Thursday, 15 September 2016

(British) Black Lives Matter

This post is solely about the British offshoot of Black Lives Matter, and no criticism of the original American movement is implied or intended.

It is apparent from the court appearances following the "Black Lives Matter" protest at London City Airport, that in Britain, Black Lives Matter is just the old Earth Liberation Front wearing blackface and its relevance to the rights and interests of black Britons, let alone black Americans, is nil. Just a gang of middle class white people trying to wrap the race issue around their longstanding extreme environmental agenda. Give them time and they will go back to their normal activities of digging up grannies and petrol bombing scientists.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Legal Stalking

The law firm "Public Interest Lawyers" is to close and more than a thousand complaints which it has filed against British soldiers and marines will be reviewed and probably thrown out. See link to Daily Mail article. For more than a decade PIL instigated witch hunts against servicemen (and it was mainly men) on the basis of what are now known to be flimsy or completely bogus cases of human rights violations. Far from PIL being the victim of an establishment plot, the Blair, Brown and Cameron governments were completely happy to hang ordinary soldiers out to dry and they helpfully established two new investigative bodies to process all the complaints which PIL generated. It was only when judges described evidence from some of PIL's Iraqi clients as "lies" (very strong language for judges) -and the Brexit issue coincidentally swept a lot of human dross out of positions of high office in the United Kingdom government, that PIL was finally held to account. 

Whilst the Daily Mail is to be congratulated for having campaigned against the witch hunts, and for years the response of the liberal establishment to the Mail's campaign was to fatuously heap praise and honours (honourary doctorates and "solicitor of the year") on PIL's senior partner, Phil Shiner, the suggestion by some Mail columnists that Mr Shiner now be prosecuted for treason is probably inappropriate. The false cases represent a serious crime, primarily against individual soldiers and marines and the principle of Justice rather than against the State and the most appropriate charge would, therefore, be one of "conduct tending to pervert the course of justice." If Mr Shiner is to face a court himself, then it is only right that he should do so for what he did to individuals with rights of their own. Which was to persecute them using the law as a weapon, often for years, and almost always with the acquiesence of the successive governments that were willing to send those same individuals into harm's way. (Initially they were sent into harm's way with inadequate equipment, too, because the Blair government forbade the army to make detailed preparations for war because Mr Blair didn't want it to look as if war with Iraq was a forgone conclusion.)

A treason charge would only be appropriate if there was evidence that Mr Shiner acted deliberately to harm Britain as a nation by setting the courts against her soldiers, and even then it would probably need to have been on behalf of a foriegn power rather than as a sort of personal hobby horse. So far, there is no evidence of this, though investigations into Mr Shiner have only just begun. 

However, it is true that if an officer of the Russian FSB or SVR had concocted a plan that saw more than a thousand criminal cases being sought against frontline British service personnel, making it seem as if the British Army was somewhat worse than the SS -and had that officer managed to get the British taxpayer to completely fund his destablisation campaign, then that hypothetical officer would receive warm praise and prompt promotion.

Update: 5th of October 2016.
The government of Theresa May has indicated that it will close loopholes in the Human Rights Act which have left soldiers open to malicious prosecution on the flimsiest of grounds. Most European countries had implemented the same basic Human Rights Act without exposing their soldiers to malicious legal action, so it has to be concluded that the governments of Antony Charles Lynton Blair and David Cameron intended that British soldiers would be so exposed.

Both Blair and Cameron denuded the British armed forces of vital resources whilst finding a constant stream of controversial and unwinnable wars for them to fight, and the net result was quite debilitating. It is only possible to conclude that a weakening and discrediting of Britain's armed forces was their objective. "Why" is an open question, but it might have something to do with a europhile agenda too radical to be admitted to in public. The early signs are that Mrs May will have no truck with that sort of thing, but it will take a while for the new government to accept that defence has been deliberately underfunded by a significant extent since about 1992. The turnaround has to start somewhere, though, and hopefully this is it.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Update on Leighton Buzzard Slave Case

The Connors family from Leighton Buzzard, convicted a while ago of keeping vulnerable men in servitude as slaves, have been the subject of a court hearing under the Proceeds Of Crime Act. They must pay a total of £360,000 to the authorities or serve extra prison terms. It isn't clear if this sum fully reflects the gains which the Connors family made from keeping several slaves for many years, or not. But it is money the court thinks that they still have access to and can pay.

