August 30, 2013

The (poison) fog of war

Greg Cochran points out a chapter in WWII history that I'd never heard of before today: the 1943 Luftwaffe raid on Allied shipping in the Italian port of Bari, which released U.S. poison gas secretly stored on an American supply ship, USS John Harvey. Lots of nasty (and one nice) medical consequences ensued.

75 comments:

Anonymous said...

I didn't know about Al-Faw either.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Battle_of_al-Faw

"Meanwhile, with extensive foreign suppliers from the United States, the west, and the Soviet Union, the Iraqi army had extensively rearmed, becoming the 5th largest military in the world. "

"With the help of American satellite imagery, key areas such as supply lines, command posts, and ammunition depots, were hit by a storm of mustard gas and sarin nerve gas, as well as by conventional explosives."

"The attacks were preceded with numerous chemical weapons bombardments, killing and/or sickening close to the majority of the unprepared Iranian troops on the peninsula."


"One of the most successful Iraqi tactics was the "one-two punch" attack using chemical weapons. Using artillery, they would saturate the Iranian front line with rapidly dispersing cyanide and nerve gas, while longer-lasting mustard gas was launched via fighter-bombers and rockets against the Iranian rear, creating a "chemical wall" that blocked reinforcement."

Bill said...

Oh yes, the only chemical incident in Europe of WWII. The Bari raid was a complete surprise to the allies, who had grown overconfident by that point.

You know, I think this Syria attack plan could plausibly result in some very unpleasant surprises, too. American air superiority over Iraq and Afghanistan was a given. In Syria, not so much. Syrian air defense weapons are considerably more sophisticated than Saddam's or Kadaffy's, and there's a Russian sub hunter and a missile frigate running surveillance in the area as we speak.

The sub hunter will provide likely launch locations for cruise missiles, and the missile frigate will track both ships and aircraft. If we tried to really hit Syria hard, we could lose a surface ship to a Syrian anti-ship missile this time, not to mention possible aircraft losses.

This makes me think that any "strike" will be purely symbolic, involving no serious commitment of aircraft or close range naval support, and have little effect other than making the US look like a gangster state perpetrating a hit-and-run attack. Sad to say, this is Obama's foreign policy legacy: drone-by shootings.

Kibernetika said...

Interesting! A strange thing, but even Hitler declined using chemical weapons/nerve agents (sarin, etc.), for fear of reciprocity. He knew that his enemies had the same stuff and had greater ability to deliver.

BTW, in Germany today, it is not easy to read "crazy old H's stupid old book" in the original. Even respectable academics must go though weird gyrations. One's got to enter a special room, and read the text under the watchful eye of a trained librarian.


Anonymous said...

I think the US will try to take out some group of high-ranking Syrian officers, and maybe (although less likely) Assad himself or his family.

Anon.

Anonymous said...

I have never understood the taboo against using poison gas or chemical weapons in war. A weapon is a weapon and its purpose is essentially the same. Why is it 'okay' to kill with grenades, bombs, missiles, guns, bayonets, and a million other things but wrong to kill with gas and chemical weapons? Shouldn't it be death and killing itself and not the instrument used that should be objectionable? In any case much of the hysteria about gas is unjustified. For example of the total American casualties in WW1, 258,338, 27.4% (70,752) were gas casualties, but while there were a total of 46,419 fatal casualties, only 1,400 were due to gas, that is just 2%. "Contrary to popular belief, gas was the most humane weapon used in WW1." Source; See THE CONDUCT OF WAR, 1789-1961, by Major-General J.F.C. Fuller. (Pages 171-175.)

Anonymous said...

"If we tried to really hit Syria hard, we could lose a surface ship to a Syrian anti-ship missile this time, not to mention possible aircraft losses."

That's a feature, not a bug. How are we going to get seriously involved without a serious loss to galvanize the American People?

Remember the Maine!

Anonymous said...

Regarding the German air raid on Bari, a somewhat similar incident is known as the air raid on Poltava. A large number of US B-17s were destroyed at Poltava, a Soviet airbase. This was during an attempt to have bombers overfly Germany, back and forth. There doesn't seem to be that much in the wikipedia:

"About eighty German aircraft combined in one of history's most effective bombing raids, lasting over two hours. He-111s began with level bombardment, followed by low-altitude strafing by Ju-88s. He-177s provided before-and-after reconnaissance.[7] According to the internal history: "43 Fortresses were destroyed or damaged beyond repair; 3 C-47s and 1 F-5 were likewise destroyed. 26 Fortresses, 2 C-47s and 1 C-46, and 25 Russian aircraft (mainly Yak fighters) were heavily damaged but repairable; over 450,000 gallons of gasoline were destroyed and over 500 gallons of aircraft oil; over 3200 bombs, 26,000 bomb fuses, and 1,360,000 cartridges were destroyed."

Anonymous said...

http://blogs.the-american-interest.com/wrm/2013/08/30/china-doesnt-have-a-corner-on-the-market-for-corruption/

Anonymous said...

Right cause nothing says not a gangster state like relaying intelligence to a man who butchers his own people. I don't understand the kind of autism than can bloodlessly and really if we are honest enthusiastically spectulate on a rival power assisting in the deaths of our soldiers. Heck no we shouldn't be bombing there but screw the Russians for helping out the Syrians just to spite us. I'm sorry that Jeffery Sachs was a jerk and gave the Russians horrible advice but that wasnt that pilot or sailors fault. When Russia is strong they love playing world gendarme. Guess a little of that chutzpah rubbed off old Sachs onto the Russians after all.

