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Just As Clueless

Lurch at Main and Central provides a Cholera Update on Iraq – it’s spreading south.

While most people don’t use Clorox any more, do you remember your mother putting on a respirator and hazmat suit when she added it to the wash? My Mother is still a fan of chlorine bleach and it is the easiest way of killing mildew on houses and in bathrooms. It is a powerful chemical and deserves respect and caution, but it is extremely useful, especially when the normal water system is down and you need to purify drinking water.

MAC-V MNF-I has decided that it is a component of WMDs because the insurgents have tried to use it in bombs. No one has died in any of the attempts because of the chlorine bleach, but the authorities have put an embargo on it. Without the bleach, the water purification systems don’t work, and waterborne diseases, like cholera, spread.

This is rank stupidity. Chlorine gas will kill you, but chlorine bleach saves lives. You have to have specific knowledge and chemicals to do the conversion. No one has died from the bleach bombs, but people are dying of cholera and ignorance on the part of the US military.

16 comments

1 hipparchia { 09.25.07 at 10:45 pm }

i haven’t seen anything that definiteively says whether the shipment is of chlorine gas or of sodium hypochlorite solution [bleach] so i’ll just wing it here.

chlorine gas will kill you, maim you, or make you feel like you’ve been through a cloud of tear gas, depending on how concentrated it is where you are. like the armchair generalist says, it’s not a very effective booster for bombs. it is however, a pretty effective inducer of mayhem, making very smelly and irritating clouds, of a funny color if you have enough of it and it doesn’t blow away [it doesn’t dissipate all that easily, being heavier than air].

handling any compressed gas, toxic or nontoxic, poses the danger of explosion with the cylinder becoming a missile. the cylinders have blowout plugs [that that are designed to give way at temperatures only slightly higher than what you might find in desert storage conditions]. this allows the gas to escape before the pressure builds up enough to cause an explosion, but then you have the clouds of toxic gas released.

bleach solution [about 10% chlorine, a bit stronger than household bleach] has way less chlorine in it, the chlorine evaporates fairly rapidly, and it’s not something you’d want to get in your eyes or on your skin either. you’d probably have to actually drink it to get enough to kill you though, so it’s generally safer than the gas to handle, but more expensive to buy and ship [water is heavy].

it’s actually fairly easy to make some nasty shit with bleach, using readily available [here, at least, maybe not in a war zone] common household substances.

everything you never wanted to know about water purification

even with all the potential problems, holding up the shipment of water purification chemicals for that reason is just absolutely unconscionable.

2 Bryan { 09.25.07 at 11:26 pm }

I know how to produce it and a lot of other nasty things, but I don’t want to tell other people how to do it. They use a solution everywhere in the Middle East I’ve been because it has to sit out in the sun and the gas containers are subject to rupture in the heat and handling. Actually, they often use water trucks to transport it as a form of disinfection – bleach in and water out at the facilities, and they don’t always remember which is which.

We tend to use the gas and mix it, but our purification plants have a better system than a guy opening a tap when he think it needs it, since none of the instrument work anymore. Opening a tap in a hotel can be a real learning experience if you are sensitive to chlorine solutions. I can occasionally smell it in my tap water, but I’m very close to a water tower.

You can’t have safe water without the chlorine. If the US wants to track it, fine, but it has to get through because all of the water is drawn out of the few rivers in the country.

3 Cookie Jill { 09.26.07 at 3:15 am }

They have plenty of chlorine for the pool at the US Embassy (aka, palace) in Baghdad.

4 fallenmonk { 09.26.07 at 8:33 am }

Risking a cholera outbreak because of ill considered concerns about chlorine and bombs just points out how out of control our efforts are in Iraq. Once the outbreak begins to spread which it apparently has done the step to epidemic is virtually instantaneous and getting it under control becomes an extremely difficult problem just because everybody is then contributing to the spread of infection.

5 Bryan { 09.26.07 at 11:17 am }

If you read history, disease causes more deaths in war than weapons. More of the combatants died of infections than their initial wounds. Public health should be a major concern, but the people at MNF-I seem to be oblivious to it.

6 whig { 09.26.07 at 12:52 pm }

Are they oblivious or do they just not care?

7 Bryan { 09.26.07 at 1:31 pm }

Oblivious, they don’t even think beyond immediate military objectives. They are in short-term “tactical” mode and spare no thoughts for strategic reasoning.

8 whig { 09.26.07 at 6:21 pm }

Maybe next they will ban sharp implements?

9 whig { 09.26.07 at 6:25 pm }

And fire. Fire bad.

10 whig { 09.26.07 at 6:32 pm }

I think some people seem intent on reverting to chimpanzees. I find primate behavior the best predictor of these humans in large groups. Throw poop at them, I guess?

11 whig { 09.26.07 at 6:33 pm }

I understand the prisoners at Guantanamo have come up with some interesting combinations of bodily fluids to throw at guards.

12 whig { 09.26.07 at 6:35 pm }

As for ourselves, I prefer the verbal kind. Less messy, more permanent. Speak truth to power, and see what power does when all can see.

13 whig { 09.26.07 at 6:37 pm }

And as for that, the written word is more permanent, the electronic word most effective for broadscale communication.

14 Bryan { 09.26.07 at 11:11 pm }

All you can do is document the atrocities.

15 Badtux { 09.28.07 at 7:58 pm }

The words “strategic reasoning” and our whole Iraq adventure do not go together in the same sentence without laughs and giggles (of horror) breaking out.

16 Bryan { 09.28.07 at 8:10 pm }

Ain’t that the truth.