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DIARIST'S NOTE: In a previous lifetime as a freelance writer, I did a number of magazine articles on chemical weapons, centered mostly around the "binary nerve gas" debate that happened during the Reagan Administration, and on chemical weapons proliferation in the 70's and 80's in places like Syria, Iraq, Libya, Vietnam, Thailand and Taiwan. Indeed, I thought about doing a book on the subject back in the 90's and wrote most of a manuscript, but never finished it. So it's a topic I know a thing or two about.

This diary was written as a comment in another diary, but I thought it might be helpful in the ongoing debate over what to do about Syria, so I'm reposting it (in slightly modified form) as a diary.

In this debate, facts matter.

Can a US strike destroy Syria's chemical weapons arsenal? The only honest answer to that question is that we the public have no way to know---there is one crucial bit of information that is really needed to answer that question, and we the public do not have it (though it is certain that the US government DOES have it). That information is: just how stable are the Syrian chemical weapons?

Take the example of Iraq.  Iraq made its nerve gas in the precise same manner that Syria did; they purchased plain ole ordinary pesticide-manufacturing equipment, legally and openly on the market, from companies in Europe and the US, and then modified those plants to make nerve gas instead of bug spray (nerve gas and insecticides are very similar chemically, and equipment used to make one can easily make the other). But the Iraqi process was not very good--it left a lot of impurities in the final product. As a result, Iraqi nerve gas degraded very quickly after production--within just a few weeks the impurities broke down the nerve gas and turned it into harmless goo. During the Iran-Iraq War, the Iraqis could not even stockpile their nerve gas--they had to ship it directly from the factory to the front so they could use it right away before it went bad.  As a result of this instability, when the Iraqi chemical weapons production plants were targeted and destroyed by aerial bombing during the First Gulf War with the US, Saddam could no longer produce any new nerve gas, and all his old supplies were gone within months--degraded and dissolved into thin air. (That is why it was simply impossible for Iraq to still have any nerve gas by the time Dubya invaded, and why all the "trucks carried the chemical weapons to Syria !!" stories were all bullshit.)

If Syria has all the same purity and storage problems that Iraq did, then destroying the production facilities (as the US did in Iraq) will lead to the same result--Assad will not be able to make more nerve gas, and his entire existing supplies will quickly become useless. (And if the Syrian rebels have their own chemical weapons obtained from the Syrian military, then that is true of them too--their weapons will be nothing but worthless sludge in a few months, no matter what we do.) If, on the other hand, the Syrians have a better production process and their nerve gas is more pure and stable than the Iraqi stuff was, then destroying the production plants, while crippling the ability to produce more, will not do anything about the already-existing stockpiles. I assume the US intelligence apparatus already knows the answer to this question, but such information seems not to have ever been released to the public.  It would be a good thing to know, since it can have quite an impact on what decisions we make.

BTW--the "if we bomb the production plants we'll release gas on the surrounding civilians" argument makes a very valid point, but there are some factors that enter into that which we really don't know (well, the US government knows, but we the public don't). One question is whether we have identified all those plants and know where they are. I am assuming we do, since we have the technological capability of identifying CW-production plants solely by examining their waste water, without entering the plant and without anyone's knowledge, and I presume the US has already been monitoring that for many years now (Syria has been making chemical weapons since the 70's). The location of those plants has a direct bearing on what effect if any bombing them will have on civilians. While the effect of an accidentally-released gas cloud can be severe in the immediate area of the plant, the effects drop off rather quickly with distance, so even a large release would not cover a very large area. If the plants are relatively remote (as they were in Iraq for reasons of military security), then they can be bombed and destroyed with very little effect from any cloud of gas that is produced (as they were in Iraq). If the plants are located in densely populated urban areas, though, the effects, though small in area, could be large in effect. We the public simply don't know where the plants are.  It's a vital factor in deciding whether or not to destroy them.

So the reality is that we the public simply don't have enough information to decide whether striking the production plants is feasible or not, or how much (if any) striking them will or will not cripple Syria's future chemical capabilities.

Based on standard military tactics and US past actions, my assumption would be that the US is planning a series of cruise missile strikes, drone strikes, and possibly aircraft strikes that will target (1) the chemical delivery systems--the aircraft and tactical missiles that can deliver large quantities of chemical weapons, (2) the air defense infrastructure (radars, interceptors, SAM sites) that would block the US from carrying out further strikes if they become necessary, and (3) the chemical production plants themselves, if they can be hit without much risk to the population.

And let me state, before some breathless pie-fighter gets their panties all in a knot at me, that I am simply assuming what the US will probably do--I'm not, repeat not, as in n-o-t, saying that I like it or agree with it. As I have repeatedly said over the past few days, I see no good end to anything that anyone does in the Syrian civil war, I see no "good guys" anywhere in this situation (including the US), and I am adamantly opposed to any unilateral US action to "enforce international law" that does not have specific previous authorization by the UN or NATO.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Hear! Hear! (12+ / 0-)

    Particularly the last paragraph!

    If I ran this circus, things would be DIFFERENT!

    by CwV on Mon Sep 02, 2013 at 07:51:51 AM PDT

  •  Syrias storage and production facilities are (6+ / 0-)

    almost certainly hardened to a degree that would make it impossible to destroy them with cruise missiles, necessitating manned aircraft and the possibility of losing them.

    1) Bomb Syria 2)???????????? 3) Lives saved!!!!!!

    by JesseCW on Mon Sep 02, 2013 at 07:54:37 AM PDT

    •  maybe they are hardened, maybe not (15+ / 0-)

      Once again, we the public don't know (though the US government certainly does).

      But we do have unmanned missiles that are capable of taking out some types of hardened targets. And the production facilities themselves likely are not hardened.

      If strikes by manned aircraft and stand-off bombs are required, as a matter of routine tactics they'll not go in until AFTER the unmanned strikes have already removed Syria's air defenses.

      Of course, ANY flights by ANY manned aircraft, bring the risk of some of them being shot down.

      •  "The U.S. government certainly does"? ORLY? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Johnny Q

        How certain is the U.S. government that a stack of Sarin-loaded Katyusha's hasn't been moved to a bunker somewhere?

        This assumption of omniscience on the part of U.S. authorities is a bit disturbing, as it is contradicted by...pretty much every war in U.S. history, including the two (or three, depending on how you count) that are still ongoing.

      •  The entire diary provides a utterly speculative (0+ / 0-)

        rationale to justify launching an illegal war of aggression against a country that has not threatened the United States.

