Blackwater security contractors employed in Iraq dropped a blinding riot-control gas on Iraqi civilians and US military personnel on a busy Baghdad street in May 2005, according to the reporter who first broke the NSA wiretapping scandal in the New York Times.
“Blackwater teams in the air and on the ground were preparing a secure route near a checkpoint to provide passage for a motorcade,” Ms. Tyrrell said in an e-mail message. “It seems a CS gas canister was mistaken for a smoke canister and released near an intersection and checkpoint.”
"Mistaken' my ass. I went and looked up the markings for CS grenades in an old (1979, still about 20 years newer than the one they sold me! Heh.) Guidebook for Marines. CS grenades are marked 'RIOT CS' and smoke grenades are marked 'SMOKE' with the top and bottom of the device the same color as the smoke it will produce. I'm assuming, and yes I know that's dangerous, that larger canisters are similarly marked.
I've experienced CS gas in the 'gas chamber' training in the Marine Corps. At best, it's very unpleasant. The contents of your sinuses void all over your shirt front, your eyes water, it makes anything moist or mucus-y sting like the blazes, and any moisture you may encounter for hours afterward will reactivate any residue and it will happen all over again. Also, the version of The Marines Hymn that they make you sing while all this is going on is not exactly on par with that of The Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
At worst, depending on concentration and length of exposure, it can be fatal.
“It is not allowed as a method or means of warfare,” said Michael Schmitt, professor of international law at the Naval War College in Newport, R.I. “There are very, very strict restrictions on the use of CS gas in a war zone.”
Except for Blackwater, of course. They are above any and all laws they choose to ignore by presidential fiat, it seems, just like him.
Officers and soldiers who were hit by the CS gas, some of whom asked not to be identified because they were not authorized to discuss the incident, have described it with frustration. They said no weapons were being fired or any other violence that might have justified Blackwater’s response.
In a personal journal posted online the day of the incident, Captain Clark provided a detailed description of what happened and included photos.
After reporting the incident to his superiors, Captain Clark wrote, a convoy that the helicopter was protecting showed up. Because the gas caused a “complete traffic jam in front of our checkpoint,” the captain wrote, “armored cars in the convoy made a U-turn — and threw another CS grenade.”
“It just seemed incredibly stupid,” he wrote. “The only thing we could figure out was for some reason, one of them figured that CS would somehow clear traffic. Why someone would think a substance that makes your eyes water, nose burn and face hurt would make a driver do anything other than stop is beyond me.”
Army Staff Sgt. Kenny Mattingly also was puzzled. “We saw the Little Bird (Blackwater helicopter) come and hover right in front of the gate, and I saw one of the guys dropping a canister,” Sergeant Mattingly said in an interview. “There was no reason for dropping the CS gas. We didn’t hear any gunfire or anything. There was no incident under way.”
I have wondered for some time how come no Blackwater convoy has been wasted by the insurgents as payback or just an object lesson. Now my wonder extends to our own troops. Anybody who uses riot control agents on me in such a cavalier manner better stand by for a ram.
I would like to remind our GIs and Marines of three things to keep in mind when dealing with mercenaries:
1. They have better body armor than you do. Go for head and crotch shots.
2. Sight alignment and trigger squeeze.
3. There is no problem that cannot be solved by the application of high explosives.
While I was lookin' up stuff, I found an interesting site on U.S. military equipment in Iraq at Wikileaks.