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Hiding WMD in Plain Sight

Hiding WMD in Plain Sight

Yesterday the New York Times reported With the World Watching, Syria Amassed Nerve Gas. The article documents how, despite international efforts to prevent it, Syria built up its supply of chemical weapons.

Proliferation experts said President Bashar al-Assad of Syria and his father before him, former President Hafez al-Assad, were greatly helped in their chemical weapons ambitions by a basic underlying fact: often innocuous, legally exportable materials are also the precursors to manufacturing deadly chemical weapons. …

The growth of Syria’s ability was the subject of a sharply worded secret cable transmitted by the State Department under Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s name in the fall of 2009. It instructed diplomats to “emphasize that failure to halt the flow” of chemicals and equipment into Syria, Iran and North Korea could render irrelevant a group of antiproliferation countries that organized to stop that flow. …

Another leaked State Department cable on the Syrians asserted that “part of their modus operandi is to hide procurement under the guise of legitimate pharmaceutical or other transactions.”

The article describes how hard it was to stop a determined villain from improving his lethal capabilities. An evil person, or regime, intent on killing people will find a way to do it. Also, there are people, corporations and nations who will rationalize giving these evil people the means they need to reach their goals.

The article is frustrating. Clearly, a serious, sustained effort to prevent the Assads from acquiring chemical weapons was needed. But it wasn’t to be. Among other things the fall of the Soviet Union made it impossible to control the import of the necessary ingredients to create the gas. Executives at an American company were prosecuted for sending materials that Syria could use to manufacture chemical weapons. Of course, once those components were shipped, it was too late. But if there any lessons for preventing other villains from obtaining deadly weapons in the future to be drawn from this article, they are absent.

Let’s say that the Russian diplomatic initiative to rid Syria of its chemical weapons is sincere. Let’s say, even more improbably, it is effective. What would stop Assad from reconstituting his chemical weapon program all over again, the same way he and his father built it in the first place? Do both the will and capability exist to prevent him?

Consider two parallel stories.

Right now the Iranian regime is attempting to develop a nuclear weapons capability. There is no determined effort to stop it.

The New York Times just published a review of a book by Kenneth Pollack called “Unthinkable,” about efforts to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. According the reviewer, Leslie Gelb, Pollack doesn’t believe that it is possible to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear capability, so allowing it to happen is eminently “thinkable.” Pollack sees the costs of military action as being too high and not effective, so he recommends accepting a nuclear Iran and pursuing a policy of containment.

Or consider how the New York Times has been promoting the new president, Rouhani as a moderate. In a recent article the reporters wrote:

The new Iranian president has not specified how he might alter Iran’s stance on its nuclear energy program, which Western nations and Israel consider a cover for developing the ability to make atomic bombs despite Iran’s repeated denials. But Mr. Rouhani’s choice of Mr. Zarif to oversee the negotiations, which had been handled by the Supreme National Security Council, suggested more diplomatic flexibility by Iran.

Never mind that Zarif is a Holocaust denier. Never mind that Rouhani, prior to his inauguration, attended a Qods day celebration regardless of what he said there. Rouhani, too, boasted of deceiving the West in nuclear negotiations. Despite there being no evidence that either Rouhani or Zarif are moderate, other than that neither is Ahmadinejad, the New York Times presents a false picture of both as flexible. There is no “suggestion” of “diplomatic flexibility” except by those who are seeking such a suggestion. If Rouhani’s Iran were deceiving the West about its nuclear ambitions a large portion of the West’s foreign policy elite wouldn’t care.

As with Syria, the will to do anything about Iran’s nuclear program likely wouldn’t be there.

The other case to consider is this story in the Washington Post, Egypt shutting economic lifeline for Gaza Strip, in move to isolate Hamas.

But restrictions on imports, exports and the flow of people continue to hinder Gaza’s reconstruction, according to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East. For example, Israeli officials restrict the shipment of building materials — cement, rebar, gravel, plumbing pipes and certain chemicals — because they say such items can be used to make bunkers and rockets.