Anonymous said...

Cochran's a fool.

Anonymous said...

When Russia is strong they love playing world gendarme.

We play world gendarme. They play world conquest. We add allies. They add provinces.

Auntie Analogue said...


My dear Kibernetika, your assertion that "[E]ven Hitler declined using chemical weapons/nerve agents (sarin, etc.), for fear of reciprocity," seems to overlook Hitler's prodigious deployment of Zyklon B.

Bud said...

Remember the Maddox and Turner Joy, and the Kuwaiti incubators.

Here Rumsfeld does a McNamara impersonation.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NptUMuDAljA&feature=player_detailpage

Anonymous said...

All you need to know about last week's attack is contained in this Daily Mail's story, dating back in . . . January.

Anonymous said...

http://www.timesofisrael.com/perfidious-albion-hands-murderous-assad-a-spectacular-victory/

"How a perfect storm of British ineptitude and gutlessness sent the wrong message to the butcher of Damascus, and left Israel more certain than ever that it can only rely on itself"

Yes, rely on yourself and stop ordering others to do our bidding.

Anonymous said...

Rick Atkinson has a good discussion of this in Day of Battle

Peter Frost said...

During the war, Germany tried to develop bacterial strains that would be resistant to both mustard gas and radiation. This research program was described by its lead researcher:

"Starting in 1941, bacteria had become my major interest and in 1948 I gave a paper at the International Congress of Genetics in Stockholm on cross resistance to radiation and nitrogen mustard in E. coli based on work done earlier in Milan with Niccolo Visconti."

It's unclear, but he seemed to have been working on a weapon that would combine anthrax and mustard gas with a "dirty" atomic bomb. This triple combo evidently proved to be unworkable.

The researcher's name? A young man called L.L. Cavalli. After the war, he changed his last name to Cavalli-Sforza.

http://evoandproud.blogspot.ca/2010/09/evolution-of-cavalli-sforza.html

Anonymous said...

http://thehill.com/blogs/global-affairs/middle-east-north-africa/319513-leaked-documents-reveal-us-sees-israel-as-a-major-spying-threat

Anonymous said...

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2013/08/how-an-insular-beltway-elite-makes-wars-of-choice-more-likely/279116/

Anonymous said...

http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2013/08/all-immigrants-are-artists/279087/

All them immigrants may not be the new Steve Jobs but at least they are Michelangelinos and Rembrandters.

Anonymous said...

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2013/08/joe-bidens-case-that-waging-war-without-congress-is-an-impeachable-offense/279160/

Politutes

Anonymous said...

"Cochran's a fool."

But the raid on Bari is simply an historical event that demonstrates that bombing chemical weapons stores, on purpose or accidentally, can simply disperse the chemical agent, causing widespread random death. "We had to gas them to destroy the gas."

Anonymous said...

Kibernetika said...
Interesting! A strange thing, but even Hitler declined using chemical weapons/nerve agents (sarin, etc.), for fear of reciprocity. He knew that his enemies had the same stuff and had greater ability to deliver.



Yes, but we do know that he had no scruples about using Atomic bombs, had Germany invented them first.
And he would have. Until he decisively won the war.
End of story.

Anonymous said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KfryJq9M4PQ

Thailand... land of whores and 'ladyboys'... used to be object of ridicule... but now most 'progressive' nation?

Anonymous said...

"I have never understood the taboo against using poison gas or chemical weapons in war." - They are fairly horrible weapons, but also pretty useless ones against a prepared opponent. Fatalities were so low precisely because every soldier was taking special precautions and issued gas masks and so forth. Back up to the Iraq vs Iran, Iran had been accusing Iraq of using Chemical weapons since 1980, but had done nothing to prepare for their use by 1988.

"Right cause nothing says not a gangster state like relaying intelligence to a man who butchers his own people." - If they were his people, there wouldn't be a civil war there. Assad is an Alawite, not a Sunni. The reality here is that Syria is multiculturalism in action, and Obama is atleast smart enough to know that getting involved beyond "punishing" Assad for whatever the hell he really did to piss off Obama's handlers is beyond foolish and will end poorly.

pat said...

It seems to me that there are two basic stances one can take on the Syria situation.

If you harbor humanitarian reflexes and/or a belief in America's responsibility to use our great military power as a force for good in the world, you will argue for US intervention in this nasty little civil war. These are the same kind of Americans who thought we should have intervened in Uganda to stop their genocidal civil war.

The other position is that the US should sit this one out. It is basically a war between one set of unattractive combatants versus another. Neither side stands for the kind of politics or cultural values that we think of as American. These kind of Americans see Muslims killing Muslims and wonder why should we care?

Either one of these positions makes some sense. Political differences on questions like these are legitimate. If we decide to intervene there are a numbers of appropriate actions that we should begin taking right now. If we decide to not intervene we should announce that intention right now.

The problem is that President Obama in a fit of ineptitude has found a way to do just about everything wrong. He is a weak man as Putin rightly suspects. He foolishly promised to take decisive action if chemical weapons were used and now is forced by his need to preserve his own domestic and international political credibility into taking actions he doesn't want to take. He makes it worse yet by announcing that he will unleash American military might but only in a 'nice' way. There will be a demonstration only. There will be no follow up.

I can't imagine a more feckless course of action.

