It's all a matter of perspective.

Tuesday, October 29, 2002

They have finally identified the secret gas that the Russians used to incapacitate the terrorists this weekend. You guessed it: elephant tranquilizer. This is disappointing news, because the antidote to it is common and the soldiers who went in could have carried it with them. This fascinating article in the Washington Times contrasts the stuff the Russians used with the incapacitating gas that the US has in its arsenal, BZ. It seems that BZ gives people who are exposed to it an immediate and acute case of advanced but temporary Alzheimer’s.
An injection of the drug tacrine (approved by the FDA for treatment of Alzheimer's) will bring the person back to normal in less than 60 seconds.
It will do no good, however, for a terrorist to anticipate this, and have injections of tacrine in his terrorist kit bag. Once hit by BZ, he will simply forget why he is a terrorist. His short-term memory evaporates.
"Why am I holding this gun?" he may ask himself. It's heavy — his muscles have lost their tone, and thus their strength — so he drops it. "It's hot," he tells himself. BZ prevents sweating. So he decides to take off his clothes, and that heavy, uncomfortable explosives belt, which he has forgotten what it's for.
The U.S. military has done extensive research with BZ. A group of well-trained Marines were sent out on a simulated mission at Parris Island and subsequently were exposed to BZ, for example. They proceeded to take off their clothes and sit on the beach. They wouldn't obey their commanding officer because they simply couldn't remember what his orders were. They didn't have the faintest idea of what their rifles were for, or why they should salute this stranger ("What's a salute, anyway?").
Condemned as the "Superhallucinogen," BZ has been made illegal in warfare. But terrorists are not in uniform. They are fair game for BZ. As far safer and humanitarian than M99, Mr. Putin should consider BZ the next time Muslim terrorists assault his country. For now, he needs to come clean on his mystery gas. No more secrets, Mr. Putin. We already know what the secret is.

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