CHESTER HAS MOVED!: Chem attack drills?

Friday, November 05, 2004

Chem attack drills?

An alert reader has asked in the comments section what I think about reports that Marines around Fallujah are preparing for a chemical attack. First, here are two reports: SignOnSanDiego.com >A story from June's San Diego Tribune stated that "Marines were worried that insurgents might attack with nerve agents delivered in mortar shells. "For days, a rumor has circulated that intelligence officials had reason to believe rebels might have the nerve agents sarin or soman. That rumor gained credence yesterday when Marines at checkpoint just outside Fallujah were cautioned about the possibility of chemical attacks." And this more recent story from the Australian press (Rebels vow to use chemical weapons) is very interesting indeed, stating, "Rebel commanders said chemicals such as cyanide had been added to mortar rounds and missiles that would be deployed against coalition troops reported to be preparing for a major assault on the town west of Baghdad." and, " A military committee made up of former officers in Saddam Hussein's army, including experts on chemicals and guerrilla warfare, is said to have been organising forces in Fallujah and planning tactics. The committee is understood to include members of all the main insurgent groups, including that of Iraq's most wanted man, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the terrorist leader behind the beheading of several foreign hostages and a string of car-bomb attacks." Both of these pieces of information are very intriguing indeed. First, the chem threats. I think there are several ways to take them: 1. They are a bluff, meant to delay the assault by causing the US to spend time on chemical drills. 2. The insurgents have actually obtained or stockpiled chemical weapons stocks. If this is the case, I don't think that they have the ability to mass chemical fires against us, which would be a worse case scenario. Instead, we can expect them to use mortar rounds laced with chemical munitions (and my basic explosives and NBC training tells me this is a tricky combination because you must keep the explosives from destroying the chemicals -- you must have an airburst instead), and if that is the case, then our counter-battery fire will wipe from the map any grid that is the source of the mortar shots. Another option is for the insurgents to use chemical munitions, but to rig them as IEDs in a booby-trap method. This would cause a polluted battlefield and make it very difficult to save even the less severely wounded. It won't stop us, but it will slow us down. Chemical weapons could have come from a variety of places. They could have been stockpiled in Fallujah before the invasion, they could have been collected there during the invasion, they could have been sent to Syria, then smuggled back in once the insurgency gained strength. I think it is entirely plausible that one of these events has happened. The only plus sides are completely political. The Bush Administration would be vindicated, and more of the world would be sympathetic to us. These are very small pluses, almost embarrassing to mention. Earlier today I mentioned that all of the MEF's embedded reporter slots have been filled. If there is a serious threat of chemical attack, the troops are probably practicing a good bit. Look for reporters to be practicing too. Second, the brief bit about the "military committee" in the city. I think this proves that my earlier assertions about the concentration of command and control capabilities in Fallujah makes it unlikely that the fighters will melt away. There are several points to take away from this: -I believe the story because the foreign press can often get much closer to the other side than we can (especially the Europeans, who at times are downright sympathetic). If a reporter from Australia can get good reporting on the actions of enemy commanders inside the city (and get away without being beheaded), then friendly Iraqi spies can too. This is good news. -This shows that the enemy in Fallujah, though much smaller than the Republican Guard Divisions that we faced in the invasion, possesses one key thing that many of our previous enemies haven't: the will to fight. Breaking that will is paramount. The existence of chemical munitions and elaborate coordination and mutual support on the enemy side could drastically slow down the battle if they are true. I think it all comes down to one thing: how good is our intelligence on the ground? If chemical attacks are involved, I'm not quite willing just yet to change my estimate of one week, but I will say that casualties will be much higher. I am nearly certain now that I have had a few hours to think it over that we can expect a rolling series of attacks, starting with Fallujah, then moving elsewhere. I'm not going into detail.

6 Comments:

Blogger kosumi said...

Some pent up thoughts:

Re: Why doesn't the Enemy evacuate Fallujah?

I'd put in two reasons, in addition to those already mentioned. First what other Iraqi town would accept them? They need a population center to use as a CandC center. Not only would we try to deny them a new home -- what polity in Iraq would accept the anti-Government forces given the events of the past 6months?

Second: Although they might be fighting WITH 'Netwar' means they are fighting FOR nation-state ends. Zarqawi has explicity stated the goal is to gain control of Iraq. One can assume that is the goal of the Baathists as well. They are an aspiring territorial power. They've made Fallujah into a propaganda piece for themselves -- "This place is ours. We control it and the Americans cannot come here." They have made it so important that to give it up is equivalent to giving up their entire reason for fighting. The Enemy must protect the IDEA of Fallujah as much as the city itself. (Question: if my theory is correct was this our plan all along? did we bait the Enemy into constructing Fallujah into a place that the decisive battle can be fought?)

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Chester -- great blog. I like the nuts and bolts analysis. I've never served but don't want to remain operationally ignorant the rest of my life. How about a reading list? You could set it up as some sort of referral program with Amazon or something -- that's sponsorship I'd click on! :-)

November 5, 2004 at 10:06 PM  
Blogger Don said...

Since the insurgents do not possess proper gear/medicine, or proper training to use chemical weapons I would assume they are likely to kill more of their own than of us.

November 6, 2004 at 1:02 AM  
Blogger PureData said...

If Chemical weapons are used, it will harden US and Iraqi public opinion against the insurgents. But based on their bombing of children, they dont care about public opinion. SO if they have them, they will use them.

They are not fighting a classic guerilla war because they are not goading the uS into wrose and worse attacks and they bomb civilians anc children, but they are figting a war of attrition with the US and Iraq. They are bound to lose it.

I would also expect a surge of attacks around Iraq when the operation starts in Fallujah.

November 6, 2004 at 5:39 AM  
Blogger Rosemary said...

Dear Chester,
I will be praying for your unit's and your "safety." May God make the explosives explode in their heads, hands, eyes, ears, and legs. It has been quite successful, although not always. I appreciate your need to keep each mission SILENT! Loose lips certainly do kill our men, especially with embedded reporters. If we must have them, suffer them well. Let them watch their own back, though. You take care of our Marines! Well, I guess you could take a glance. I am not a hateful person. It's just that sometimes I wonder whose side they're on! Arrggg. God bless you.

November 6, 2004 at 7:29 AM  
Blogger Rosemary said...

Dear Chester,
I will be praying for your unit's and your "safety." May God make the explosives explode in their heads, hands, eyes, ears, and legs. I appreciate your need to keep each mission SILENT! Loose lips certainly do kill our men, especially with embedded reporters. If we must have them, suffer them well. Let them watch their own back, though. You take care of our Marines! Well, I guess you could take a glance. I am not a hateful person. It's just that sometimes I wonder whose side they're on! Arrggg. God bless you.

November 6, 2004 at 7:30 AM  
Blogger Greg D said...

I read a post somewhere a while back that claimed that what we were doing was creating artificial "no go" zones, where the terrorists could feel safe. This would encourage them to congregate there, and let us crush them when we desire.

November 8, 2004 at 1:28 AM  

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