Eine Kleine Nichtmusik

Witty and pertinent observations on matters of great significance OR Incoherent jottings on total irrelevancies OR Something else altogether OR All of the above

Sunday, November 03, 2013

If this toxic old fart cares so little about protecting British lives and so much about Israeli ones maybe it's time for him to be given a one-way posting

Articles in the Times are hard to Google now that they're all behind a paywall, but another one I was reading recently quoted Richard Kemp, an ex-soldier best known for his "evidence" to the UN - consisting wholly of his opinions formed in the UK without once visiting Gaza - that not only did Israel not commit war crimes during Operation Cast Lead but that apparently "the IDF did more to safeguard the rights of civilians....that any other army in the history of warfare". From which one might well assume that the guy is a paid shill of the Israeli regime, which seems highly likely when one takes into account his other pronouncements about Israel, Palestine and the IDF.

However, the article was only tangentially about his views on theocratic dictatorships. Kemp, it seems, has been whining that Britain has been exporting sodium cyanide and potassium cyanide to Lebanon for use in electroplating. These could be used to make hydrogen cyanide, which is a poisonous gas. Cue shrieks of "Weapons of Mass Destruction". And even more damning, it seems another British company has been selling hydrogen fluoride to Libya, which is a precursor of Sarin nerve gas. WMD alert! These deadly chemicals could be used to make poison gas "especially directed against Israel" which is supposed to be more alarming than if it were simply to be used against Kurds or Syrians in the normal manner. While Googling I note that Kemp has a track record of this kind of foot-in-mouth disease, having accused Britain of breaching all kinds of arms sanctions by supplying sodium fluoride (sorry, "poison gas-making chemicals") to Syria.

Time for Kemp's GCSE chemistry (maybe if he'd paid more attention to those classes at Sandhurst and spent less time polishing his CV for a job with the Israelis he would know all this). Yes, sodium and potassium cyanide can be used to make hydrogen cyanide gas. It's how California used to execute its murderers, and Saddam may have tried using it against the Kurds. But while very good indeed for use in gas chambers (ah, that must be what he was thinking about) HCN sucks as a war gas. It needs to be inhaled to take effect, and gas masks give good protection. It's readily detectable by smell so you can move away from it. But most annoyingly, it's lighter than air, so your carefully-prepared payload of deadly gas will simply fly away and poison the local birdlife. A Weapon of Mass Disinformation, then. Hezbollah would find it easier to make chlorine (recipe: sea water and electricity), which despite its World War One retro feel would at least kill people. Or they could make hydrogen sulphide, which the British tried out in 1916 when they had nothing better. It's as deadly as hydrogen cyanide, and is at least heavier than air.

So how about sodium fluoride, or hydrogen fluoride, "precursors of sarin gas"? Well, sarin isn't that easy to make (see here). And as that article points out, another necessary ingredient (purchase of which is always likely to attract attention) is methylphosphonyl dichloride. You can make that from dimethyl methyl phosphonate, which while used as a flame retardant is also well-known and monitored as a nerve gas precursor. (Ironically, the only major release of the latter chemical, along with other sarin precursors, came when an Israeli (El Al) cargo aircraft crashed in Amsterdam. But hey, WMD ingredients are no problem when it's the World's Most Moral Army(TM) shipping them round the globe.

Personally I'd be more worried about somebody stockpiling chlorethanol, potassium sulphide and hydrochloric acid to make mustard gas. Far better as a CW agent than hydrogen cyanide: absorbed through the skin and causes terrible injuries to the people who escape death. Or how about collecting innocuous sodium amalgam and methyl iodide? You can make one of the most lethal neurotoxins on earth, dimethylmercury. Not only is it absorbed through the skin it goes straight through rubber gloves. One or two drops will kill you (slowly but very surely). But Kemp isn't concerned with actual or potential threats. Kemp simply wants to make political capital for his Israeli bosses out of the sale of chemicals to (whisper it) Muslims. Right-wing loonies can stockpile dimethylmercury, neofascists can make mustard gas, and Kemp will say not a word. And while he's crying wolf over the export of supposedly deadly chemicals to people in countries we're supposed to hate, a country with a track record of anti-British terrorism is allowed to build up a stockpile of nuclear and chemical weapons and the means to deliver them.

The British government has quite rightly told Kemp that its licensing and controls are working perfectly well, and that all the materials exported were for bona fide industrial purposes. They were too polite to tell this traitorous waste of good oxygen to keep his ill-informed speculation for his employers and quit the Blairite scaremongering. But if they've any sense they will drop him from the counter-terrorism consulting role he still retains with the British government.

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