Taking a Stand

It’s a little rich to watch the US — which routinely uses tear gas and pepper spray to crush peaceful protests (which are cordoned behind razor-wired “free speech zones” — protest the use of chemical weapons, and the crushing of political dissent — in Syria.

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  • Umm… yeah… pepper spray and sarin nerve gas, totally the same thing…

  • I don’t think anyone’s claiming that they are…but the fact remains that both are chemical weapons used against civilians.

  • USA an Assad were BFF when some extralegal torture was needed.

    Now USA is getting all prickly with Assad, like they never knew him.

    Are they going to bomb him for gas and then bomb him again for torture? I’ll bet there are some USA logos on his gas stash, just like in Iraq.

  • Jack,

    Chemical weapons are banned because they are capable of slaughter on a mass scale, not because they contain chemicals. It’s like saying the ice caps are melting because I left the ice cube tray on the kitchen counter.

    • Joseph,
      Chemical weapons are banned for Developing Nations. Superpowers may use them (c.f., white phosphorus at Fallujah).
      The reason First World states use for the ban is emotional: World War I trench warfare was awful.Also: Zyklon B.
      The motivation behind the ban is cynical: the First World has upgraded to bigger weapons. Chemical weapons are no more indiscriminate than conventional aerial explosive bombs.

  • No. Chemical weapons are banned because they present a low-cost, effective response to attack and invasion by the most powerful militaries on Earth, as well as allowing for extremely effective guerilla tactics against the countries with those militaries. The U.S. has no problem with megadeaths created using conventional arms because the U.S. will trump any nation relying exclusively on conventional arms.

    See also: Iraq, Vietnam.

  • Jack,

    Technically, you’re correct. Sarin and tear gas are not the same thing. But that’s not the whole evaluation because there is a point, a mindset in which the two are interchangeable, where the wielder of the weapon doesn’t comprehend the notion of what makes too much force. The best example I can point to of this convergence is the Edmund Pettus bridge. Protesters marching across the bridge were set upon by the police (some on horses) with tear gas and nightsticks.

    That sort of state-sanctioned terror had been going on for decades. But at the Edmund Pettus bridge, the cameras were rolling. People who were walking and carrying signs were set upon by dogs and tear-gassed. It was the Emperor’s Clothes moment.

    The takeaway lesson was clear: Keep the brutalizing hidden. Don’t use sarin when tear gas will do. A relatively small amount of sadistic violence will go a long way. (How long do you think we’ll all be waiting for the next Edward Snowden? Would YOU step forward with information, knowing that you’ll be stripped of your citizenship before you even get a trial?)

    Ask yourself, “Why doesn’t Obama (or the police or whoever) use sarin?”

    Because it’s still too soon. But it won’t always be.

    One day, just like happened back in 1970 in Ohio, the government will deliberately choose to gun down American citizens. And the response won’t be outrage. It will be a shrug of indifference by all the people waiting in line to get into the Apple store for the next iteration of the iPhone, the one that requires a fingerprint to activate and that contains tracking software that no one knows about and which cannot be removed or deactivated.

  • The Frank Luntzification of America is going along quite nicely.

    Chemical warfare has got to end. Next thing you know, the Syrian government is going to be using Dihydrogen Monoxide (DHMO) on its civilians. If that happens we must act as a civilized nation and put a freeze on its use.

    Remember, the dose makes the poison.

  • “Remember, the dose makes the poison.”

    Correct, people do drown, but the “Syrian government” will have out compete global warming and the melting icecaps to beat the US (and other industrialized nations) to kill their citizens with that one.

  • Dihydrogen monoxide, indeed.

    it was a years-long drought that caused/worsened civil unrest to the point that “rebels” saw an opportunity to attack a weakened Assad.

  • Toss in a board, and Dihydrogen Monoxide is a great weapon.

    Just ask Barry and George.

    If you are into history, you could look up how Teddy and the boys used it in Manila.

    Ah, to live in imperial amerika.

    Makes me proud.

  • Better Living Through Chemistry

  • Ted, you posted this on my birthday (Yes I was born the day Mao Zedong died)….don’t you think you should send me this cartoon as a birthday present?

  • @someone,

    The current edition of National Geographic has a map showing what the world’s land-masses will look like if all the ice is melted. The US shows a severe reduction in land-mass, with an inland sea in California.

    Syria, however, will be virtually uneffected, because of a mountain barrier protecting them. Ironic, huh?

  • @Susan: Yes I should have checked the topology map before I commented, I wasn’t aware that Syria had such favorable elevation going for it with respect to such problems. I knew it was mountainous, just not that universally elevated.

    But California’s inland sea is nothing compared to the basically complete submersion of Florida as well as the loss of much of roughly the first 100 miles inland worth of the gulf coast and along most of the eastern seaboard.

    Ironic is right, It looks like one of the countries that burns carbon based resources per capita the most may actually be one of the worst punished by the results. It is strangely like the karma of fracking. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t wish the horrors of fracking ongoing in one’s backyard on any individual western family, none of the families experiencing it deserve it. But on a general country-wide scale it is kind of karmatic that the need for carbon based fuels has become so gluttonous in the US and related western countries that its major negative effects, once mostly limited to the third world, are now come home to roost in the form of fracking and strip mining tar sands.

  • To someone:

    CA’s inland WOULD be “something” because it would cover the land now used for agriculture.
    According to wiki: “California is the world’s fifth largest supplier of food and agriculture commodities.”

  • That’s … “CA’s inland SEA”

  • @falco

    “Central Valley produces 8 percent of the nation’s agricultural output by value: 17 billion USD in 2002.” wikipedia page

    Florida “Direct Output” for agriculture in the “Total All Regions” category in table 3 on page 18 gives Florida’s total agricultural output for 2008 (yes sorry I couldn’t find 2002) as 160.9 billion.
    from: http://www.fred.ifas.ufl.edu/economic-impact-analysis/pdf/Florida%20Counties.pdf

    Thus all of FL is a number of times more valuable then CA’s central valley in terms of agriculture alone (it is also the 4th most populous state so displacing all those people is a huge loss well beyond that of the CA central valley.) Further this is all before factoring in the fist 100 km of coastal area along most of the eastern seaboard and all of the gulf coast which represents a tremendous % of the us total population and the vast majority of its major centers of GDP production. So yes, CA’s central valley would be a major loss, and yet it is still nothing by comparison to what would be lost in the US south east.

  • To someone:

    I wasn’t comparing disaster dick size.

    Just seeking, and do appreciate, the adjustment from “nothing” to “a major loss.”

    CA central valley county production for 2008 was about $29 billion.


  • Ted, for the seriousness with which the US government takes the Chemical Weapons Convention, see George Monbiot’s recent Guardian article (http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/sep/09/obama-rogue-state-tramples-every-law ; scroll down to the seventh paragraph, where links are provided) :

    «In 1997 the US agreed to decommission the 31,000 tonnes of sarin, VX, mustard gas and other agents it possessed within 10 years. In 2007 it requested the maximum extension of the deadline permitted by the Chemical Weapons Convention – five years. Again it failed to keep its promise, and in 2012 it claimed they would be gone by 2021….»

    Wonder who’s going to fire cruise missiles at Washington (only a «surgically limited strike» of course, no boots on the ground) ?…


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