Albertosaurus

Matra said...

I'm sorry that Jeffery Sachs was a jerk and gave the Russians horrible advice but that wasnt that pilot or sailors fault

They volunteered to be hit men for the world's capo di tutti capi. They volunteered to fight for a government that hates them (if they're white) and is actively trying to destroy their people. If the US attacks I hope they suffer casualties. It's the only thing that's going to teach the US a lesson. Soldiers are not patriots. They are mercenaries and collaborators.

Sean said...

Syria is not like Iraq at all. The main difference is the US and its US sidekick were intent on an all out attack on Iraq, and pretended that they were not. With Syria they openly threatened to attack, but are intent on not getting seriously involved.

The US and UK governments lied to get their countries to attack Iraq. They lied that they were not set on that attack and would be willing to negotiate. And when the smashed Iraq and no WMDs were found, they said Saddam had lied about having them and said he had them when he didn't ( see Duelfer Report "Saddam deceived his own army and the best intelligence agencies in the world into believing he still had WMDs because he believed none of his enemies would dare attack him if he had WMDs." ) even though Saddam had publicly told the truth about WMDs, saying he had none.

Obama said he'd take action against Syia if they used chemical weapons. In other words, the US will have to do something now because the US can't afford for its threats to be seen as empty ones, but they are going to take token action and reluctantly; fire off a few missiles at military installations, and possibly use B-1s to bomb the Syrian air force. Thats it.

Anonymous said...

"Obama said he'd take action against Syria if they used chemical weapons. In other words, the US will have to do something now because the US can't afford for its threats to be seen as empty ones, but they are going to take token action and reluctantly; fire off a few missiles at military installations, and possibly use B-1s to bomb the Syrian air force. Thats it."

What if US/Israel fears that Assad might triumph over the rebels? US/Israel may not want crazy rebels to win, but they don't want Assad to win either. As Assad now has the upperhand, why not find some excuse to aid the rebels... not enough to make them defeat Assad but just enough to keep the war going. It's like the US and its allied aided Hussein in the 1980s just to keep the war going with Iran on and on and on. Make Muslim fight Muslim since, as long as they're fighting one another, they can't cause trouble elsewhere.

Now, who used the chemical weapons? I can't imagine Assad giving such an order. Did Rebels use it? I don't know. Or maybe the Syrian military has considerable leeway and make their own decisions, and maybe some rogue officers used it without Assad's approval. Or maybe there are units within Assad's military with secret ties with US/Israel, and they used the chemical weapons to give US/Israel a pretext for intervention.

From the lesson of Iraq, US will not invade Syria. From the example of Libya, US will not have rebels defeat Assad, as all hell will break loose and spill into other areas.
Then, the real agenda seems to be make Assad and the rebels keep fighting each other as long as possible.

Anonymous said...

Remember the Maine!

Remember the Liberty!

Anonymous said...

Amazing story.

Anonymous said...

Half the US government wants regime change. The other half doesn't.

The two sides are fighting each other.

Sean said...

A quick decisive win for Assad would require the massacre of several million Syrians, and lose him the vital support from other counties in the region. He would become a pariah and probably be invaded if he tried to exterminating millions.

Assad doesn't look like he is on the verge of achieving anything beyond a stalemate, so the point is moot. But yes, a covert operation as 'Faster Please' Ledeen has just advocated is possible.

I think that the Israel lobby will use Iranian support for Assad to walk the US into a real all out attack on Iran.

Iran will be said to be so threatening to Israel, it's the main obstacle to a solution to the Palestinians being given concessions by Israel, the Iraq factions ceasing fire, and the end of the civil war in Syria (Ledeen is saying that already). Iran is going to be smashed

Orlando said...

“What if US/Israel fears that Assad might triumph over the rebels? US/Israel may not want crazy rebels to win, but they don't want Assad to win either. As Assad now has the upperhand, why not find some excuse to aid the rebels... not enough to make them defeat Assad but just enough to keep the war going. It's like the US and its allied aided Hussein in the 1980s just to keep the war going with Iran on and on and on. Make Muslim fight Muslim since, as long as they're fighting one another, they can't cause trouble elsewhere.”

Israel is not that short sighted. It was actually leery of protracted I/I war. They envisioned the winner (they bet on Iraq) emerging from it with big army led by experienced officers. Also, when Syrian war was just starting, Israel was openly against it, preferring known danger to uncertainty. Same goes for Egypt´s Mubarak.

Anonymous said...

I have never understood the taboo against using poison gas or chemical weapons in war. A weapon is a weapon and its purpose is essentially the same. Why is it 'okay' to kill with grenades, bombs, missiles, guns, bayonets, and a million other things but wrong to kill with gas and chemical weapons?

It's like nukes. To a degree, it not only levels the battlefield, but also has the potential to escalate it to a catastrophic level especially if used in areas with civilians. If you have a dominant conventional military, why would you want to level the playing field?

Anonymous said...

Yes, but we do know that he had no scruples about using Atomic bombs, had Germany invented them first.
And he would have. Until he decisively won the war.
End of story.


That's what FDR and the US actually did.

Anonymous said...

A quick decisive win for Assad would require the massacre of several million Syrians, and lose him the vital support from other counties in the region.

Whose news are you following? The SAA not only turned the tide a few months ago, but was on the verge of complete domination. That's when all of this "chemical weapons", shelling Turkey, and threatening Israel propaganda became so prevalent in western media.

Sean said...