        There is no logical, moral, strategic, and national defense reason to launch this war against Syria, especially after the increasingly bizarre performance by our government functionaries trying to sell this bogus war.

        There should be a thorough and exhausted investigation to ascertain exactly who ordered the chemical weapons attack(s), and once culpability is determined, the issue should be brought up to the United Nations and other international organizations where appropriate measure should then be determined.
         

        •  read my last paragraph. read it twice. (7+ / 0-)

          (sigh)

          •  I read it. Telling the truth about the situation (0+ / 0-)

            is not described in the paragraph.

              •  Here it is: (0+ / 0-)

                This is your paragraph:

                And let me state, before some breathless pie-fighter gets their panties all in a knot at me, that I am simply assuming what the US will probably do--I'm not, repeat not, as in n-o-t, saying that I like it or agree with it. As I have repeatedly said over the past few days, I see no good end to anything that anyone does in the Syrian civil war, I see no "good guys" anywhere in this situation (including the US), and I am adamantly opposed to any unilateral US action to "enforce international law" that does not have specific previous authorization by the UN or NATO.
                What you did in the diary was, first, present yourself as an expert in the matter, and two, (attempted) to make the case for the effectiveness of a "limited" strike.

                There are a number of unsubstantiated assertions, about the Syrian productions process, storage capabilities, etc.

                Then you make an assumption about what the intelligence units know or don't know...

                Then you go as far as to brush off the potential danger of hitting a plant that releases a "gas cloud."

                The most offensive and outlandish quote is this one:

                While the effect of an accidentally-released gas cloud can be severe in the immediate area of the plant, the effects drop off rather quickly with distance, so even a large release would not cover a very large area. If the plants are relatively remote (as they were in Iraq for reasons of military security), then they can be bombed and destroyed with very little effect from any cloud of gas that is produced (as they were in Iraq).
                Again, the diary clearly presents a case for bombing; the last paragraph just claims that the diary is not doing so.  A six grader could see it.
        •  Do facts always have an agenda, in your view? (0+ / 0-)

          If the facts don't bolster your opinion, does that mean you ignore them? Is everything propaganda?

          Gondwana has always been at war with Laurasia.

          by AaronInSanDiego on Mon Sep 02, 2013 at 08:02:35 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Is it possible to store and produce in mobile (0+ / 0-)

        facilities -- putting chemical weapons stores and factories on wheels?  It sounds like a crazy idea, dangerous as hell, but didn't Colin Powell claim that Iraq had two semitrailers for making weapons of mass destruction?  (Was he claiming they made chemical or biological weapons.)  IIRC, they turned out to be making hydrogen gas to launch weather balloons, but the fact that Powell made the claim makes me think it wouldn't be impossible.  
        It may be possible but not sensible.  Putting nerve gas in a truck and moving it around every day so cruise missiles couldn't target it sounds like a great way to beg for a nerve gas accident.

        We're all pretty strange one way or another; some of us just hide it better. "Normal" is a dryer setting.

        by david78209 on Mon Sep 02, 2013 at 07:39:04 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  no (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          JVolvo

          That whole "mobile biological weapons factory" story was baloney. The resources needed to make them at any sort of useful scale simply won't fit in a semi.

          Making weaponized biological agents is a whole different ball of wax. Chemical weapons are straightforward chemical processes, but making weaponized biological agents that aerosolize properly is enormously difficult, requiring very specialized equipment like vacuum chambers. Only two nations have ever done it successfully---the US and the USSR. As soon as I heard that the anthrax used in the Senate letters had been "weaponized", I knew that it didn't come out of any cave in Afghanistan, and that it was either American or Soviet made.

    •  Please re-read the diary (4+ / 0-)

      The diarist is noting the fact that:
      a) the binary nerve agent sarin, when produced effectively, has a shelf-life (one of the two components does), and
      b) when not produced effectively, as was likely the case, that shelf life is greatly reduced.

      Therefore, a theoretical strike against production would in effect leave no chemical weapons, nor the ability to produce them in the future.

      All of my OFA sponsored sock puppets and I approve this post.

      by NoFortunateSon on Mon Sep 02, 2013 at 08:50:29 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  well no, not exactly . . . (14+ / 0-)
        a) the binary nerve agent sarin, when produced effectively, has a shelf-life (one of the two components does), and
        b) when not produced effectively, as was likely the case, that shelf life is greatly reduced.
        No, the pure stuff, if well-made, has a very long shelf life---the US successfully stored some of its nerve gas for almost 30 years. But the impure stuff being made by the Iraqis had a very short shelf life.

        We don't know how stable the Syrian nerve gas is.

        Therefore, a theoretical strike against production would in effect leave no chemical weapons, nor the ability to produce them in the future.
        Right--if their nerve gas is as unstable as the Iraqi.  If they have a good production process and their stuff is stable, then their existing stockpile will last for decades and won't be affected if they lose their capacity to make more.

        That question makes a big difference in just how effective any strike will be--and we (the public) don't know the answer to that question.

        •  Um...the US is STILL storing CW 40+ years later. (13+ / 0-)

          There are two active chemical stockpiles in the US (PDF map here).  The one nearest me, the Blue Grass Army Depot, currently holds roughly 523 tons of GB and VX, as well as mustard gas.

          The destruction facility is currently under construction, but isn't expected to begin operation until (I think) 2018 or so.  In the meantime, we deal with minor, contained leaks (mustard gas on two occasions, sarin on 3, all within the last 6 years, including 2 in 2012. The BGAD has distributed emergency alert radios to all homes within a 10-mile radius of the Depot.

          Chemical munitions have been stored at BGAD since the early 1960s.

          The word "parent" is supposed to be a VERB, people...

          by wesmorgan1 on Mon Sep 02, 2013 at 10:18:06 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  hmmm, I thought we had already destroyed it (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Wee Mama, CenPhx, rodentrancher

            They were already appropriating money for CW destruction way back in 1989.

            What the heck is taking them so long?  

            Thanks for that. That is a surprise to me.

            •  ACWA (7+ / 0-)

              The locals opposed incineration, so a "safer" disposal method was used. Unfortunately, its take the past ten years to develop and test the neutralization technology at APG and Newport, and as a side effect, the weapons remain in place. Corroding away. They have also developed the EDS, which destroys the leakers, but this is a small scale system. Full scale chem demil means the treaty inspectors will be onsite from start to finish.

