My point exactly. How do you anticipate a chemical attack? Ring up the opposition for a daily menu? The pre-war hype went overboard on the readiness of the Iraqis to use CB weapons, so one would go into battle expecting the worst. If the Iraqis feared the Coalition using same, wouldn`t it be likely that they would be worn. I understand they are cumbersome and hot, but the alternative when facing a chemical attack would be a high percentage of casualties.Since the logical place for these types of weapons would be a set-piece battle such as on the last approaches to Baghdad, with exposed trenches, why wouldn`t the opposing commands issue orders for them to be worn there?
Gas attacks are commonly delivered by artillery shell. When a shell bursts, you can tell what it is intended to do. Whether to kill by a burst of shrapnel (fragmentary), frighten by a loud noise (concussion), set fire to troops, tents and vehicles (incendiary), or release a cloud of chemical, biological or radiological agents (CBR).
Wearing the gas mask at all times is like firing your rifle continuously (just in case the enemy might be out there somewhere).
When the attack comes, you may notice it, or someone sounds the alarm, and THEN you put on your gas mask.
It's a difficult conundrum faced by field commanders in a potential chem environment: given the degradation in combat effectiveness faced by troops in protective gear, but given the potentially devastating effects of the use of chemical weapons on unprotected troops, how do you determine how much protection is enough?
The answer depends mostly on battlefield intelligence (can they do it) and to a greatly lesser extent on strategic intelligence (are they willing to do it). US doctrine uses a four tier system that is adapted based on perceived immediacy of the threat (called "MOPP", or Military Operational Protective Posture in typical military jargon-speak). This roughly translates into how much gear each soldier is required to wear and how much is required to be carried. The lower the MOPP level, the less effectiveness is degraded. There are quite a number of different test and warning systems deployed when there is some threat - from hand-held detectors (is that stuff just smoke or is it gas?), to sophisticated mobile detectors that can sniff out mere traces.
As an example, during Gulf War I, the gas masks carried by several Iraqi troops who'd surrendered prior to the ground offensive were found to contain traces of Sarin in their filters. Obviously, this bit of news was taken to mean that Iraq had forward-deployed chemical weapons. As a result, troops went in under full protective gear during the attack in Kuwait. It was only later that the determination was made that the traces were more probably from the Iran-Iraq War (the Iraqis used Sarin against the Pasdaran in the Hawizeh Marshes offensive and during several defensive campaigns in and around Al Faw).
Interestingly enough, during Gulf War II, this wasn't the case from what I've read. As to the Iraqi's fearing US use of chem - I don't consider that likely. Chem protective gear (although shoddy Soviet-style) was routinely issued to Iraqi troops as a protection against their own weapons should the Iraqi central command determine to do so. A much more interesting question is why they didn't even at the end. Three possible reasons present themselves: 1) they didn't have 'em after all; 2) Iraqi C-cubed was so badly disrupted that release authority couldn't be provided either to the depot to distribute or to the field commanders to use them (not as unlikely as it might seem given the fluidity and speed of the battle - the Iraqi military is notoriously prone to flailing about in the "fog of war" if they don't have a set-piece battle to fight because of the way their command structure is set up - you'd think they'd have learned after the first go-around); or 3) the Iraqi high command decided that - even losing - use of these weapons would obliterate any support they might have around the world. Any of those are possible.
One of the things that doesn't seem to get mentioned is the fact that chemical attacks are relatively ineffective unless they are done when conditions are just right.
I was my unit's assistant NBC NCO (went to Nuclear,Biological, and Chemical warfare school - 80 hour course). And there are specific meteorological conditions that are good for such attacks, and others that are not, and the prime conditions rarely occur, and probably less so in a desert.
Certainly Hussein gassed the Kurds. Of course, the Kurds lived in the mountains, and conditions are different there, and it is douobtful that the Kurdihs villagers had sophisticated detection and protection equipment. Using chemical weapons in open desert is just silly. Effective psychologically, but very few casualties would result.
The gassing in WWI was effective because 1. the theatre of operations was more conducive to their use and 2. like everything else in WWI, the attacks were huge - giant cylinders of gas would be opened when the prevailing winds were favorable, and usually in the early morning or evening, when atmospheric conditions were best. Not to mention the poor quality of protection for troops and, again, the incredible psychological effects.
I can't imagine how terrifying it must have been to look up and see a cloud of gas coming at you, then being able to make out the forms of machine gun toting storm troopers walking right in the cloud, coming at you...
Of course, the sarin gas attakcs in the Tokyo subway - an enclosed area - produced very few casualties.