Assad is figurehead of a tiny sect that have burned their bridges with the majority, the demographics make it impossible for him to go back to running the country as he did. But he can't offer the opposition a foothold in government and the armed forces because he is too weak demographically to compromise and let the opposition get power they could easily use to stage another uprising and win. The chemical attack might have been an attempt to see if he would be allowed to simply eliminate the problem parts of the population en mass with gas. From the US reaction to the use of nerve gas, Assad now knows now he is not going to be allowed to slaughter the rebel population on the vast scale that would be required for a final victory.

Assad can do nothing now, except try to keep a rolling battle of attrition going without any hope of an ultimate solution.

Anonymous said...

"Also, when Syrian war was just starting, Israel was openly against it, preferring known danger to uncertainty."

Then Israel should have backed Assad to quickly suppress the rebellion but instead Israel, through AIPAC, pressured US to aid the rebels. Without outside interference, this war would have been over long ago.

Also, it's not true that Israel wants peace in its neighboring countries. Israel instigated much of the internecine fighting in Lebanon in the 1980s.
It's the old rule of 'make barbarian right barbarian', and of course, the stupid Arabs seem always to oblige.

Anonymous said...

Back in the 60s there was a lot of talk about how if we only knew each other, war and hate and bad stuff would disappear. But the USAF experience at Poltava might be instructive:

"...all sources agree that the Americans initially received excellent cooperation from the Red Air Force and from the local population, and that obstructions were the work of the Soviet political structure. Ukrainian local women worked extremely hard on completing the base, and initially associated freely with American servicemen. ...

The American experience at Poltava informed a generation of USAF officers about the Soviet Union, in many ways precipitating the Cold War well before the political leadership gave up on trying to work with the Soviets. ..."




Sounds like there's the making for a good movie or book somewhere in there.

Anonymous said...

Even if not used, the presence of chemical or biological weapons changes a lot of things. It's just difficult to fight effectively while wearing full CBW protective gear (gas masks alone aren't sufficient, you need to be completely enclosed in one of those "hazard suits").

Would the Bat Bomb have been considered a biological weapon? I'd guess not.



But the E77 balloon bomb would have been. Apparently based on Japanese intercontinental balloon bombs. It takes special high-altitude "weather balloons" about a month, typically, to circumnavigate the globe, if things go well and they can maintain the right altitude. The Japanese conducted the first intercontinental bombing campaign in WWII against the US, with some 9,300 balloon launched and at least hundreds landing in the US and Canada, as far east as Detroit.

There was a real fear of balloon bombs deploying biological weapons. The US and the news media completely hushed it all up to keep the Japanese from learning about the range, etc., of the balloons (and institutionalized smoke-jumping to fight the fires started in forests). You've got to wonder if some UFO incidents are based on balloon bombs armed with incendiaries (and maybe some of the men-in-black stuff based on the institutional, plus media, cover-up?):

"... based on the design for the World War II Japanese bomb... ... the E77 represented one-sixth of all U.S. biological munitions efforts. The E77 was designated a "strategic weapon" and readied for deployment ...

... The E77 was an anti-crop munition, designed to disseminate anti-crop agents, such as wheat stem rust.[2] The balloon bomb employed a dissemination method similar to that of the M115 anti-crop bomb, or "feather bomb".[1] This dissemination method combined a culture of anti-crop agent with a light-weight vector, in this case: feathers.[3]"

Bill said...

Also, it's not true that Israel wants peace in its neighboring countries. Israel instigated much of the internecine fighting in Lebanon in the 1980s.

-anonymous


I don't agree that "Israel" doesn't want peace with neighboring countries, if you mean by Israel the entire nation.

Israelis are pretty much normal people. It is really their sociopathic politicians who play this game, which is far from unique in world history. The Normans did it in France and Palestine a thousand years ago. In Ireland and Sri Lanka more recently. And many other places.

Israeli hawks are playing a dangerous game. Israeli people, I think, favor some restraint. Assad is not a friend of Israel, but he's a known quantity. Holding the Golan Heights ought to be enough for security's sake. Attacking Syria to stick it to Iran is a strategically dumb move, and bad for Jews if you take the entire global context into account.

As an American Christian, maybe I shouldn't care, but I kind of like the idea of being able to visit a Holy Land that isn't dominated by howling Sunni jihadis who burn churches with great delight. Assad is far better than the alternative in that regard.

Anonymous said...

In the extensive interviews by Allied interrogators leading up to the Nuremberg trials, Hermann Goering was asked why Germany never used its extensive chemical weapons stocks. He was able to answer in two words:

Die Pferde. (The horses.)

Contrary to the standard popular conception of German motorized blitzkrieg, German forces, because they were extremely short of motor fuel, used horse-drawn transport whenever possible. In fact, more of their materiel moving by road went by horse-drawn transport than motor transport.

Horses cannot be protected from gas attack; at least, not and still be used. Goering stated that if a horse's breathing is interfered with (as by a gas mask) the horse lies down and refuses to work.

If the Germans had used gas, the Allies would have retaliated, and the German forces would have been immobilized. Or so Goering claimed their logic went.

Anonymous said...

Contrary to the standard popular conception of German motorized blitzkrieg, German forces, because they were extremely short of motor fuel, used horse-drawn transport whenever possible.

It's more accurate to say they used mechanized forces to the extent they could get vehicles and fuel.