There are a couple more similar cases going through the courts at the moment, one of which involves someone from Luton (only about twenty minutes drive from Leighton Buzzard) allegedly being responsible for a number of slaves discovered in Southampton. The Home Office now estimates that there are about 6,000 persons being kept as slaves in the UK, which shows that much more effort is needed as well as new, tougher legislation which is in the works. This will bring in possible life sentences to avoid the absurdity of slave keepers getting a shorter sentence than their victims have been held in servitude for.

There will doubtless be more posts on this subject here.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Conspiracy in Mingo County Virginia

A corrupt group of officials, including a sheriff and county judge from Mingo county (West Virginia) have been jailed for various crimes, including conspiracy to deny a citizen his constitutional rights. This is the very law, USC 18 section 241, which Medawar identified as a useful anti-gangstalking law for dealing with powerful people subverting the law to enable corruption, which is what a lot of gangstalking amounts to. Although in the end, stalking usually acts as a substitute for murdering the victim, or a stepping stone to murdering the victim. All stalking should be treated as unrequited murder.

US citizens trying to get the FBI to deal with this kind of crime, now have a useful precedent and example of the FBI using the right law and getting the right result. They have jurisdiction and they have effective legislation. And no further excuses.

Friday, 11 July 2014

Crypto Graffiti? Promoted Comment

 The following was posted as a comment, but Medawar has promoted it to a post, in order to promote some discussion of the idea, its feasibility etc.

Medawar has no idea if what's proposed is feasible.
If it is, then it's like Iranian dissidents stamping the image of a murdered demonstrator on banknotes, and that was quite an effective form of peaceful protest!

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "America's Forgotten Anti-Gangstalking Law: USC 18 ...":

People being gang stalked should look into encoding their stories on the Bitcoin block chain.

The block chain is essentially a ledger which is distributed amongst all computers running bitcoin wallet software. When a person installs and runs this software it immediately starts downloading this (huge) file on to their machine.

The blockchain is a ledger containing records for every bitcoin transaction that has ever taken place. Once the file has been downloaded, the file is updated automatically and by the nature of the bitcoin protocol is the SAME on all computers.

Ordinary ASCII messages can be encoded into the addresses of bitcoin transactions. Once these messages are sent via a transaction, they can not be removed or altered. They will remain on the bitcoin network long as bitcoin exists.

There is a website called CryptoGraffiti which further explains this and offers a service to place messages.

Anonymous messages could be placed...

Purchase a 30 Giga hash miner for around $200. Go to bitcoinAddressdotorg and download its bitcoin address generator html page on to a machine that is not connected to the internet. Use this to create a new bitcoin address (public and private key). Import these into a wallet app.

Use a service like Elegius to anonymously send mined coins to this address. Once you have enough coins to send one message... Currently 0.00005500 bitcoins or about 35 cents per 20 bytes, then you send that amount to the ascii encoded address.

You can use the cryptograffiti service to build a list of message encoded addresses then import these into your wallet app. Once you've sent coins to all the addresses in order, then your message is "out there" and will always be associated with the address you sent it from.

To read these messages, someone would have to convert the addresses from a block chain explorer site from hex back into ascii.

I'm betting that sites like CryptoGraffiti will become more popular over time and will incorporate features to search the block chain for messages the same way we use google to search the internet. Assuming of course that bitcoin does not go the way of the Dodo :)

Even if the messages cant be easily read now, it IS an almost guaranteed way of ensuring your story will be available and uncorrupted from now on.

Monday, 30 December 2013

Missing Z Cars

The "Z Cars Theme" post has been reverted to draft, pending the completion of the criminal investigation and legal proceedings. More will be said then.