            •  The Army initially planned to build an incinerator (7+ / 0-)

              ...and community opposition derailed it.  The Army then developed a second option--a combination of chemical neutralization and supercritical water oxidation (SCWO); that's the facility currently under construction.

              A local university professor treated it as a "success story" case study in community environmental movements; his (30-page PDF) paper provides a very good history of those events, and is available online.

              The word "parent" is supposed to be a VERB, people...

              by wesmorgan1 on Mon Sep 02, 2013 at 12:19:42 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Craig Williams (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Wee Mama, rodentrancher, JVolvo

                Has done more to hurt the community around Bluegrass than anyone else. He insisted on anything but incineration, the Army responded with the ACWA program. Incineration is the fastest and safest way to get rid of the waste, would've been done years ago. Open burn pits are not the same as incineration, ask the folks downwind of Khamisiyah. Neutralization works, slowly. SCWO is putting chemical agent into an industrial process at high temperatures and pressures. Do you want to be one of those plant workers?

              •  One more thing (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Wee Mama

                Over a decade ago the joke was that a thirty year old chem demil worker could retire in the system. Craig Williams, ACWA, new untested processes (such as testing the pumping system for HD with water instead of something like molasses and then watching all the seals fail and spew liquid everywhere) have made this possible.

                Don't worry, there won't be any upsets at Bluegrass...that you'll hear about. Yes, spew is the technical term that was used in the control room when the seals failed.

                Do you know the name of the retirement program for Chemical Corp personnel?       Chem demil...Shift differential, overtime and bonuses...woohoo! Anyone with scars on their arms deserves the good treatment.

            •  The Umatilla, Oregon chemical weapons (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Wee Mama, rodentrancher, JVolvo

              storage facility is closed now.  Over the last decade, the military has incinerated all of the many tons of chemical weapons once stored there.

              “The answer must be, I think, that beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will or sense them. The least we can do is try to be there.” ― Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

              by 6412093 on Mon Sep 02, 2013 at 04:05:53 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

          •  A Small Stockpile of Chemical Agents (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            kurt

            Looking up BGAD on Wikipedia brings up the following:

            BGAD stores a small stockpile of chemical agents, comprising 523 tons of nerve agents GB (sarin) and VX, and mustard gas, or about two percent of the United States chemical weapons stockpile.
            523 tons = 1,046,000 pounds, which comprises a "small" stockpile (2% of total).

            523 tons * (100%/2%) = 26150 tons of "nerve agents" in our "stockpile".

            Or fifty million pounds, roughly.

            If civilization is to survive we must cultivate the science of human relationships : FDR

            by Kepler on Mon Sep 02, 2013 at 12:19:18 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  2% of the stockpile pre-demil (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Wee Mama, rodentrancher, kurt

              Yes, we used to have a shitload of that stuff. We even took possession of the German GD stock and destroyed them. Granted that was back in the CHASE days (cut holes and sink 'em).

              Pueblo and Bluegrass combined have around 10 percent of the stockpile before the chem demil program started. We've knocked out 90% of that stockpile, a pretty large amount in a very safe manner. No locals were killed in the destruction of those chemical agents. That's a better safety record than industry, just ask the residents of West, TX and Bhopal, India.

        •  If they retain large stockpiles (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          triv33, CenPhx

          after a strike that knocks out production facilities, they can still kill tens of thousands of people.

          Or more.

          1) Bomb Syria 2)???????????? 3) Lives saved!!!!!!

          by JesseCW on Mon Sep 02, 2013 at 10:24:21 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  yes, they can (8+ / 0-)
            If they retain large stockpiles after a strike that knocks out production facilities, they can still kill tens of thousands of people.

            Or more.

            Unless the Syrian nerve gas has the same problems that the Iraqis did--in which case simply knocking out the production plants would lead, in a few months, to the complete elimination of Syria's entire nerve gas arsenal and the utter inability to kill anyone anywhere with it.

            Hence my wondering how stable the Syrian nerve gas actually is.

            But the US intent, at least as announced, does NOT seem to be to destroy every vestige of Syria's chemical weapons capability. THAT would likely require a ground occupation--and at the very minimum would require a much larger force than we have there now.

            It seems to me that the US is ultimately hoping that a punitive strike will entice the Syrian Army to abandon ship and remove Assad themselves.

            Will that work?  I can think offhand of no time when it ever has.  

      •  You do not seem to be responsing to (0+ / 0-)

        the comment I wrote.

        But, you do that a lot.

        1) Bomb Syria 2)???????????? 3) Lives saved!!!!!!

        by JesseCW on Mon Sep 02, 2013 at 10:23:22 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Shelf life of GB round (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        kurt

        Are you willing to be a test subject to determine the toxicity of a degraded GB round? Even 1% remaining could make for an exciting day. Consider this, if the GB round has 10 liters of liquid (that's a little high for a chemical round, but there were spray tanks made that would hold up to 500 gallons, just go with me here, it makes the math easier), a 1% purity would result in 100 mL of GB remaining. If the LD50 of GB is in the range of 10 microliters, that round would have enough in it to kill you good, about 10000 times as much as needed.

        I could put you in touch with toxicologists who would love to have some human data to refine their models.

        •  it's not the toxicity, it's the dispersion (5+ / 0-)

          Once the agent has degraded to goo, it no longer works as advertised. That makes it useless from a military point of view.

          Not to mention that degraded GB forms hydroflouric acid, which, um, won't do very much good for the integrity of the shell.

          That's why the Iraqis had to scrap their Sarin after a few months. It simply wasn't usable anymore.

          •  Actually makes GB more persistent (0+ / 0-)

            The GB acid has a lower vapor pressure and will behave almost like a poor mans thickener.

            Either way, GB or HF, if I get bit with large amounts of either one, I want a loaded sidearm.

            Here's a question to think about. Did the Iraqi's make crappy agent because they planned to use it immediately, or did they make crappy agent and were forced to use it right away before it went bad. I think this was posed by Tucker in "War of Nerves".

  •  another meme that must be corrected: (33+ / 0-)

    Lately the idea that "the US sold or gave chemical weapons to Iraq !!" seems to be making the rounds. It is simply not true. The US has never given or sold any chemical weapons to any nation, at least not since the First World War.  Even during the height of the Cold War, we never gave any chemical weapons to any of our NATO allies, and France and the UK had to manufacture their own. The US itself stopped making any chemical weapons at all in 1969 (with the sole exception of a very brief production run of binary nerve gas artillery shells in 1987).

