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-- Ghouta CWAttack Dept. --


CW-expert Dan Kaszeta straightens out the Gutter Grunt on the Bullbleep Mountain article 

On Oct27.2013 I published an article on Bullbleep Mountain and Veritas Valley that was critical of a piece by CW-expert Dan Kaszeta titled Managing the Deficit in which he purported to calculate how many rockets full of sarin Assad must have used to attack Ghouta on Aug21.2013.  Dan, who is obviously far more gracious than I, sent me a very pleasant Email in which he straightened out a few of the points in my article he thought needed straightening out.  Soon after that he followed-up with a polite request that I remove a reference I had to "CW-ghoul."  I mean, this guy is an American living in the UK, but he's as polite as any Canadian I've come across here in BC.  I was delighted to get some feedback of that quality.

Soon as I had the chance I responded to his Em and modified the article as he asked.  I also offered to put his Em and my response up here on the LogoPhere blog, which is what I'm doing with this post.  Here is Dan's Em of Nov04, my reply of Nov08, and his response of Nov08 to my reply.

Email of Dan Kaszeta, Nov04.2013 to Denis O'Brien   

Mr. O'Brien,

Thank you for reading my article in CBRNe World. This is an area with much debate and strong opinions, and I see that my thoughts, as they have evolved since 8/21, have provoked comment and reaction of every conceivable type.

I have read your interesting riposte on Scribd. Several people had forwarded it to my attention, some of them hoping to elicit an angry response out of me. But there's no point in me getting angry as it just distorts the debate. I do want to thank you for not engaging in overt personal attacks.

I myself have a few reactions to your comments:

1. CBRNe World is a commercial magazine run as a business. They have to take paid advertizing to pay the bills. Please don't get angry at me for that fact. I don't have any control over what page my article will run on, or what ads may run next to my article. It's completely out of my control. If it were up to me, I'd love to put up a link to my article as a PDF without the ads in it, but CBRNe World is not structured that way. I freely admit that I get paid by CBRNe to write the articles. I need to make a living. If it weren't for the advertisers, I couldn't get paid for writing in it. It is not an academic publication.

2. CBRNe World has an editor. His name is Gwyn Winfield, and he is a reasonable man. If you have serious issue with how he runs his magazine, feel free to take it up with him. And if you have a serious rebuttal to my article, or any other, he's often willing to print a reply.

3. I was limited to 2000 words and I think that I did a fairly good job of cramming some complex and obtuse ideas into 2000 words. But I can see that not everyone can follow what I was thinking. But CBRNe World is not going to print a 6000 word article from me. (I once got away with 2500, but that's about the limit.)

4. The premise of my article was not to explain the whole 8/21 incident. That will take a whole book and a lot of information to which we just don't have access to. The purpose of the "Managing the Deficit" article was to be a thought exercise to see if my old military offensive chemical target analysis background and the old doctrinal documents in my possession could shed light on how the Syrian military might have had to plan such an attack. You correctly assess that this raises as many questions as it solves. More importantly, however, I don't claim that my article solves anything.

5. I know full well that a 155mm howitzer round is not a 330-360mm rocket. I used the M121 round for two reasons. First, because I know down to the ounce how much Sarin is in one. Second, because I know its target analysis chart was the one most well grounded in field trials in Utah in the 1950s and 1960s. To my knowledge it was never ever fired from a M198, by the way. The point was less to figure out the exact number of munitions but to figure out the order of magnitude quantity of agent required. I thought I was clear in my math in converting 155mm howitzer rounds to net agent quantity. I see your accuracy argument, but I think it is less relevant than you do. Chemical weapons are by design area effect weapons not precision munitions. Heck, I wasn't thinking that I could ever account for the agent down to the ounce, I was trying to come up with an order of

6. I'm sorry that I can't explain chemical target analysis methodology and use of the charts in great detail in my article. It used to get taught in several weeks of training, and I can't reproduce a 300 page manual and three week program of instruction in 2000 words. I used about 15 different charts and tables from a number of different sources. The three printed in the article are only the tip of the iceberg, and it was not feasible for the editors to give up a large swathe of a commercial publication to reprint large extracts from old US Chemical Corps manuals only as a graphic for my article.

