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Calvin D. Hatfield 1792 Marigold Lane Miami, FL 33179
The foundation of the "enhanced interrogation" program used by the Bush administration after 9/11 is a torture manual used to train U.S. military personnel to withstand brutal interrogation techniques if captured by the enemy during wartime, as reported by Jason Leopold and Jeffrey Kaye at Truth-out.org.
The 37-page document document, called the Pre-Academic Laboratory (PREAL) Operating Instructions, was originally prepared by the Department of Defense's (DOD) Joint Personnel Recovery Agency (JPRA) and used by instructors in the JPRA's Survival Evasion Resistance Escape (SERE) in role-playing scenarios with U.S. military personnel.
Air Force Col. Steve Kleinman, a career intelligence officer considered one of the DOD's best interrogators as well as a former SERE instructor and director of intelligence for JPRA's teaching academy, said that using these teaching techniques in real-life interrogations amounts to torture.
"In SERE courses, we emphatically presented this interrogation paradigm as one that was employed exclusively by nations that were in flagrant violation of the Geneva Conventions and international treaties against torture," Kleinman said. "We proudly assured the students that we - the United States - would never resort to such despicable methods."
After several meetings of top Bush administration officials, seven techniques from the PREAL manual — attention grasp, walling, facial hold, facial slap, cramped confinement, wall standing and stress positions — ended up in the August 2002 legal opinion of Justice Department attorney John Yoo and Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee that is widely referred to as the "torture memo."
Administration officials also chose to enhance the intensity of these techniques: the PREAL manual states that "The maximum time allowed for a student to be in cramped confinement in 20 minutes," but the Yoo memo states that confinement "in the larger space can last up to eighteen hours; for the smaller space confinement lasts no more than two hours."
They also chose to add three methods of interrogation: insects placed in a confinement box, sleep deprivation and waterboarding.
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Waterboarding, the most controversial technique used on 9/11 suspects, was drawn from other SERE documents the CIA and DOD obtained from JPRA, according to an investigation by the Senate Armed Services Committee and reported by Truthout.
Khalid Shaik Mohammed — who was officially charged this week with planning the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks — was waterboarded 183 times in March 2003, and suspected Al Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah was waterboarded at least 83 times in August 2002, according to a 2005 Justice Department legal memo.
More than two decades ago, psychologist Bruce Jessen took notes on the PREAL techniques for a SERE survival-training course and wrote that the purpose of such techniques is a way of gaining "total control" over a prisoner and to make the prisoner feel "completely dependent" on his captors so they would "comply with [their] wishes," according to a previous Truthout investigative report.
The purpose of such dependence, according to Jessen, who worked with [CIA psychologist James] Mitchell in designing Bush's torture program, was to coerce the prisoner's cooperation, the better to use the prisoner for "propaganda, special favors, confession, etc."
The overall effect is called "learned helplessness," and it is the key difference between experiencing these methods when in training and when captured by an enemy.
The critical distinction, according to Col. Kleinman, is that "detainees have no idea whether interrogators are using to intimidate them or to kill them" whereas SERE students have full confidence that instructors and medical personnel make sure that they won't be injured during sessions.
So whereas the PREAL manual explicitly states that "Maximum effort will be made to ensure that students do not develop a sense of 'learned helplessness'" during training, one of the main goals of the Bush administration's torture program was to induce learned helplessness.
Col. Kleinman has publicly called for a thorough investigation into how and why the savage techniques made it into the interrogation doctrine that guided US-sanctioned operations.
"This is the guidebook to getting false confessions, a system drawn specifically from the communist interrogation model that was used to generate propaganda rather than intelligence," Kleinman said in an interview. "If your goal is to obtain useful and reliable information this is not the source book you should be using."
A 2006 memo released this week shows that at least one U.S. state department official strongly disagreed with the Bush administration's secret legal interpretation that an international treaty against torture did not apply to CIA interrogations in foreign countries, according The Guardian.
Feminism is about the domestication of men. Feminism wants to force men into being docile, so women have all sexual rights, at no risk. That will be all the less feasible the more violence there is in a society.