    What we DID too, however, is provide satellite intelligence data to Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War in the 80's, which allowed Saddam to better target Iranian troops for the chemical weapons attacks that he was making at the time. The US, of course, knew that Saddam was using nerve gas, but protected him, during the war as well as afterwards, from any punishment.

    A related meme that I've seen is that the US or Britain gave or sold the ingredients for chemical weapons to Iraq, Syria, or both. That is technically true, but very misleading. Iraq and Syria (and Libya and a few other nations too) all got their nerve gas the same way---they purchased plain ole ordinary pesticide-manufacturing equipment, openly and legally on the world market, and then modified that equipment to produce nerve gas instead of bug spray (nerve gas and commercial insecticides are both organophosphates and are chemically similar--the same equipment can be used to make either one). In addition, the ingredients for making chemical weapons are common industrial chemicals --including such innocuous things as sulfur powder, isopropyl alcohol (ordinary rubbing alcohol), thiodiglycol (used to make the ink in ballpoint pens) and flourides (which are used in plastics, glass etching, and disinfectants).

    So technically, yes--companies in the US, France, Britain and Germany did indeed sell the equipment and chemicals that Syria and Iraq used to make their chemical weapons.  But, because these are all common industrial equipment and chemicals with a myriad of innocent uses, they did not KNOW that is what they were doing. The Syrians, Iraqis and others all modified their equipment AFTER they bought it. So it is inaccurate and misleading to claim that "Syria got its chemical weapons from us". It's like saying that addicts get their crystal meth from Walmart because they sell Draino (an ingredient in meth) to people who run meth labs.

  •  I would agree with your assessment, except. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lawrence, joe from Lowell

    I would put No. 2 on your list in first place.
    I think they'll start with radar and SAM batteries.

    You can't make this stuff up.

    by David54 on Mon Sep 02, 2013 at 08:01:50 AM PDT

    •  I think they'll only do that if they plan to send (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Simplify

      in significant numbers of manned aircraft (and this isn't Desert Storm--we don't have anything near that level of assets in the area).  My assumption is that the initial strike will consist entirely of unmanned missiles and drones. And indeed that may be the entirety of their action, if they stick to the stated purpose of "punishing", rather than "eliminating the WMDs".

      •  That's a reasonable assumption, because... (5+ / 0-)

        ..that's what the administration has been hinting at in various ways.

        But...how much do you telegraph ahead of time to someone you are going to attack what that attack will consist of? A (relatively) recent reminder that fooled most people was Gen. Schwartzkopf's feint in Iraq in 1991 which was amplified by the media, particularly CNN, that Saddam was monitoring.

        So, if an attack comes, we could be surprised.

        Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

        by Meteor Blades on Mon Sep 02, 2013 at 09:14:04 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yep...and don't forget that there are 2 carriers.. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          joe from Lowell, Eric Nelson

          ...within operational range of Syria.

          The USS Nimitz is in the Red Sea, and the USS Truman is in the North Arabian Sea.   The Nimitz can move (in the northern Red Sea) within 800km of Damascus; given that her F/A-18 Hornets have a range of in excess of 2000km, they're "in range" now. Strikes launched from the Truman would require in-flight refueling, even if she were to move into the Persian Gulf.

          I think it safe to assume that both Israel and Saudi Arabia would allow the transit of their airspace for both military strikes and in-flight refueling.

          I have no idea what Jordan, Iraq or Kuwait has said about possible transit of their airspace by US aircraft.

          The word "parent" is supposed to be a VERB, people...

          by wesmorgan1 on Mon Sep 02, 2013 at 11:09:00 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Excellent summary of the facts (10+ / 0-)

    A minor point:

    within just a few weeks the impurities broke down the nerve gas and turned it into harmless goo.
    Actually, the breakdown products are more of a nasty corrosive sludge, full of hydrofluoric acid. But yeah, compared to nerve agent, even HF is relatively harmless.

    And this is a very good point:

    So the reality is that we the public simply don't have enough information to decide whether striking the production plants is feasible or not, or how much (if any) striking them will or will not cripple Syria's future chemical capabilities.
    It would be a very good idea for our government to treat citizens like adults and share this information with us.
    •  I am reminded of the "binary nerve gas" debate (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Simplify, rodentrancher, cheminMD

      in which the Pentagon argued that binary chemicals were "safe", despite the fact that the difluour used in the 155mm GB artillery shell was pretty toxic stuff all by itself. The Bigeye VX bomb used QL, which was indeed pretty safe.

      •  What of the US deploying white phosphorous in Iraq (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Dianna, Johnny Q

        and depleted uranium, which burned the skin of children to the bone and has caused horrific birth defects and cancer?

        You have presented some arguments here, claiming a level of expertise on the subject, to lead us to believe that a limited strike on the missiles is doable and safe, while claiming that you are not advocating for it and without evidence that Syria was truly culpable for the latest chemical attack  (the UN has found evidence that connected the "rebels" to past chemical attacks, not the Syrian Army)  

        Personally, I am concerned about America arming extremist jihadist "rebels" affiliated with Al Qaeda, who have been committing atrocities in Syria such as cannibalism and beheading a Catholic priest and Syrian Army soldiers.

        I am concerned about how to control the US and our allies, who also have stockpiles of chemical weapons and have used them.  

        Information is the currency of democracy. ~Thomas Jefferson

        by CIndyCasella on Mon Sep 02, 2013 at 09:09:51 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  (sigh) (11+ / 0-)
          You have presented some arguments here, claiming a level of expertise on the subject, to lead us to believe that a limited strike on the missiles is doable and safe, while claiming that you are not advocating for it  
          Please read my last paragraph again. Read it twice.
          and without evidence that Syria was truly culpable for the latest chemical attack  (the UN has found evidence that connected the "rebels" to past chemical attacks, not the Syrian Army)
          Until very recently, I was not entirely convinced that there was any chemical attack at all by anybody--the films I had seen of the alleged victims did not appear to me to be showing clear signs of nerve gas symptoms. Since that time, chemical warfare experts around the world (who have presumably seen evidence that I have not) have been pretty unanimous in concluding that chemical weapons were in fact used. I defer to their judgement.

          As for the rebels, some of them are themselves former Syrian army units.  It is not at all inconceivable that when they defected, they took along some of their chemical weapons assets as well as their guns and artillery. IMHO, the UN investigators should be sent to the site of any claimed chemical attacks, no matter who it is that is accused of carrying them out--and anyone from either side who uses them should face international law for it.