7. I admit that the available weather data is simply insufficient for complex use in this instance. The "about 10 mph" figure I have is from two anecdotal sources. But actually all I needed was a rough order of magnitude guess. It wasn't still, it wasn't 20 mph. Using one table, I needed to know the wind was 3, 5, or 8 mph. I used the 8 mph bit of the table as it gave me the most conservative estimate. On the other M121 table, I needed to use either a below or above 10 mph breakpoint. But either way it gives me such a large amount of Sarin required. Temperature is broadly important, but not to the degree you suggest, in the first few minutes. If I was doing a downwind hazard prediction, the granularity of the wind data would be important. It is less important (but not unimportant) for the Also, weather data for large cities varies a lot from point to point.

8. Again, I apologize for not being able to explain Felim McMahon's geolocating work. The 63 ha area is a figure that he gave me in a complex and lengthy discussion that, again, I cannot adequately summarize in a 2000 word article. Of interest, this is the smallest target area calculation I could reasonably agree with, given the work that I have seen on the subject. You are correct in that a larger area would require more agent.

9. Hydrolysis and relative humidity factor into the medium and long term fate of Sarin, but don't factor as much into the immediate casualty effects. Hydrolysis of Sarin is not instantaneous. It takes hours to days. There simply wasn't a way to factor 56% relative humidity into the charts that I used. Indirectly, 56% RH in a relatively arid does give me some indication that an inversion atmospheric condition existed at the time.

10. Casualty figures are a source of great variance. I agree with you there. My point was simply to establish a range of low to high. I am not hanging my hat on any one particular one. I was looking for the order-of-magnitude guess.

One of my objectives was to come up with a rough order of magnitude estimate as to how much material may have been used. I believe that I have done this, with a range from 370-ish kg to 4400-ish kg, with the solid realization that, like most things, a normal distribution may be in effect here with the real answer somewhere in the middle of that range, and with many good reasons to disregard 370 kg as the 2 percentile guess and 4400 kg as the 98 percentile guess. The fact that we are talking about something on the order of magnitude of a ton of Sarin and not a pint or a gallon has tremendous implications as to the supply chain that led to its being used.

There are other comments I can make, but I will keep it to these 10 for now. I hope that you take this in the non-confrontational spirit in which is it intended.

Dan Kaszeta, London, UK

Email of Denis O'Brien, Nov08.2013 to Dan Kaszeta   


Apologies for taking so long to respond to your initial Em of Nov04.

I don’t see any advantage to either of us in my stepping through each of your enumerated technical points, but I really appreciate you taking the time to lay them out.  If you would like me to put your Email up on my blog, verbatim, I would be happy to.  You could link to it as a way to make your points known to others.  I think I will likely put this present reply up on the blog.  These points may be of interest to the Ghouta Internet crowd. 

Let me respond to some of the non-technical issues you have with my Bullbleep Mtn piece.

The way your article Managing the Deficit looked to me was that it was produced by your own company and those ads were for products you sell.  When I asked another blogger, that’s what he thought, too.  And so the optics were that here was some guy making a buck on this Ghouta tragedy.  And, I guess that was correct, but not in the way it first appeared. 

Maybe Mr. Winfield could include the mag’s cover-page in the .pdf of your article so the reader is aware of what’s going on there.  This is the only instance I know of in this Ghouta thing of an online expert opinion being published as a paid contribution to a commercial magazine.  And that’s cool.  Like I said in my critique, “somebody’s got to feed the monkey,” which is the same thing as what you said, “I need to make a living.”  But I obviously just didn’t see what was up with those ads embedded in what appeared to be an Internet article. 

As far as Mr. Winfield, no, sir, I have no issues at all w/ how he runs his magazine.  Like I say, I didn’t even know it was a magazine.

As I understand your predicament with the word-limit, you basically had two choices.  First, you could do the article for money and abide by Winfield’s word restriction, which meant you didn’t have sufficient room to actually explain what you were talking about.  The second option was to do what most of us are doing, which is spending hours and hours trying to figure out what went on in Ghouta and not getting paid a nickle.  If you had gone that route you would have been free to use all the words you needed to explain how you were reaching your conclusions. 

