January 1991 (vol. 7, #2) 1601 N. Tucson Blvd. Suite 9, Tucson AZ 85716 c 1991 J Orient


As the January 15 deadline for Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait approaches, preparations for war are proceeding on both sides of the line in the sand.


Civil defense instruction on prime-time television preceded a one-day evacuation drill that involved 1.5 million residents of Baghdad suburb. Instruction included nuclear-attack procedures as well as techniques for sealing homes and automobiles against chemical agents (Ariz Daily Star 12/22/90).

Iraqi offensive preparations preceded the deadline by years. Saddam Hussein's chemical arsenal has undergone extensive field testing. During the Iran-Iraq war, hundreds of Iranian soldiers were treated in European hospitals. In 1984, there was toxicologic evidence for the use of mustard, nerve gases, and trichothecenes (mycotoxins or ``yellow rain''). (The last has been disputed.) In 1985 and 1986, there was also evidence of the use of cyanide compounds (Proceedings of the 23rd European Int'l Meeting, Int'l Association of Forensic Toxicologists, Ghent, 1986). About 2000 Iranian villages were allegedly subjected to gas attacks, according to a report from the State University of Ghent (9/10/90, CW90-2/PJ894), but investigations were said to be limited due to political considerations.

Iraqi weapons have been acquired from a variety of sources, largely Soviet but also Western. At least one German company sold Iraq deadly mycotoxins. A drop tank that could be used for releasing chemical agents from aircraft was offered by H&H Metalform GmbH, which was continuing, ten days after the Kuwaiti invasion, to supply Baghdad with steel components suitable for rockets (Wall St J 10/2/90).

Iraq could have obtained cyanides from the Soviet Union. A cyanide leak from a Soviet plant that manufactures chemical weapons recently poisoned water supplies to several cities in Byelorussia and Latvia (Ariz Daily Star 11/10/90). Cyanides were among the agents said to be used by Soviet surrogate troops in Angola (see the Sept 1989 and Jan 1990 issues).

Those who believe that treaties will be protective need to consider the fact that the Soviets classify cyanide bombs as ``incendiaries,'' which are not subject to the Geneva protocol (A. Heyndrickx, personal communication).

United States

US troops are either ready or not quite ready for the deadline, depending on which US official is to be believed. The calculations appear to focus primarily on aircraft and weapons systems, not on defensive equipment.

Air superiority, at least, should be assured, assuming that (1) the Iraqis do not fire fuel air explosives or missiles armed with nerve gas at crowded Alliance airfields and (2) fuel supplies will be adequate. Anticipated daily fuel consumption of 50,000 tonnes is being drawn from refineries in Eastern Saudi Arabia, which are within range of Iraq's ballistic missiles (Briefing Notes, the Mackenzie Institute). Iraqi missiles are either mobile or defended. The refineries are neither, Congress having rejected US antimissile defenses.

Against chemical weapons, the Iraqis have steel personnel shelters with the best ventilation-filtration equipment in the world, and the US Marines have tents. US troops have chemical detection equipment and antidotes for some agents in the Iraqi arsenal. US soldiers are issued three autoinjectors, each containing 2 mg atropine, plus three autoinjectors of oxime 2-PAM chloride (Internal Medicine News 9/15-30/90). According to a standard pharmacology textbook (Goodman and Gilman), ``atropine should be given in heroic doses...2 mg...every 3 to 10 minutes until muscarinic symptoms disappear.'' Up to 1,000 mg/day have been used, with 50 mg the starting dose in ``serious cases'' (State Univ Ghent). The Iranians used 10 to 15 injectors, rather than three.

One of the nerve agents, soman, forms such a tight bond with acetylcholinesterase that these antidotes are ineffective. More powerful antidotes do exist (and are available to Eastern bloc soldiers) but have not been fielded by US forces.

Retarding the development and deployment of improved defenses by the US has not held back research on chemical warfare agents in other nations. Heightened lethality is apparently not the only objective. Third World victims of newer agents have experienced devastating, permanent neurologic crippling (Heyndrickx, Fourth Mission to Angola, 1989).

As the imminent deadline precludes a ``surge'' to readiness, we may discover who is correct: those who say the US military is the best protected force in history, or those who say protective gear is at least 20 years behind the times.

Soviet Union

It is unclear which side of the line the Soviet Union is on or will be on tomorrow after the resignation of Eduard Shevardnadze, whose support of American policy in the Gulf had enraged Soviet military hard-liners (see p. 2).

The Bottom Line

US troops may soon test the MAD presumption that possession of a certain number of weapons of mass destruction confers immunity to attack.

If thousands of American soldiers come home in body bags, will the press and the public conclude that we should speed up our program to dispose of our chemical deterrent (and maybe our army too)? Or will they ask the right questions: 1. Why don't we have a theater missile defense? 2. Why don't we have the best possible protection against weapons of mass destruction, for our troops on foreign battlefields and for their families at home?


Soviet Lines

Bread Lines. A line of Soviet women, with nearly empty shopping carts, appeared on the front page of Moscow News, with the headline ``No More Circuses-Bread!'' In addition to a real transfer of land to individual farmers as distinctly private property, the cofounders of the new Moscow News (MN) deman-ded ``emergency measures-including the use of strategic resources set aside for the event of war.'' They felt that this step would ``present our nation with tangible proof of impor-tant victories scored by new thinking in the international arena'' (MN 11/25-12/2/90).