The mechanized portion of the German army was always the smaller part. But it was concentrated in a few units that actually implemented the blitzkrieg concept, while the foot and horse drawn infantry followed up.

Auntie Analogue said...


Gas (and germ weapons, and even some nuclear weapons) are not offensive or defensive weapons. The military classifies them as Area Denial Weapons whose purpose is to seal off enemy forces from using portions of a battlefield or front, and thus to create favorable temporary local advangtages for the operations of friendly forces. This includes not having one's own - friendly - forces not having to don cumbersome protective gear. Area Denial also can extend into an enemy's rear areas to prevent or hinder enemy reinforcement and resupply of his front line forces. These weapons are not necessarily intended to kill enemy combatants, but to incapacitate enemy forces by denying them access to and operations in the agent-attacked area, which then enables the force that launched these weapons to exploit the opportunities to mass conventional firepower and execute maneuver opened up to them by these weapons.

Wilfred Owen's searing First World War poem captures the horror of gas attack:

DULCE ET DECORUM EST

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.
Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime . . .
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.

Anonymous said...

Cochran's full of it as usual. Do people still read him? He just spouts BS nonstop.

Difference Maker said...

" Cochran's full of it as usual. Do people still read him? He just spouts BS nonstop. "

^ Mad

Orlando said...

“Then Israel should have backed Assad to quickly suppress the rebellion but instead Israel, through AIPAC, pressured US to aid the rebels. Without outside interference, this war would have been over long ago.”

A week or a month after it started, it was a different war. Actually, it wasn´t even war, it was uprising. After success of Arabian Spring, it was wise to believe it will be over soon. Also, Libyan scenario was useless with strong Syrian AF and Air defences. It was probably safe to believe for Russians changing sides to preserve their naval base. Well, Putin saw it wiser to use this crisis for domestic purposes –presidential campaign etc. Made it less costly for Chinese to follow the suit. Generally, after couple of months of ethnic warfare, civil war becomes usually inevitable. My personal angle is that Bashar just wanted to prevent the social death of his family, being used to adoration especially by leftist French media. He was offered asylum by likes of Venezuela. But after cumulative effects of his and his father rule, he knew that revenge would finally catch up with him and/or his family. Be a leader of a fighting side in a civil war is much preferable as face saver under the circumstances.

“Also, it's not true that Israel wants peace in its neighboring countries. Israel instigated much of the internecine fighting in Lebanon in the 1980s”.

Lebanon is not really serious thread to Israel security as a state, not with no central government to speak about. To support its allies in the country to check Hezbolah was basically a proxy war with Iran.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of area denial weapons I seem to recall from somewhere that one of the original missions of the Scud was to deny Western forces the use of Western airbases (by saturating the bases with long-lasting chemical agents).

This is the heavily exported and widely used intermediate-range mobile ballistic missile (second only to the V-2 in actual combat launches). Syria's got a bunch and has likely used them a few times; it was Scuds that Saddam used against Israel, etc.. The Syrians have apparently been dispersing theirs in expectation of an attack.


"The Scud SS-1 medium range ballistic missiles are battlefield support weapons designed to strike at targets such as marshalling areas, major storage dumps and airfields behind enemy lines. Warheads can be nuclear, chemical (persistent) or conventional HE..."

Sean said...

Cochran is oracular, but on his own special subjects he is always worth listening to.

In view of the way reasoned critique by non-Israel lobby experts was ignored over the invasion of Iraq, Cochran may think BS is the only way stop an invasion of Syria.

It is not obvious why the rebels would have piles of nerve gas; it is less effective than high explosive unless used on a massive scale, and they lack delivery systems. Assad is at war with the population of entire neighborhoods, and if he could get away with using it, Sarin would be very useful.

Anonymous said...

"My dear Kibernetika, your assertion that "[E]ven Hitler declined using chemical weapons/nerve agents (sarin, etc.), for fear of reciprocity," seems to overlook Hitler's prodigious deployment of Zyklon B."

Although Zyklon B was not "weaponized" for field use. This use was more akin to mass-produced execution chambers. And it's worth noting that it's use was kept secret from other combatants. Also, many gas chambers simply used carbon monoxide, achieved by simply hooking the exhaust from a truck into the gas chamber. And nobody considers trucks weapons of mass destruction (unless you drive these days, but I digress).

The Nazi's probably refrained from using chemical weapons because they had some nasty stuff (the type that can kill you (or anything else) if it comes in contact with your skin) and were not sure if the Allies had similar agents. By the time things got bad enough for them that they might have considered chemical warfare, they had to worry about an "Agent Orange" style program against them, but much worse.

Back in the days before radar, all militaries had considerable experience with large smoke screens, including air-laid smoke screens...

Anonymous said...

International treaties forbidding use of gas, torture, dum dum bullets, cruel treatment of prisoners etc. arose when Western country fought Western country and thought they could leave civilians out of the fight and settle matters without barbarity. They are like jousting rules, and they arise from the exact same mentality. They were peculiar to their time. They have nothing to do with reality as it exists now. Does anyone think that if Al Qaeda terrorists, financed by wealthy Gulf Arabs (they are) got hold of a chemical weapon they would even think twice about the "prohibition" - whether Obama bombs Syria or not. The only thing preventing a chemical attack on Israel, right now, is fear of Israeli nuclear retaliation. These rules are nonsense. The only think the West should be thinking about is how to keep these barbarians fighting each other and not arriving on our shores.

Anonymous said...

