Skip to comments.Scott Ritter: 'Sarin Bomb!'-The Dud Heard Round the World
Posted on 05/21/2004 6:55:23 AM PDT by 11th Earl of Mar
'Sarin Bomb!' v The Dud Heard Round the World
by Scott Ritter from the May 21, 2004 edition
Iraq sarin shell is not part of a secret cache
By Scott Ritter
DELMAR, N.Y. v In the mid-1980s I served as the intelligence officer for a Marine artillery battalion. Stationed in Twentynine Palms, Calif., I would often find myself deployed in the field, on exercises where thousands of live artillery rounds were fired downrange.
In keeping with the Marine artillery motto of "shoot, move, communicate," we were always moving from one firing location to another to simulate modern war.
This mobility had us often passing through live-fire impact areas.
One thing you quickly learned was not to touch anything lying on the ground, because modern artillery shells had a high "dud" rate, meaning they didn't always function the way they were intended.
Tens of thousands of these "duds" were scattered across the desert terrain, not unlike those found in Iraq.
What makes this relevant now is the ongoing speculation about the source of the sarin chemical artillery shell that the US military found rigged as an improvised explosive device (IED) last week in Baghdad. If the 155-mm shell was a "dud" fired long ago - which is highly likely - then it would not be evidence of the secret stockpile of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) that the Bush administration used as justification to invade Iraq.
As a United Nations weapons inspector in Iraq from 1991 to 1998, I know that the Iraq Survey Group (ISG), the US-led unit now responsible for investigating WMD in Iraq, could quite easily determine whether this shell had been fired long ago or not.
Given the trouble the administration has had in documenting its past allegations about WMD, releasing the news of last week's sarin shell without the key information about the state of the shell itself seems disingenuous.
As a former UN inspector, I'm also familiar with the level of disarmament achieved concerning Iraq's banned WMD. And during my time in Iraq, 95 percent of the WMD produced by Iraq were verifiably accounted for.
But I've always contended that Iraq is a WMD archaeological site, and that if one digs long enough, vestiges of these past WMD programs will be uncovered. Determining whether the discovery of the sarin artillery shell represents such an archaeological discovery, or is part of Saddam Hussein's alleged stockpile of WMD, rests with a full forensic exam of the shell.
The key to whether the sarin artillery round came from an arms cache or was a derelict dud rests in the physical characteristics of the shell.
The artillery shells in question were fitted with two aluminum cannisters separated by a rupture disk. The two precursor chemicals for the kind of sarin associated with this shell were stored separately in these containers.
The thrust of the shell being fired was designed to cause the liquid in the forward cannister to press back and break the rupture disk, whereupon the rotation of the shell as it headed downrange would mix the two precursors together, creating sarin.
Upon impact with the ground - or in the air, if a timed fuse was used - a burster charge would break the shell, releasing the sarin gas.
Many things go wrong when firing an artillery round: the propellent charge can be faulty, resulting in a round that doesn't reach its target; the fuse can malfunction, preventing the burster charge from going off, leaving the round intact; the rupture disk can fail to burst, keeping precursor chemicals from combining.
The fuse could break off on impact, leaving the fuse cavity empty. To the untrained eye, the artillery shell, if found in this state, would look weathered, but unfired.
What gives away whether the shell had been fired is the base-bleed charge, which unlike the rest of the shell, will show evidence of being fired (or not).
Iraq declared that it had produced 170 of these base-bleed sarin artillery shells as part of a research and development program that never led to production.
Ten of these shells were tested using inert fill - oil and colored water. Ten others were tested in simulated firing using the sarin precursors.
And 150 of these shells, filled with sarin precursors, were live-fired at an artillery range south of Baghdad. A 10 percent dud rate among artillery shells isn't unheard of - and even greater percentages can occur.
So there's a good possibility that at least 15 of these sarin artillery shells failed and lie forgotten in the Iraq desert, waiting to be picked up by any unsuspecting insurgent looking for raw material from which to construct an IED.
Given what's known about sarin shells, the US could be expected to offer a careful recital of the data with news of the shell. But facts that should have accompanied the story - the type of shell, its condition, whether it had been fired previously, and the age and viability of the sarin and precursor chemicals - were absent.
And that's opened the door to irresponsible speculation that the shell was part of a live WMD stockpile. The data - available to the ISG - would put this development in proper perspective - allowing responsible discussion of the event and its possible ramifications.
Given that the US is in the midst of a contentious presidential campaign, it's essential that accurate data about Iraq be available to the electorate.
The handling of the sarin shell incident is the greatest justification yet for shutting down the ISG, and the immediate return to Iraq of UN weapons inspectors - if for no other reason than to restore a vestige of credibility to a disarmament effort that long ago lost its moral compass.
Scott Ritter was a UN weapons inspector in Iraq (1991-1998) and is author of 'Frontier Justice: Weapons of Mass Destruction and the Bushwhacking of America.'
I thought Scott Ritter was considered "the dud heard round the world."
That's just what his 12-year-old girlfriends call him.
Anyone else wondering WTF Scott Ritter is doing writing in Pravda?
Ritter has a hard time getting too excited about anything that's more than fifteen years old.
If a pedophile speaks and no one listens, did he really make a noise?
You can swear if WMD were in a Burger King where Scott Ritter had arranged to meet an underage girl, he'd find them.
Pervs For Peace.
Is ritter still molesting little girls or has he moved on to little boys?
He puts a Barbie doll on the end of a line and hides in the bushes.
Ritter writing for Pravda?
Allegedly, he missed his chance at Abu Gharaib.
Three thing in life are inevitable, taxes, death and libs cannot handle the truth.
There are a gazillion rounds in 120 unsurveyed asps around the country.
Ritter said there "might be" 10 lying as duds on a range someplace near baghdad.
Now....the probable source....
Muhammed: Yo, Ismail, Do I want to blow up americans with this dud lying on the ground that probably doesn't work?
Ismail: Mohammed, what a great idea! We have a gazillion live rounds in bunkers all over the country, but let's take this stray dud and use it instead.
Muhammed: Inch Allah, Ismail. By the way, what's that sloshing sound?
Sure Scott, I can see the terrorists digging holes to China just to see if they can find a chemical bomb or two to use against coalition forces.
Sure it's an archaeological site, but the holes should be filled with the bones of those on Saddam's money kick-back list...starting with Ritter.
Scott, your team did not find all the WMD's in Iraq and our troops are risking their lives everyday because of this failure.
I guess his stint as a field reporter for Al Jazeera didn't pan out.
Dating 14 year old girls. How much more a dud is that.
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