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US, Russia Agree On Plan To Dispose of Syria's Chemical Weapons 256

Posted by Soulskill
from the now-back-to-killing-people-with-regular-weapons dept.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has announced an agreement between the U.S. and Russia on a plan for removing and destroying Syria's chemical weapons. "Damascus will be given one week from now to give an inventory of its chemical arsenal and will have to allow international inspectors into Syria 'no later than November,' Kerry said after a third day of intense negotiations with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Geneva." The weapons must all be eliminated by mid-2014. "If Syrian President Bashar Assad fails to meet the demands, then a resolution to enforce compliance would be sought at the U.N. Security Council, Kerry said. The action could include sanctions, and Kerry said that the U.S. would reserve the right to use military force, but Russia remains opposed to any armed intervention." President Obama said, "The use of chemical weapons anywhere in the world is an affront to human dignity and a threat to the security of people everywhere. We have a duty to preserve a world free from the fear of chemical weapons for our children."
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US, Russia Agree On Plan To Dispose of Syria's Chemical Weapons

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  • I still want... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sjbe (173966) on Saturday September 14, 2013 @01:53PM (#44850519)

    ...someone to explain to me why killing people with chemical weapons is somehow worse than killing them with bullets.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by tysonedwards (969693)
      Chemical weapons still kill weeks or more after they have been deployed. Bullets and Explosives only kill in that instant.
      • Re:I still want... (Score:4, Informative)

        by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Saturday September 14, 2013 @02:05PM (#44850621)

        Bombs left over from WWII are still killing people.

        http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1283273/WW2-bomb-kills-G-ttingen-experts-attempt-defuse-it.html [dailymail.co.uk]

      • Re:I still want... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Saturday September 14, 2013 @02:33PM (#44850823)

        Chemical weapons still kill weeks or more after they have been deployed.

        Depends on the particular chemicals.

        VX can kill years after it's used if someone touches something that was exposed to VX and hasn't since had the residue washed away.

        Sarin, not so much.

        Mustard gas is just fertilizer after a few hours.

        • Re:I still want... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Xest (935314) on Sunday September 15, 2013 @02:56AM (#44854569)

          Yes, you're right but the post started by the GP are missing the actual problem with chemical weapons, none of this is the real reason chemical weapons are so bad. Especially the likes of Sarin.

          You use different chemical weapons with different aims, quite rightly as you say VX is persistent so you use it if you want to deny access to an area whilst others like Sarin and Mustard gas aren't.

          The reason Sarin for example is particularly bad is because it kills en-masse very quickly and leaves infrastructure intact. It reduces the cost of war, particularly this sort of civil war and it makes ethnic cleansing a dangerously cheap thing to do. Thus far the war has been expensive for Assad - he's had to literally destroy his most economically productive cities literally into nothing but rubble, and that's expensive. It means even if he wins there'll still have been a massive cost to his actions which act as a deterrent for further action, and for other dictators to do the same when they realise he may have won the war, but his country is now 3rd world which means even he personally will be poorer with no national wealth to sponge from.

          Sarin does indeed degrade to be pretty harmless relatively quickly, which is why there were pictures of people stood by the delivery rockets of this particular attack only a short time afterwards, and why there were concerns that Assad's 5 day delay in letting the chemical weapons inspectors there could cause the loss of much evidence. The problem with a weapon like this that can kill a thousand people and leave nothing but a bunch of dead bodies and a small crater in the ground is that it leaves all the infrastructure intact. It makes war and ethnic cleansing relatively free of penalty for someone who does it.

          Decided you don't like those of a particular religious sect sat in that corner of your city? Use Sarin! Within a day they'll all be dead and all you have to do is burn the bodies then your preferred religious sect can move in in their place and that section of the city remains productive because everything works like it did a day before the entire population was wiped out.

          The drastically more indiscriminate nature is certainly a problem also as others have pointed out, the fact that even people hidden in basements and so forth will die to it. In the attack being discussed at the moment it seems around 200 people at minimum died from one single munition using even the low end figures (the high end would probably suggest maybe as many as 750 - 800 from a single munition). Judging from where the munition landed from pictures, even if it was built up rush hour I'd take a guess that at most an equivalently sized conventional purely explosive rocket would've only killed 50 at most.

    • Re:I still want... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Saturday September 14, 2013 @02:02PM (#44850593)

      That is what the father of chemical warfare, Fritz Haber, thought as well.

      After the effects of chemical warfare became apparent during WWI, his wife and son committed suicide over the shame of their husband and father's work on poison gasses.

      One thing is certain, that poison gas is much harder to deliver in a controlled fashion than are bombs. Perhaps just on that basis it should be banned.

