Only a few days in and I see there is already a letter in the delivery-reception-area of the haus. I understand the desire for discretion, but I recommend the comments section for inquiries such as these. Upon opening it, I learn that our reader asks how it is that I can simultaneously assert that there is no good evidence – no ‘smoking gun’ or anything close to it – that the Syrian Regime did not order any Chemical Agent attack, while linking to that awful FP video showing the apparent aftermath of just such an incident. Have I not contradicted myself?
I have not.
When I look at the video (and the others around the internet), what I see is fairly convincing footage that some of those few individuals present symptoms of having been poisoned. That is what is seen, but as Bastiat might ask, what is unseen?
I still haven’t seen the equivalent of that famous after-battle Confederate Triage Scene from Gone With The Wind. Should I not expect to see it as the casus belli before the imminent war? Furthermore, one cannot see any other critical element of the charge. The prosecution still has to prove – beyond whatever level of doubt is necessary to start shooting – who poisoned these people, under what circumstances, and with what substance.
Let’s focus on the question of substance. Lots of atoms and molecules are toxic to the human biology. Some of these are artificially synthesized, whereas others derive from natural physical or biological origins. It’s fine to be reasonably cautious, but as with anything, you can always go too far. Irrational Chemophobia is a common psychological tendency of our age, often arising from the hypernaturalist state religion, and sometimes manifesting itself as a social mania or popular panic, and therefore, in our Democratic age, resulting in sometimes beneficial but often senseless environmental and medical policy.
People blame random benign chemicals for all kinds of health problems; cancer, lowered testosterone, autism, obesity, the ethnic differences in intelligence and athleticism; in other words: everything for which we demand something to blame. I’m not saying they’re always wrong to do this. Occasionally they’re right, but usually it’s just a fad and people forget about it in a few years.
Now, given that most of our fellow citizens and illegally undocumented resident neighbors live their lives in constant suspicion and terror of anything with scientific nomenclature, you might think that upon seeing a collection of ill people, in a situation fraught with incentives for misrepresentation, they would hesitate coming to any particular conclusion as to which of the countless toxic modern compounds might be responsible. Ha – they believe what the press tells them whether or not it accords in the slightest with everything else they say, think, and do. Only Sarin would look like that! That’s Orwell’s doublethink.
But Handle, you object, not just any poison would have those particular symptoms. And anyway, it’s not like there are these barrels just lying around all over the third-world countryside, cheap and easily marketable, full of powders and liquids designed to kill living things.
Oh wait, yes there are.
And pesticides are probably the one chemical people should suspect the most because they’ve been freaking out the most about them for the longest time. And sometimes with good reason. Don’t take it only from me, here’s the World Health Organization, Childhood Pesticide Poisoning (a big problem in certain countries like, say, Syria!)
Acute poisoning can cause a range of symptoms in adults and children, depending on the type of pesticide. For example, commonly used organophosphorus and carbamate compounds can produce neurobehavioral effects, such as fatigue, dizziness, and blurred vision; intestinal effects, such as nausea; respiratory effects, such as dry throat and difficulty with breathing; effects involving skin and mucous membranes, such as stinging eyes, itchy skin, and a burning nose; and muscular symptoms, such as stiffness and weakness. Acute pesticide poisoning can result in death, either rapidly or over the course of weeks, depending on the characteristics of the product and type of exposure.
How about that. In fact, the chemical family of organophosphates includes many potent and popular insecticides and its particularly lethal and persistent member, VX, was also originally investigated as pesticide. Only 30 years later the Soviets finished testing every possible OP variant, probably on unlucky Uzbeks, and were cranking out the even-worse A-232, but the basic chemical structure remained the same.
Now Spice is not weed, but both with get you high. Parathion is not Sarin, but according to very reliable internet rumors, 20 times as much will kill you just as dead.
Ah, but Parathion is on Annex-III of the Rotterdam Convention, and is all-but-banned everywhere except China where they’re not as squeamish as the fastidious governments of Burundi and Pakistan about poisoning their farm hands and consumers of fresh produce.
But here’s an extremely popular one that’s still 10% as deadly to people as Parathion and that’s not on the list: Chlorpyrifos.
Now, if you were the Defense Counsel in this case, what you would be saying is that the Prosecution has shown us some imagery designed to inflame our irrational passions, but hasn’t been able to exclude several reasonable alternative version of events. Perhaps in a conventional attack, some artillery round exploded near the Syrian equivalent of the Tractor Supply Company and a few dozen locals bore the brunt of that exposure. Or perhaps the rebels did it on purpose. Or perhaps they meant to do it to the Syrian military on purpose, but blew up their own medium-civilianity compadres.
You say we do know, I say we dunno, let’s call the whole thing off. The UK just did.