Either way, it looks like you agree with my complaint that no one who reads your article can possibly understand your calculations – either how you calculated the size of the target zone or the sarin dose.  The word-limit constraint certainly explains why the article was less than transparent, but that doesn’t cure the lack of transparency.  I’m confident that my critique was both accurate and fair, if not particularly gracious, in pointing out that there is no way to read your article and understand what you actually saying. 

Some people could care less as to how you reached your conclusions; all they want is a bottom line to plug into whatever position they have.  But others of us are not willing to buy pigs in pokes, whatever that means.  I think a poke is some sort of bag.   My over-riding concern is that some idiot congressmen will read your article, buy into your bottom line without understanding what the hell you are talking about, and conclude that Assad must have been responsible if that much sarin was required.  Boom, we’re back to the Iraq debacle.

Anyway, the main point in my critique didn’t leave an impression on you at all, I can tell from your Email.  Right near the end you say: “The fact that we are talking about something on the order of magnitude of a ton of Sarin and not a pint or a gallon has tremendous implications as to the supply chain that led to its being used.”

This totally ignores my main complaint, which was, and is, that your assumptions – that a) there was a sarin attack, and b) that Assad was responsible – have no basis in fact.  And I pushed that point quite hard in my critique, and I asserted that not only does the evidence not support your assumptions, the evidence points strongly in the opposite direction: to the conclusion that there was no sarin-rocket attack in Ghouta that night, as in: it just didn’t happen.  And when you conclude that the attack might have required dumping 4400 kg of sarin on just 63 hectares . . . we’ve lost all sense of proportion or reality, which only emphasizes my point that this just didn’t happen the way you and the MSM are saying it happened – a sarin-rocket attack.  And when I extrapolated your numbers on the basis of more realistic target areas to include all of the areas the insurgents report being hit – well . . . it is just crazy.  Believe me, as an ex-Marine it took an enormous amount of self-restraint to avoid the term “total bullshit” in my article.

Which brings us back to my euphemistic Bullbleep Mountain theme: If you’ve got bogus assumptions and bogus casualty numbers being plugged into the most brilliant tables the Army has to offer, all that’s ever going to come out the other end are bogus conclusions.  GIGO.  Never mind the issue of the near-complete lack of transparency caused by an editor’s word-limits, the input assumptions themselves don’t fly.

And the reason I’m saying that is that the simple biological truth is that you can not possibly have videos of hundreds of people dead and dying from sarin and have no feces, no urine, and no vomitus.  As a sarin guy, you should know the mnemonic for cholinergic storm: SLUDGE.  

That biological/pharmacological/toxicological truth has to be the starting point of all discussions of what happened – or didn’t happen – in Ghouta.  You and your tables, Obama and his phony 1429 fatalities number, the UN with its hoky “data” – you can all engage in any analysis, or calculations, or conjectures you want, but until you deal with the virtual near absence of corroborating pharmacological evidence of a sarin attack in those videos, you cannot logically or ethically conclude that there was such an attack.  I don’t care if you can calculate the amount of sairn that would have been required to kill 1429 people down to the microgram. 

I would have thought that you of all people would have challenged the MSM/USG/UN sarin storyline on this basis.  You were one of the first experts to be quoted pointing out that the symptoms were not right.  And you brought up the questionable pinpoint pupils statistics in the Sellstrom Report.  And your Managing the Debt article suggests explicitly that something ain’t right here.

Given that you are so dug into the assumption that Assad launched a sarin attack, it would be most helpful – and I would be most grateful to you – if you could point out where you think my thinking is wrong.  Give me links to the videos showing the victims covered in feces and vomit OR explain to me how all these people could be killed with sarin without most (or any) of them showing signs of urinary and fecal incontinence OR refer me to alternative pharmacology or toxicology texts that say massive, systemic activation of parasympathetic ganglia by organophosphates doesn’t really cause vomiting and fecal/urinary incontinence. 