    • Watch a video of sarin exposure and you'll understand. It's particularly nasty.

    • by mellon (7048)

      Indeed, "the use of chemical weapons anywhere in the world is an affront to human dignity" could be reworded as "the use of deadly weapons anywhere in the world is an affront to human dignity" without really changing the meaning—what do I care if you kill me with a sword or with poison gas? I don't want you to kill me with either. That's what an affront to human dignity is in this context.

      So the reason for focusing on chemical weapons is that we aren't ready to have that conversation about, say, g

      • Re:I still want... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Gareth Iwan Fairclough (2831535) on Saturday September 14, 2013 @02:44PM (#44850877)
        I used to teach NBC (Now known as CBRN) warfare and survival when I was in the army.

        As bad as any unreasonable killing can be, seeing someone or something suffer and die from exposure to chemical weapons is far more horrific imo. I'm sure there are videos floating around of animals being hit with these things. Watch some, then picture the same thing but with a human being. Chemical and biological weaponry simply has no place in any reasonable arsenal. A being shot or stabbed often kills within seconds and leaving the victim unaware of what has happened.

        Being caught in a chemical weapons strike? Well, just watch those vids. I'm talking almost total agony for the last few minutes of your life, post exposure to any one of the various chemical agents used in chemical warfare. Ever had lockjaw or one of your muscles start contracting painfully and uncontrollably? Just imagine having that happen to every single muscle fiber in your body, leaving you writhing in the street covered in your own bodily fluids as you've lost control of bowel function and gasping for air as your lungs have stopped working due to the brain and nerve cells going haywire due to the nerve agent you just got hit with.

        That's just a nerve agent. There's a variety of different substances out there, each one designed to have different effects on the human body. Blister agents (which cause just that, extreme blistering on every organic surface it comes accross, including the insides of your lungs), blood agents (destroys or otherwise disables the haemoglobin in your blood), the various nerve agents (G nerve, H nerve, which cause random junk signals to be passed down your nerves, sending muscles crazy and destroying and sort of control either concious or subconcious).

        I hate that stuff. It's unpleasent just to even think of it. It's even more unpleasant to realise that these agents can linger in the environment and remain deadly for far longer than any land mine or shell or bomb. "Think of the children?" is quite appropriate here. I wouldn't want my kids to grow up, knowing that that shit was still around.

        • Re:I still want... (Score:4, Interesting)

          by mellon (7048) on Saturday September 14, 2013 @08:35PM (#44853027) Homepage

          You've hit the nail on the head here. What matters is not the experience of the person you are killing—it will be over quickly, whether it is agonizing or not. What matters is how you feel about it after they are dead. With a fatal GSW, you can feel like it was a "good death," because they didn't suffer a lot, whereas with chemical weapons, you would feel like it's a "bad death," because they suffered horribly. So chemical weapons are bad not because they cause the victim to suffer, but because they cause the witnesses to suffer.

          I was making a different point: killing is wrong. The main affect that a death that is imposed upon you by another human being has is that you don't get to live the rest of your life. Your family is deprived of your company, and your productivity. You do not have any further opportunity to make something out of your life, to atone for those things you regret, to express your love to the people you care about.

          In reality, you can die at any time, of any cause. You can be hit by a car, and die an agonizing death by the side of the road. You can get tetanus, and die as you described, in terrible pain. You can die of old age which, although it is often considered the best possible outcome, is certainly not pleasant, and not something anyone would seek out unless there were no alternative.

          Death is the enemy. For a human being to visit death upon another human being is to give aid and comfort to the enemy.

        • Re:I still want... (Score:4, Insightful)

          by nbauman (624611) on Saturday September 14, 2013 @08:52PM (#44853109) Homepage Journal

          Sarin kills in about 1 minute. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarin [wikipedia.org] It has the same effect as some of the paralytic drugs used for execution by lethal injection in the U.S.

          I've read papers in the medical journals, including *.mil, about injuries from conventional weapons of the kind we used in Afghanistan and Iraq.

          Napalm-type weapons https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_77_bomb [wikipedia.org] can cause burns over 50% of your body that will kill you painfully over a week. Sarin is more horrific than that? I don't get it.

          Sometimes bullets or bombs will kill immediately, but often they don't. People without access to advanced medical care, especially civilians in a war zone, will die slowly and painfully. Bombs produce burn injuries, with results similar to napalm. People have arms and legs blown off and die from blood loss and shock. Penetrating wounds get infected, and they die over a week. When buildings are destroyed, the people in them are crushed, and with compartment syndrome they die in a few days. War is horrific. Sarin is more horrific than the rest of it? I don't get it.

