VX in Syria; A Vexing Question

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The Telegraph reports, in an article on the fight for the Al-Safirah chemical facility:

The Syrian regime’s chemical warchest is indeed vast – the biggest in the Middle East, and the fourth largest in the world. Started in the 1970s ranks with help from Syria’s Cold War sponsor, Russia, today its programme includes facilities for making mustard gas, sarin and another nerve agent, VX, which stays lethal for much longer after dispersal.

Of course, this is not the first revelation that Assad’s chemical inventory contained VX.  Former Syrian Army Chemical Officer MajGen Adnan Sillou discussed the matter in a December 2012 interview:

He listed mustard gas along with the sarin, VX and tabun nerve agents as the main elements in Syria’s chemical arsenal, whose existence Syria doesn’t even acknowledge.

Despite the anguished cries of the Bush-haters, the question of VX in Syria is a vexing one for the “no chemical weapons in Iraq” crowd.   Only four countries have ever been known to produce VX; Great Britain, where it was discovered/invented, the United States, the Soviet Union, and Iraq.

So, how did VX end up in Basher Al-Assad’s arsenal?  One of two ways, it would seem, or some combination thereof.  It was either provided by what the Telegraph calls Syria’s “Cold War sponsor” (the Soviet Union, not Russia), or it came from Syria’s southeastern neighbor, Saddam’s Iraq.   Or both.

Methinks that the VX stockpiles have MAKSIM‘s fingerprints all over them.  The presence of a KGB General in Iraq in the months leading up to the US invasion cannot plausibly be explained by casting him as an “adviser”.    Primakov had intimate knowledge of Iraq’s chemical capabilties, and would have been in an ideal position to help remove Saddam’s remaining stockpile, along with evidence of Soviet/Russian culpability.

Another alternative is the possibility that the Soviet Union (or Russia post-1991) provided Syria with VX directly.    Were that the case, the likelihood that the Soviets/Russians did the same with Iraq (or provided technical assistance to manufacture) increases dramatically.

Perhaps this is one of the reasons that Putin’s Russia has remained in the protector role of Assad in Syria, far and above that which would logically attend a regime on such shaky ground internally.   And would explain Primakov’s presence in Iraq in the months leading up to the US invasion.

In either case, those who refuse to acknowledge Syria’s possession of VX, the most lethal of nerve agents, and by far the most difficult to produce, have to do some soul searching.   It might serve them well to search all the way back to 2003.

Blue is True

On the M47 Dragon anti-tank missile system, each missile round had a humidity indicator. Army missiles spend most of their lives in storage, waiting either to be used in war or training. They have a shelf life of roughly 10 years. After a while, moisture is sure to work its way in, and cause corrosion, and otherwise degrade the missile. And so, the humidity indicator. A simple little plastic window. As a part of the pre-fire check-list, the shooter was supposed to look at the paper strip indicator in the window, and ensure the missile was still within acceptable limits. The strip would show one of three colors, blue, white, or pink. Blue meant there was little or no moisture in the missile, and presumably, the round was servicable. White indicated some moisture, and pink indicated an unacceptable level of moisture.

As a mnemonic device, soldiers were taught the following:

Blue is true= the round is servicable.

White is tight= acceptable for emergency use

Pink stinks= round is unserviceable, and should be turned in to Ordnance.

But here’s the thing. Missiles are pretty damn expensive. The Army tries to come up with as many alternative training methods besides shooting missiles to train missile gunners. But eventually, some level of live fire training has to be done. So, if you’re going to shoot live missiles, why not shoot those missiles that have been on the shelf the longest.

I’ve done a couple of Dragon missile live fires. And every single round we drew to shoot had pink.

Most of them worked.

Most.

Oh, they all left the tube.

But when a wire breaks (on a wire guided missile) and the high explosive warhead equipped missile decides to travel vertically, rather than horizontally, there’s a few tense moments while you wait for the “boom”. Since, you’re standing right under where it decided to go vertical.

The Ice Age Cometh!

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Second Coldest Start To Spring In US History

It wasn’t just my imagination.  Behold, from Steven Goddard’s Real Science post.

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Huh.  To show how significant this catastrophe is, all one has to do is “AlGorify” the data.  (Not to be confused with “algorithm”, which could lend some statistical validity to the process.)

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So, there’s where next year’s spring temperatures will be come the end of April.  Just a little above freezing.   2015?   Frozen solid.   Anthropomorphic?  I dunno.  And I am also confused by what to do about it.   When the coldest spring of 1975 happened, we were told that we needed to stifle industry and redistribute wealth to the Third World (and Environmentalists’ pockets) to keep the world from freezing.    THEN we were told that we needed to stifle industry and redistribute wealth to the Third World (and the pockets of those same Environmentalists) to keep the world from roasting to oblivion.

I can’t for the life of me understand why 0.00000000035%  of the data is not conclusive.    Even though it was unevenly collected with a wide variety of instruments and methods.   But hey, it is “settled science”, innit?   Like predicting Presidential election results by counting four tenths of a vote.

Obama’s Syria Intervention Talk: An Echo of Bush

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“I think that in many ways a line’s been crossed when we see tens of thousands of innocent people killed by a regime, but the use of chemical weapons and the danger that is poses to the international community, to neighbors of Syria, the potential of chemical weapons to get into the hands of terrorists, all of those things add increased urgency to what is already a significant security problem and humanitarian problem in the region,” Obama told reporters.