Note the way this is presented. Who says that dual use technology could be used to build military needs? “Israeli officials.” No qualification was necessary. In the quoted sentences, the onus is on Israel for having the temerity to blockade Gaza in self-defense, rather than Hamas for violating civilized norms and putting its military needs ahead of civilian needs.

The problem is that no one did anything about Syria except recoil in horror when Assad unleashed his weapons on civilians. In the United States, there is no will to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Too many wish to believe fairy tales about moderation and trust diplomatic efforts to prevent that outcome. Except for Israel, the world prefers to lament the hardship imposed on Gaza’s civilians, rather than condemn the terrorists who threaten Israel hiding among those civilians. (And there is no will either to pre-empt whatever Al Qaeda might be planning now.)

We live in a world where bad guys can hide their weapons in plain sight and few care to take action. If and when they strike there will be plenty of hand wringing and attempt to place blame. But, in the end, the fault will be inaction and an unwillingness to believe that bad guys really do bad things.


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Journalists did the same thing to Gaddafi. Now that Gaddafi is dead, and Libya is a terrible mess, lots of people have figured out Gaddafi actually ruled his country well.

We also know we didn’t learn the truth about Benghazi. But it seems the American ambassador knew that prisoners were tortured. And killed. That’s why there was such blow back. That’s why the American ambassador got killed by local tribesmen.

We also know that the Saud’s BUY terrorists. They’ve used them in Yemen. In Egypt. In Libya. And, also in Syria.

Our media paints Assad as the bad guy. But in actuality Syria was well run. It was secular, in that each religious group could practice without killing others. And, when you hear “sunni” … You’re talking of the relationships between saud’s.

Assad got bad press! If he gets replaced, the next guy is worse!

America has been playing with the saud’s. And, politicians and journalists are bought.

You want the truth? Assad was the leader in Syria. And, he is holding on.

In Irak, we bet against Saddam. And, what did we get? The saud’s didn’t get the Basra oil fields … which was their goal! Instead, the sunnis in Irak are now weakened. And, we pushed the Shi’a of Irak (who are in the majority), into the arms of Iran. Since Maliki got elected. And, the people didn’t choose US.

Actually, we’re short whistle blowers.

Today? It’s 9/11. It represents the saud’s successful assault on us.

Unless you are willing to stop countries from manufacturing legitimate pesticides there is simply no credible means of blocking them from producing nerve agents – the two categories are that closely related.

Think codeine and heroin.

    Musson in reply to ThomasD. | September 12, 2013 at 8:21 am

    You can make explosives out of fertilizer and poison gas from toothpaste and ammonia. Pool chemicals can be especially dangerous weapons.

    Remember – McGyver once blew out a wall using only bathroom cleaner and aluminum foil!

David, consider this article from a Gun Control standpoint. It makes perfect sense to a progressive mindset:

“The article describes how hard it was to stop a determined villain from improving his lethal capabilities. An evil person, or regime, intent on killing people will find a way to do it. Also, there are people, corporations and nations who will rationalize giving these evil people the means they need to reach their goals.”

One could just imagine the words being used against a freedom loving group of gun enthusiasts. “How hard it was to stop the gun loving nuts from acquiring their weapons. How, an evil person in such a group, intent on killing people, will find a way to do it. That there are those who support (the 2nd amendment) and rationalize giving these evil people the means to reach their goals.”

“The article is frustrating.”

Indeed. But it makes perfect sense if you have the right mindset.

When I saw this article, I looked up sarin gas to refresh my memory of the substance. Maybe you should as well. The reason is that it was actually the British that were selling precursors of sarin to Syria. Many of the substances that are used to manufacture the gas are common to other manufacturing processes.