Update as of 15/09/2016.
Greville Janner was too ill to be prosecuted and died before a trial of the facts could be held. It is apparent that there were several chances to prosecute him for child abuse years before, when he was perfectly fit to stand trial, but these were squandered and there is now an investigation into whether or not detectives involved committed crimes themselves by not investigating properly. It has to be said that there was huge lobbying from parliamentarians, prominently including the now disgraced Keith Vaz,  at the time to forestall any prosecution.

Because there is still a faint chance of policemen and prosecutors facing criminal charges, that's as much as Medawar can say for the time being.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Who Invented The American Military-Industrial Complex?

This is a link to an article published in the Mail on Sunday by Adam Lebor.

It's well worth a read, as it describes how, right up till the middle of 1942, after America had entered the second world war, the giant German combine of  chemical and heavy industrial companies, I.G. Farben, was using an American subsidiary, GAF, to not only procure supplies for the Nazi war effort from America, but was also profiting from America's own rearmament programme and had many South American front companies to route exports through and launder money. It also built and controlled a network of pro-Nazi American politicians, businessmen and officials with which to influence US Government policy in Hitler's favour.

After the war, America recruited thousands of Nazi "scientists" through Operation Paperclip, and it seems quite probable that although the pro-Nazi political network had been cowed into silence between 1942 and 1945, it was able to help those thousands of Nazis to secure not just well-paid jobs throughout American industry, but also helped them achieve positions of influence, which would have restored the fortunes of the network as a whole.

If he did but know it at the time (and possibly he did), when President Eisenhower warned the nation about the military-industrial complex, he was not only warning against a similiar process to that by which the I.G. Farben combine effectively designed and determined German policy for both World Wars: he was effectively warning against the same entity, in that what turned America's industry and its military into a politically active and manipulative "complex", was the network of influence set up in the thirties through Farben's GAF subsidiary.

Mr Lebor's article is incomplete in so far as it only explores the post-war importance of I.G. Farben and GAF in terms of the West German economy, when given that it had been the communist side which inherited the Gestapo and Abhwer archives in 1945, East Germany and the Stasi were at least as well placed to exploit the network which the Nazis had created. Although I.G. Farben does not trade, it does still exist as an asset-holding entity, despite what Mr Lebor has assumed, and a lot of the remaining assets consist of property and land holdings in what used to be East Germany. 

If the Stasi had control of the sort of political manipulation machine which the Nazis created in 1930s America, then the results in the present day might look, disturbingly, quite a lot like the present day.

For in the present day, it is possible for an American company to contaminate 60 million acres of American farmland with superweeds (ie: eight times the total amount of arable land in England) without very many Americans being alarmed, because the mainstream news media dare not bring the matter to their attention. The media has a right under the first Amendment to tell Americans what is happening, and that in fact is a duty because it is essential to the proper working of democracy and the US Constitution. But everyone who works in the media fears what would happen to them if they ever exercised that right and performed their duty on this kind of story, and that is Hitler's legacy to the American people, pure and simple.

And Americans should consider David Cameron's attempts to muzzle the British Press on behalf of the pressure group "**cked Off" in the following light: if the Daily Mail and other British papers are gagged, no-one is going to tell the American people the things they need to know which their own press is too frightened to speak out about.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

HS2 and Napoleonic Road Planning

"Napoleonic" is used a little loosely here, as what's about to be described really started in Royalist France. Just as many policy trends and objectives from Czarist Russia which continued through the communist and kleptocracy eras and are still being pursued today under Mr Putin's autocracy, so it was in France.

For all the revolution's determination to completely overturn the basis of society and of all intellectual thought, certain thought patterns were so deeply entrenched that the revolutionaries couldn't even perceive that they were thinking the same way as the king whose head they had just chopped off. 

Power was held in Paris or very nearby, and power radiated out from there like the spokes on a cartwheel. As decades of futile war against England produced a desire for military roads to enable armies to march around France, swiftly and efficiently, roads were duly built, and as far as was geographically possible, these were built radiating outwards from Paris, like the spokes on a cartwheel... On the map, this arrangement looked clean, logical and efficient, and those in power in France believed it made them more powerful. It lost them the war.

