Bear with me, I beg of you, for this week's final post on chemical weapons. Rest assured that it hurts me more than it does you.
State governments are becoming interested in the chemical weapons that the military dumped off America's coasts.
Officials in Hawai'i and Washington, D.C., are demanding information from the Department of Defense on more than 8,000 tons of chemical weapons that were dumped off O'ahu at the end of World War II and may still be there.Most likely, the Army won't explain how it reached this conclusion because it's classified information. Perhaps it's only a coincidence, but my sources inform me that after decades of top-secret research into the strange properties of icosahedral flotation devices, DARPA recently perfected a new-generation threat assessment calculator. Make of it what you will.
The weapons and bulk chemical containers include the lethal toxins hydrogen cyanide and cyanogen chloride and the blistering agents mustard and lewisite....An Army spokesman last week said there is no danger of the toxic chemicals washing up on O'ahu beaches, but he was unable to say how the Army came to that conclusion.
Senator John Warner (R-VA) has joined other members of Congress in filing a formal request for information on offshore dumping of chemical weapons. The DoD's provisional response is here.
Meanwhile, Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has staggered forth from the reeking primordial ooze of Black Pond, his ghastly rictus lit by the eerie glow of the ignis fatuus, or corpse candle, and asked Congress to investigate whether 1,825 corroding cylinders made of depleted uranium and filled with phosgene might pose a threat to worker health at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant. ("Signs point to yes!")
Over at the Rocky Flats nuclear site in Colorado, a great many workers are already sick or dead. Fortunately, help is on the way:
Recognizing that many of the workers have terminal illnesses, the Labor Department has increased its staff in its regional offices in hopes of expediting the claims process....That's downright neighborly of them. The linked article says that there were 35,000 such claims from Rocky Flats alone. A dirty bomb that affected that many people would thrill any terrorist.
What all this amounts to, in the end, is a slow-motion attack on the United States with WMD. We've sickened and killed our citizens, damaged our economy, poisoned our food and water, destroyed or contaminated natural resources that had both financial and spiritual value, and saddled future generations with a host of burdensome problems. This war of attrition isn't as glamorous or exciting as a single, high-casualty terrorist attack, of course. Still, I suspect America's foreign enemies will find it very difficult to do as much cumulative damage to this country as its self-styled defenders have done, and are doing.
UPDATE: Thanks to a tip from Ahianne, who has apparently whiled away many happy hours at the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant, I went forth and researched the phosgene/depleted uranium story a bit more. The term "depleted uranium cylinders" was used in the linked article, but as Ahianne noted, it's misleading. These are actually steel cylinders that formerly held phosgene, and now hold uranium hexafluoride. This article writes the lead sentence properly:
Cylinders storing depleted uranium at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant may be corroding because of toxic gas mistakenly left in them....And there you have it. However many of our dreams may have gone unfulfilled today, at least a few of us will be able to say that we learned something new about gaseous diffusion plants.