Experts: Don't bomb chemical weapon sites in Syria
SETH BORENSTEIN, AP
WASHINGTON (AP) — You simply can't safely bomb a chemical weapon storehouse into oblivion, experts say. That's why they say the United States is probably targeting something other than Syria's nerve agents.
But now there is concern that bombing other sites could accidentally release dangerous chemical weapons that the U.S. military didn't know were there because they've lost track of some of the suspected nerve agents.
Bombing stockpiles of chemical weapons — purposely or accidentally — would likely kill nearby civilians in an accidental nerve agent release, create a long-lasting environmental catastrophe or both, five experts told The Associated Press. That's because under ideal conditions — and conditions wouldn't be ideal in Syria — explosives would leave at least 20 to 30 percent of the poison in lethal form.
"If you drop a conventional munition on a storage facility containing unknown chemical agents — and we don't know exactly what is where in the Syrian arsenal — some of those agents will be neutralized and some will be spread," said Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, a nonprofit that focuses on all types of weaponry. "You are not going to destroy all of them."
"It's a classic case of the cure being worse than the disease," Kimball said. He said some of the suspected storage sites are in or near major Syrian cities like Damascus, Homs and Hama. Those cities have a combined population of well over 2 million people.