What is a WMD and why are they more dangerous than bullets?
First of all, most of the press and nearly all of America really had no clue what a Weapon of Mass Destruction (WMD) was, and to be somewhat fair, the lower end of the spectrum is subject to open interpretation by the government and every pundit out there. While there are traditionally three different main types of WMD (chemical, biological, and nuclear), we are going to talk about the nasty stuff, the things that give soldiers nightmares: the chemical WMD.
I will make one disclosure, I am not going to reveal anything that is not open source, so you will have to take my word for it and/or dig for the research yourself. I am going to mention that the WMD is in Iraq; and the UN, the White House, and the rest of the world knows it is there. But don’t be confused, CNN will get around to posting a retraction saying we may have found what they said we did not find in Iraq, at all, ever, the entire time we were there (If your curious, research the Al Qadisiyah raid in 2003 on a chemical weapons facility. What the SOF task force found is still classified). This stuff is old, supposedly destroyed after the Gulf War but wasn’t, and then became one of the reasons for OIF in 2003.
A single drop of nerve agent the size of a pinhead will kill you just as dead as a gallon.
Some chemical weapons kill outright, are hard to manufacture, hard to use, hard to store, and scary as hell when used. Nerve agents are Raid for humans. It is that simple. Your body communicates with two main chemicals on the nerve chain, one chemical sends a message, and the other receives it. Nerve agents flood the system and prevent the messages from being received or sent. You stop breathing because the signals from the brain are no longer reaching the lungs; your heart stops beating because the brain is not telling it to beat, and snap, you are dead as a doornail.
Depending upon the dose you received, death is either seconds to minutes away, but would rarely be longer than 20 minutes. There are antidotes and they will allow you to live, but considering what the antidote does to you, you might be better off dying; the military does not discuss that part. There are no free lunches when it comes to chemical WMD.
Nerve agent comes in two main types, persistent and non-persistent. Now we get scary, and if you know anything, you know we’re only getting started. Persistent nerve agent is oily, somewhat viscous, and it will hang around for a very long time. If it is cool, it will hang around for years and will still be potent, still be giving off hazardous, lethal vapors as it out gases, and it is nearly impossible to decontaminate the area it is in.
Then you have blister agents, blood agents, choking agents, and incapacitating agents. Mustard gas is a choking agent. You may have read about that in history since the Germans used it in World War One and everyone began to realize just how nasty that stuff is. It was called dry land drowning. Mustard gas was inhaled into the lungs where it combined with the mucus and turned into sulfuric acid.
That’s right, sulfuric acid in the lungs which caused more of the fluid to develop as the lungs tried desperately to stop the burning until finally the poor bastard drowned. It sometimes took agonizing, pain-wracked hours to die. But you could get a ‘touch of mustard’ and still live.
Why is this so scary? Any country that produces pesticides for the agricultural industry has the same equipment they need to produce near weapons grade versions that can be used on people. There is a difference in military weapons grade and near weapons grade, but we are not going there for obvious reasons.
A briefcase with the correct chemicals could shut down the New York Subway, forever. One briefcase can kill millions if used effectively. No more rats, not more homeless, no more subway. You literally would have to burn the tunnels to get rid of the stuff. Not sure New Yorkers would like that much.
When we went into Iraq, we knew there were chemical weapons. ISIS now has control of the facilities that used to make them and there are some, in bunkers, stored on site. The stuff is unstable, and hazardous as hell to the people using it but then again these people are also the inventors of the not-so-smart bomb, aka the suicide bomber. The main problem with chemical weapons from the standpoint of the user is the delivery system. The crew firing the stuff does not want to be harmed by their weapons, so military systems are robust. Suicide bombers intend to be harmed by their own weapons; that is sort of the point. Even degraded chemical weapons can be used if you don’t care about living.
The stuff that ISIS can use, and while digging it out may be a pain, it is not impossible, and may be “degraded.” But, I’m telling you folks, degraded means that it is not military strength; not that it doesn’t work. So all the noise about the UN and US saying the weapons are of no use, please, as a comparison, have you ever left gasoline in a can over the winter and then used it in your lawn mower? It runs rough, will damage the engine but it still burns, still runs, and that is the point.
What do we do? Well short of sending forces to take the facility back, we do nothing and hope the degradation of the material is enough to deter ISIS from using it. Failing that, we hope that it is still unstable enough that they cannot use it outside a local geographic area, and if that prayer doesn’t work, hope they don’t get wise enough to use it further afield. There is a lot of hope and prayer there for all the good it will do. The only way to be sure the stuff is gone is fire… like really hot fire… like nuclear fire.
US policy since WWII is that if a country uses a bioweapon, a chemical weapon, or a nuclear weapon on us or our allies, we reserve the right to respond with a nuclear weapon because we have made the international commitment to never use chemical weapons or biological agents in battle. We have some chem/bio WMD in small quantities, because we have to make sure our defensive measures work but we don’t have any offensive weapons in any quantity.
This is the problem in a nutshell. A national government understands what will happen to their nation if they use a WMD in battle, who do you nuke if a terror group uses one? Overreaction is pretty much guaranteed to start WWIII, public opinion will be a mass of incoherent fear mongering and rage, and the terror groups will just sit back and laugh at their ability to stymie and kill citizens of the most powerful nations in the world.
The only thing you can do is try and make sure the stuff is not in the wrong hands even if you have to start a war to do it.
Oops; there I go again with that danged old justification for invading Iraq. Shame on me.