Michael J. Campbell 914 Burning Memory Lane Philadelphia, PA 19103
CHARLESTON, W.Va. – In the last two weeks of his life, Sherman Sizemore felt like people were trying to bury him alive.
Now, more than a year later, members of his family say the horrifying experience of being conscious during surgery but unable to move or speak led directly to the Beckley minister's suicide — perhaps the first such case in the country.
Advocates say Sizemore's death should draw attention to a little-discussed phenomenon called anesthesia awareness that could happen to between 20,000 and 40,000 people a year in America.
In some instances, patients might be conscious for only a few seconds, but cases like Sizemore's, where people remain conscious for most of their surgery, can lead to post-traumatic stress, experts say.
"It's the first time I know of anyone succeeding in taking their own lives because of this, but suicidal thoughts are not all that uncommon," said Carol Weihrer, president of the Virginia-based Anesthesia Awareness Campaign, which she founded after her own experience with anesthesia awareness.
Sizemore, a former coal miner and Baptist minister, was admitted to Raleigh General Hospital on Jan. 19, 2006, for surgery aimed at diagnosing the cause of abdominal pain, according to a lawsuit filed March 13 in Raleigh County Circuit Court.
An anesthesiologist and nurse anesthetist who worked for Raleigh Anesthesia Associates gave Sizemore paralyzing drugs to prevent his muscles from jerking and twitching during the surgery, the complaint alleges. But it says they failed to give him general anesthesia to render him unconscious until 29 minutes into the procedure — 16 minutes after the first cut into his abdomen.
Sizemore was awake for the procedure, but couldn't speak or move. Worse, the complaint charges, Sizemore was never told that he hadn't been properly anesthetized, and was tormented by doubts about whether his memories were real.
The lawsuit, filed against Raleigh Anesthesia Associates by two of his daughters, goes on to say that in the two weeks after his surgery, Sizemore became a different person. He couldn't sleep, refused to be left alone, suffered nightmares and complained people were trying to bury him alive.
On Feb. 2, 2006, Sizemore killed himself. His family says he had no history of psychological distress before his surgery.
"Being helpless and being in that situation can obviously be tough on people's psychological well-being," said Tony O'Dell, a Charleston lawyer who filed the complaint, which seeks unspecified damages.
Calls to Raleigh Anesthesia Associates were referred to Charleston lawyer Bill Foster, who said he wouldn't comment until he had more time to study the complaint.
Anesthesia awareness — also called unintended intraoperative awareness — happens when a patient who should be under general anesthesia is aware of some or all of a surgical procedure. Causes can include doctor errors, faulty equipment or patients who can't take a deep level of anesthesia, as with some trauma cases or emergency heart surgeries.
The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations cites studies that show anesthesia awareness could happen in 0.1 to 0.2 percent of surgeries involving general anesthesia in this country — or between 20,000 and 40,000 a year. Patients who have experienced it often report sensations of not being able to breathe and feeling pain. Half of all patients also report mental distress after the surgery, including post-traumatic stress disorder.
In 2005, the American Society of Anesthesiologists adopted guidelines calling for doctors to follow a checklist protocol for anesthesia equipment to make sure proper doses are being delivered. However, the ASA stopped short of endorsing brain-monitoring equipment as a standard of care, saying doctors should decide on a case-by-case basis whether such machines are necessary.
"It could be that some day everybody who gets anesthesia will have a brain-wave monitor," said Dr. Robert Johnstone, a professor of anesthesiology at the West Virginia University School of Medicine.
Johnstone says such monitors are used at WVU, but in conjunction with a range of other equipment anesthesiologists use to measure everything from blood pressure to body temperature. When such monitors and tests are used properly, he said, the chance of someone being awake for a lengthy surgery is slim.
It was not clear whether Raleigh General uses such monitors. Calls to the hospital were not immediately returned Monday.
