By SGT William A. Geresy (ret)
As both an Airman in then West Germany and as a Soldier getting ready to go into Iraq, I trained quite an uncomfortable bit in Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical (NBC) warfare. What I learned about these weapons is they are nasty, nasty, nasty crap.
Since Syria surely seems to have used chlorine gas and saran nerve agent . Chlorine was first used during WWI. It can produce fatal damage to the lungs. Death can resemble drowning. That is fluids build up in the lungs to the point you can no longer breath. Those that survive probably will have permanent damage to the lungs. Saran is a nerve agent. Death comes from the inability of nerves to pass messages back and forth in the body. Death is ugly as you will twitch like a fly hit by bug spray. The "antidote" is a massive dose of atropine. That is a form of adrenalin. Our military is trained to only use atropine when they are certain of nerve agent symptoms. A mistake can kill.
Chlorine and all other chemical weapons were banned by international agreement after WWI. It would be nice if these weapons would be destroyed and not manufactured again. Sadly, that seems to be a vain hope.
As I am typing this, news of the scope of the attack is filtering in. British Tornado aircraft are being used. It isn't yet known what French forces are being used. It has just been announced that part of the American attack is using the B-1 Lancer (Bone). The Bone can deliver a wide variety of conventional both dumb and precision weapons. It is not nuclear capable. It isn't yet known what weapons the Bone used tonight or how many Bones were sortied.
The Bone is not a pure stealth aircraft. The radar signature is much smaller than a B-52, but larger than a B-2. It is capable of attacking from very low altitude to high altitude. This plane is far from new. It was developed first during The Nixon/Ford administration. It was killed by President Carter. It was brought back by President Reagan and put into production.
The other weapon used was cruise missiles. These are precise weapons that have a range of up to 1,500. These are subsonic weapons that can fly at altitudes from ground hugging to high altitude. The warhead is about a half ton.
Back to chemical weapons. Chlorine takes a far amount to kill. Blister agents raise large blisters on any tissue they touch inside and outside the body. There is mustard and phosgene agents that like chlorine attack through the lungs. The effects are ugly. Death is slow and agonizing.
NBC weapons are banned. The question President Trump had to answer, does any nation use banned weapons without consequence? What were the pluses and minuses of an attack or ignore. Tonight we and Syria learned the answer.
Time will tell if Syria got the message. It was loud enough.