In England, there were a few military roads (most of these actually in Scotland), and even some military canals, but by and large the road network had been allowed to develop of its own accord, and good roads existed which connected two points which needed each other sufficiently for one or both points to stump up the cost of building and maintaining a road. Medawar has, somewhere, a (German-authored, in 1940) invading army's guide to England and Wales which dwells on this issue at length, as if fascinated by a glimpse into an entirely alien world.

On the map, the English road map of the time, (which is the map of today minus the motorway network) looked almost completely random: even a cobweb has more apparent order, because the network consisted of a huge number of very short roads connecting one local resource to the next, across the land. An administrative map would look very similar, as legal boundaries within England were almost entirely defined by the routes which Saxon officials had ridden every couple of weeks to see what was happening and who was complaining about who. To anyone who looked at a map of England with the same kind of understanding as those who'd created a clean and logical strategic road layout from Paris, it seemed at best haphazard and perhaps deranged, like the paths of ants around a nest, perhaps? It won England the war. Not because armies marched majestically down those roads to do battle or suppress dissent, but because the people working the economy behind those armies and the Royal Navy, could get themselves and their goods to just where they were needed. Because no matter how higgledy-piggledy it looked, every forty or fifty yard stretch of road or track on the network went where it did because someone had a regular need to take a cart that way and not another. Every need was connected, by routes of varying and sometimes very great intricacy, with every resource.

The French spoke-roads could get a large number of soldiers very swiftly from the national centre of power to any regional centre of power. Citizens and their goods were strictly secondary, but because they could travel along the strategic roads at a good pace, the roads were seen, by those in power at anyrate, as being good for the citizens, too. But if the citizen was an artisan, making something useful, rather than a servant of the state, he and his goods needed to start their journey at a point which was not a centre of political power, and end it somewhere else, which likewise was not a centre of political power. The spoke-road sped the citizen's progress between two places, neither of which he really wanted or needed to visit.

That of itself did not cripple the French economy quite to the point of never really being able to win a war against England, but it did hobble the minds of the French elite, both Royalist and Revolutionary, into thinking, based on their experience of living with the results, that there must be a finite amount of wealth in the world, and that policy was simply a matter of grabbing as much of that finite wealth by force as one could, and using force to control how that wealth was doled out, preferably solely to the loyal servants of the elite.

Their English counterparts tended not to associate transport efficiency with superficially logical routing so much as with the practical mechanics of movement along whatever the route was. 

The leaders of Georgian England knew that they needed better transport than the roads that they had, so they started to build canals on very much the need-to-want basis the roads had been built on, and this continued into the Victorian and Edwardian era with canal and then railway building. The Edwardian railway map bore a familial resemblance to the Georgian road map. Only between the end of WW1 and the present day was there an attempt to build a cartwheel of trunk roads and then motorways, followed by the current attempt to impose a new high speed railway system based on the same model.

In the twenty-first century, researchers into artificial intelligence started to research ways of determining the most efficient network between needs and resources possible, not just for physical transport solutions, but for the efficient design of computer hardware, telecommunications networks and any AI software solutions that might be running on those electronic networks. It didn't take them too many years to start studying ant colonies and the patterns of movement the ants made around them.

What they found was, although the way the ants formed their network of routes around a colony was so simple it seemed intellect-free, it always did produce the most efficient network possible in the end, and would always beat any human intellectual attempt to devise a rational and logical system. The ant's route networks do not look rational or logical to the eyes of humans, or at least not members of any political elite: indeed, they tend to look rather like a map of all the roads and lanes in Georgian England.

