NBC Weapons: The Growing Chemical War in Iraq



June 11, 2007: In Iraq, there have been at least ten suicide bombing attacks in the last year, that featured the use of chlorine. These were attempts to use chlorine as a chemical weapon. So far, this have been unsuccessful, despite the fact that the first chemical weapon attack in modern history, in 1915, used 168 tons of chlorine gas. Then, as now, chlorine proved to be an inefficient chemical weapon, and was quickly replaced by more effective ones. This is what has people worried in Iraq. The Islamic terrorists have also noted the ineffectiveness of their chlorine use in bombs, and intel monitoring has picked up lots of chatter about obtaining more powerful chemical weapons. There are still many people in Iraq, and most are Sunni Arabs, who know how to manufacture more lethal chemical agents (like mustard gas, which burns skin, eyes, or your lungs, if you inhale it).

The problem with chemical weapons, from a military point of view, is that the stuff wounds and demoralizes, more than it kills. This was discovered during the first major uses of chemical weapons in World War I (1914-18). Troops were so distracted by the effects of chemical weapons, that they tended to forget about fighting, and concentrated on getting out of the way of the chemical weapons, or dealing with the injuries. The generals did not like the way chemical weapons destroyed military organization and discipline, and were willing to go along with treaties that outlawed the use of such weapons. But they were still stockpiled by the major powers, in case someone else used them. Someone else did, during the Iran-Iraq war (1980-88), where the demoralizing effects of mustard and nerve gas disorganized and demoralized the more powerful Iranian army, and saved Saddam from defeat. For terrorists, of course, chemical weapons are an excellent tool, if you can get them to work.

While the Sunni Arab terrorists in Iraq have access to people who know how to manufacture mustard and nerve gas, actually doing it is rather difficult. Then, there is the problem of blowback when you do use the stuff for terrorist attacks, and the images of civilians, especially children, injured by these weapons, reach a wide audience. The chatter among Sunni Arab terrorists, and their supporters, makes mention of all this, and, so far, leaves the impression that no one is taking the initiative to "go chemical" in a big way. But that could change.


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