"The incidence of unintended awareness is rare," said Lisa Thiemann, director of practice for the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists. But she said the organization is concerned enough about it to adopt its own guidelines, including calls for hospitals to conduct post-surgery interviews with patients to learn whether they were awake during surgery.
Weihrer said that recognition of the experience and proper psychological counseling is often the only thing patients want.
"The reason people sue is because they want to be acknowledged," said Weihrer, who won an out-of-court settlement after her anesthesia failed during a five-hour eye surgery in 1998. "They don't want to be told 'you weren't awake, it was a dream.' I hate the word 'dream."'
Kenneth M. Miller 583 Hardesty Street Albany, NY 12203
The youth wing of the Swedish Liberal party has filed a motion to legalize necrophilia and incest.
Liberal Youth of Sweden said that just because it is 'viewed as unusual and disgusting', does not mean that the deprived sexual acts should be illegal.
They want to legalize sex between two consenting siblings over the age of 15, and sex with a corpse if there is a written permission made before the person died.
'We don't like morality laws in general, and this legislation is not protecting anyone right now,' Cecilia Johnsson, Liberal Youth chairperson in Stockholm told Aftonbladet.
'We are a youth wing and one of our tasks is to think one step further.
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'I understand that it [necrophilia and incest] can be seen as unusual and disgusting by legislation can not be based on it being disgusting.'
The youth wing of the Liberals in Sweden voted to support legalisation incest and necrophilia at their annual meeting last weekend.
The suggested motion stated that two siblings, over the age of 15, who both consent, should be allowed to have sex.
It also said that if a person has stated in a written will that they consent to someone having sex with their corpse, this should also be legal.
'It should be your own decision what happens with your body after you die, and if that happens to be that you want to bequeath your remains to a museum or to science, or if you want to bequeath your remains to someone to sleep with them, then that should be ok,' Ms Johnsson adds.
The controversial announcement was quickly criticised by the Liberals, and several senior figures within the mother party.
Former Liberal MP Carl B Hamilton lashed out at the youth wing, calling them 'nitwits', accusing them of craving publicity over politics.
'Liberal Youth of Sweden focuses on publicity, but hardly the issues that determines our, and Sweden's future,' he wrote on a Facebook group for Liberal party members.
'Surely, you must understand that people are lauging at your liberalism, you nitwits?
'And what other challenges facing society is on the top 100-list for Stockholm's Liberal Youth? Sex with hippos?'
A press spokesperson for the Liberals said on Monday the mother party does not back the youth wing, and wants both necrophilia and incest to remain illegal.
Feminism is about the domestication of men. Feminism wants to force men into being docile, so women have all sexual rights, at no risk. That will be all the less feasible the more violence there is in a society.
Joseph E. Dixson 2150 Radford Street Bloomfield, KY 40008
The BBC's documentary about Japan's sexualisation of minors has turned heads in the anime and manga communities.
The BBC’s Young Sex For Sale in Japan documentary has raised the ire of many anime fans, with them criticising presenter Stacey Dooley for allegedly being ignorant of Japanese culture.
The documentary, which is available to view on BBC iPlayer for those in the UK, sees Dooley travelling to Tokyo in order to explore Japan’s attitudes to underage sex, and the sexualised portrayal of young girls in anime and manga. Along with investigating the incredibly creepy, real-world fascination with young girls in the country that involves adult men paying to spend time talking to them in specialised bars, Dooley also places a spotlight upon ‘lolicon’, a sub-genre of anime/manga dedicated to erotic art featuring prepubescent girls.
During the documentary Dooley talked to manga translator Dan Kanemitsu, who defended artists’ rights to create and sell art depicting prepubescent girls. During their conversation, Dooley picked up a book depicting a child-like character involved in a sexual act with an adult men. “Child pornography, at least by the broader definition of what is most offensive about it, is the fact that children are involved”, Kanemitsu argued. “So there’s a lot of debate about this, because on one hand there’s a child been harmed, and on the other hand there’s the depiction of a child being harmed [in anime/manga], and there’s a big difference between the two.”
