, a Clevelander who happens to be of Iraqi descent. He’s back in Baghdad as of Friday to cover the election.

Bigger Army and Marine Corps needed?

The Weekly Standard just published a bipartisan open letter urging an increase in the Army and Marine Corps. An excerpt:

The United States military is too small for the responsibilities we are asking it to assume. Those responsibilities are real and important. They are not going away. The United States will not and should not become less engaged in the world in the years to come. But our national security, global peace and stability, and the defense and promotion of freedom in the post-9/11 world require a larger military force than we have today. The administration has unfortunately resisted increasing our ground forces to the size needed to meet today’s (and tomorrow’s) missions and challenges.
So we write to ask you and your colleagues in the legislative branch to take the steps necessary to increase substantially the size of the active duty Army and Marine Corps. While estimates vary about just how large an increase is required, and Congress will make its own determination as to size and structure, it is our judgment that we should aim for an increase in the active duty Army and Marine Corps, together, of at least 25,000 troops each year over the next several years. There is abundant evidence that the demands of the ongoing missions in the greater Middle East, along with our continuing defense and alliance commitments elsewhere in the world, are close to exhausting current U.S. ground forces. For example, just late last month, Lieutenant General James Helmly, chief of the Army Reserve, reported that “overuse” in Iraq and Afghanistan could be
leading to a “broken force.” Yet after almost two years in Iraq and almost three years in Afghanistan, it should be evident that our engagement in the greater Middle East is truly, in Condoleezza Rice’s term, a “generational commitment.” The only way to fulfill the military aspect of this commitment is by increasing the size of the force available to our civilian leadership.
The administration has been reluctant to adapt to this new reality. We understand the dangers of continued federal deficits, and the fiscal difficulty of increasing the number of troops. But the defense of the United States is the first priority of the government. This nation can afford a robust defense posture along with a strong fiscal posture. And we can afford both the necessary number of ground troops and what is needed for transformation of the military.
In sum: We can afford the military we need. As a nation, we are spending a smaller percentage of our GDP on the military than at any time during the Cold War. We do not propose returning to a Cold War-size or shape force structure. We do insist that we act responsibly to create the military we need to fight the war on terror and fulfill our other responsibilities around the world.

Makes sense to me. But hey, what do I know? I was in the Coast Guard.