          What of the US deploying white phosphorous in Iraq and depleted uranium, which burned the skin of children to the bone and has caused horrific birth defects and cancer?
          Depleted uranium is not considered a "chemical weapon", and it is not covered by any international treaty.

          There is a lot of debate over phosphorus. The general consensus seems to be that WP is legal if it is used in smoke generators, target markers, and things like that, but is illegal if used specifically and intentionally against personnel. The US did indeed admit that it was deliberately using WP against personnel several times in Iraq. That is indeed illegal under international law.  Alas, as the biggest bully on the block, we can do whatever we want, and no one will punish the US because nobody CAN.  

          I am concerned about how to control the US and our allies, who also have stockpiles of chemical weapons and have used them.  
          To be clear, the US has no chemical weapons--we stopped making chemical weapons in 1969, and have since then destroyed our entire chemical arsenal. None of our current allies have any chemical weapons either--they are all signatories to the Chemical Weapons Convention. Iraq DID use chemical weapons in the Iran-Iraq War, with our active support and knowledge, and at that time they were our allies. We used our international position to protect Iraq from any punishment.
        •  Give Lenny a chance (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Justanothernyer, joe from Lowell

          He's one of the few people on this site who has a reasonable understanding of CWAs. I'm tired of bumping into references to WP and DU in a diary about CWA use. It just starts pie fights and confuses the matter.

    •  I know you have to dig (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      phonegery, lotlizard

      "The Navy dropped out of the Agent Defeat program in 2005 because byproducts from its explosion proved toxic."
      (google it, interesting)

      everything will go to plan...

      “The risk is that you would create a more serious mass-casualty event than what you were responding to,” said John Pike, executive director of GlobalSecurity.org, a defense policy organization."

      “If the weapons miss their aim points or don’t burn intensely, they could disperse the chemical agents in a way that causes massive casualties,”

      * The Army Times *

  •  So we agree on the bottom line -- (5+ / 0-)

    yet I am less optimistic about our targeting ability than you seem to be.

    I agree that we the public do not have the information, but would extend that to doubting whether 'we' (the gov't.) have all the intel necessary -- that is, we may know the location of some production facilities, we certainly have all Syrian airframes pinpointed, and many of their missiles. However, Sarin can be loaded into shells on small rocket artillery systems.

    Agree with your good background info on chemical weapons. I don't know whether Syria has binary technology or not? That solves the stabilization issue, at least for Sarin. And it is a quick and un-catalyzed reaction, just mix isopropanol and methylphosphonyl difluoride.

    A country, even one the size of Syria, is a big place. There is lots of room to hide things. And we do not have an infinite number of TLAMs.

    Now, this assumes the short strike the President appears to be talking about. If we did a more robust campaign that would take out the Syrian air defenses so we could use our manned aircraft, then we have more chance of finding more of the smaller delivery systems (at a much greater cost, of course). But again, that does not seem to be what the President envisions.

    Mark E. Miller // Kalamazoo Township Trustee // MI 6th District Democratic Chair

    by memiller on Mon Sep 02, 2013 at 08:02:28 AM PDT

    •  as I noted, I am describing what the US government (4+ / 0-)
      I am less optimistic about our targeting ability than you seem to be.
      likely thinks and will likely do.  I didn't day I accepted or agreed with any of it.  The Defense Department thinks it can target them accurately.  I expect them to try.

      With the exception of the last paragraph, I have tried to keep MY opinions and assessment out of it. Facts matter, and I want to give just the facts, based on what I know about chemical weapons.

      I don't know whether Syria has binary technology or not? That solves the stabilization issue, at least for Sarin.
      That is a good question. Syria, Libya and Iraq were, in the past, ALL working on some sort of binary program.  But so far as I know, there has never been any evidence that any of them were successful.
      we may know the location of some production facilities, we certainly have all Syrian airframes pinpointed, and many of their missiles. However, Sarin can be loaded into shells on small rocket artillery systems.
      The US's stated goal is to "punish" Assad for using chemical weapons. Given that goal, I assume that the strike, if any, will be limited to the big-ticket items that are hard to replace, and that the US will not expend the effort to target all the smaller delivery systems.  If we get "mission creep" into "destroy the entire CW capacity", then we'll see the smaller targets being hit.
      Now, this assumes the short strike the President appears to be talking about. If we did a more robust campaign that would take out the Syrian air defenses so we could use our manned aircraft, then we have more chance of finding more of the smaller delivery systems (at a much greater cost, of course). But again, that does not seem to be what the President envisions.
      Exactly.  While "mission creep" ALWAYS happens in actions like this, I am assuming for the moment that it will not.
      •  Didn't Iraq have a suicidally-crude binary? (0+ / 0-)

        Not mixed in the shell in flight, that's for effete Westerners. Can't lay my hands on the reference, but I thought they played with a setup where a luckless soldier in a mask and rubber suit stood by an artillery tube. He'd pour DF into a shell, then isopropanol, then screw the fuse in real quick and they'd fire that sucker off. If they lived long enough.

        I presume that it didn't work out, or that they ran out of penal-battalion bait who knew enough to work an artillery piece.

        •  it wasn't a "binary" in the real sense (0+ / 0-)

          It was more an experimental method of storing their nerve gas in two components, to try and prevent it from breaking down and going bad so quickly.  Basically the idea was that if they stored the diflour and isopropyl separately, they could store it longer until they needed it, then have some schmuck mix it up right before using it.

          It was never a workable idea.

          France did produce their own binary shells, though not many of them.

          In an actual binary shell, as you note, the chemical components are actually separated inside the shell by a thin membrane, and when the shell is fired, the inertia breaks the barrier between them and allows them to mix, forming nerve gas as the shell is in the air on the way to the target.

  •  Thank you. An excellent and usful diary. (4+ / 0-)
  •  another problem (3+ / 0-)

    Is where the stocks are stored. This requires intel the US is unlikely to have (but might).

    To really destroy the capability would almost certainly require a boots on the ground operation.

  •  Did the destruction in Iraq (5+ / 0-)

    require an invasion?

    Or was it done through remote means?

    The US invaded Iraq twice so I think this is a pertinent question.

    •  different situation (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      joe from Lowell

      In Iraq I, the goal was to force the Iraqi Army out of Kuwait--that did require an attack by troops on the ground, but it did not require an occupation of Iraq, and there was none.