“No actual child was harmed when they made this publication, I totally accept that, they are two separate things,” Dooley replied. “But do you worry that these images encourage and perhaps normalise child abuse?” Kanemitsu then argued that some people want to look at these images because it “plays out a fantasy separate from real life” and that it’s a “good venting mechanism.” He later added that “children need protecting” but that “lines of ink on paper do not”.
The idea that lolicon anime and manga is actually providing some kind of service to pedophiles is disturbing, even if those who support the sale of such works believe that it would infringe upon “free speech” to prohibit them from appearing on store shelves. When Dooley expressed to Kanemitsu that she feared that it “encouraged and normalised real-life child abuse,” he replied: “If you start saying creations of the mind can influence peoples’ behaviour, and those creations should be held responsible as opposed to the people who are actually doing them, that is thought policing.”
Many anime and manga fans agree with Kanemitsu’s argument and have strongly criticised the documentary, with Girls und Panzer artist Takeshi Nogami claimed that he had a three-hour interview with Dooley that was cut from the final edit. In a series of tweets translated by Twitter user @walterinsect, Nogami reportedly claimed that Dooley had said: “All human beings are naturally innocent and have no dirty desires, and reading media depicting erotic, pedophilic, and gore contents will affect them to be corrupted”, with her allegedly adding: “My desire is to put all pedophiles and ones who produce pedophilic media into jail”.
Though these comments definitely seem at odds with the way Dooley presents her argument during the documentary, many have taken Nohami’s words verbatim and have condemned Dooley for apparently enforcing the UK’s views onto Japanese culture. The topic was also angrily debated by YouTuber The Anime Man, with his video garnering over 100,000 views:
Many including The Anime Man have raised the point that Dooley’s comments aren’t dissimilar from the argument against violent video games. Over the years, many people from parents to politicians have argued that video games such as Grand Theft Auto could have a real-world impact, and that underage children and teens playing these games could mimic their violence in reality.
However, comparing Dooley’s argument against the one espoused by critics of violent video games undermines the core reasoning behind her disapproval of lolicon — that men lusting over prepubescent girls is already catered to in Japan, and further normalisation of it through media is not helping those fighting against it. During the documentary, Dooley interviews a photographer who takes “erotic” photographs of young girls, with him stating that the youngest girl he has had on his set was just 6 years old. She also visits a café in which men can book private chats with literal high school girls, where the men are freely allowed to discuss topics of a sexual nature with them. These are completely legal activities in Japan, despite it putting these young girls in mental and physical danger.
In practically every country throughout the world it is acknowledged that engaging in violence will lead to you being punished by law. However, such is Japan’s lax attitude to the sexualisation of minors that the country’s laws arguably encourage complicity with pedophiles, and the continued prevalence of lolicon anime/manga helps propagate the idea that, as long as someone isn’t engaging in sexual activity with a minor, it’s all fair game.
Sexualised photos of children under the age of consent is legal if their genitalia or buttocks aren’t exposed, and young girls can be paid by companies to stand on the streets and attract men into buying their products. This means that artwork depicting the sexual abuse of minors, while ostensibly “victimless” as a result of no child being directly harmed, is still contributing to beliefs that are harmful to children in wider society.
If you are still invested in the real estate of European cities, get out! A terrorist attack with chemical weapons will happen. Even if it doesn't kill many people, it will drive prices down. Accross the continent.
Clifford N. Barrow 2187 Gateway Avenue Bakersfield, CA 93306
A South Korean diplomat in Chile accused of sexually assaulting teenage girls was summoned home, Tuesday, to face questioning by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, according to diplomatic sources. “The diplomat returned home early this morning in accordance with the ministry’s summons,” the source said on condition of anonymity.
The diplomat, named Park Jeong-hak, was in charge of promoting K-pop at the Korean Embassy to Chile. He was accused of making improper physical contact with a 14-year-old Chilean girl in September while teaching Korean.
Park’s inappropriate actions were made public after a Chilean broadcaster aired, Sunday (local time), film of him sexually abusing an actress disguised as a teenage girl captured by a hidden camera. The broadcaster planned the program, in which it had the actress deliberately lure him, after receiving a tip-off from the parents of a victim.