Now, there is something that stinks about all of this. Whenever the Dems start worrying about the children, they are lying. They use the children as an excuse for just about everything. Hillary was exceptional in these efforts in Arkansas. So, when a politician starts concerns for younger folks, you are getting screwed. I might remind everyone that the young people in our military are someone’s child as well. And I am more concerned for them than for any kid in Syria. Then there are the constant references to Hitler. Always an effort to illicit an emotional reflex. Except that here we could easily liken our efforts to intervene as similar to FDR trying to get between the SA and the SS. Also, note that FDR and Churchill well knew of the death camps and did absolutely nothing, even when the war was well underway (they did have options). Then we have the use of gas by Clinton to kill the people at Waco, over a misdemeanor. We have done nothing to prosecute that administration, so why involve ourselves with Syria? (note that tear gas is toxic as well). We have numerous situations around the world of far more and worse atrocities than exhibited in Syria, why aren’t we doing something about them if we are so righteous?

Then we have the attacks on Russia. Why? As far as trust, I trust Putin far more than Obama, Kerry, Hillary, or the Republican leadership. Why haven’t we bomb or invaded Libya to atone for the killing of Americans?

Finally, on 9/11, why are we subjected to loss of liberty and freedom when the actions were perpetrated by Muslims? I am heading to the airport and can not understand why my honor and liberty are assailed for simply wanting to get on a plane when I can clearly see that it is not for security? Why don’t we profile Muslims? It seems more in line with the Constitution that unwarranted search and seizure.

There is certainly something going on in the US, and it has nothing to do with our well being.

We would do well to end the arbitrary segregation of ‘chemical’ weapons (bad) from ‘conventional’ weapons (acceptable), given how people lose their shit and want to go to immediate war over the use of chemical weapons.

Ingredients for the ‘chemical weapon’ sarin gas = sodium fluoride, alcohol, dimethyl methylphosphonate, phosphorus dichloride

Ingredients for ‘conventional weapon’
gun (black) powder = sulfur + charcoal + potassium nitrate

Ingredients for ‘conventional weapon’
napalm = napthenic acid + palmitic acid

Ingredients for ‘conventional weapon’
C-4 explosive = cyclotrimethylene trinitramine

High explosives are considered ‘conventional’ when used in weapons. Here’s a link to a list of over 50 of them (scroll down half page):

Please note it is a list of chemicals. My point is that of a science nerd – they are ALL chemicals. Questions:

1. Do chemical weapons kill more people than conventional weapons? Is that why they are ’bad’?

2. Is it more horrific to die by painful asphyxiation from a chemical weapon than to die from blood loss and shock after your legs have been blown off by a conventional weapon?

3. Are conventional weapons always respectful of children and other civilians, making them better than chemical weapons?

4. Were the 5,000-20,000 children killed in the Syrian war by conventional weapons categorically different, lesser beings than the dozens-hundreds of children killed by chemical weapons?

Why are chemical weapons worse than conventional weapons? Gas is less surgical in application, difficult to target, but so are many conventional weapons, like napalm or land mines.

It is not my intent to elevate ’bad’ chemical weapons to a ’good’ conventional status. My point is there is no difference between the two, except in our heads. If ‘chemical’ weapons are bad, then they are all bad.

“You can’t hang or shoot a man – that’s barbaric! This is the 21st century! Better to inject him with…..chemicals!”

    A BBC reporter, Angus Stickler, went on line and obtained the instructions for making sarin gas from the Bristol University website and then ordered the four chemicals required to make the nerve gas.

    Along the same lines, Russia presented evidence to the U.N. that Syrian rebels attacked Khan al-Assal with an unguided rocket containing sarin, killing 26 and injuring 86 others. According to Aljazeera, “samples indicated the sarin and the projectile were produced in makeshift ‘cottage industry’ conditions, and the projectile was ‘not a standard one for chemical use’.”