          And Fritz Haber didn't get it either.

      • "the use of deadly weapons anywhere in the world is an affront to human dignity"
         
        So the use of deadly weapons to by, say, Poland to fight against invasion by Nazi Germany was an "affront to human dignity"? Everything depends on the context. Submitting to evil without even fighting back is also an affront to human dignity.

        • by nbauman (624611)

          Godwin aside, I can't recall a major war that our country has been involved in since Korea that made things any better.

          Unless, like Henry Kissinger, you believe that democracy is evil and an affront to human dignity.

    • Re:I still want... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 14, 2013 @02:24PM (#44850771)

      It might technically be an appeal to tradition but here goes:

      The people who survived WWI; the ones who saw close range trench warfare with stabbing of the enemy, shelling of trenches, pointless charges over no-man's-land to get cut down by machine guns, gangrene, and hearing the screams of people dying slowing in no-man's-land - those are the people who said that chemical weapons cross the line.

    • I've thought about this quite a bit over the last weeks and came up with 3 different possibilities:
      1) More "humane" since bullets kill faster.
      2) Survival of the fittest helps evolution a little bit since soldiers who know how to duck get to go home and have babies. (Some military guys might think this way, what the heck do I know?)
      3) Chemical weapons might be a gateway weapon to germ warfare, which could wipe out a pretty large chunk of humanity.

    • Chemicals can and do kill many more in one shot, is far far worse, is less discriminatory, and finally, will lead to the use of the worst: biologicals.
      BTW, I have seen ppl die from bullets, and I have worked with Sarin, so have watched rabbits die from it. I will take a bullet over the gas.
    • Chemical weapons are particularly effective at killing women, children and noncombatants, and in a particularly horrible way.

    • From what I've heard, it's because (based on history) it kills more civilians than soldiers. Therefore, it's more of a tactic to scare than to accurately kill your enemy soldiers.
  • by Bob9113 (14996) on Saturday September 14, 2013 @01:57PM (#44850553) Homepage

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has announced an agreement between the U.S. and Russia on a plan for removing and destroying Syria's chemical weapons.

    I don't understand why we have to resort to reasonable non-violent solutions when we had a perfectly good rash hotheaded answer in bombing the bejeezus out of them. When will we stop the sanity?!?

    • by sumdumass (711423) on Saturday September 14, 2013 @02:05PM (#44850623) Journal

      We weren't planning on bombing the bejeezus out of them. We were planning on something unbelievably small.

      Yes, you heard me right. This isn't just echos from your first real date, Kerry said our bombing was going to be unbelievably small.

      • by msobkow (48369)

        The US has been known to launch an entire drone/bomb to take out one person or a small group of people.

        If that isn't overkill and "bombing the bejeezus out of them", I don't know what is.

        The US is not exactly known for subtlety.

        • Sorry, but drone/bomb comes in integer values only. You can't launch 0.35 drone/bomb.

          • by msobkow (48369)

            Which is precisely the point. Tomahawks and such are serious overkill for assassinations.

            • The last time I heard of doing an assassination using a Navy Seal we lost an expensive formerly secret stealth helicopter plus put an elite team of highly trained special forces at great risk.

              Drones are damn cheap in comparison.

      • "Small", and completely useless.
        "Yo, Assad...we're going to blow up some of your stuff in 3 weeks." Launch, and destroy some runways and now empty buildings.
    • by mellon (7048)

      Oh, don't worry, I'm sure they'll find some other way to enrich our military-industrial complex.

    • by aliquis (678370) <dospam@gmail.com> on Saturday September 14, 2013 @02:49PM (#44850923) Homepage

      Nuke, napalm, depleted uranium, drones = ok.

      Chemical = not ok.

      Torture = Depends on who's doing it.

    • by istartedi (132515)

      "What makes a man turn neutral? Lust for gold? Power? Or were you just born with a heart full of neutrality?"

      Sigh... if only we had a man like Zapp. We'd send in 100,000 of our best men. They'd all die horribly and we wouldn't fix the problem. They'd all be heroes.

      • by msobkow (48369)

        Just to let you know, while I'm not a grammar nazi, your sig manages to irritate the shit out of me. But that's the whole point of it. Kudos. :D

    • Don't worry, this outbreak of sanity is only a temporary measure in response to Team Obama's abject failure to successfully market the Syrian Strike (tm) to anyone except the French government and Al-Qaeda. I'm confident that within a year, Team Obama will be back on the market with a whole new war. (Or maybe the same war with a different advertising campaign.) After all, what good is a former Presidential Administration without a small country's head on its trophy wall?
    • by boorack (1345877)
      Syria will hand over their chemical weapons to Russia. Russia will sell them to China. China will pack them into small aluminium containers and sell to US as insect repellant. Goldman Sachs will earn some bucks beacuse of aluminium. Everyone will be happy.
  • I dare the US, Russia, Canada, the UK, or any other nation to try to get an accurate inventory out of their militaries in only a week.