Yes, I know – the insurgents’ videos show pinpoint pupils, which is one symptom of OP poisoning.  But the vids also show grossly inflamed conjunctiva, which is not a symptom of OP poisoning.  And pinpoint pupils alone without other OP symptoms don’t mean squat.  Anyone wanting to fake this thing could produce pinpoint pupils for the cameras w/ easily available therapeutic AchE blockers like edrophonium.  Lots of non-OP agents cause pinpoint pupils and ocular irritation.  

Let me tell you where I’m coming from and then maybe you can forgive me for being such a dick about all this. 

I am not in this for a buck, and I am not trying to build a brand.  I am not writing Internet articles to feed my monkey.  I’ve got a couple hundred pro bono hours in this Ghouta project, mostly trying to push back on questionable work by others (including the UN) who seem to be trying to spin a highly suspect sarin story into a casus belli.  I am not arguing a defense case for Assad.  I just want to be damn sure that before a bunch of asinine congressmen push Obama into attacking Syria that no reasonable doubts remain that Assad was, in fact, responsible for this massacre.  I think the Human Rights Watch report of Oct11.2013 on the Latakia Massacre has it about right: the UN needs to find who is responsible for these crimes against humanity and prosecute them.  I would be very surprised, and very disappointed, if you don’t agree with me on this point.

When Powell gave that now infamous presentation to the UN over a decade ago, I stood in front of the TV and ranted and raved at his stupid drawings of “mobile biological weapons production facilities,” and his inane assertions that the intel people could tell certain buildings were used to manufacture CW because lookeee here you can see they have a guard house at the gate where there are trucks coming and going.  And the NYT just nodded at his total BS, and the WaPo just nodded, and the whole world just nodded.  And Congress got behind Bush/Cheney and soon the war crimes began, big time.  Those crimes are now history, as are 500,000 Iraqis, and no one has been prosecuted.  And that annoys hell out of me.  Maybe you can tell.  

I didn’t have a blog then, and I didn’t have a voice beyond what futile ranting my friends would tolerate.  Not even sure I had Internet access.  But now I can upload my critiques and I get statistical feedback that tens of thousands of people read them.  So now when I see bullshit, I’ll point out to those tens of thousands: “Hold on, this is bullshit.” because I know how dangerous bullshit can be.  If Israel is able to talk Congress and USG into jacking up another war, at least I’ll be able to tell myself in the aftermath that I went to the trouble to do what I could to point out the bullshit I saw.  I feel we have some responsibilities as citizens of the Internet.        

There is no question whatsoever in my mind that you are acting in good faith and that you are adding helpful technical information to the dialog – information that is not otherwise easily obtained by us lay-people.  I’ve learned quite a bit by reading what you’ve said on this Ghouta topic.  But if I see you promoting the sarin myth not on the basis of conclusions that can clearly be understood but on nothing more than on your rep as a CW expert, then I’m going to call you on it.  Just like I called Sellstrom on that rubbish they published.  I would hope that you would welcome a critic willing to take the time to try and understand what you are really saying.  As I indicated above, if you would critique my points as critically as I critiqued yours, I would extremely grateful.  If I am wrong, I want to know, and know why.

As for your objection to my use of “ghoul,” let me just be sure we’re clear about what I wrote.  An “ex-US Army CW-ghoul” is not an assertion that you are a ghoul.  There are regular ghouls, and then there are CW-ghouls, and then there are ex-CW-ghouls.  The phrase I used clearly connotes someone who used to be employed by the Army to deploy chemical weapons to cause agonizing death.  But you have politely asked me to delete the word “ghoul” because it gives you offense, and I absolutely will because that was not my intent.  Here’s the alternative I think works best to clarify my point.
“He fits right in there, and I'm talking about Dan Kaszeta here who self-applies the label one-time Chemical Officer in the US Army, which is, as I take it, someone who is paid by US taxpayers to figure out how to use agents like sarin to inflict agonizing death on as many people as possible if push comes to shove.”

That’s the best I can do.  If you’re looking for me to merely promote your brand as a CW expert and leave it at that, sorry.   If I have misunderstood your bio and you were not a part of the US chemical warfare apparatus, please clarify your bio and I will amend the article to reflect your clarifications.

BTW, if you’re not a Big Lebowski fan, that “he fits right in there . . .” stuff will sound odd.  Please abide. 

