Tuesday, May 18, 2004

The Times: that "sarin bomb" and a curious photo

Well, I may have said that the neo-cons weren't trying to claim that the alleged sarin bomb justified the invasion of Iraq. I wasn't entirely right. The Times, that sad ruin of a newspaper, illustrated the story with a large picture of various chemical-looking tubes and instruction leaflets printed in Arabic, English and Russian. The caption stated that these were "vials of sarin found in Iraq". But there was something very odd about the picture.

I'd seen it before, during the invasion. Back then it had been correctly captioned as a chemical warfare antidote kit. Which is precisely what it was. Yes, the instruction leaflet in the photo is headed "SARIN, SOMAN, V-GASES". But the text begins "Definition:" and details a procedure to test for the presence of sarin. The object next to it is clearly marked "AUTOMATIC INJECTOR" and "ATROPINE SULPHATE" in English. Come on, it's not hard. An automatic injector of atropine is the standard personal first-aid for the effects of nerve gas. This was a personal protection kit as issued to every semi-competent army in the world, as well as Israeli civilians in time of war. It's even got it written on it. So - how did the same photo change from being a defensive and innocuous antidote to being evil and deadly WMD? You don't think there was a degree of distortion here?

It's a great pity that the Times website is so poor that it is impossible to link to the pic. Or, to look at it another way, perhaps it's good?

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