    Furthermore, the US has been working on destroying their chemical weapons for THIRTY YEARS. They're still talking several more years to dispose of roughly the same amount as Syria has, with the destruction plants pretty much already built.

    This agreement seems to be set up to fail. I realize some sort of numbers and deadlines had to be put out there, but I guarantee the

    • by sumdumass (711423) on Saturday September 14, 2013 @02:10PM (#44850651) Journal

      This agreement seems to be set up to fail. I realize some sort of numbers and deadlines had to be put out there, but I guarantee they won't be meeting this schedule.

      Eliminated likely doesn't mean destroyed or disposed of, but eliminated from Syria and Assad's control.

      I suspect that Russia will place troops at the chemical weapon's sites to protect them and the UN inspectors and monitors. This will free up a small but significant amounts of Assad's forces to combat the rebels. It is as if Russia created a way for it to intervene on Assad's side at the request of the west.

      • by gd2shoe (747932)
        I hadn't considered that. I knew they were acting on their own interests. This makes sense.
    • by Mashiki (184564)

      Oh it's pretty easy for us up here in Canada, it's even public knowledge.

      Navy: 2 battle canoes, equipped with M34 beavers. And two rusted submarines.
      Airforce: 3 men and a hang glider.
      Army: 260 strong, 35 guns, no bullets.

      Jokingly aside, it wasn't all that many years ago that "live" fire training on Canadian military bases revolved around yelling "bang." I wish I was kidding.

    • by mellon (7048)

      That's not really the point, though. The point is that a year from now, when that comes up, if progress has been made they can say "look, progress is being made, we don't actually have to bomb Syria" and thereby save face. Or if they want a pretext to bomb Syria, even if progress has been made, they can say "to little, too late" and go ahead with the bombing. The main focus here is on kicking the can down the road. I'd much prefer a rational assessment of the situation, and a constructive solution t

      • by msobkow (48369)

        Or in a month they'll scream that progress isn't being made and use it as an excuse to go ahead with the bombings.

      • by msobkow (48369)

        Only they'll be "justified" in bombing after Syria "fails to meet their commitments".

        Or so they'll spin it, ignoring the fact that no one could meet the schedule that's been set.

    • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Saturday September 14, 2013 @02:31PM (#44850815) Homepage

      While you have a good point, you have to understand that this whole project is the ultimate kludge. We do what we must because we can.

      1 - If / When it doesn't work, you now have a reason to go beat up Assad in whatever form you think you can get away with. It's almost as good as a UN resolution, perhaps better because Russia is behind it.

      2 - It puts foreign, armed boots on the ground. And not little pansy assed blue helmets. Nasty troops with the appropriate backup. Now, this can backfire (as can anything else here) by having lots of Russian boots that act as a deterrent to the rebels but if you have both US and Russian inspectors on the ground, you will likely have both countries represented. The implied command and control needed for that can really stabilize the situation since neither country wants things to accelerate.

      3 - You have the chance of getting the vast majority of the stocks out off the underground arms bazaar. This is the problem with Assad's chemical weapons. When he loses control over them (and apparently he has) you have all the nasties trying to get some. Sarin is a wonderful terrorist device. In some ways better than a nuc.

      The world has apparently dodged a bullet with the USSR nuclear stockpile - it didn't get handed out to everyone with an agenda and a budget. We need to do the same for idiot Assad's chemical weapons. Unfortunately, the parallels between Irag and Syria are way too close for comfort. While Assad might not be as batshit insane as Hussein was, he's not all that far off. We don't have all that much freedom of movement in the Middle East and Russia has a bit more. For once, our interests are aligned a bit.

      • by msobkow (48369)

        Even if I had mod points I couldn't mod you up because I've already commented, but I would if I could. :)

      • by PapayaSF (721268)

        Yeah, but all this is going to happen in the middle of a civil war? All the Al Qaeda types are just going to sit back and watch the Russian troops show up and take their positions? And once the troops are in place, won't everyone know where the chemical (and I have read, biological) weapons are? Are they going to build specialized (and vulnerable) incinerators to destroy them, or load them onto convoys of trucks and take them to ships on the coast while everyone watches peacefully?