Unless I receive instructions to the contrary, I will presume that you do not want your Em of Nov04 published on my blog.

Again, thanks for getting in touch.

Email of Dan Kaszeta, Nov08.2013 to Denis O'Brien 

Mr. O'Brien,
Thanks for your reply.  Feel free to publish my email.  And this one, as you see fit.   I see that you and I see things differently on many levels.  We should not waste our efforts trying to convince each other if we are just going to end up shouting at each other. 
I appreciate that fact that you "aren't in it for the money" - but please understand that I run a business in CBRN defense consulting, so Ghouta or not, I am in this squalid business for the money.  I was in it long before Ghouta, and will be well after this is old news.   Seeing how I have been in this business of CBRN defense since 1991 in one form or another, now that I run my own business, what would you have me do?  I have opinions.  Mostly, I've given them away for free, as you have.  Some small percentage of the people, institutions, outlets, etc. that have sought my thoughts have offered to pay me for them. I've got bills to pay and a business to run.  I can't pay the bills with altruism, as much as I'd like to.  And believe me, I'm certainly not getting rich this way.  

For what its worth, I agree with you that the US dropping bombs isn't going to help much at the moment.  
I am sorry that you don't see the point of the ads.  Its an issue completely out of my hands, so beating me up for it is gratuitous. The pdf of my article is literally a reprint of the pages of the magazine.  All the other articles are the same.  I thought I had made it clear to everyone that my article was in CBRNe World magazine.  
Regarding the "ghoul" thing / "promoting my brand"...   We live in free countries and you are, of course, free to interpret my short active service and many years of Reserve/National Guard service as a commissioned officer in the US Army Chemical Corps in whatever light you wish.  Or my 12 years as a civil servant. Or my years in industry.  Or the book I wrote.  I'll send you my  CV if you want.  The US Army and the US government actually finally and officially renounced the use of chemical weapons while I was still in training in 1993, it having been a polite fiction for years anyway as the munitions were rotting and pointless.  As far as my being paid US tax dollars to figure out how to use Sarin to kill people, it was basically one day early in my otherwise completely defensive career before the official policy changed.  I have since used that same knowledge to try to protect people.  
If you are interested in my current working theory as to what actually happened, I will summarize it for you.  I personally don't care if you believe it or not.   But here's what I believe:
I believe the Assad regime did it.  They have demonstrated that they have the industrial capability to do it, and the OPCW has now been in the production facilities.  On the whole, the guy with the Sarin factory is more likely to have done it than the guy with no factory.   
I believe that the UN / Sellstrom report has shortcomings, but it is really just an executive summary of broader work yet to be seen.  The lab results show the use of Sarin, both directly and indirectly, through the presence of byproducts and degradation products. 
I believe that my rough order of magnitude estimate about the amount of material is broadly in the right ballpark.  1 ton, ish.
You are right in that 8/21 surely doesn't look like a textbook lay-down of US/USSR-grade Sarin.  As best I can tell, the Assad regime used binary Sarin but had a rather piss-poor way of mixing the DF and the isopropyl alcohol.  Maybe a useful and efficient binary weapon is not actually So, what happened at the point of dispersal was actually a dispersal of a cocktail of things, to wit:
1. Some Sarin.
2. Some DF
3. Some isopropyl alcohol.
4. Some hydrogen fluoride. 1 HF molecule for every molecule of Sarin produced by the DF + isopropanol reaction
5. Some miscellaneous degradation products and impurities, such as DIMP
As you well know, Sarin is highly toxic.  Probably most of the dead resulted from exposure the the Sarin.  The vast majority of the people in the videos may have been exposed to perhaps a little Sarin, but largely to 2,3,4, and 5, which are nasty things in their own right, just not as nasty as Sarin, being principally general irritants rather than specific nerve agents.  
We obviously disagree on many issues, and we may appear to outsiders to be shouting past each other.  How about we agree to disagree?  I'll go my own way, you go yours, we don't have to quote each other or make jibes.   Honestly, you beating up on me in your diatribe only gets me more publicity, not less, so if you really think I'm a bastard not worth listening to, then it doesn't serve your ends. 
Dan Kaszeta
London, UK


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