NBC Weapons: February 7, 2003

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What happens if Iraq successfully uses chemical, biological or nuclear weapons against U.S. troops, Israel or even Turkey, Kuwait or Saudi Arabia? The most likely targets are American troops or Israel. The Iraqis would have to cause at least several hundred casualties to have any effect. And the impact would be to slow down American military operations, but not stop them. Remember, however, that chemical and biological weapons are far from being "wonder weapons." For example, we're still not sure if Iraq tried to use chemical weapons during the 1991 war. That's the problem with chemical and biological weapons; you need to use a lot of them to have any noticeable effect. Use them a little, and you might get some people who seem to be coming down with something else. Nuclear weapons are somewhat similar. Iraq may or may not have an atomic bomb. If they have built one, they certainly haven't tested it. If they use an untested atomic bomb design and it doesn't work, they will still have used a "radiological bomb" (an explosive device that just spreads a lot of radioactive material around.) This would cause some permanent damage to the part of Iraq (or wherever) it fell and would make Saddam into a big time bad guy. But he's already that, and using any of these weapons would not change the outcome of the war. It would be interesting to see how the media would spin all of this, as journalists have so far been pretty clueless on the subject of chemical and biological weapons. Reporting tends to concentrate on potential (but highly unlikely) massive casualties. It's forgotten that chemical and biological weapons have been used a lot in the past, but accurate reporting on those events has been generally lacking.

 


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