US prepares to use toxic gases in Iraq

James Rogers
03 Mar 2003 10:15:36 -0800

On Mon, 2003-03-03 at 01:25, Dr. Robert Harley wrote:
> A special working group of the Federation of American Scientists
> concluded last month that using even the mildest of these weapons to
> incapacitate people would kill 9 per cent of them.  It added: "Chemical
> incapacitating weapons are as likely as bullets to cause death."

This is essentially true, though "9%" is ridiculously precise; it all
depends on how big the LD50 fudge factor is for a particular
incapacitant and the environmental conditions.  That said, I don't see
the big deal with CS, pepper spray, and similar types of agents.  They
won't kill you generally, and you build up an immunity to these things
really fast, so you can't make daily wholesale use of them either.

I disagree with the "likely as bullets to cause death" statement
though.  Contrary to Hollywood, civilian statistics show that on average
the success rates of killing someone with bullets are remarkably low
today (around 15%), so the 9% figure is ballpark correct in that
context.  However, the rifles used by the military tend to be far more
lethal on a hit.  Not as a consequence of design really; functional
rifles are generally vastly more lethal than handguns (the weapon
involved in most civilian shootings), and so one generally expects a
higher mortality in people who are shot with rifles.

-James Rogers