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Monday, July 09, 2007

Israel's gas mask 'shortage'

The Jerusalem Post is reporting today that it has 'learned' that there is a shortage in gas masks in Israel. It has learned? What took them so long? I could have told them that two years ago!
While tension is mounting in the Golan Heights and senior defense officials are warning of the possibility of imminent war with Syria, less than 50 percent of the population will have their gas masks renewed by the end of the year, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
Let's stop right there and allow me to explain to you what the term 'renewed' means. It's not like you take your gas mask to a store and they turn a screw and give it back to you. From the lead-up to Gulf War I in early 1991 through Operation Shock and Awe in 2003, Israelis regularly received and traded in gas masks under the watchful eye of the IDF's Home Front - yes, the same incompetent boors who left hundreds of thousands of residents of northern Israel to fend for themselves last summer.

Gas masks need to be traded in for three reasons. First, eventually they no longer work, a process that is accelerated when they are opened. Second, they come with antidotes to certain kinds of chemical weapons and those antidotes - like all prescription drugs - expire and lose their potency at a certain point. Third, there are different types of gas masks for different ages and physical attributes. The same gas mask that was appropriate for my 8-year old in 2003 will not fit him today. On the other hand, there are two types of gas masks for adult men - bearded and clean-shaven (I kid you not) - and there may be more than a few men here in Israel who have grown one or shaved one off. There are special gas masks for those with breathing difficulties like asthmatics. And there are children who have been born since 2003 and new immigrants who have come to live here since 2003 who have never had a gas mask.

In the lead-up to Operation Shock and Awe in 2003, the government instructed all Israelis to open their gas masks. While there may be Israelis who did not do so, it is a certainty that those Israelis whose gas masks were opened (which I believe includes everyone in my family) no longer have effective gas masks. In fact, I would venture to guess that none of our gas masks is any good. I just checked the closet where they are kept, and of the three I could see, two said they were issued in 2001. They are now useless! With that in mind, let's return to the Post's 'discovery':
Syria is believed to have a large stockpile of chemical and biological weapons. According to the Global Security Web site, the Syrian arsenal is comprised mostly of large amounts of Sarin and mustard gas and is reportedly producing and weaponizing VX. The US, the report says, has estimated Syria to possess several hundred liters of chemical weapons with hundreds of tons of agents produced annually.

Acknowledging that the population's gas masks will not be renewed and effective for at least another two years, defense officials told the Post Sunday that the IDF Home Front Command was currently considering proposals, if the need arises, to make emergency purchases of gas masks from Israeli and American companies. [Well, why don't we just ask the Syrians to postpone any attack until the incompetent boors at the Home Front Command can get off their fat overpaid butts and finish 'considering' the proposals. CiJ]

If war were to break out in the coming months, the Home Front Command would only have enough gas masks for 1.5 million adults and half-a-million children. [At the end of May 2007, Israel's population was 7,161,000. That means the government is close to 5,000,000 gas masks short not counting the tourists. And as of the end of 2005, the population included approximately 2.5 million people under the age of 19. CiJ]

The shortage in gas masks stems from a 2003 Defense Ministry decision to collect the public's gas masks, a project that only began at the beginning of 2007. Due to a lack of funds, the project was recently suspended and is expected to be renewed - following Sunday's government decision - in the coming weeks. [And could someone please explain what happened until the project was suspended? Why haven't any gas masks been collected for the last four years? CiJ]

"This situation could be interpreted as neglect," a senior official told the Post. [COULD???? CiJ] "If war breaks out and non-conventional weapons are used then we could find ourselves in a major crisis." [How reassuring! CiJ]
Meanwhile the Olmert - Barak - Livni government is tuning up its fiddles in preparation for watching Israel burn.

I suppose I should at least be grateful that none of my sons is in the tank corps. Yesterday, the government decided to cut all ministry budgets across the board, which is how governments cop out when they cannot make hard decisions about priorities (it happens all the time here). The Defense Ministry said - according to the Post - that one of the things that will likely be cut is anti-missile defense systems for the IDF's tanks. Recall that the majority of the IDF casualties in Lebanon last summer were caused by anti-tank missiles.

3 Comments:

At 8:57 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Wow, I had no idea about trading in requirements and that there was such a shortage. If only US money were going for masks to protect the innocent than to prop up terrorist-in-suit Abbas.

 
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