So the hundreds of thousands of innocent people being killed by a regime, the use of chemical weapons, the potential for chemical weapons to get in the hands of terrorists, ARE considerations for military intervention?    Could we say as a counter, perhaps, that Bashar al-Assad poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to his neighbors…and that in concert with the international community he can be contained until, in the way of all petty dictators, he falls away into the dustbin of history?

Yes, indeed we could.  I am not advocating for or against intervention in Syria, though I would be curious to know whom we believe we would ally with, and whom against, and just what we could accomplish given the active opposition of Putin’s Russia (not least because of the possibility of Russian fingerprints on Syria’s chemical stockpile, and on a chemical stockpile of Iraqi origin).

It seems that President Obama’s “student union view” of the world and how it works has once again collided head-on with reality.    The “game-changer” bandied about so often of late has already happened.   The world, our allies, and our adversaries, will see what comes next.    Will we see the Obama who condemned his predecessor for Iraq?  Or the Obama whose tough talk regarding Syria is a virtual echo of that predecessor?  Has he the statesmanship and foreign policy acumen to act decisively and effectively?   Considering the string of diplomatic failures punctuated by the Benghazi catastrophe and the ineffectual confrontation with the DPRK, I am not terribly hopeful.

Saturday Links and Stuff

Last night’s Name that Plane was the Westland Welkin. Rather an interesting plane, in that it was built almost exclusively to counter another relatively obscure plane, the Junkers Ju86. The Ju86 was itself an oddity, in that it was diesel powered. Something of a failure as a bomber, it did, however, have fantastic high altitude capability, which made it a good reconnaissance platform.

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Your weekly dose of Steyn, of course.

One of the most ingenious and effective strategies of the Left on any number of topics is to frame the debate and co-opt the language so effectively that it becomes all but impossible even to discuss the subject honestly.

Jeff Goldstein at Protein Wisdom has for years railed against the Left’s use of linguistics to constrain the discussion of any topic in ways that preordain the outcome of any debate.

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Zombie cookies?

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Stolen from Gruntworks:

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If I get around to downloading the pics, we may have some Caturday today.

IBD takes note of Mayor Bloomberg’s disdain of the Constitution

Both URR and I noted the appalling statement of New York Mayor Bloomberg that in the wake of what was frankly, a rather minor incident, we need to begin to interpret the Constitution not based on what it plainly says, but in terms of how to allow him to do whatever he wishes.

Comes now Investors Business Daily taking note of the same issue.

More frightening than his statement is the nagging fact that the public has not risen up in opposition to his declaration. A free nation should respond to such a crude threat to its liberties with righteous anger.

But we’re not such a free nation anymore. Long ago much of the country changed its interpretation of the Constitution. To many now, it simply means what they want it to mean, not what it actually says.

Limits have been ignored, federalism evaded, wealth seized and redistributed, property confiscated, private affairs invaded and businesses subjugated. Yes, we’ve even endured swarms of federal officers harassing our people, and eating out our substance.

These acts were done, however, quietly and gradually. No one announced that the Constitution was going to be violated, that our liberty would be infringed upon.

We live today with a level of arbitrary government intrusion in our lives that far, far exceeds those grievances that lead our forefathers to rise up against George III. 

Of course, for the most part, politicians have just given the voting public what they’ve asked for.  I think it is fair to say that society today is more complex than in the past. And some greater level of government intrusion into society, a greater level of government complexity,  is probably necessary.

But quite plainly, the growth of government has long outstripped the growth of our society, and has become Leviathan. This is not simply the act of Bloomberg or Obama (or Bush). This has been a long, gradual, but virtually unchecked, process of accretion.

We are not anti-government. Some government is needed for a civil society to function. “That government is best which governs least” acknowledges that some government is needed.  But the sheer volume of government is incredible. I can’t even tell you how many political entities I reside in. Sure, I live in the nation, a particular state, and a county, and even a specific city. But I’m also within a school district (which, having elective offices, is a political entity), a water district, an economic development region and who knows what else. And each and every one of these entities has some more or less significant power to shape the course of my life.

In the past, politicians at least had the courtesy to pretend to find some justification  or constitutional authority for their actions.

‘Take Your Fobbit To Work Day’ Ends In Newfound Respect, 27 Wounded In Action | The Duffel Blog

Pentagon sources were proud to announce the success of a new, yearly event which allowed Fobbits — service-members who spend their entire tour on Forward Operating Base — the opportunity to venture out into Afghanistan alongside combat units.

“I was super excited when I first found out,” said Specialist Jimmy McNulty, a finance soldier. “I’d spent months in my guard tower wondering what was out there. I couldn’t wait to finally ‘get some’. You know, when I got home and told a girl in a bar about the one time I left the wire.”

via ‘Take Your Fobbit To Work Day’ Ends In Newfound Respect, 27 Wounded In Action | The Duffel Blog.

Holder Calls Citizenship for Illegal Aliens “Civil Right”

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Eric Holder’s latest copy of the Bill of Rights, w/CH 1, as we say in the Corps.

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Amendment II

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Amendment III

No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

Amendment IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Amendment V

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Amendment VI

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.

Amendment VII

In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

Amendment VIII

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Amendment IX

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Amendment X

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

Add:

Creating a pathway to earned citizenship for the 11 million unauthorized immigrants in this country is essential. The way we treat our friends and neighbors who are undocumented… This is a matter of civil and human rights.   (Except for the ones killed with Fast and Furious weapons)