The ant's way of doing things is efficient because it is the product of Boolean logic: instead of AND, OR and NOT you have the imperatives of NEED, RESOURCE and NEITHER. As long as you persist in connecting NEED to RESOURCE and not to NEITHER, ending up with an efficient network eventually is guaranteed by fundamental mathematics

The HS2 project, and the even grander eventual Trans European Network it and future UK high speed railways are meant to be part of, is a spoke in a cartwheel on a map drawn by men who believe that their powers of reason place them far above the ant. Their purpose is to connect Brussels, the continental centre of power, to London, the national centre of power, and then to Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds; the regional centres of power. It connects physical NEED to physical RESOURCE only by blind accident and there is indeed no technical provision for the carriage of raw materials or finished goods, other than nic-nacs being carried by members of the elite traveling from one centre of political power to another.

And it is in the nature of the very high speed "TGV" style of train to be used solely in this way, because its economics and physical dynamics mitigate its usefulness in any other scenario. At the TGV level (or any train that goes at much more than 125MPH) costs and technical issues proliferate and conquer ambition as soon as the track does anything other than run in a straight line with the irreducible number of stops. To the European elite, that is not a disadvantage because that is precisely what they tend to want anyway. In most European countries with a TGV or equivalent network, the high speed lines have sucked resources away from slower lines and trains which serve more destinations and stop more often. Because those are the trains which connect actual physical NEED to physical RESOURCE the French economy is beginning to suffer, but nobody in power can see why, and in fact the elite does not care, because their mental model of the economy is of a finite or even dwindling amount of wealth, with the elite's function being solely to grab as large a share of that dwindling wealth as possible and keep society under control by sharing it out. They expect constant decline, and the fact that even as the EU's population and territory has doubled, its share of global markets has halved, does not trouble them. Decline is what their philosophy leads them to expect.

The ants, if left undisturbed with their funds unplundered, will continue to connect NEED to RESOURCE and disconnect proven instances of NEITHER until efficiency is achieved. That is the mindset we need, if Europe, or an independent United Kingdom, is to enjoy expanding wealth like practically the entire world outside of Europe and Japan (lots of Bullet trains and an economy dead in the water for twenty years.) HS2 is seen by the political elite as sufficiently important as to justify invoking war powers to make it happen, because all the things which make it a bad idea, happen to be fundamental to their view of the world. And their view of the world will condemn us all to eternally declining prosperity and rising poverty unless we break free of it.

Monday, 4 November 2013

David Cameron, Common Purpose and the Freedom of the Press

A few days after the "Royal Charter" on Press Regulation which the pressure group Hacked Off dictated to the all too willing leaders of the Conservative, Liberal Democratic and Labour Parties, was signed into law without any debate of substance or scrutiny in Parliament, David Cameron belatedly admitted that he has links to a Common Purpose front organization. There are lots of these, because Common Purpose doesn't want anyone to think it is trying to control all UK government policy, so it has an offshoot for each policy area.This link is to a description of the CP front organization "Media Standards Trust" behind the front organisation "Hacked off".

Common Purpose is a communitarian organization, and it is intrinsically anti-democratic.

The perverse way in which a Royal Charter has been used to deny, rather than grant, rights, for the very first time in history, typifies the way in which Common Purpose uses all three "main" political parties and a great many supposedly impartial civil servants, to create ways around every constitutional and legal safeguard that exists, in almost every area of public, and increasingly, private, life.

It doesn't help us if rights still exist, in theory, if there's always a convenient way to get around them.

Stop Press.
Since it became known that there was a financial link between David Cameron and Common Purpose, the website for "Stop Common Purpose" seems to have been down. Funny, that.

Update: Common Purpose back up, link above refreshed.
The petition for a public inquiry into Common Purpose failed, because it wasn't possible to get any newspapers to allow it even a sliver of publicity!

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Why the Department of Homeland Security is Preparing for a Civil War

Various American bloggers have written, in terms ranging from concern to outrage, about the increasing militarisation of the DHS, especially its recent order for around 3,000 mineproof armoured personnel carriers. Most of them explain this in terms of President Obama's alleged intention to impose communism on the American people by force, though a few years ago, many of them were as wary of President Bush and a "fascist" agenda. Seeing the nation's shiny new secret police force tooling up for war, rather than policing, understandably tends to feed any unease that people happen to have.

