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07/24/2006

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Thomas

"If the US had ever found hidden stockpiles of WMDs, how well-equipped would it have been to secure and eliminate them?"

That would have posed no problem whatsoever. The Iraqis have no rights to complain and the WMD:s could just have been burned with minimum precautions, just as was done with earlier supplies found during the UN inspections.

J.

Like Thomas says, kein Problem. Securing them is the easy part, and you don't have to follow EPA regulations in an overseas environment (yes, that's a statement officially cleared by OSD lawyers twice - once in 1991 and once in 2003). The Army set up an incineration plant at Muthanna in 1991, one of Iraq's CW production plants, and we merrily roasted all the chemical weapons we found at the time.

But you hit the nail on the head with "Although the General is pretty frustrated with this state of affairs, I can't say that the Defense Department has done a great job educating the public about the risks. Not everyone is a chemist, capable of determining the possibility that a nerve agent might accidentally escape containment during the destruction process." It has been an education and outreach process. Actually the military spends millions in eduation, has staffed offices at every disposal plant, holds frequent townhall meetings and meets with the public quite frequently. The overwhelming majority of the local community has no problem either trusting the government and accepting the disposal program or not trusting the government but not being that worried about it to protest.

But that tiny, narrow-focused, minority of the public who doesn't trust the government and worries about it makes up the activist base, and they are politically active. This is where the OSD/Army fall short - absolutely no Hill campaign to convince the legislators that they're being steered wrong. That's one. The other issue is when politicians deliberately use the issue to inflame the public for campaign purposes ("I'll protect you from the Army and ensure that they spend millions on protecting YOU") when they know better. Can't do anything with that case.

I always thought that if the Air Force or Navy ran the chem demil program, it would have been over a decade ago. Not because they're more technically qualified, but they know how to handle Congress much better.

Kingdaddy

Interesting, Jason. I almost wish you'd write a book about the realities of dealing with unconventional munitions. You talk about things that I don't feel have been adequately covered anywhere else.

Still, I'm somewhat skeptical about the DoD's education program. I've heard some of the presentations they've given, including to community groups and universities. I was less than impressed, particularly in their ability to handle even the most obvious questions. ("Why can't you do store/destroy/transport them somewhere else?" was the one heard most often.)

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