Saturday, November 08, 2008

The Dark Side of The Phosgene Kid

One of my articles spurred a comment, a question really, asking if I could be wicked, which I took to mean could I kill. I can indeed, and have. With Veteran's Day coming up perhaps this might be a good time to talk of such things.

My primary job in the Air Force was ensuring pilots and their equipment reached a target safely, delivered their ordnance successfully and returned safely. With any luck the equipment could be used again. The second part of my job was as an accomplice to murder. Not just one person, but many people all at once, people I had never met and really had no personal grudge with, beyond putting me in the position I was in by their actions. I helped plan targets, helped prepare the best way around the enemy's defenses, and in some cases aided in the decision of the best weapon solution for the particular target, knowing full well that there would be people on the deadly end of that weapon.

Though I never saw them die I could well imagine what it would be like. Most would die never knowing what had hit them. Weapons, particularly GBU or Guided Bomb Units have really limited what is destroyed and have gone a long way in not leveling schools and old age homes trying to hit a bunker or manufacturing plant - a long way form the 12 o' clock high days were we made up for a lack of accuracy by dropping lots and lots of bombs at one time with the thought that if you dropped enough eventually some of the bombs would destroy what you were actually after. Better than the Strategic Air Command days were we prepped to drop "Canned Sunshine" on a city, levelling blocks and blocks and thousands of people in one shot, making thousands of others sick from the after affects.

The two major factors in killing someone or destroying some thing with a bomb is blast and shrapnel. I have a fragment of a French 2000 pound bomb. It is roughly eight inches long, an inch and a half wide, weighs about two pounds with razor sharp edges. Picture, if you will, hundreds of these fragments flying in all directions powered by the blast of roughly 2000 pounds of explosives. If you add a "daisy Cutter" Fuse, the bomb will detonate three feet off the ground, sending this steel frag in all directions - woe to anyone caught in the open, say advancing troops if subjected to this particular weapon. There are many ways to configure these weapons for maximum effect and I know most of them as it was part of my job.

Another part of my job was to look of photos taken before and after the weapons were deployed. One target stands out, a hardened aircraft shelter or "HAS" in Kuwait. The picture after the strike showed a small hole in the roof, a scorch mark in front of the HAS and the steel doors, weighing several tons, lying about 50 yards out in front of the shelter. I got to see this one first hand when deployed to Kuwait in 1998. The picture hardly did the damage to the structure and its contents justice. There were undoubtedly people in the shelter at the time the weapon pierced the roof and went off inside.

Then there are the weapons that don't work as advertised. As with anything man made, sometime the weapon, or parts of it wouldn't explode. Cluster Bomb Units scatter bunches of tennis ball sized bomblets over a wide area. Not all of them explode, right away. Years later some unsuspecting passerby could find one of these small steel spheres - explosives don't tend to age gracefully and the chance encounter can prove fatal. I have heard reports of French farmers plowing up old Mustard gas shells from WW I and having them go off, the gas still as lethal as the day it was put in the bomb.

I am telling you this for two reasons. The first so you know I am indeed wicked and have no compunction against killing animals to include my fellow humans when the circumstances dictate. Not to say I would go out and just randomly shoot people, but if called upon by my country to go back to my old job I would not hesitate to answer the call. If an animal I was after and had a proper permit for wandered into my sights I would drop it like a bad habit with little or no remorse. I view this a privilege granted by my place in the food chain. Anyone who eats meat does the same thing, if you buy ground beef at the market, it simply means you have hired a hit man to carry out the dirty work for you. Plant eaters are not exempt. There has been research that plants can feel things to a certain degree, so when you kill them to obtain their fruit it, on some level, is the same thing.

The second reason I am telling you this is to demonstrate that warfare is inherently wicked. You don't just kill combatants - there are actually rules against this, established rules of war. We had briefings regarding the Law of Armed Conflict regularly. We could not target dams, hospitals, civilian targets, historic monuments or churches unless being used by the enemy for shelter to fire upon our own troops. The enemy we face in Iraq and Afghanistan feel bound by no such rules and there have been cases where our own troops have violated the rules and been prosecuted for their actions. Despite any established laws, innocent people get hurt, caught up in the pain and suffering. Any nation considering waging war best do so very carefully. No one person, President Bush comes to mind, should have the power to commit forces against another people. It behooves you as a citizen of your own nation to reign in those who would allow those like me to be unleashed against a neighbor or some other Nation we feel ins't doing things the way the government feels they should.

Finally, to all who voted to make the current war possible, democracy has to be learned, it cannot and should not be forced.

So, How Do You Know, you are correct in assuming I can be wicked when situation calls for it and there is blood on my hands if only by association. I do not expect your understanding or forgiveness, I do not apologize for what I have done or may do to put venison in the pot or aid my nation, but I do hope you will continue to visit despite the stain on my heart, for I respect your ideas and opinions. I believe you have a keen intellect and will strive to foment change to make the world a better, safer, and more prosperous place. You are a special person and I admire you for your convictions and thoughts.


At 2:23 AM, Blogger SJ said...

This one of the best posts I have read. I don't think there is any need for you to justify. You were in the armed forces and your job involved bringing death to people.

I like what you say about waging war only after lot of thinking,around the world too many "leaders" forget this simple rule.

At 6:30 AM, Blogger Little Lamb said...

I always knew you had it in you to protect your family if the need should arise.

I enjoyed what you wrote. I found it interesting.

At 7:02 AM, Blogger The Phosgene Kid said...

No worries, though I am out of the business, Phos junior carries on so America can rest easy at night.

At 10:18 AM, Blogger Indigo said...

Indigo Incarnates

I respect your service in defence of this nation. I salute you and I am greatful.

At 11:59 AM, Blogger foam said...

well, you know ..
i'm an army brat ..
my first job after college was on an airforce base..
my dad was a gunner during the ww 2.
my uncles survived d day.
i'm married to a former soldier.
my german grandpa found himself in a trench during WW I facing a french soldier. it was him or the french soldier. he survived to live with the nightmares of having killed another person point blank for the rest of his life.
i guess, i'm saying all this to tell you that i get it.

At 1:26 PM, Blogger The Phosgene Kid said...

Would anyone miss one Frenchman more or less? Henri must not have read the script, he was supposed to have run the other way with his buddies when the Germans showed up. I think we should have let Germany keep France after WWII.

At 2:54 PM, Blogger foam said...

well, nobody would have missed one german more or less either ..
except that i wouldn't exist ..
and in the long scheme of things that really doesn't matter either.

At 6:08 PM, Blogger Chickie said...

Well said. It's always a pleasure to read whatever you have to say.

At 7:20 PM, Blogger G3T Films said...

A very measured piece of writing Phos. Excellent and confronting. Nice work!

I wonder who this Obama character will ask his forces to bomb first?

At 3:12 AM, Blogger How do we know said...

OMG Phos.. i had no idea!!
I am very, very sorry to have brought on so much thinking. I understand, fully, everything that you have written here. I understand that spinach is as cruel as lamb roast (it took me a long time to understand that, but I do now).

I am truly sorry for the stain on your heart..

If I may explain.. that wicked term was not for you.. just for that act of killing something when we can let it go and when there is no dire need to kill... everything you have written here... wars, eating because of where we are in the food chain and in the power chain of the world.. all of that makes sense.. and i LOVE being here... love almost every word you write. You have that rare gift of being intelligent without being verbose. :-)

I don't know how Sorry can make a difference.. but I do want to apologise.. and hope that it will work...

PS: would have liked to email this to you.. but couldn't find an email id on your profile.. .


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