      In Iraq II, the goal was to remove Saddam's government, and that could not be done without an invasion/occupation.

      The goal in Syria, as stated, is neither of those---it is to "punish". That does not require an invasion or an occupation.

  •  No, they can't be destroyed safely and as I (0+ / 0-)

    understand it, that's not the point.

    The best I can figure, the point is the same as those North Korean missile parades, except these are real missiles, they explode, and they are not accompanied by confetti and giant pictures of Kim Jong Un.

    Fighting for peace is like screwing for virginity -- George Carlin

    by ZedMont on Mon Sep 02, 2013 at 08:22:30 AM PDT

  •  This isn't about chemical weapons (4+ / 0-)

    This is about obtaining authorization for military force.   It is about a choice.  A choice between using International mechanisms to resolve a horrible civil war peacefully, or getting into a grinding proxy war of attrition with Iran.

    •  Or, if we're very lucky, a war with Russia. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Johnny Q

      Not saying anyone is planning on that, but accidents do happen when you have destroyers facing each other in the ocean and a proxy war going on.

      The party of Kennedy is also the party of Eastland. The party of Javits is also the party of Goldwater. Where is our party? Where is the political party that will make it unnecessary to march on Washington?

      by SouthernLiberalinMD on Mon Sep 02, 2013 at 09:32:11 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  YOU may not care about chemical weapons. (0+ / 0-)

      YOU may have other agenda items you care about more.

      That doesn't mean the President agrees with you.

      As it turns out, there actually are people who consider the possible return of chemical warfare as a part of modern war and security policy to be a big deal.

      Art is the handmaid of human good.

      by joe from Lowell on Mon Sep 02, 2013 at 03:34:09 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks for an informative diary (4+ / 0-)

    about how chemical nerve gas can degrade over time. Part of my premise has been that it does; I actually didn't know that in some cases, it could not. Everything discussed has largely been discussed as per Iraq, IIRC.

    Click the ♥ to join us on the Black Kos front porch to review news & views written from a black pov - everyone is welcome.

    by mahakali overdrive on Mon Sep 02, 2013 at 08:48:24 AM PDT

  •  Good diary! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MRA NY, Eric Nelson

    I like getting some real background. Facts do matter.

    So maybe you would be a good person to ask - does the degradation you spoke of differ depending on the chemical ? I read somewhere that it was believed that there was both sarin and VX present in Syria.

    I also read (and saw photos) on a blog, I believe it was something like Brown Moses, depicting a delivery system on the back of a truck. Basically, to my nonmilitary eyes, it look like something you could use to launch big fireworks. Can sarin or other CW be adapted for ordnance that can be launched this way?

    The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie, deliberate, contrived, and dishonest, but the myth, persistent, persuasive and unrealistic. --John F. Kennedy

    by CenPhx on Mon Sep 02, 2013 at 08:57:06 AM PDT

    •  it depends mostly on how good the process is (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      CenPhx, cheminMD

      Both GB and VX can last for decades if they are properly made and stored. The US would bulk-store the stuff in huge storage tanks.

      Just off the top of my head, I don't recall seeing anything about Iraq or Syria making VX---everything I recall seeing listed GB and some small amounts of mustard. I could be wrong about that though. (I also remember some nations--don't remember which--making some attempts at making Tabun--Agent GA--and not being successful; Tabun is a lot harder to make than the other nerve gases.)

      As for non-standard weapons, it is theoretically possible to use chemical weapons from plain ole spray tanks of various types (the US developed special aircraft tanks for just that purpose). But nonstandard systems don't usually work very well--chemical weapons are designed to produce particular droplet sizes that are most effective and efficient. Rockets and shells are also balanced carefully so the explosive charge consistently throws out an effective aerosol of agent, without burning the vapor cloud up. It's not easy to improvise. Of course, that is less critical if your target doesn't have any protection against it anyway.

    •  Here's a link to the blog (0+ / 0-)

      In case anyone wants it. Brown Moses

      The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie, deliberate, contrived, and dishonest, but the myth, persistent, persuasive and unrealistic. --John F. Kennedy

      by CenPhx on Mon Sep 02, 2013 at 09:25:00 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  some of us should include this with every post (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Meteor Blades, antooo, Eric Nelson
    And let me state, before some breathless pie-fighter gets their panties all in a knot at me, that I am simply assuming what the US will probably do--I'm not, repeat not, as in n-o-t, saying that I like it or agree with it. As I have repeatedly said over the past few days, I see no good end to anything that anyone does in the Syrian civil war, I see no "good guys" anywhere in this situation (including the US), and I am adamantly opposed to any unilateral US action to "enforce international law" that does not have specific previous authorization by the UN or NATO.

    Warning - some snark may be above‽ (-9.50; -7.03)‽ eState4Column5©2013 "I’m not the strapping young Muslim socialist that I used to be" - Barack Obama 04/27/2013

    by annieli on Mon Sep 02, 2013 at 08:57:34 AM PDT

  •  Who said anything about destroying the weapons? (4+ / 0-)

    The point is to deter Assad from doing using them again.  I think attacking the weapons themselves is not high on the list.  Attacking things like gunships and the rockets and artillery used to deliver them is what is high on the list

    •  Also (3+ / 0-)
      So the reality is that we the public simply don't have enough information to decide whether striking the production plants is feasible or not, or how much (if any) striking them will or will not cripple Syria's future chemical capabilities
      I'm not sure the public needs that technical info.  The military does, but the public can probably make a decision without that info
      •  I disagree (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        CenPhx

        It makes a major difference to the potential success and scope of "the mission" whether or not destroying Syria's CW production will also at the same time inevitably lead to the elimination of his entire chemical arsenal.  And it makes a big difference whether or not we can destroy those production facilities without much risk to nearby civilians.

        Those are political considerations, not just military.

        •  "Need to know" does have its place... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          cheminMD

          We can't publicize everything we know without giving our adversaries important clues about how we learned it.

          Let's suppose that we "go public" with a list of Syria CW factories...but we miss a few.  That tells the Syrians (and anyone they might care to inform) which of their camouflage and/or misdirection activities were successful.  (After all, no one puts up road signs directing visitors to Ye Olde Nerve Gasse Plante, right?)  Thus, identifying the next CW (or nuclear, or bioweapons) facility becomes that much more difficult.

          The intelligence community terms this "sources and methods"...and those do need to be preserved.

