WMD


April 4: More than 70 dead in Khan Sheikhoun, of an apparent gas attack. [nyt]  Syrian government says it wasn’t them.

March 24: More than 200 dead in Mosul, of a US air strike. US government says it might not have been entirely US bombs that did it because ISIS sometimes keeps explosives in houses.[nyt]

Investigations are being called for in both cases. The Syrian regime says it would only submit to an investigation if it can be sure it’s international and multilateral. The US regime says it’ll investigate itself, thank you very much.

Having your nervous system disintegrate under a dose of sarin and insecticide is horrible. Having your body crushed under concrete is horrible. None of these attacks is acceptable; they are war crimes – civilians being killed for political means.

“Hate” is too small a word for how I feel about political leaders that do these things, then lecture each other (and us!) about how it was necessary, or it crossed some imaginary red line or whatever: the bottom line is they’re killing people and they don’t even have a ghost of an idea of how doing so accomplishes any objective worth accomplishing.

The reason we despise the use of weapons of mass destruction is because of their moral nihilism: there is obviously no right or wrong about who they kill – there is no why: they just kill everything in their area of effect. It is impossible to argue that high explosive bombardment or gas attacks are able to sort the good guys out from the bad guys – everyone is treated the same. And that’s why onlookers must feel horror and contempt for the users of indiscriminate area weapons: we know down in our core that the people deploying those weapons don’t give a shit about us, either. There’s no way to argue you’re trying to do the right thing when the weapons you’re using make it clear that you don’t even know what the right thing is. There is no political end that can be accomplished with the use of area weapons, except to separate the powerful from the weak, and to show the onlookers that they are the weak. Using gas or high explosives on civilians communicates only one message, and that is “fear me.”

The world should be talking about how to “regime change” the Syrian regime that drops chemicals on civilians, and the US regime that drops high explosive on civilians.

Yes, I am drawing a moral equivalence: both of those regimes convince themselves that they are doing what they are doing for some purpose. Both of them are right: their purpose is political terror. That’s the real reason. Otherwise, we’d have to accept ridiculous logic like “bombing the village in order to save it” – that simply does not compute. Their purpose is political terror and their weapons are those of the terrorist. If it is unacceptable to bomb subways, it is unacceptable to bomb cities. If it is acceptable to bomb cities, it is acceptable to bomb subways. The only problem, as I see it, is the wrong people are getting bombed: if it is acceptable to bomb cities, then leave the subways alone and bomb Congress and the White House and wherever Assad is hanging out.

I would be perfectly happy to see the US regime hanged in the guts of the Syrian regime, except I know that there will always be another regime behind them, and behind those in turn. How can anyone follow such people, do their will, kill for them?

To paraphrase Etienne de La Boetie: “Why do we put up with this shit?” [boetie] We have serious problems to deal with: governments keep restricting ‘their’ people’s access to food, the ruling class keeps ripping everyone off, fossil fuel use is poisoning the air and water, fish populations are collapsing and the oceans are rising. Humanity has real problems and these fucking useless political assholes’ response to humanity’s problem is to drop high explosive and/or toxic gas on people.

All this havoc, this misfortune, this ruin, descends upon you not from alien foes, but from the one enemy whom you yourselves render as powerful as he is, for whom you go bravely to war, for whose greatness you do not refuse to offer your own bodies unto death. He who thus domineers over you has only two eyes, only two hands, only one body, no more than is possessed by the least man among the infinite numbers dwelling in your cities; he has indeed nothing more than the power that you confer upon him to destroy you. Where has he acquired enough eyes to spy upon you, if you do not provide them yourselves? How can he have so many arms to beat you with, if he does not borrow them from you? The feet that trample down your cities, where does he get them if they are not your own? How does he have any power over you except through you? How would he dare assail you if he had no cooperation from you? – Etienne De La Boetie

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I wrote this thursday afternoon and scheduled it to drop friday morning.

10:54pm 4/6/2017: About an hour ago, the news broke that the US attacked a Syrian government air force base, using cruise missiles. Apparently about 60 were fired and 40 hit (that’s the current news, things are still vague)  assuming standard 1000lb warheads, that means the Syrian base would be severely fucked. Punitively fucked. Clearly, that was the intent. According to current news, the Russians were notified in advance and efforts were made to avoid destroying Russian gear or personnel. That must have been an amazing conversation. Someone got to call Moscow and tell them that the US was going to launch a massive cruise missile strike at them, but “We are going to try to miss. So be cool. #MAGA!”

Probable Russian response: some state of the art gear finds its way into the hands of insurgents in Syria and Iraq, US aircraft start having to deal with better antiair and ATGM. If the Russians do that, it’s the US experience in Vietnam all over again, or the Russian experience in Afghanistan, for the same reason. Less probable Russian response: the Syrians get officially given even better antiaircraft gear, making air operations over Iraq and Syria look like Vietnam all over again. US casualty rates start nudging back up again, Congress begins to fret, and the whole disaster worsens.

