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« "The most dangerous Negro of the future" | Main | Obama vs. Mearscheimer »

August 28, 2013


Peter G

Damn good question. I begin to doubt your faith in American exceptionalism.


Considering our involvement with Iraq's use of chemical weapons are they justified in bombing us?

Robert Lipscomb



I have extensive experience working with our military's explosive detachments in the Navy, Marines and Army. I wrote the applications for over twenty RCRA hazardous waste treatment facilities. As a matter of course, I was compelled to inquire to any and all possible ordnance that might have been disposed, including chemical weapons.

Every time chemical weapons were mentioned, the EOD officers became rigidly serious. I have to reassure them that I was not making accusations but simply asking a standardized questionnaire.

chemical weapons are considered extremely serious business by our military. I have no doubt they are by all militaries. Maybe one half-step below nuclear. using them are war crimes.

Lone officers in any any military anywhere would never be allowed to have singular access to or authority over chemical weapons, any more than we grant that to our presidents and our nuclear arsenal.

But to grant you one more fabulist wet dream in all this, let's suppose that the Syrian military did allow that to happen, they would be just as guilty through the concept of criminal negligence.

Your apologias for war criminals are contemptible.

But then, I descended from "crackers" and thereby do not have your moral authority.

Bruce Adams

PM you are proceeding down the rabbit hole. The United States carried out a bloody repression of the Filipino independence movement. Did that render the United States unfit to liberate the islands from Imperial Japan years later? Robert Lipscomb, I wonder if you can superimpose the discipline and command structure of the United States military on the multitude of Syrian Baathist military and paramilitary forces who may (or may not) have access to chemical weapons in the midst of a brutal and chaotic civil war where central command may be variable at best. What concerns me about the unfolding of this situation is the plethora of unknowns in Syria. That alone should be enough for the President to stay his hand. And keep the rest of us from speaking from a point of certitude.

Robert Lipscomb

Bruce, you raise a valid point. I cannot superimpose the US command and structure. I will make a reasonable guess. Chemical warfare weapons are considered WMD for a reason.

No government would ever allow WMD outside their close control for the simple reason that they could be deployed against the government. This is especially true during a civil war. That control would extend to the command staff in charge of storing and deploying these weapons.

Yes, the U.S. will give soldiers, including William Calley, rifle and hand grenades and whatever and turn them lose. And yes they can go off the reservation. But no way, no how will just anyone be put in charge of chemical weapons.

Hell, the Russians are probably unnerved by all this.

Robert Lipscomb

Bruce, one more point. Apparently, chemical weapons have been used 30 times. In the name of conservatism, let say 30 is only 3. A rouge officer using chemical weapons would set off alarms throughout the command structure. A second would have visited swift and decisive corrective action. A third ...?

I am supremely skeptical whether we should take action, and if so, what that action should be. Even so, I don't have to turn a blind eye to war crimes so I can reflexively "Just Say No". And I don't have to demagogue the issues support a preconceived decision.


"A rouge officer using chemical weapons would set off alarms . . ."

Even without the chemical weapons, an officer in rouge would probably set off alarms . . .

Bruce Adams

Robert, I will happily concede that it is highly likely that chemical weapons have been used in Syria by the Assad regime in what may very well be a concerted campaign. It is terrifyingly evil. To be more clear than I was above, what I doubt is that any of us can be certain about what should be done by the United State government via military force. Much of the political class in the US, UK and France seem to have a bad case of the "gottas." I don't see how the Baathists or their goons on the ground can be deterred by cruise missiles or even the loss of some MiGs. I confess that I throw myself in with those who say "don't just do something - stand there."

Peter G

Your argument about the rigidity of controls Robert are somewhat undercut Robert by the unaccounted for nuclear materials that were the result of the collapse of the Soviet Union. Some of which wound up in the control of the Ukraine purely by default of it being there. And nobody knew who had what. Then there were the abandoned hulks of Soviet vintage nuclear warships left derelict and unguarded.

What happens in the US and what happens in a country involved in a civil war are two mightily different things. I seriously doubt Saddam Hussein was able to maintain control of his military apparatus up to the moment the loyalists who surrounded him disappeared and he wound up crawling into a hole. And I seriously doubt Assad has a firm grip on his military in all the areas they nominally control. If troops loyal to him were about to be overrun I doubt they'd check with head office to see they could get permission to use the last desperate means of stopping that. So, in summary, there is no reason to suppose that if chemical agents had been dispersed to prevent an attack on the whole stockpile, that they remained under the control of some central authority.

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