After the airing of the program called “En Su Propia Trampa” (In Your Own Trap), which sparked public fury in the Latin American country, Yoon Seo-ho, a Korean immigrant who has lived in Chile for 12 years, told a CBS radio program, Tuesday, that the diplomat had been notorious for his sexual offenses even before the program was aired.
The diplomat was also accused of raping a 12-year-old girl as well as sexually harassing the Chilean wife of a Korean immigrant, Yoon said. [Korea Times]
30 percent of all Chinese men suffer from a certain medical condition which actually is a birth defect, and which is called a micropenis (less than 1 inch). This is why the Chinese are so good in making money. They have to be good for something.
Robert R. Gill 4127 White Avenue Rockport, TX 78382
Abstract: The Islamic State is actively seeking weapons of mass destruction and, to a limited extent, it has used such weapons in Syria and Iraq. It is also actively seeking personnel with technical experience capable of expanding its program. The Islamic State’s program faces many challenges and logistical issues, however, that have tempered their ambitions. This means the group is not yet capable of striking Western nations with WMD, though it cannot be ruled out that the Islamic State could deploy rudimentary chemical devices against the West in the next several years.
“If Muslims cannot defeat the kafir (unbelievers) in a different way, it is permissible to use weapons of mass destruction, even if it kills all of them and wipes them and their descendants off the face of the Earth.”
—Saudi jihadi cleric Nasir al-Fahd.
On November 19, 2015, a day after French police thwarted a second-wave attack by Islamic State terrorists in Paris, France’s Prime Minister Manuel Valls raised the specter of the Islamic State deploying weapons of mass destruction (WMD) against the West. “I say it with all the precautions needed. But we know and bear in mind that there is also a risk of chemical or bacteriological weapons,” he told the French parliament. Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop had earlier sounded the alarm on chemical weapons in June 2015:
“The counter-terrorism landscape is changing so rapidly that long accepted paradigms can quickly become obsolete. Apart from some crude and small-scale endeavors, the conventional wisdom has been that the terrorist intention to acquire and weaponize chemical agents has been largely aspirational. The use of chlorine by Daesh and its recruitment of highly technically trained professionals, including from the West, have revealed far more serious efforts in chemical weapons development. Daesh is likely to have amongst its tens of thousands of recruits the technical expertise necessary to further refine precursor materials and build chemical weapons.”
In light of these warnings and the Islamic State’s documented use of crude WMD devices in Syria and Iraq, this article explores what is known about the group’s WMD capabilities and the current logistical challenges that are containing its ambitions in this area. The article outlines how despite current intentions and active recruitment of technically trained personnel, the Islamic State is not yet capable of striking Western nations with WMD, though it cannot be ruled out that the Islamic State could deploy rudimentary chemical devices against the West in the next several years.
Among WMD, nuclear weapons cause the largest amount of destruction, yet they are the most difficult to develop or obtain. To develop a nuclear weapon, the Islamic State would first require enough fissile material[a] to support a sustained chain reaction. The specific quantity required is determined by the weapon design, but generally involves several kilograms of highly enriched uranium. The other significant limiting factor is the scores of physicists, engineers, and metallurgists required to construct the device. Fighting over the past five years throughout Iraq and Syria has created an intellectual drain in the region. In the distant chance that the Islamic State could assemble nuclear scientists to develop the weapon, it would have to conduct tests on weapon designs and construction methods in order to confirm that a nuclear detonation would actually occur in the final device.[b] These tests would easily be detected by intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance assets (ISR), which would presumably trigger a kinetic response from other parties.
Since the Islamic State lacks the personnel and material to build a nuclear weapon, purchase on the black market becomes the most likely path to acquisition. The Islamic State raised this possibility with its May 2015 claim that “it could buy a nuclear weapon through Pakistan within the coming year.” Although the assertion sounds far-fetched, the group has significant liquid assets from oil sales and other sources of revenue. These assets imply that funding is likely not the greatest barrier to purchase of a weapon. The key barrier is availability of material and identification of a willing seller.
