When is a first strike not a first strike?
When it's Anticipatory Retaliation.

May 20, 2004

More About Sarin

Bravo Romeo Delta

Today, James Taranto bristles at statements in the LA Times to the effect that trace amounts of Sarin were found in our most recent celebrity artillery shell. He does correctly note that newspapers are using the term "trace" to give the impression that the total amount of chemical weapons found were miniscule.

However, James is slightly off the mark here.

The shell in questino was a binary agent, meaning that it had two less toxic chemicals, held in separate chambers, which produce Sarin when mixed. Apparently the EOD guys drained at least one of the chambers during their attempted disarmement of the device. This is a pretty prudent move since it means that if you accidently detonate the bursting charge, you don't have 4 liters of sarin to contend with, but a much smaller residual amount.

Thus, during the disarmament of the shell, some of the chemicals mixed, but not the entire 4 liters. Hence, only trace amounts of Sarin were detected.

To say, however, that this means that it is not a violation of disarmament conditions completely misses the point. Having two weaponized halves of a binary munition is not mysteriously less of a chemical weapon than a one weaponized unitary munition.

By way of analogy, if someone has claimed to have given up smoking, but you discover them with a lit cigarette in hand, they aren't technically puffing away, but you can pretty easily make the case that they haven't actually kicked the habit.

Moreover, since binary munitions capability was a proscribed technology, this is something that should have been declared as part of any disarmament program - even if the weapons were subsequently destroyed. Similarly, the Iraqis failed to indicate that any artillery shells were filled with Sarin - unitary or otherwise. So, above and beyond the actual existence of the shell, it represents a double violation of Iraq's obligations.

Launched by Bravo Romeo Delta at May 20, 2004 06:02 PM
Electronic Countermeasures Retaliates with: So cutting edge it kind of hurts.

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