"Assad is figurehead of a tiny sect that have burned their bridges with the majority, the demographics make it impossible for him to go back to running the country as he did...Assad can do nothing now, except try to keep a rolling battle of attrition going without any hope of an ultimate solution."

Wrong in every way.

Assad got reinforcements from Hezbollah and started winning - hence the bogus chemical attack to draw US forces in.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting comment on the horses and the lack of motorized mobility in the German army as one reason the Germans did not use gas. Are there any cites or references to this?

Anonymous said...

Didn't US use torture in the War on Terror? What about Abu Grab? Maybe US should be punished too for its crimes.

Sean said...

Using foreigners to fight is hardly a sign that Assad has things under control. Assad is hardly winning when his presidential compound is mortared and there are whole neighborhoods of Damascus in open revolt. The Assad regime's no1 priority is to prevent US intervention and their forces have used nerve gas, which is probably a sign that Assad's command and control is breaking down.

Anonymous said...

http://www.mintpressnews.com/witnesses-of-gas-attack-say-saudis-supplied-rebels-with-chemical-weapons/168135/

Don't know whom to trust anymore.

Sean said...

"U.S. spies certain Assad used nerve gas 'after intercepting phone call from panicking Syrian defence chief demanding an explanation from its chemical weapon military unit'"

The US is sayings that the nerve gas attack was not completely authorized at the top level. Does that sound like the US are spinning it into a excuse to invade? It's like I said before this is totally different from Iraq. The only ones arguing for meaningful intervention are tender-minded women.

"Stephen M Walt:' I find it interesting that some of the most hawkish voices on Syria have been women (e.g., Anne-Marie Slaughter, Samantha Power, Susan Rice, Hillary Clinton).'"

Anonymous said...

Dog of war in the fog of war.

Anonymous said...

"Stephen M Walt:' I find it interesting that some of the most hawkish voices on Syria have been women (e.g., Anne-Marie Slaughter, Samantha Power, Susan Rice, Hillary Clinton).'"

Maybe women wanna show they got balls too. Or maybe it's their maternal instinct to embrace and save humanity from the abuse of nasty male leaders.
Or maybe they are just whores who wanna serve the powerful studs of AIPAC.

Anonymous said...

http://www.haaretz.com/blogs/west-of-eden/former-bush-administration-official-israel-may-be-behind-use-of-chemical-arms-in-syria.premium-1.519172

Getting ever more surreal.

One thing for sure, while serving under Bush and Powell, I'm sure he observed but had to keep mum about much neocon and Zionist duplicity.
Complicity with the duplicity.
Maybe he's just about had enough.

Anonymous said...

"Polls: Israelis want US, Europe to attack Syria, but against IDF intervention"

http://www.jpost.com/National-News/Polls-Israelis-want-US-Europe-to-attack-Syria-but-against-IDF-intervention-324787

"The US and European countries should attack Syria, but Israel should not be involved in the assault, two polls in weekend Hebrew newspapers found.

While polls in the US and United Kingdom have found overwhelming opposition to their countries attacking Syria, a Gal Hadash poll published in Israel Hayom found that 66.6 percent of respondents would be in favor of American and European military intervention in Syria.

Only 17% opposed a US/EU strike and 16.4% did not know."

Sean said...

You shoot the guy with the shotgun first right? AIPAC want to take out the most dangerous enemy first--Iran first. And they are going to, rely on it.

Anonymous said...

About horse use in the German army during WWII:

"The WWII German Army was 80% Horse Drawn; Business Lessons from History":

"Not many people know that the greatest use of horses in any military conflict in history was by the Germans in WWII: 80% of their entire transport was equestrian. ... the day to day mechanics of that fighting force involved an average of 1.1 million horses throughout the war. Of the 322 German divisions in the middle of the war - 1943 - only 52 were armored or motorized."


"German Army entered World War II with 514,000 horses,[13] and over the course of the war employed, in total, 2.75 million horses and mules;[16] average number of horses in the Army reached 1.1 million.[26]

...Supply train of a 1943 German infantry division employed 256 trucks and 2,652 horses attended by 4,047 men,[41] other divisional configurations had up to 6,300 horses..."



Famous pics of poor horsies in the mud and in the snow.


The Soviets had more Studebaker and Dodge trucks.

Horses can be fitted with gas masks (which often didn't protect the eyes). By WWII chemical agents existed that required "full body" protection. That makes getting rid of heat a life-and-death problem that I think has never really been solved and I would imagine is/was realistically an insurmountable problem for horses or horse-draw military units.

Anonymous said...

"Don't know whom to trust anymore."

Start with not tusting the neocons and then work outwards - but always start with the neocons.

.

"The US is sayings that the nerve gas attack was not completely authorized at the top level. Does that sound like the US are spinning it into a excuse to invade?"

Yes. They had no evidence apart from these phone calls and didn't stop to think that they were actually evidence for the opposite of what they trying to prove.

.

"AIPAC want to take out the most dangerous enemy first--Iran first. And they are going to, rely on it."

Except that's the opposite of what is happening. They're trying to take out all the countries adjacent to Israel first - then Iran last.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting comment on the horses and the lack of motorized mobility in the German army as one reason the Germans did not use gas. Are there any cites or references to this?

The debriefing of Goering is recounted in Of Spies and Strategems by Stanley
Lovell, who was head of Research and Development at the OSS. 'Wild Bill' Donovan called Lovell his "Professor Moriarty".

