Thursday, January 10, 2008

Calm the Hell Down, People

These breathless assertions that Blackwater "gassed" our troops are counterproductive:

WASHINGTON — The helicopter was hovering over a Baghdad checkpoint into the Green Zone, one typically crowded with cars, Iraqi civilians and United States military personnel.

Suddenly, on that May day in 2005, the copter dropped CS gas, a riot-control substance the American military in Iraq can use only under the strictest conditions and with the approval of top military commanders. An armored vehicle on the ground also released the gas, temporarily blinding drivers, passers-by and at least 10 American soldiers operating the checkpoint.

“This was decidedly uncool and very, very dangerous,” Capt. Kincy Clark of the Army, the senior officer at the scene, wrote later that day. “It’s not a good thing to cause soldiers who are standing guard against car bombs, snipers and suicide bombers to cover their faces, choke, cough and otherwise degrade our awareness.”

Both the helicopter and the vehicle involved in the incident at the Assassins’ Gate checkpoint were not from the United States military, but were part of a convoy operated by Blackwater Worldwide, the private security contractor that is under scrutiny for its role in a series of violent episodes in Iraq, including a September shooting in downtown Baghdad that left 17 Iraqis dead.

None of the American soldiers exposed to the chemical, which is similar to tear gas, required medical attention, and it is not clear if any Iraqis did. Still, the previously undisclosed incident has raised significant new questions about the role of private security contractors in Iraq, and whether they operate under the same rules of engagement and international treaty obligations that the American military observes.

OK, CS is not exactly a pleasant thing to have thrown at you. The assholish behavior of Blackwater is nothing new--it's a damned good reason to figure out how to sever their contracts with the US government and keep them out of areas where our troops are operating.

But my first thought when I saw this was--oh shit, people are going to think this is a big story.

It's not.

When you're in the US Army, you have exposure to CS as part of your required training. When exposed to it, you:

1. Yell "Gas, Gas, Gas!"

2. Close your eyes and hold your breath

3. Put on your protective mask, clear and seal it.

4. Check your fellow soldiers and make sure they're OK

5. Go about your goddamned business like nothing happened.

I can't tell you how many times I got a healthy dose of it because some asshole thought it would be fun to deploy it on field exercises. Someone once deployed it inside of a tent just to see what happen. A SSG was overcome and had to be helped out--whoops, sorry about that. But he did not require hospitalization.

It's not going to kill you unless you get run over by a car as you try to run away from it--yes, running away does help.

But our troops should be ready for it--the canister pictured here goes for $50 bucks on the Internet.

Calm down, folks. A little CS should never cause our troops to suddenly not be able to do their job. They train with CS precisely because they're professionals.

Unlike, oh, say Blackwater--people who used to be in the military but apparently took a magical asshole pill and forget how to act.

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