THE IRAQ CONFLICT: Chemical Weapons 'Not a Serious Obstacle' to Well- Trained Forces

By Steve Connor Science Editor | The Independent (London, England), March 27, 2003 | Go to article overview
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THE IRAQ CONFLICT: Chemical Weapons 'Not a Serious Obstacle' to Well- Trained Forces


Steve Connor Science Editor, The Independent (London, England)


SADDAM HUSSEIN has much to lose and little to gain if he uses chemical and biological weapons against British or American forces, specialists in toxic warfare said yesterday.

Such weapons posed little threat to well trained and prepared soldiers, they said, but an attack would be a propaganda catastrophe for President Saddam.

Julian Perry-Robinson, professor of science and technology policy research at Sussex University, said Iraq's stocks of VX nerve agent were not a serious obstacle to Allied forces, even though in theory it takes only half a milligram of the poison to kill a person. "Half a milligram compared to hundreds of tons, that sounds really bad, but of course if you think about the number of people who can be killed by a box full of bullets, that's also really bad," he said.

"It sounds a bit flippant but in terms of lethal doses of poison, the militarily significant doses on a battlefield was reckoned to be a billion doses, that is the amount you'd need to attack one militarily significant target. The moment that sort of stuff lands on a military target, our doctrine requires a high protection level, with masks on. The moment an attack comes in then subsequently the effectiveness of this chemical has to cope with the high protection factors built in to the gas masks, built in to the protective suits. Once the element of surprise has been lost, once everybody is protected then these weapons are essentially harmless.

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THE IRAQ CONFLICT: Chemical Weapons 'Not a Serious Obstacle' to Well- Trained Forces
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