          The word "parent" is supposed to be a VERB, people...

          by wesmorgan1 on Mon Sep 02, 2013 at 11:24:09 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  beats me but some people think (0+ / 0-)

      the air force is prepared to test these high-intensity bombs (the ones that the navy won't participate in & it seems to me the army isn't too keen on) that if all goes to plan can destroy cw through the heat

      if

      but then I don't know it all, and my panties aren't in a twist (that was vaguely HRable to me...)

    •  The administration has been presented... (9+ / 0-)

      ...(we are told) with various contingency plans for military intervention. Except for those of us with high-level national security clearances, the contents of those contingency plans are only a matter of speculation. We can take educated guesses based on our experience, our reading of military history, our reading of news reports and say that this or that action is high on the priority list. But educated and thoughtful or not, it's still just speculation.

      Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

      by Meteor Blades on Mon Sep 02, 2013 at 09:21:45 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  indeed, the goal is, presumably, NOT to destroy (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      dizzydean, joe from Lowell

      Syria's CW capability, but to punish the regime for using them.

      I assume we will go for the high-value targets with the biggest crippling effect and the most difficulty in replacing.  That would mean the large-scale delivery systems and the production facilities (if feasible).

      I very much doubt we will attack the CW storage depots (though if the Syrians have the same stability problems that the Iraqis did, we won't have to in any case).

  •  I recommended the diary (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dizzydean, joe from Lowell

    but I haven't seen it reported anywhere that the Administration is considering bombing the chemical weapons or weapons plant.

  •  GASP. Actual facts! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Pale Jenova, joe from Lowell

    How dare you, sir!  

    "A developed country is not where the poor have cars. It's where the rich use public transportation." - Mayor of Bogota

    by Time Waits for no Woman on Mon Sep 02, 2013 at 09:08:46 AM PDT

  •  The intelligence community has leaked (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    CenPhx, tardis10, cheminMD, Johnny Q

    information that they don't know where all the chemical weapons are cached, nor who controls all of them at this point.

    The party of Kennedy is also the party of Eastland. The party of Javits is also the party of Goldwater. Where is our party? Where is the political party that will make it unnecessary to march on Washington?

    by SouthernLiberalinMD on Mon Sep 02, 2013 at 09:30:07 AM PDT

    •  that does not surprise me. some of the rebels are (6+ / 0-)

      themselves Syrian army units that defected. They very well may have taken their chemical munitions with them, and they could be anywhere by now.

      As I have said repeatedly all week long, there simply is no good solution anywhere in any of this.

      •  and they are smart enough to get up to the minute (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        joe from Lowell

        intel from bloggers.(snark tag here)

        even limiting an attack to just obvious and big asset air defense gear would be 'something' and 'make a statement' but also evidence Obama is weak because he didn't bomb a facility located in a refugee camp to show he's man enough.

        Good discussion Lenny, thanks.

        This machine kills Fascists.

        by KenBee on Mon Sep 02, 2013 at 12:23:21 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  That's one reason why I've wanted us to stay (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Johnny Q, CenPhx

        out of it for a long time. This makes Central America of the 80s look nice and straightforward.  This situation seems just this side of chaos already.

        The party of Kennedy is also the party of Eastland. The party of Javits is also the party of Goldwater. Where is our party? Where is the political party that will make it unnecessary to march on Washington?

        by SouthernLiberalinMD on Mon Sep 02, 2013 at 01:09:14 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  The is the problem (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        SouthernLiberalinMD, CenPhx

        It's not about punishing Assad or the rebels or even destroying the agent. It's about containing the agent. We were happy with Assad claiming had control of the stockpiles. The first couple incidents could easily be explained away as pesticides or street cooks of GB. As long as none of the agent from the stockpiles got loose, no problem. But what if it did, or there's a large amount of home cooked stuff on the street?

        Here's a couple scenarios (none are good), all high level, the agent/purity/delivery/victims don't matter, just what are the options:
        1) Assad ordered the use of agent from the stockpile. He said he wouldn't do this, we need to contain Assad's use of agent.

        2) Someone in the Syrian military used it without permission. Agent is not in Assad's control, we must contain it.

        3) Rebels got agent from the stockpiles. Assad is not in control of the agent, we must contain it.

        4) Someone, rebels or from the Syrian military cooked some agent, either in a seized pesticide plant or a bathtub cook. Doesn't matter they have now made enough that it must be contained. Guess who gets to contain it?

        No matter what, the loose agent becomes a potential threat to the US. This is why we are concerned, the number of dead is a nice way to get people's emotions going, but the reality is the need to contain the agent. That's what the chem demil program is about. Contain it by destroying it. Nobody can steal what isn't there.

        We really don't have any good options for destroying the Syrian agent unless we can confiscate all of the agent, the means of making it and the desire to make it. Bombs aren't going to do it. We can't send our guys in to go house to house looking for it. If it was that easy, we wouldn't have a meth problem in the US.

        •  Then limited bombing runs are probably (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          CenPhx

          not going to do the trick.

          Thanks for providing me with a plausible, if not proven, mission objective. It's more than the Administration has done.

          The party of Kennedy is also the party of Eastland. The party of Javits is also the party of Goldwater. Where is our party? Where is the political party that will make it unnecessary to march on Washington?

          by SouthernLiberalinMD on Mon Sep 02, 2013 at 05:25:45 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  for me, the ideal outcome would be: (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            CenPhx, SouthernLiberalinMD

            1. Assad is in the dock at Le Hague facing war crimes charges

            and

            2. Syria signs the Chemical Weapons Convention and dismantles its CW capacity.

            Alas, I see no way for anyone anywhere to make any of that happen. Military means or not.

            As I've said before, there are no good guys in this scenario (including the US) and no good options that lead to a good pathway.  All roads seem to lead to "Fuckedupville".

            :(

            •  Given that, I choose the one (0+ / 0-)

              that doesn't lead to a decade more of war for us. Nor adding more energy to the centrifuge that's whirling in Syria.

              The party of Kennedy is also the party of Eastland. The party of Javits is also the party of Goldwater. Where is our party? Where is the political party that will make it unnecessary to march on Washington?

              by SouthernLiberalinMD on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 07:50:31 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

    •  The latter point is more disconcerting. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      SouthernLiberalinMD, cheminMD, CenPhx

      Sure, I have heartburn with a bunker full of CW rockets/shells...but I have much greater heartburn if no one knows who's holding the keys to the place.