But what the DHS is doing, and what the bureaucracy was doing by getting the politicians to create the DHS in the first place, is indeed to prepare for civil war, because civil war is what happens when a political system fails. The bureaucracy has probably been able to sense impending failure in the American political system for a couple of decades, even if the possibility has only dawned on some political pundits and journalists (Max Hastings, for example) in the past fortnight or so.

The DHS and its civil war-fighting capacity is the bureaucracy protecting itself, but anything which needs funds and legislation, has to be sold to the government of the day before they in turn sell it to the public, and that requires the policy to be framed in terms of the incumbent's dogma and ambitions, leavened by the concerns of the constituency that elects him. To take an example from the UK: both John Major and Tony Blair separately attempted to sell exactly the same ID card policy to Parliament and the public, but with completely different sets of arguments. (Both of which were utterly spurious through and through.) Mr Major clutched at straws quite noticeably trying to find a justification for ID cards that would appeal to Conservative voters, so he largely went for the prevention of benefit fraud and a bizarre line of reasoning that ID cards would somehow reduce the incidence of teenage pregnancy. Medawar never understood how that was supposed to work, but he understands well enough that Mr Major needed to retain the support of John Selwyn Gummer (Party Chairman at one point) with his influence over the party's grassroots supporters. (Gummer was never widely loved elsewhere.) Had Mr Major needed the support of the sports journalist Jimmy Hill, ID cards would have been the key to improving the state of English football. It was Gummer's support he needed, though, so ID cards can help prevent teenage pregnancies. 

Blair's support of ID cards was, characteristically, much more bullying in nature and took the form of a relentless tax-payer funded multi-million-pound smear campaign against anyone who expressed a reason for not wanting national ID cards. If you had done nothing wrong, you had nothing to hide (why, then, are Mr Blair's present day business finances so opaque?) and anyone who opposed ID cards was helping terrorism. This argument collapsed when it became apparent that none of the 7/7 bombers would have had the slightest trouble getting an ID card and using it to facilitate their crime. One of them was already under MI5 surveillance, but not on the basis that they expected him to commit any crime himself. A police state doesn't create security when its officers can't see what's under their noses.

Coming back to the militarized DHS, the DHS is ostensibly a creation of George W. Bush and the main reason why the militarization has happened under Obama, is that the whole (huge) organization was being raised from nothing and it simply wasn't ready for the heavy weapons under Bush. But the Bush administration put in the organizational network, the communications, the intelligence gathering and started to build the data centres needed to store details of just about every communication made in the USA and other developed countries. It also ensured that the new Denver airport would be the centre of the mother of all logistics bases. Denver is only a strategic location for a civil war in the United States. It doesn't help anyone win a foreign war.

Obama just happens to be president when this infrastructure approaches readiness and now needs to be stocked with weapons and munition stocks. Because he's supposed to be in charge and has to make the announcements and speeches, all the material justifying the stocking up phase of preparing for a civil war has been drafted to appeal to him and presented by a team of speechwriters and policy wonks indoctrinated with his beliefs. So it's naturally terrifying to conservatives. But it's all to arm the infrastructure put in place by George Bush's conservative Republican government, which the liberals constantly proclaimed to be a threat to civil liberties and everything else. The militarized DHS is not there for any particular ideological side in the expected civil war: it isn't there to make sure a particular side wins. It is there to make sure that someone wins and one day returns the United States to some kind of effective government.

The political system is failing partly because liberals and conservatives are equally unable to muster majority support in the country and therefore in Congress, and this means that even if they resort to armed conflict rather than filibustering while Washington burns (again), the results of fighting between two roughly equal forces would be just as inconclusive as the deal to end the government shutdown. Inconclusive civil wars do not stop and the numbers killed in the fighting are dwarfed by those who starve, freeze or otherwise die from the lack of working civil infrastructure over several years. The DHS may flip a coin to decide which side they support, or (more probably) they will grab some independent politician or other public figure to be a figurehead for a war of institutional survival.