Anonymous said...

France seems to be onboard.

Frog of War.

Anonymous said...

From the aforementioned book by Lovell:

When discussing gas warfare, there's always the question raised, why wasn't it used in World War II? Doesn't the fact that neither side employed it prove that where two warring nations have a powerful weapon in equal strength, then neither will use it? Doesn't it have a parallel in the present nuclear bomb stalemate where both the USSR and the USA can destroy each other, so neither will?
Gas was withheld neither because of humanitarian reasons or because we feared retaliation. Let's dismiss the argument that gas was not employed because it was too inhumane and horrible. The fact is, the sole business of war is to kill, slaughter, maim and incapacitate human beings. Once war is declared, to reason is treason. Start killing and a soldier who kills twenty-eight Germans is rewarded twenty-eight fold over the soldier who kills only one. And, oddly enough, gas warfare need not kill your enemy. It may be far smarter to use a gas that bewilders him so that, for an hour or more, he simply can't think. Perhaps best of all would be to employ a gas which completely although temporarily removes the thin veneer of civilization which overlays the troglodyte in all of us. For the first time since Cain killed Abel this would make warfare highly amusing. Khrushchev and his shoe-banging would be trivial compared to what most private soldiers would do to their officer corps.
We knew the Germans had large stores of Gas Blau, the nerve gas that reacts with cholinesterase to disrupt bodily nerve messages. Symptoms proceed from vomiting to convulsions and death. Why didn't Hitler use it at the Normandy landings, June 6, 1944?
At the time of the War Trials1 at Nuremberg, General Donovan was asked to submit questions to the German leaders, although the O.S.S. no longer existed. Gen. Donovan asked me if I had any ideas. I suggested "Why no nerve gas at Normandy?'' and directed it to Marshal Goering. The transcript of the interview, which was made, I believe, two days before he crunched the cyanide capsule that ended his fantastic life, can be paraphrased as follows:
Q. We know you had Gas Blau which would have stopped the Normandy invasion. Why didn't you use it?
A. Die Pferde (the horses).
Q. What have horses to do with it?
A. Everything. A horse lies down in the shafts or between the thills as soon as his breathing is restricted. We never have had a gas mask a horse would tolerate.
Q. What has that to do with Normandy?
A. We did not have enough gasoline to adequately supply the German Air Force and the Panzer Divisions, so we used horse transport in all operations. You must have known that the first thing we did in Poland, France, everywhere, was to seize the horses. All our materiel was horse drawn. Had we used gas you would have retaliated and you would have instantly immobilized us.
Q. Was it that serious, Marshal?
A. I tell you, you would have won the war years ago if you had used gas not on our soldiers, but on our transportation system. Your intelligence men are asses!

Anonymous said...

For what it's worth, the claim is that Syria has over 600 North Korean designed Hwasong-6 missiles (a Scud variant designed with chemical warheads in mind). Most may have been manufactured in Syria, under license, with Chinese assistance. There are also around 1000 Iranian tactical ballistic missiles, about 300 of which are probably Scud variants.

Syria is thought to have the world's 3rd largest number of chemical weapons, and "reportedly manufactures Sarin, Tabun, VX, and mustard gas types of chemical weapons. A 2007 assessment indicated that Syria is capable of producing several hundred tons of chemical weapon agents per year." Of course, that was before the civil war.


Syria never signed the ban on chemical weapons. It is likely that Assad and Syria resorted to a strategy based on large numbers of missiles with chemical warheads because they could not otherwise obtain military parity with Israel and counter Israel's nuclear weapons. As it turns out, chemical weapons might be more useful than nukes, because, as hard as they are to use, they actually can be used. Easier to scale appropriately, and all that.

Sean said...

Anon, You have forgotten why Iraq was invaded. The neocons led by Wolfowitz, came up with the ideal of smashing the Iraqi state after 9/11. But the lies were not just about WMDs. The really important one was Saddam was working with AlQaeda. Remember Bush & co repeatedly lying about that?
Bush Gang Swore Saddam was Behind 9/11 in Lawsuit

"The agency, called the Office of Special Plans (OSP), was set up by the defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, to second-guess CIA information and operated under the patronage of hardline conservatives in the top rungs of the administration, the Pentagon and at the White House, including Vice-President Dick Cheney.

The ideologically driven network functioned like a shadow government, much of it off the official payroll and beyond congressional oversight. But it proved powerful enough to prevail in a struggle with the State Department and the CIA by establishing a justification for war." [see, it wasn't the CIA]

Obama is going to order a smack on the wrist against fixed installations and assets of the Assad regime, nothing more. Obama doesn't know it yet, but he is going to order a massive sustained airstrike which will topple Iran.

Nazi nerve gas. After France, Hitler alone determined how Germany fought the war. The German general Hermann Hoth didn't seem to think they lacked mobility, he wanted to close the initial pocket of Barbarossa at Smolensk, 700 kilometers inside the Soviet Union. Hitler had a siege mentality and thought in terms of capturing resources. His generals knew better, they wanted to destroy the bulk of the Soviet army by going straight for Moscow which the Soviets would have to defend.

The V weapons could have had a big effect on the invasion, if they had been concentrated on the invasion ports of England or the Normandy landing zones. Air defenses got V1s as they over England on their way to London. The ones that came over the channel immediately diving on their targets like Portsmouth were far more difficult to counter.