      The word "parent" is supposed to be a VERB, people...

      by wesmorgan1 on Mon Sep 02, 2013 at 11:25:45 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  See Lenny's point. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        cheminMD, CenPhx

        the somewhat blurry distinction, at times, between regime forces and rebel forces, is one part of what makes this situation so dangerous.

        Sometimes, it's just a question of time:  a group might have been part of the Syrian military 5 days ago, and be part of the rebels now.

        The party of Kennedy is also the party of Eastland. The party of Javits is also the party of Goldwater. Where is our party? Where is the political party that will make it unnecessary to march on Washington?

        by SouthernLiberalinMD on Mon Sep 02, 2013 at 01:10:43 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Interesting (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    joe from Lowell, Margouillat

    I never knew that the Iraqi nerve agents had such a short shelf-life.

    You would have thought they'd at least have told us that.

    If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

    by Major Kong on Mon Sep 02, 2013 at 09:36:48 AM PDT

    •  the US of course knew this because we were (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Lawrence

      working closely with the Iraqis during the Iran-Iraq War.  That means that when Dubya had Colin Powell on TV declaring that Saddam had nerve gas stockpiled that could be used within 15 minutes, both of them knew absolutely that was baloney--Saddam's entire nerve gas arsenal was gone within two months of his losing the ability to make more.

  •  I disagree about the targeting (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    KenBee, joe from Lowell

    we may not even go after the chem weapons themselves, but instead attack command and control centers as well as their air defenses.  The Economist does a nice job of laying out a strategy here:

    http://www.economist.com/...

    To be free and just depends on us. Victor Hugo.

    by dizzydean on Mon Sep 02, 2013 at 10:05:01 AM PDT

    •  Also, remember in the First Gulf War we hit some (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Lawrence, CenPhx

      facilities that turned into a mess:

      http://www.usatoday.com/...

      To be free and just depends on us. Victor Hugo.

      by dizzydean on Mon Sep 02, 2013 at 10:08:29 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  well, there are endless options, depending on (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      tardis10, joe from Lowell

      what it is exactly we want to accomplish, and to what level of destruction we want to accomplish it.

      The goal as stated seems to be to do the minimum amount of damage necessary to inflict an "ouchie" to Assad. So I'm hypothesizing that we'll go fir the high-value hard-to-replace things like the delivery systems and maybe the production plants.

      Despite what some of the commenters here seem to think, the goal doesn't seem to be to destroy every katyusha that might have a GB warhead---and the US does not have a sufficient level of forces there to do that even if that were the goal.

      Whether that mission ends up creeping, though, is an entirely different question. Especially if Syria is effective at shooting back.

  •  I have a question... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    KenBee

    In the released evidence regarding the use on gas in Syria it was stated that we saw evidence of them preparing to use them:

    Preparation:

    We have intelligence that leads us to assess that Syrian chemical weapons personnel – including personnel assessed to be associated with the SSRC – were preparing chemical munitions prior to the attack. In the three days prior to the attack, we collected streams of human, signals and geospatial intelligence that reveal regime activities that we assess were associated with preparations for a chemical weapons attack.

    Syrian chemical weapons personnel were operating in the Damascus suburb of ‘Adra from Sunday, August 18 until early in the morning on Wednesday, August 21 near an area that the regime uses to mix chemical weapons, including sarin. On August 21, a Syrian regime element prepared for a chemical weapons attack in the Damascus area, including through the utilization of gas masks. Our intelligence sources in the Damascus area did not detect any indications in the days prior to the attack that opposition affiliates were planning to use chemical weapons.

    If this is true, could the military response by triggered by fresh evidence that a new attack is being prepared? It seems that the treat of military force might prevent a repeat and that seems like a good use of the threat of force to me.

    Is it possible that we could see a new attack being prepared and stop it?

    Time to clean up DeLay's petri dish! Help CNMI guest workers find justice! Learn more at Unheard No More.

    by dengre on Mon Sep 02, 2013 at 10:05:19 AM PDT

  •  PIE-fighters, nice (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Pale Jenova, joe from Lowell

    Someone with graphic art skills really needs to do that one up!

    Government and laws are the agreement we all make to secure everyone's freedom.

    by Simplify on Mon Sep 02, 2013 at 10:12:41 AM PDT

  •  Thanks (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    joe from Lowell, edwardssl

    this is the kind of diary that keeps me coming back to DKos in spite of the meta.

  •  Punishing Syria for use of CW is just the cover (0+ / 0-)

    story... and it's a good one, because it will deter Russia and Iran from doing anything overt in response.

    Once the U.S. forces are airborne, they can hit anything they damned well want to: parked aircraft, fuel dumps, armored vehicles... everything that will level the playing field between Damascus and the rebels.

    The risks are great, the margins of error are small and there are no guarantees. But if the objective is to force Damascus into a cease-fire and peace talks, this is an opportunity that will not come again.

    “It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing
    he was never reasoned into” - Jonathan Swift

    by jjohnjj on Mon Sep 02, 2013 at 01:06:48 PM PDT

  •  What about Arab League authorized action? (0+ / 0-)

    The League has a better claim to jurisdiction there than NATO anyway.

    If the US takes an action that has been urged and endorsed by the Arab League, are you more comfortable with the enforcement of international law?

    Coming Soon -- to an Internet connection near you: Armisticeproject.org

    by FischFry on Mon Sep 02, 2013 at 06:02:08 PM PDT

  •  I cannot see, for the life of me, any plus in the (0+ / 0-)

    US doing anything, actually. I think it just muddies the already muddied waters.

    If this is REALLY all about chem weapons, then the UN needs to act (or, as suggested above, the Arab League).

    If it is about slaughtering your own people (regardless of how), then this country needs to explain their continued inaction in Africa, Burma etc.

    If it's about Iran, then discuss Iran.

    If it's about the president's "red line", then sorry, Mr. Pres., you're going to have to choke on that one.

    202-224-3121 to Congress in D.C. USE it! You can tell how big a person is by what it takes to discourage them. "We're not perfect, but they're nuts."--Barney Frank 01/02/2012

    by cany on Mon Sep 02, 2013 at 06:18:10 PM PDT

  •  No. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ek hornbeck


    "Information is power. But like all power there are those who want to keep it for themselves" Aaron Swartz, 1986 - 2013
    TheStarsHollowGazette.com

    by TheMomCat on Mon Sep 02, 2013 at 06:51:03 PM PDT

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