Chemical Weapons Update
In the comments section from last night's post about chemical weapons, an alert reader, Don, pointed out that if the insurgents have chemical munitions, they most likely do not have the necessary medical and deconatamination equipment or training to keep their own members safe, and therefore, if they use the munitions, they are likely to kill more of themselves than us. This is an outstanding point that I overlooked, but I would make a caveat: the insurgents could save chemical munitions for a last resort. If US troops reached certain key terrain or accomlished certain objectives that the insurgents designate, it could trigger a pre-planned chemical assault that is partially suicidal. That is to say, they would do their best to be upwind and distanced from the target points, but if they lost some of their numbers in the process it would be seen as a cost of fighting. Also, using chemical munitions rigged as IEDs could be performed in a relatively safe manner (for them) and could be used to attempt to deny us certain areas. If they have persistent chemical munitions that settle on surfaces like dust, then this is a real possibility. Another general point about chemical munitions: they are best employed with conventional weapons, in a manner such that the conventional weapons injure a number of people, and the chemical munitions keep the injured from being saved. If I had some limited stocks of chemical munitions, and was an insurgent commander, this is how my calculus on when to use them would go: 1. I could fire them in massed surprise fires against US assembly areas and logistics sites. The goal would be to disrupt the planning and preparation for the assault. The trade-off would be that for every chemical munition I fire, the likelihood that the US won't waste time seizing my city in a civil manner and will instead level it (and pour salt on the ashes if you ask me) increases dramatically. At this point, we haven't seen this action yet, and the window is closing fast. The massing of chemical fires could still be targeted against rear areas after the assault begins, but with the same tradeoffs. 2. I could shell or otherwise saturate certain parts of the city with persistent chemical agents in order to create an obstacle with a tactical shaping purpose: disrupting, blocking, turning or fixing. This would have to be part of my overall defenseive plan of rhte city and integrated with the rest of my plans, otherwise it will be a waste of my munitions because the US will go around or over it. If I didi this right and timed it correctly, the injuries to my own forces would be minimal. 3. As I mentioned above, I could save my chemical munitions for the final stages of the American attack, if I am not successful in beating them back. At this point, my use of them could encompass any of the above, or I could perform increasingly dastardly things: use civilians somehow as a ruse, use suicide attacks, etc. Two more thoughts: While I doubt the insurgents have sophisticated medical equipment or personnel, it is entirely probable that they have basic chemical protective gear for individual members. In my war memorabilia box in my garage I have a Bulgarian model gas mask that I picked up out of an abandoned fighting position in Diwaniyah while I was there. That makes one Iraqi who was prepped for an NBC (nuclear, biological, chemical) attack . . .