Marshall Sergei Akhromeyev, Gorbachev's top military adviser, said he opposed the release of food because ``this proposal was based on the erroneous assumption that the Soviet Union no longer faced a military threat'' (Wall St J 12/18/90).

Berlin's emergency food supplies (about $400 million worth) are being shipped to the Soviet Union. President Bush has extended Moscow $1 billion in food credits. Expectations that the Soviets would use the credits to purchase 600,000 tonnes of corn and 1.2 million tonnes of wheat buoyed de-pressed commodities prices, which later fell on threats of a crackdown that could cause Bush to cancel the credit. (Prices are still very low, about $2.26 per bushel of corn and $2.55 per bushel of wheat. Have you bought en-ough?)

Some say that the Soviet Union has no food shortage after a record harvest, but that the distribution system is in sham-bles. The KGB is in charge of distributing Western bounty. Access to food can be used as a weapon to control dissident republics (ibid.).

The republics control supply lines to the strategic nuclear forces. One unit recently went on strike due to hunger, according to Sovietologist Leon Gouré. And one wonders what else these units (or republics) might do. Tactical nuclear weapons are not neces-sarily equipped with permissive action links that disable the weapon if someone without the right code attempts to use it (Insight 10/29/89).

Assembly Lines. ``Soviet weapons production continues at an astonishing pace,'' according to an article by a Heritage Foundation staffer (MN 12/2-9/90). Figures for 1989 produc-tion, published by the US Defense Dept and undisputed by Moscow: 1,700 Soviet tanks (v. 725 American); 140 Soviet ICBMs (v. 9 American); 700 Soviet short-range ballistic missiles (v. 0 American).

People's deputies of the USSR learned from US Defense Secretary Cheney that ``the USSR is manufacturing all types of weaponry more than the US,'' including the development of four or five new nuclear-tipped missiles (MN 11/18-25/90). And Americans are more likely to learn about these figures from MN than from mainstream US media.

Power Lines. The ``twin pillars of George Bush's foreign policy''--the new relationship with the Soviet Union and the coalition against Saddam Hussein-appear to be threatened by the sudden resignation of Eduard Shevardnadze. (In other words, the foundation seems to be shifting sand.) The former Foreign Minister, credited with a crucial role in helping to end the Cold War, had met more than 25 times with US Secretary of State James Baker (Wall St J 12/21/90).

As to the second pillar, Gorbachev's popularity rating has steadily fallen, from 52% in Dec 1989 to 21% in Oct 90 (MN 11/18-25/90). And as he has sought expansions of his power (now granted), other voices than Shevardnadze's have warned of a return to dictatorship. Yelena Bonner wrote:

Isn't Gorbachev still in control? So what? Napoleon too was still in control when he turned from a defender of the revolution into emperor....Whether we want it or not, the country is coming full circle back to a totali-tarian system....Now we all depend on the will or rather willfulness of one person (MN 10/28-11/4/90).

Who the one person will be is not known. Odds of 50:50 are given for Gorbachev surviving the winter.

More Deadlines. Democracy in the Soviet Union is under a deadline: ``People's patience has run out, and so has time'' (MN 10/28-11/4/90). Gavriil Popov, mayor of Moscow, explained his situation:

We continue to function in a system governed by a one-party system. That democrats are in power does not at all mean that they wield any power. I ought to honestly tell my voters that I essentially have no real power. I don't command anything. I cannot provide a building. I can't provide protection for privately run shops....

Missing the October 1 target date for im-plementation of the ``500 Days'' economic reform program was but one delay in promised reforms. ``Market economy'' and ``democracy'' were not mentioned in Gorbachev's November speech-es.

Propaganda Lines. The chairman of the KGB, Vladimir A. Kryuchkov, has warned the Soviet Congress of the threats of subversion and economic sabotage inherent in Western offers of help for the Soviet economy.


Agent Orange

In contrast to the thundering apathy about agents of known lethality (soman, cyanide, etc.), vociferous concern about herbicide use in Vietnam has spurred research expenditures of over $63 million. More than 12 million gallons of Agent Orange and 19 million gallons of all herbicides were sprayed in Operation Ranch Hand. Long-awaited results have been published in Archives of Internal Medicine, Dec 1990 and JAMA, Oct 10, 1990. Only one of six cancers-non-Hodgkin's lymphoma-occurred at higher than expected rates in Vietnam veterans, and this could not be linked to Agent Orange exposure. Only one man with this disease has been identified among 995 members of Operation Ranch Hand, who had the highest exposure to the chemical. After 20 to 28 years, Ranch Hands have shown no increase in the frequency of any diseases com-pared with well-matched, non-exposed control groups.


Civil Defense Budget Cut

The civil defense budget for 1991 is $142,145,000, a 10% reduction in real dollars. Cuts occurred in communications and warning (down $5 million); population protection, includ-ing shelter surveyors and planners (down $3.6 million); and radiologic defense against fallout (down $0.5 million).

Civilian defense against chemical and biological warfare did not need to be cut, already being at zero.