The extent of the global nuclear smuggling network was recently highlighted in media coverage of the five-year, joint Moldovan government and FBI probe into the “thriving nuclear black market that has emerged in an impoverished corner of Eastern Europe.” In one instance a sample of uranium that could be used in an atomic bomb was seized. Regrettably, as the coverage noted, most arrests occurred after only a small sample of nuclear material was exchanged; the larger stockpiles from which the samples were taken may remain for sale. The confluence of existing nuclear smuggling networks, the willingness of actors to sell material, even to extremists, and the Islamic State’s financial capabilities increase the likelihood that the group could acquire a nuclear device. However, notwithstanding its desire to possess nuclear weapons, the probability of the Islamic State obtaining and deploying a device remains low.
Radiological dispersion devices (RDDs) are likely the only radioactive weapons that the Islamic State could employ. Far more simplistic in design than nuclear weapons, these devices feature radioactive material intermixed with conventional explosives. Though they do not produce the mass-destruction characteristics of nuclear weapons such as shock waves, fires, and electro-magnetic pulses, RDDs create psychological impact on affected populations. They are most effective when detonated in densely populated areas; otherwise, the dispersion of radioactive material would do little more than prevent access to the area for a period of time. To attack the West the Islamic State would be required to export an RDD, drastically increasing the risk of detection through ISR and human intelligence.
The black market is one avenue for the Islamic State to obtain materials that could be used in a radiological device. In the cases investigated in Moldova, nuclear smugglers were purportedly ready to sell Cesium 137 to what they believed was a representative of the Islamic State.
Within the area controlled by the Islamic State, there are two potential sources of radiological material: research facilities at universities and medical devices. Most of the material used in scientific research and medical diagnostics contain limited quantities of radioactive material. A material of concern is cobalt-60, which is used in medical devices and emits gamma radiation. In December 2013, a cargo truck carrying hospital equipment containing cobalt-60 was stolen from a gas station in Mexico. The theft prompted concern among U.S. intelligence agencies that the material could be converted into a dirty bomb. Prolonged exposure to cobalt-60 can be deadly; the timeframe of lethality ranges from minutes to hours depending on the level of shielding.
Since RDDs are no more complicated than an improvised explosive device, the Islamic State certainly has the capability to develop them. There are two significant obstacles preventing the employment of such a device in the West. One, there is no evidence the Islamic State has gathered the necessary radiological material, and two, it lacks access to the target. To transport and move an RDD to a target increases the risk of detection similar to the limits of transporting a nuclear weapon. The detonation of an RDD would have a greater psychological impact on the affected population compared to the physical damage caused by the device. Subsequently, the risk of the Islamic State building an RDD is greater than that of a nuclear weapon, however the risk of actual deployment remains low.
There is little doubt that the Islamic State would like to possess and use biological weapons. A laptop recovered by moderate Syrian rebels during a 2014 raid on the Islamic State stronghold of Idlib allegedly contained files instructing Islamic State on the preparation and use of biological weapons. The laptop also contained safety instructions for the development of microbes in order to protect Islamic State technicians from exposure.
Despite the consistent reiteration of its desire to possess biological weapons, the Islamic State faces significant practical challenges. Like nuclear weapons, the development of biological weapons requires sophisticated personnel and technology that are not readily available in Iraq and Syria. The group could conceivably purchase and smuggle the materials needed to set up a biological weapons lab, however scale would become a significant obstacle given that effective production levels require a facility about the size of a large research lab with the corresponding infrastructure. The Islamic State would also have to contend with quality control issues as well. The power grid and generators in Iraq and Syria are not sufficiently reliable for the refrigerators and incubators needed to weaponize biological agents.[c]
In regard to the difficulties of biological weaponization, the 2014 Ebola crisis in Western Africa proves instructive. The spread of Ebola gave rise to concerns that the Islamic State would attempt to use Ebola-infected individuals as delivery systems for the virus. This non-traditional transfer mechanism could, in theory, infect people around the world. The reality is far different, however. When first infected with a virus, individuals have a low titer count (the concentration of virus in the blood). Once inside the host individual, the virus invades cells and replicates. This progressively leads to higher levels of virus in the body and a corresponding escalation of symptoms. At low levels, the individual is relatively non-contagious and appears normal. It is at the later stages of the infection that the individual is most contagious, but also the most sick and debilitated. Such highly infected host individuals are easily identifiable and often barely able to function, let alone able to execute a clandestine infection strategy. Diseases are not limited by national or regional borders. The introduction of a pathogen in a developed nation would be rapidly detected through bio-surveillance networks.