The best thing the US could do at this point would be to pat itself on the back and say “well, that showed ’em” and declare humanitarian victory and get out. That’s not going to happen. Unfortunately there is no likely successful outcome and no worthwhile political objective. So: lives, blood, and munitions will be expended.

I had a bet with a friend that the US was going to launch a preemptive attack on North Korea before sunup Saturday. I always hoped I’d lose that bet, and the events in Syria probably reduce those odds considerably. I really hope the North Koreans don’t step up with some stupid of their own, right now. There is way too much dick-waving going on in the world and none of the people who are going to get hurt are the right ones – the problem with dick-waving is that the dick-waver is almost always down in the basement of some fuhrer-bunker and it’s ignorant 20-somethings who joined the military to get an education or because the economy sucked that are going to to do the dying.

The tomahawk strikes were also interesting: that indicates that there was some concern that the airspace might be hostile, so none of the US’ expensive aircraft designed for that purpose were risked. Or, is it that those aircraft are all near Korea right now?

Comments

  1. Jessie Harban says

    How can anyone follow such people, do their will, kill for them?

    Because following the other guy, doing their will, and killing for them would be worse.

    I would be perfectly happy to see the US regime hanged in the guts of the Syrian regime, except I know that there will always be another regime behind them, and behind those in turn.

    That’s the problem. Power can’t be obliterated. As long as hierarchy exists (however benign), someone will have power over someone, and eliminating hierarchy is a pipe dream; you can’t have a large-scale society without it.

    The best you can do is fracture power— distribute pieces of it to many people such that no one person has both the power to do something and the power to benefit from seeing it done. If done properly, a democracy creates that system— you might have the power to area-bomb Syria, but someone else has the power to send you to prison for having area-bombed Syria.

    Unfortunately, we don’t have a democracy. No one has. The EU is the closest humanity has ever come to creating a democracy but even that pathetic effort seems at risk of breaking.

  2. says

    The Syrian government is saying that the rebels were storing the sarin at the location that was bombed (unbeknownst to the gov’t) and that when the bombs hit they released the gas.

    The thing is, I have no way of knowing/distinguishing whether it is true, or whether the US government’s story is true (or whether they just went ahead without the intelligence to know the difference themselves).

  3. says

    It’s probably BS – unless they are storing things that should not be stored in close proximity in close proximity. High explosive doesn’t really “mix” stuff – it splatters it.

    The US chemical warheads contained a large number of baseball-sized containers of binary sarin agent; they were designed to mix and disperse – I believe they used a small charge to break everything apart and then a larger charge to aerosolize the whole mess. So maybe the US is assuming the Syrian gear is like the US gear, and projecting. But I expect the Syrian gear is mix-and-launch and not as fancy as the stuff the US built.

    I remember back in Gulf War I when some DoD spokesman on TV was showing off a chemical weapons dispersal nozzle (for flyover spraying instead of explosive delivery) I was screaming at the screen “tell the audience where you GOT THAT!” We can’t forget that the US are the world’s experts on WMD of all types. And we got that expertise practically.

    I think truth has never mattered much.

  4. says

    The Syrian opposition groups having sarin doesn’t seem very likely given that they wouldn’t have the delivery systems for it, other than maybe the odd heavy artillery piece. And where would it come from? It would probably have to be seized from pre-civil war government stockpiles.

  5. komarov says

    I had a bet with a friend that the US was going to launch a preemptive attack on North Korea before sunup Saturday. I always hoped I’d lose that bet, and the events in Syria probably reduce those odds considerably. I really hope the North Koreans don’t step up with some stupid of their own, right now.

    And now the US is parking warships in the area while NK is claiming vindication for its efforts to develop nukes and missiles – somewhat understandably – because the US likes to casually bomb stuff if not suitably deterred. You may only have been off by a few weeks or so. Sorry. [BBC]

    Mr Trump said in a recent interview that Washington was ready to act without Beijing’s co-operation: “If China is not going to solve North Korea, we will.”

    Oh bugger… the last thing the world needs is another US “solution” to anything.

  6. says

    komarov@#5:
    And now the US is parking warships in the area while NK is claiming vindication for its efforts to develop nukes and missiles – somewhat understandably – because the US likes to casually bomb stuff if not suitably deterred.

    Yes, one thing that the US has shown repeatedly is that the best way for your dictatorship to be treated respectfully is to get nuclear weapons. I actually think the North Koreans are eminently rational; if they suddenly materialized an ICBM capable of hitting the US mainland, they might get a massive preemptive nuclear strike for their pains. What they appear to be trying to do is make it a stated policy that they intend to deter the US. That worked for Saddam Hussein in Gulf War I, and Gulf War II happened in part because the US was furious that they were fooled by Saddam’s WMD pose in Gulf War I.

    I do think that if they were going to do it, they should have done it by now. At this point you have to expect that the North Koreans are bolting every nuke they can put together onto a scud aimed at Seoul or a Taepodong aimed at Japan. The US loudly sending the Carl Vinson down there was a mistake, unless it was a deliberate “go down there and be a target”

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