Syrian has clunky outdated Soviet junk. Chemical weapons require artillery or an air-force to deliver them, TONS of them, just like explosives except more so. To kill X amount of troops you need to use more weight of chemical weapons than what it would take in explosive. Unless they are totally lacking in NBC protection. Israel isn't a country that uses masses of infantry without NBC protection.

Anonymous said...

Sean,

Your assertion that the Israel lobby doesn't want to attack Syria because it wants to attack Iran doesn't follow. The fact that it wants to attack Iran doesn't imply that it doesn't want to attack Syria. The fact that it wants to attack Iran is consistent with the claim that it wants to attack Syria.

And a recent article suggests that AIPAC does want to attack Syria in order to weaken Iran:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/03/world/middleeast/syria.html

" Administration officials said the influential pro-Israel lobby group Aipac was already at work pressing for military action against the government of Mr. Assad, fearing that if Syria escapes American retribution for its use of chemical weapons, Iran might be emboldened in the future to attack Israel. In the House, the majority leader, Eric Cantor of Virginia, the only Jewish Republican in Congress, has long worked to challenge Democrats’ traditional base among Jews.

One administration official, who, like others, declined to be identified discussing White House strategy, called Aipac “the 800-pound gorilla in the room,” and said its allies in Congress had to be saying, “If the White House is not capable of enforcing this red line” against the catastrophic use of chemical weapons, “we’re in trouble.” "

Anonymous said...

The really important one was Saddam was working with AlQaeda. Remember Bush & co repeatedly lying about that?

Nope. The causus belli are laid out in the Authorization for the Use of Military Force that Congress voted on and approved. Iraqi involvement in 9/11 is not mentioned.

Anonymous said...

"Syrian has clunky outdated Soviet junk."

Maybe, maybe not.

Syria has over 600 Iranian Fateh-110 missiles with a range over 300 km, these can probably target most of Israel. Regardless of Israeli CW prowess, they apparently had a fit about the possibility of some of them falling into the hands of Hezbollah:

"Israel said that it would not tolerate "game changing weapons" falling into the hands of the Hezbollah."

If the Israelis call it a game-changer, perhaps it is.

Syria may have (or might not) some 100 SS-26s. These are brand new Russian missiles; Syria had them on order. Some source claim they have at least 25. These have a range around 200-250 miles. These are not your ol'Soviet Scuds: "...follows a quasi-ballistic path, performing evasive maneuvers in the terminal phase of flight and releasing decoys... ...never leaves the atmosphere as it follows a relatively flat trajectory. ... can pull up to 20 to 30 G to evade anti-ballistic missiles..."

I think Syria adopted it's missile-born CW warfare strategy decades ago and it seems to have been largely successful. None of this is anything new. Perhaps the SS-26s, if they are there. The strategy seems to have resulted in much different relations between Israel and Syria than, say, Israel and Lebanon. Syria has been relying on their CW missiles as a counter to Israel for a good while. The strategy has, roughly, kept the peace. They even stole a page from the old Cold War playbook:

"Syria is reported to have constructed a network of tunnels throughout the country to conceal its arsenal of ballistic missiles..."

Sean said...

OFFICIAL causus belli, notwithstanding, Bush and Cheney are on record as having linked Iraq to 9/11. Iraq was presented as defence against world WMD terrorism, and Bush made quite clear there was a connection in his mind, see Mission Accomplished speech.


When the US goes after Iran the official rationale for the US attack on Iran will be something about nuclear weapons, but it will be sold to the public as pre-empting or preventing an attack on the US, just like Iraq was.

A slap on the wrist missile attack against Syria is very different to a war for regime change against Syria. An minor attack is all that is going to happen, because the strategists steering the US defence policy to help Israel do not want the US to get involved in a war for regime change against Syria. They are thinking a couple of moves ahead. If you read Ledeen here you will see that he is worried Obama is cooking up a deal to come to terms with Iran, with ousting Assad as the price of letting Iran off the hook. Ledeen wants an attack, but definately not a full scale war. Militarily it would be simple for the US to overthrow Asadd, but politically there could not be a war against for years after the US overthrew the Assad regime in Syria.

Israel is not worried about any weapons possessed by Syria (or Iran) being given to Hezbollah just like it wasn't worried about Iraq's weapons. During the 2006 Lebanon War the US intelligence sources privately told a reporter that the Israelis were deliberately leaving rocket launchers of Hezbollah alone so the rockets hitting Israel would continue to give them an excuse for blasting southern Lebanon.

Dictators in Arab countries try to be more popular with their neighboring states by espousing the cause of the Palestinians. The threat to Israels existence is from the Palestinians' claim on the occupied territories, and having a powerful backer like Iraq or Iran make the Palestinians keep to their demand for a meaningful state; that is a demand Israel can never give in to because they have settled the occupied territories. It was Iraq's backing for the Palestinians that got Iraq smashed, just like it is Iran's backing for the Palestinians that is going to get Iran smashed.

Sean said...

There probably are no piles of Sarin, its made as a seperate compounds that can be easily mixed into the actual weapon. So the harmless ingredients can be stored and mixed up as needed, the release of weapon-sarin would be unlikely. Moreover, even if they have a store of ready mixed sarin (or the unmixed ingredients stored in the same place) the US has special weapons that could rupture the containers and burn it up.
How the U.S. Could Take Out Syria’s Chemical Weapons.

The US has plans in the file for just about any contingency. (I would not be surprised if there was even one for a nuclear strike on Britain)