Biological weapons are very unlikely to be developed by the Islamic State as a mass casualty tool. Western medical countermeasures and response capabilities were able to handle the 2001 anthrax attack and quickly contain Ebola in the United States in 2014. All this suggests the impact of a deliberate biological attack by the Islamic State in the West would be extremely limited.
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In 2013, the Syrian government deployed chemical munitions against rebels multiple times. International pressure following these attacks forced the Assad regime to join the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and turn over all chemical weapon stockpiles. According to the OPCW, the Syrian government declared 1,308,021 kilograms of both category 1 and 2 chemicals,[d] and the OPCW oversaw the destruction of 98.8% of those declared category 1 and 2 chemical weapons.
Various media reports indicate that the Islamic State is currently employing chemical weapons, specifically mustard agent. These reports also reveal, however, that the agent is crude and has not produced the mass effects typical of a state-run program. There are also signs that the Islamic State “has developed at least a small-scale chemical weapons program, and may have manufactured low-quality blister agent or obtained chemical arms from undeclared or abandoned government [Syrian] stocks.” The possibility that the chemical weapons used may have come from material at undeclared Syrian stockpiles has been documented in various media sources. Examining samples of both the Syrian stockpile and the Islamic State’s chemical weapons would reveal not only whether this was true, but also information about potency and persistence, which is the ability of the agent to linger in the environment before environmental factors cause its breakdown.[e]
One concern is that the Islamic State may take advantage of recruits with knowledge of previous state-run chemical weapons programs in Iraq and Syria. In January 2015, a coalition air strike killed Abu Malik, an Islamic State chemical weapons engineer who had worked at Saddam Hussein’s Muthana chemical weapon program before joining the predecessor group to the Islamic State in 2005. According to U.S. Central Command, “his past training and experience provided the terrorist group with expertise to pursue a chemical weapons capability,” and his death was “expected to temporarily degrade and disrupt the terrorist network and diminish ISIL’s ability to potentially produce and use chemical weapons.”
With the Islamic State’s willingness to use chemical weapons, western nations should be concerned that the group or individuals acting on behalf of the group would attempt to deploy a poison gas device. If it did, the Islamic State would not be the first to attack on a western nation with chemical weapons. The Aum Shinrikyo released sarin in the Tokyo subway on March 20, 1995.
Before 9/11, al-Qa`ida began developing a device called mubtakkar, meaning “invention” in Arabic, to disseminate hydrogen cyanide and other toxic gases. According to journalist Ron Suskind, in 2003 al-Qa`ida operatives in Saudi Arabia plotted to use a poison gas device in the New York City subway system but aborted the plot after the group’s then-deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, decided not to “green light” it. The cell had planned to disperse quantities of hydrogen cyanide gas or another poisonous gas. [f] The simplicity of the design and the relative ease of obtaining some of the chemicals makes it a plot the Islamic State could mimic.
There are several constraints associated with developing chemical weapons. Chemicals such as hydrogen cyanide, sarin, and their precursors are highly corrosive and require storage in highly controlled environments. For example, high temperatures and humidity will affect both the chemical reactions used to make the warfare agents and their effectiveness. The corrosive nature of these agents also makes long-term storage and transportation over long distances very difficult without the appropriate containers and proper environment. When placed in a container, the agents will immediately begin to eat away at rubber seals and the container itself, making leaks inevitable. Such constraints make it likely that any agents developed by the Islamic State would most likely be deployed immediately after manufacture and within close proximity to the territory it holds.