The result of this may be decisive, but it will lead only to government: not necessarily good government and not, for generations, democratic government. The fighting will be briefer than it might otherwise be, but it will also be ruthless and heavy-handed for the sake of swift results. Thirty to sixty million dead wouldn't be an unreasonable expectation.

The alternative to all that, would be to rediscover politics. Not in the sense of tricks and tactics to outflank and frustrate opponents until they resort to unlawful and undemocratic means, but in the sense of finding the deal that can be done, talking to the reasonable people on both sides and leaving the wildmen out in the cold, as Sinn Fein and the DUP were able to do, but Democrats and Republicans have not. This can be done without compromising principle and belief, and it should be done without compromising principle and belief, but if politics in the Senate and the House are conducted in a spirit of a civil war in stalemate, a real civil war will be the inevitable result.

In which case, getting the DHS ready to fight a civil war is realistic, albeit morally quite the wrong thing to be doing. The bureaucracy can produce a black-suited army to fight a civil war, but the one thing it cannot do, is change the way professional politicians choose to conduct their trade. That is the fundamental problem, and if the bureaucracy's solution to that is unacceptable, then America has a very limited time left in which to make its politicians do the other thing.

Friday, 26 April 2013

Sitemeter on medawar's Cornflakes

Medawar has removed Sitemeter from this blog, because it's stopped working as it used to.

It will be re-instated only if there's some evidence that the old service will be available again, without any attempted blackmail or other nonsense.

Syrian Sarin: Fading Legacy of Soviet "Aid"

There is mounting evidence that some casualties arriving at clinics and hospitals in Syria have been exposed to the nerve agent, Sarin.  However, there's been no mention of the large numbers of fatalities in a fairly small radius that would might expect from an attack on an urban area with Sarin-filled military munitions. This has caused David Cameron and other Western leaders to display their technical ignorance by talking about "small scale" use of nerve agents such as Sarin. What matters with chemical weapons is not scale, so much as concentration. For some reason, the concentration of Sarin gas in the affected area was so low that many (most?) of the casualties were still alive when they reached hospital. This is also what happened when an extremist cult released quantities of homemade Sarin onto the Tokyo underground rail system.

In Tokyo, cult members hurled the contents of sarin-filled jamjars and glass bottles around, in very crowded underground tunnels. The consequences ought, on the face of it, to have included hundreds if not thousands of passengers dying within a few minutes. This did not happen. The probable explanation was that by the time the attack was mounted, the jars of "Sarin" contained relatively little actual Sarin. Sarin isn't hard to make, but it is hard to make Sarin that's particularly pure, and it apparently took months for the cult to make and distribute (to followers) all of the Sarin that was used in the coordinated mass attack. Sarin is not very stable, and unless made from exceptionally pure ingredients, it can degrade (that is, a substantial proportion decomposes into simpler chemical breakdown products) within months, or even weeks. In the days when Iraq actually had a chemical warfare programme, the Sarin munitions that Iraq was making had a shelf life of weeks. So, assuming that the cult's chemists couldn't do better than an Iraqi government factory,  it's probable that most of the Sarin which the Tokyo cult made (over a nearly two year period, according to some sources) had degraded by the time it was used.

It's important to note that the breakdown products of Sarin are themselves quite toxic, but not in the same immediate way. They tend to result in chronic health problems and cancers, rather than prompt shutdown of the body's vital functions. The lethal dose would be many times higher, too.

The United States, having made a huge stockpile of Sarin and Sarin-filled munitions in the fifties and early sixties, stopped making new Sarin in the late sixties. Instead, the US Army redistilled degraded Sarin from existing weapons and storage containers, yielding a smaller amount of pure Sarin each time, along with a lot of breakdown products which were disposed off, not always very sensibly, around Denver, Colorado. By nineteen-eighty, there simply wasn't enough actual Sarin left for this to be worth doing anymore, and binary weapons were introduced as a replacement. (The binary weapons often involved a more modern nerve agent, VX, too.)

