Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Handing Over Chemical Weapons: What Does This Really Mean?

Trey Smith

By now, I'm sure most of you know about how Secretary of State John Kerry's rhetorical comment at a London press conference -- Jonathan Freedland termed it a gaffe -- has changed the calculus on Syria. Kerry said rather flippantly that, if Syria would turn over control of their nuclear weapons, then maybe war wouldn't be in the offing. Russia seized on this idea and, before you knew it, Syria agreed to the idea.

Look, I'm all for ANY strategy put forth to avoid US military intervention, but this whole concept begs a question or two. For starters, how exactly would the UN and/or other nations take control of chemical weapons inside of Syria? This is a nation involved in a civil war, you know. Does France, Australia, the US or Ghana want to send personnel to babysit these arsenals while Syrians and associated forces are shooting and bombing each other? I can tell you that I have no interest whatsoever in signing up for such an assignment!

Another aspect of this preliminary agreement is that Syria's chemical weapons will be destroyed. How soon? Who will do it? How will it be done?

These aren't nitpicking questions, particularly when we take a look at how difficult it has been for the US to get rid of our share of sarin, VX and mustard gas.  As reported by Greg Kocher of the Lexington Herald-Leader,
The alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria thrusts the international spotlight onto the same deadly "nerve agents" stored at Blue Grass Army Depot in Madison County [Kentucky].


Both sarin and VX are internationally banned, both are stored in Madison County and both are scheduled to be destroyed there by a massive plant that is 72 percent complete. The plant is supposed to be finished in 2015, but it will take until 2020 for it to become operational. Then, according to the current timeline, it will take from 2020 to 2023 to destroy the weapons, said Craig Williams, director of the Chemical Weapons Working Group, a Berea-based citizens group that monitors the remaining weapons in Kentucky and Pueblo, Colo.
You see, a lot of people may have the idea that turning over these chemical weapons to outside countries would mean moving them out of Syria. Most likely, that would neither be prudent nor safe. Here, in the US, we aren't moving our stores of chemical weapons; we are building facilities where these weapons are currently housed.

As you can see from the timeline above, it will be 10 fricking years -- IF we keep to the schedule -- before our tonnage of chemical weapons are destroyed completely. I don't know how much chemical weapons are in Syria, but since they haven't even drawn up plans to begin building facilities to destroy them, their arsenals probably will still be there 15 years from now.

If the US demands that Syria's weapons be destroyed sooner AND if the technology to accomplish that exists, then why don't we avail ourselves of it as well? It would certainly go a long way toward being a good faith gesture since our destruction of these vile weapons has been preceding along at as snail's pace.

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