Well, I'm not Scott, but I might be able to answer. Basically, they used the stuff liberally and everywhere. Beginning in 1984 after the repeated Iranian counteroffensives managed to smash the Iraqi defenses in northern Iraq (Kurdistan) and actually cross into Iraq, Saddam ordered deployment of chemical munitions. This consisted mostly of H-series mustard gas, the nerve agents Tabun and Sarin, and cyanide gas (useful for filling abandoned trenches since it's heavier than air). Most of the gas was delivered either by artillery or 500 lb bombs from aircraft, although there were reports of the use of jury-rigged sprayers from helicopters and even dropping 50-gal drums (probably mustard) from planes. This was primarily arid mountain terrain. According to the Kurds (and you can take this with however large a grain of salt you want), there were at least 180 separate chemical attacks in Kurdistan between 1984-86.
In '86, a new major Iranian ground offensive through the Al-Hawizeh marshes managed to cross the Shatt al Arab and capture the Al Faw penninsula and the Iraqi oil terminus at Majnoon Island. The Iranians were halted short of Basrah by both chemical weapons and the nearly impregnable fixed defenses around the city. In addition, Iraq reportedly used persistent agents to interdict Iranian supply lines through the marshes themselves. I don't know what flavor - one report claimed the majority was mustard. So in this case we have arid and semi-arid low-land or salt marsh.
Finally, the Iraqis used chem during their 1988 final offensive against Iran that allowed them to retake Al Faw. It was during this time that the Iraqi Kurdish town of Halabja was struck by chemical weapons (March 1988). The idea was to break up the Iranian offensive against the hydroelectric dam at Dukan without using ground forces. In this they succeeded - and the reinforcements that would have had to be used to defend the dam were instead used to recapture Al Faw and Majnoon - again assisted by one of the heaviest chemical bombardments of the war. Iran accepted the UN mandated ceasefire on 18 July 1988.
The total butcher's bill for the war was between 750k-1.2m on both sides. It is unclear how many were caused by chemical attack, but it IS certain that when used, the Iraqis used quantities similar to that deployed in WWI. Whether the attacks were individually very successful (except the Dukan attack), I don't know. Overall, however, I'd say the use of such weapons prevented an Iranian victory - or at least prevented an Iraqi defeat (since they started it anyway). Whether it was decisive (in the sense that they wouldn't have won without it), is unclear.
Hope that answers your questions.
(edited fur speling)
[This message has been edited by Quetzal, 08-01-2003]
Thanks,Q.Fascinating stuff. So the Iraqis showed no reluctance to using it when their capital was under no direct threat, but refrained when the end of the regime was in sight. Sounds like supplies might have been exhausted and never replaced.
That's the million-dollar question for sure. The only way to know with any certainty, of course, would be to ask The Man himself - assuming he isn't lying in some unmarked grave in the desert or living in luxurious exile on some island somewhere. It is entirely possible you're right: they didn't use them because they didn't have them. However, I find that - in the absence of some kind of confirmation - to be overly simplistic an explanation. I may just be suspicious, but given the years-long shell game the Iraqi's played with the weapons inspectors inre chemical weapons (it's pretty definitive IMO that that whatever nuc plans Hussein may have had were dismantled effectively), plus the failure of the "full accounting" report Iraq made to the UN last fall makes me wonder why they went to all that trouble to lie and obfuscate the issue if they weren't trying to hide something. Not saying this means they had them, but the problem is that no one can say definitively that they didn't either - which is where the problem arises. The uncertainty allows the current US administration to claim that the weapons existed but are hidden, and its detractors to claim they never existed. Sigh.
My point is that, if (and I emphasize this is pure speculation on my part) Iraq still had some chemical capability prior to GWII, it was likely limited to a percentage of the unaccounted-for shells and gas stockpiles left over from the Iran-Iraq War. Although it's conceivable they could have maintained some kind of hidden production facility under close security somewhere (Iraq is an amazingly empty place all things considered), I find it unlikely it could have been a weapons plant - which requires a huge amount of infrastructure, not to mention personnel (the old "two people can keep a secret as long as one of them is dead"). Remember Peenemunde - it was ratted out by the Norwegians working there. A little lab out in the desert is one thing (most of the gases Iraq had are really easy to produce in relatively small amounts). Production facilities for weapons are a whole 'nother.
