Syria’s President Assad has ordered the loading of bombs with nerve gas. The media says it’s Sarin gas but that’s the common name, like calling all light planes Piper Cubs, which used to be the easy out for reporters when one crashed.
However, it could be VX nerve gas, which is 3 times more potent, meaning deadly, and is tasteless, odorless and chemically stable, so it stays in the environment for a very long time.
Either way, a little nerve gas goes a very long ways. Back in 1968 our Army conducted a test of VX gas in Utah, in their 800,000 acre Dugway test range. They flew a plane high over the Utah desert at Dugway “with a bellyful of nerve agent. The plane’s mission was simple: using a specially rigged delivery system, it was to fly to a specific set of coordinates and spray its payload over a remote section of the Utah desert.”
Several days later and twenty seven miles away from the perimeter of the Dugway Army base, “in the aptly-named Skull Valley,” thousands of sheep had suddenly died. Killed by nerve gas. Twenty seven miles away from just the border of that huge base, plus all the miles to the drop point.
Well, it was sure a successful test. The stuff really worked. If the Syrians use it against those trying to overturn the government, that nerve gas won’t stay confined to Syrian territory. It will move like an arrow from the drop point to whichever direction any breeze is blowing. A long, narrow column, keeping it concentrated, and it will likely kill people in neighboring nations. Perhaps thousands of them.
Nerve gas has been a common household product for a long time.
No Pest Bug Strips came out in the 1960′s and the active bug-killing ingredient, that outgassed from the strip material, was a nerve agent. My wife and I had put one in our bedroom to rid us of mosquitos and we had to throw out the bug killer because soon we were unable to wake up in the morning. This was in 1968. In the late ’70s you could buy stuff to kill wasps, yellowjackets specifically. You cooked up some crumbled up hamburger to just beyond rare and then put this stuff on it, and put the burger bits in a plastic bottle with holes in it. That was hung from a tree limb or whatever.
The wasps would fly in and carry out a tiny piece of that hamburger. Now get this. Yellowjackets hunt food miles away, like bees. This was in the mountains during summer. There were hundreds of nests of them within a mile or two. A second bottle with an ounce of hamburger was only half emptied, as no more wasps came around. Nor did they again for about four years. One single tiny piece of that hamburger wiped out wasp nests of 500 and more.
The stuff came with all sorts of warnings and precautions, which I followed scrupulously, and next year when I went to get a fresh supply, it was unavailable anywhere. Turned out I didn’t need it, but that was one dangerous product. Today we put nerve gas on our cats and dogs in the form of flea collars. It hasn’t seemed to bother my cat, but those “Wash your hands”, “Dispose of in this manner” warnings are very familiar to me and I know exactly what they mean and why.
The tiniest amount of nerve gas, allowed to evaporate slowly out of a piece of permeable plastic, will kill insects in the air in a large room. It will kill every flea on a cat or dog clear to it’s tail even when the stuff is in a collar. In a confined space, like a wasp nest, everything dies. We and the Russians outlawed the use of it a long time ago because it’s just too damn dangerous. It’s non-selective. It kills everything, every person, animal and insect, and then it stays around in case something live wanders into the area while at the same time moving with the air and continuing to kill.
There are those in Washington who clearly expect Assad to go ahead and use it. No predictions here of what might come of that, except that if a bunch of Turks get gassed, they could well go to war against Syria. That would then put the security of those bombs at risk, and beyond that, I won’t speculate. At least not for now.