        This plan seems "impractic

      • One thing the Clinton Administration doesn't get nearly enough credit for - they put in some solid work helping to keep formerly-Soviet nuclear arms controlled.
      • by gd2shoe (747932)

        The world has apparently dodged a bullet with the USSR nuclear stockpile - it didn't get handed out to everyone with an agenda and a budget.

        Well, at least not to anyone crazy enough to use them... Yet.

      • While you have a good point, you have to understand that this whole project is the ultimate kludge. We do what we must because we can.

        For the good of all of us, except the ones who are dead.

  • to kill children with and you are ok!

  • This is a reasonably good outcome. Yes, it increases Russian influence in the Middle East, but so what? The U.S. now imports 36% of the oil it uses, down from 60% in 2006. The Middle East is losing its strategic importance to the US.

    • by gtall (79522)

      "increases Russian influence in the Middle East"? Syria is a failed state, now it will become Russia's tar baby because those Sunni rebels and their Arab backers aren't going to give up. And Russia just managed to piss off all the Sunni regimes in the Mid-East. The only group they look like they have a big dick to is Iran, but they aren't technically in the mid-east. This doesn't change their relationship at all.

  • by auric_dude (610172) on Saturday September 14, 2013 @02:09PM (#44850645)
    Jeffrey Lewis over at Arms Control Wonk give some thoughts about the nuts and bolts of eliminating Syria's chemical weapons, the link is a few days old but I expect us still valid http://lewis.armscontrolwonk.com/archive/6807/syria-cw-elimination-modalities [armscontrolwonk.com]
  • by crgrace (220738) on Saturday September 14, 2013 @02:19PM (#44850729)

    I thought the US Administration's goal was to punish Assad for the large-scale use of chemical weapons with a "limited" military strike. How exactly does destroying the weapons count as punishment?

    It's a bit like me turning in my guns to the cops if I commit a murder and that being the end of it.

    It almost makes one think that this is really about Obama saving face for making a stupid comment about a "red line". Was Obama prepared to kill more innocent people in an ineffectual missile strike to save face? Now the Russians have given him an out are we not going to punish Syria after all? Hypocrisy?

    • by AmiMoJo (196126) * <[ten.3dlrow] [ta] [ojom]> on Saturday September 14, 2013 @05:31PM (#44852081) Homepage

      Russia's view is that the chemical weapons were used by one of the rebel factions. By putting Assad's chemical weapons beyond use it doesn't matter if he used them or not, in either case neither side can use them again and blame the other.

      Since there is no proof who did it that seems like the best compromise.

  • They seem to have chemical weapons too. They should be disarmed from them as well.

    To me, this plan looks like a setup to disarm Syria to prevent it from attacking Israel or US invasion troops when (not if) they declare he has not cooperated enough. The same happened with the UN inspectors in Iraq, it didn't matter what they reported they just were there as an excuse to start the attack.

    The US has not even declared war with Syria. Seems they learned the lesson Japan gave them in 1941 about the effectiveness

  • by MikeV (7307) on Saturday September 14, 2013 @06:10PM (#44852319)

    100,000 or more dead in this conflict with millions displaced and refugees and the USA is running around in circles screaming like little girls becaise 1400 die due to chemical weapons? How does the method of killing have anything to do with the fact that people are dying left and right? And what gives the USA the right to judge them when the USA has one of the largest arsenals of chemical and nuclear weapons in the world? If WMD's are an affront to human dignity, then the USA is the biggest afront in the world.

  • Syria never ratified the 1994 convention prohibiting making and ownership of chemical weapons. Neither did Israel or Egypt. It means that it is perfectly legal for them to have that weapon stockpile.

    OTOH, US and Russia ratified that treaty and only disposed half of their chemical weapon stockpile. That story is not a big victory for international conventions. Just the stronger bending the arm of the weaker.

    • by msobkow (48369)

      Syria just signed on. That's the whole point of this discussion.

      As to the US, they've destroyed something on the order of 90% of their chemical weapon stockpile, though it took 30 years so far and will take a few more before they're done.

      Nukes are another story entirely.

  • Don't we also have a duty to preserve a world free from flying killer robots for our children?

    Isn't it the killing that's the terrible thing, not the method that's used? This reminds me of the stupidity of classifying some crimes as "hate crimes", as if it's worse that someone gets beat up because they're gay than if they get beat up because they're walking down the wrong street.

  • I bet they're seeing the tax dollar investment in chemical weapons as a bit of a waste now that they used them like twice and the entire world stepped in to force them to destroy them. SURPRISE, they're illegal on Earth. Do they not have history class there in Syria or what? I can't imagine them being particularly cheap to assemble and store.

    That's like a guy in some certain state having spent money on 50 automatic rifles and then firing one at a target once only the have the police confiscate them all

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