So why didn't he use what he had? Again, more speculation. I DO believe, in spite of what some people have said, that Iraqi military C3 was severely degraded right at the start. Whether or not the "decapitation" strike at the beginning actually killed anyone key or not, it apparently did have the effect of making them aware they were specifically targeted, and hence forcing them to scurry around a lot - sort of like roaches when the light comes on. As any military person would know, this will degrade communications quite a bit. A commander can't manage a battle if s/he's always moving about without very special communications equipment and a lot of practice in peacetime. Orders don't get sent, or are sent late. The commander's appreciation of the progress of the battle is hours old, etc etc. I offer as evidence the course of the fighting: the Iraqi military made no strategic movements at all once the initial dispositions were made - even when it would have been effective and possible to do so. All the heavy Iraqi formations remained more or less in place around Baghdad for the entire war. The only substantial movement that occurred was at the operational level - local corps commanders moving a brigade here or there within their designated areas of operations. Given the known rigidity of the Iraqi centralized command&control, this lack of strategic movement is an indicator that the orders weren't getting down to the commanders. The rest of the Iraqi battle smacked strongly of slavishly following set-piece, pre-planned battle orders (withdrawl into the cities, etc.) The only real creativity and initiative shown at all was at the tactical level by the security forces/baath party paramilitaries. At the end, they couldn't even execute what were probably the original plans for the final defense of Baghdad - pull the Republican Guard divisions into the city and fight it out Stalingrad-style. Primarily because the Guard divisions had been left in place to be obliterated by US and British air power without orders to execute the final defense options (whatever they were). It was certainly no walk-over like GWI was, but it also certainly showed the qualitative difference between the Western style of warfare where local commanders are encouraged to be innovative and to take initiative, and the old Soviet-style central command.
To make a very long story shorter, if simple movement of forces was tightly controlled, release of unconventional munitions was likely to be even more strictly controlled. It's quite possible that even if (by the time Baghdad was invested) the Iraqis had had them and even if they had wanted to use them, there would have been no way to deploy them - no one left in a position to give OR receive the orders.
On a related note, can somebody refresh my memory - did we kill Saddam or not? I had heard that we might have, but then didn't hear the resolution of that. I notice that the media has largely stopped talking about him, though.
I don't think anyone knows for sure. After a car bomb blast killed Iraq's Shia Muslim leader, Mohammed Baqer al-Hakim, some stations played a message purportedly from Saddam Hussein which claimed he had nothing to do with it.
By all accounts Saddam Hussein is still very much alive.
It is almost beyond question he survived the war itself. His assured demise was claimed at least 3 different times by army intel until they finally started looking like Baghdad Bob (the Iraqi info minister).
There is a possibility he died sometime afterward in any number of missile strikes on cars roaming around Iraq.
But this is unlikely as even US sources of info have said he is still among the living. Just this week the army announced it is closing in and thinks it has him pined somewhere in Tikrit. It is doubtful they would say this if they didn't think he was alive.
In fact, some US official (maybe Rice?) this week said that he is likely to be caught as he is running out of money and had very few friends to begin with, while Osama Bin Laden still has lots of money and lots of friends. Why our government has then wasted so much time and effort pursuing Saddam, rather than Osama (who was behind 9-11 and still poses a greater threat) that official did not say.
If Saddam really wanted to stay alive and untouched by the military he should have had plastic surgery to look like the Iraqi info minister. That guy was so low on the totem pole he was actually turned away by US forces when he tried to hand himself in.
Hey, if you guys are having a competition for bad governments, I'm sorry to have to burst your bubble but New Zealand reigns SUPREME. For example: Our dear Labour Government is so set on following the Kyoto Protocol about reducing greenhouse gases that they've introduced a "fart" tax on farm animals breaking wind (which, they claim, is a greenhouse gas and a danger to the ozone layer.) I jest not. You'll see it all over every New Zealand paper for months back.
By the way: Frankly, I'm a supporter of the Iraq war. Even if there were no WMDs at this particular point in time, Saddam is well known as a despicable butcher who'd torture people speaking out against his regime, slaughter Kurds with mustard gas, was raising an army bent on murdering every last Jew in Israel, etc., etc. Despite the world having some knowledge of this, the only nations with any guts to take care of him were the good ol' USA and allies. God bless 'em! Yes, I know war is hell, but sometimes it's the only way. Look at Hitler - Prime Minister Chamberlain of Britain tried to calm him peacefully by giving him whatever he wanted, but force was the only way this guy would get the message. Loss of life is unavoidable in conflict. However, the Iraqis were much worse off under Saddam. They actually wanted the war in order to obtain freedom. One 'human shield' in Iraq got a shock when he found out that the common Iraqi roundly loathed Saddam and wanted war to take him out. With a hard-headed dictator, peace is precisely what they want, because it means they can continue their nefarious little regime without interference.
So I say - hooray for the USA!
By the way, I've seen lists of who sold weapons to Iraq recently and the largest suppliers are France, Russia and China - which protested the war. It would seem that those countries wanted Iraq's oil. France even sold Iraq a nuclear reactor. I believe they wanted to stop the war because they were afraid conflict might burn the oil wells, thus depriving them of that fuel source.
Our dear Labour Government is so set on following the Kyoto Protocol about reducing greenhouse gases that they've introduced a "fart" tax on farm animals breaking wind (which, they claim, is a greenhouse gas and a danger to the ozone layer.) I jest not. You'll see it all over every New Zealand paper for months back.
If only all our governments took their responsibilities so seriously. The more I hear about New Zealand the more I feel like emigrating. How are they going to measure this though? I assume you can get a lower tax by feeding them low-flatulence foodstuffs?