Syria is known to have received Soviet Chemical Weapons, and as importantly, gas masks, protective clothing, warning equipment and antidote kits, during the "Yom Yippur" war against Israel in 1973. Indeed, the automatic antidote injectors which NATO subsequently developed were inspired by surprisingly advanced devices issued to Syrian tank crews and captured by the Israelis when the tide of war turned in their favour.

Most of the actual weapons seem to have taken the form of chemical munitions for rocket launchers and heavy mortars which the Syrians already had, as well as aerial bombs. In all cases, there's a lot of commonality between Soviet chemical munitions and other weapons; for example: a Sarin or Mustard gas mortar bomb will be identical to a phosphorous incendiary bomb, except that instead of plastic capsules of white phosphorous being packed in the casing around a small bursting charge, there will be triangular capsules of a poison, usually Sarin or Mustard gas. Aerial bombs for poison gas have a lot of parts in common with explosive cluster bomb dispensers, and so on. This reduces training and industrial costs, and allows one type of launcher to deliver chemical, incendiary and explosive attacks. It also makes accidental or unauthorised release of chemical weapons a more than theoretical possibility.

Mustard gas munitions from 1973 might very well prove lethally effective, assuming that the propellants and bursting charges were in good condition, but Sarin munitions of that vintage would almost certainly contain mostly breakdown products diluting a quite small amount of actual Sarin. This would still cause casualties, including some fatalities, and quite a lot of long-term health problems amongst those living in the affected area afterwards. But a decisive military effect would be most unlikely.

Recent Israeli intelligence/propaganda has emphasised, not the Syrian legacy stockpile of Soviet-era chemical munitions, but a more recent alleged programme to build a laboratory capable of making bulk nerve agents in a short time, ready for prompt use on the battlefield. (They also heavily suggest attempts to make much more modern and sophisticated agents than Sarin, too.) 

If true, and if the laboratory is still able to function after two years of civil war, this would represent a genuine capability to use nerve agents on the battlefield to genuine military effect. It is this which would represent the sort of threat to the wider region, and world, which might justify international military intervention. And it is this which remains unproven. Indeed, the nature of the incidents which do appear to have occurred, rather suggests that freshly-made, pure and viable Sarin is not actually available to the Assad regime.
The Soviet legacy chemical weapons stockpile is not harmless, however. Degraded Sarin will not drop thousands of people dead in their tracks, but it will make hundreds or thousands chronically ill and seriously shorten their lives in the long run, as well as causing economic impoverishment. And experiences on the Great war battlefields of France and Belgium inform us that forty, or even sixty years after manufacture, mustard gas munitions are still horribly dangerous.

These dangers might well justify the provision of gas masks and protective clothing, and even more importantly, first aid and medical guidance, perhaps to rebel groups, certainly to any third party such as the UN or Red Crescent, able to operate in contested areas.

Footage shown on the BBC shows supposed Sarin victims, being given oxygen in hospital, but still wearing their street clothes, presumably as they were when the gas hit them. This is a very basic and avoidable mistake, which can't have helped any of those casualties recover.

Sarin gets into clothing, and into hair. It is absorbed through the skin, and is inhaled. Clothing contaminated with Sarin can continue to exude Sarin into the air and into the skin, for half an hour or more after the casualty is moved into clean air. Cloth contaminated with mustard gas is slightly less dangerous, but stays dangerous for weeks.

The first thing that has to happen to a chemical weapon casualty, is that their clothes come off and are left outside the hospital. Oxygen may be given as they are stripped and washed, but if they are not stripped and washed, the oxygen is only going to buy them a few minutes extra. In a Muslim country, there's a reluctance to strip casualties in a public place where others may see. But where the clothes may harbour Sarin, or Mustard gas, the longer the patient wears those clothes, the more harm will be done. Not just to the casualty, but to others, including those trying to help them.

Ideally, there needs to be a compartmentalised process, where clothes come off outside, there's a tent in which casualties are washed, and only then do they enter the hospital. Oxygen, and if it is available, an antidote might be given outside, but every item used on a casualty in one stage, has to stay in that stage and not follow the casualty into the next stage. The only thing passing down the line needs to be the patient.