    Confiscating sarin in the possession of the Assad government seems therefore to be a futile endeavor but White House spokesmodel Jay Carney was in denial on Tuesday:

    “We have yet to see any evidence that backs up the assertion that anybody besides the Syrian government has the ability to use chemical weapons, [or] has used chemical weapons,”

      Henry Hawkins in reply to gad-fly. | September 11, 2013 at 8:12 pm

      I posted the other day on this in another thread. As a frustrated science nerd (oh, to have college to do over!), I checked to see how available the ingredients for sarin are in the US. I easily found all four ingredients available cheap, all I needed were a credit card and a shipping address. Sold cheap by the kilo or by the ton. I already knew the basic process for making sarin, which is less complicated than making lasagna.

      The point of that post is that, OF COURSE the Russians and Assad are willing to let some int’l body take up their weapons – it’s because they know that while the UN or whoever is hauling their sarin gas shells out of the basement and garage, they’ll be cooking up new batches in the attic.

      Two possibilities here:

      1) The Obama administration knows there is no way to ensure Syria has no chemical weapons, but proceed with this ‘diplomacy’ because it solves Obama’s political dilemma, or…

      B) The Obama administration doesn’t know this.

      Duplicity or ignorance. Neither is acceptable.

    Sir Arthur “Bomber” Harris asked how sticking a bayonet through a man’s viscera can be considered morally superior to dropping a bomb on him. That was over sixty years ago and I’m not aware that anyone has supplied a coherent answer yet. Personally, given the choice of nerve gas or being, say, roasted to ash while sheltering in the cellar of my own house – the demise of some 50,000 at Hamburg as a result of an aerial attack conceptually similar to Obama’s plans – I think I’d prefer the gas.

Seems I recall a fella in Iraq named Hassan al-Majid, aka Chemical Ali

Wonder how many trucks that headed OUT of Iraq (2003)were loaded with GAS?

Oh wait, forgot Saddam had NO WMD’s..

Okay. Americans were convinced for a short period of time that Saddam was bad for Irak. Then, after he’s dead, we discovered Maliki doesn’t want Americans in Irak. So he tumbled into a relationship with Iran.

We need a good whistle blower to get the truth out.

But the saud’s money bought a lot of political and journalistic “talent.” They think they can run any show they want.

While the republican mindset is to worry about abortions.

    Yeeps. It wasn’t Maliki that tanked the negotiations over the Status of Forces Agreement. That was BO himself. They reached a very resolvable sticking point over Iraqi sovereignty, and the US delegation walked out and refused to return. The Iraqis were left open-mouthed in bewilderment, because they knew very well this refusal to negotiate was made in bad faith.

thalesofmiletus | September 11, 2013 at 8:32 pm

To make CW, all that’s needed is pesticide and isopropyl alcohol, neither of which is illegal, both of which can be conveniently hauled around wherever needed, especially places Assad needs the Russians to act as human shields against Obama’s missiles.

“when Assad unleashed his weapons on civilians.”

Did he? I thought that was one of the problems with this whole affair – a major lack of evidence of anything factual. Carney’s implication that Assad must be the villain because only he and his government would have the resources to use simple FIRST WORLD WAR TECHNOLOGY is absurd.

BannedbytheGuardian | September 12, 2013 at 2:52 am

No nation is without secrets. Israel just bribed the family of Prisoner X with $US 1.25 million ( 4,000,000 shekels ) officially to deter court actions.

– an average Israeli salary is 75-80,000 shekels per year . A top lawyer would be 250,000 .

Therefore their silence is a whole lifetime of average ages or 16 years o top lawyer rates.

That s only his Israeli family. The rest of his family are B’Nai Brith & they will extricate appropriate restitution – not necessarily monetary terms.

    BannedbytheGuardian in reply to BannedbytheGuardian. | September 12, 2013 at 4:34 pm

    Thank for the down tick. Love hurts doesn’t it? So does the truth.

    I am happy you read it . After all it is not as if David would be telling you it. Now you know.