While it cannot be ruled out that the Islamic State could deploy a rudimentary poison gas device against the West in the next several years, the group would likely need to build the device near the location of the planned attack, requiring it to recruit or plant its own chemists in the West, not an easy feat.
Moving forward, the Islamic State will most likely continue to employ its limited chemical weapon munitions in both Syria and Iraq while seeking the capacity to expand its program to strike at major targets in the West.
The Islamic State’s potential use of WMD poses a greater psychological threat than physical threat to its enemies. While the Islamic State continues to seek and develop WMD, its progress will be constrained by reality. Despite seeking technical expertise and having large sums of liquid assets at its disposal, the Islamic State’s logistical capabilities and support structure in Western nations is limited. Containing the Islamic State needs to remain a priority, however, as further territorial expansion provides an opportunity to acquire new materials.
The Islamic State will continue to employ the simplest and most readily available WMD at their disposal—chemical weapons. The proliferation of this program remains a concern especially with the availability of toxic industrial chemicals that could be modified and dispersed in a chemical attack. While the effects of such devices would be limited to a small geographic area, the psychological impact to a Western nation, for example, would be significant. Current conditions in Syria and Iraq in conjunction with international ISR assets constantly monitoring the area reduce the possibility that the Islamic State will be able to develop any other WMD beyond chemical weapons.
Captain Stephen Hummel is a FA52 officer and currently serving as an instructor in the Chemistry and Life Science Department at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point. Captain Hummel previously served in both Iraq and Afghanistan and as the USAREUR CBRN plans officer. He is also the author of the 2015 book STRIKE: A Firsthand Account of the Largest Operation of the Afghan War.
[a] Fissile material refers to “a nuclide that is capable of undergoing fission after capturing low-energy thermal (slow) neutrons.”3 Capturing a neutron displaces other neutrons from the capturing material, which leads to interaction with adjacent atoms, which in turn displaces other neutrons. This creates a sustained chain reaction that releases large amounts of energy. The three primary fissile materials are uranium-233, uranium-235, and plutonium-239. “Fissile Material.” United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission, updated November 30, 2015.
[b] Tests are required to ensure fidelity of the design and build. Such tests do not entail detonation of a full-scale nuclear weapon but rather components of the weapon such as the trigger.
[c] Considering the Islamic State’s tremendous liquid assets, it could be possible for them to purchase the required generators and refrigerators. The process to grow and culture biological agents is neither short nor easy. The equipment required to culture large amounts of biological agents to be used in an attack would need to run for months and the culture areas must be completely sterile and within strict temperature ranges. Logistically, this is extremely difficult. Major research institutions in the West regularly struggle with maintaining sterile environments and contend with failing equipment that runs constantly. Without a reliable power grid, the Islamic State must then provide fuel to the generators, and although the group possesses vast amounts of oil, this does not mean it has the refinery capability to convert crude oil into gas. Furthermore, the equipment would need regular maintenance in a dry, dusty environment. Consequently, it would be an extreme logistical challenge for the Islamic State to maintain the proper environment to culture biological materials.
[d] The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons defines category 1 chemicals as munitions filled with schedule 1 chemical agents while category 2 chemicals are munitions filled with other toxic chemicals.
[e] If the mustard agent used in the recent attacks came from Syrian stockpiles, it could be confirmed by comparing the composition of components and impurities. A difference between the agents would indicate the inception and implementation of the Islamic State’s chemical weapon program. These impurities provide additional information about the potency, persistence, and absorption capabilities of the agents.
[f] Exposure to hydrogen cyanide gas at sufficiently high quantities is lethal within minutes. The LD50, or lethal dose to 50% of a population, is 2,000 parts per million, which corresponds to approximately 0.2% of the air as hydrogen cyanide. “Environmental & Health Effects: Cyanide Facts,” International Cyanide Management Code for the Fold Mining Industry.
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