In the great State of Israel there's a saying: Living between one ceasefire to another....
Always accompanied by a cynical smile, this saying pretty much sums up the state of mind according to which the great State of Israel has existed in the past half century.

This vindictive and wary state of mind has lead the people of the great state of Israel to devise many useless and extremely expensive gadgets, and other measures, to insure their 'personal safety'.

Looking back on the 1990's brings to mind the Gulf War:
On August 2nd, 1990, Iraqi troops invade Kuwait. On December 17th of the same year, Iraq is given an ultimatum by the UN, to withdraw its troops by January 15th, or face the consequences. Sensing a war brewing, and fearing Iraq's chemical Scuds, the Israeli government begins issuing Gas Masks, and other chemical warfare countermeasures, to its civilians. In addition, several American 'Anti-missile' Patriot missile batteries are deployed.

A post-war inquiry revealed that more than 70% of all civilian masks were malfunctioned, and would have been futile in case of a chemical attack. Fortunately, Iraq, fearing the fierce American-Israeli retaliation, launched only conventional Scud missiles against Israel.

An Israeli investigation committee stated that the performances of the Patriot missile during the war were poor - a less than 30% success rate. The Patriot system, which was designed in the 1970's, relied on a software originated from the same period, and was unable to make the accurate complicated calculations, required when intercepting a ballistic missile as the Scud.
Ironically, its Iraqi rival, the Scud Al-Hussein, was of no better building quality, and most of the Iraqi missiles broke to pieces before reentering the Atmosphere.

As a result of the Iraqi incompetency, and in spite of the futile defence measurers, the damage inflicted by the Scud attacks was scarce.

Gulf war chronology: FRONTLINE / WGBH Educational Foundation -
Patriot info: Untied states General Accounting Office report to the Congress - GAO/IMTEC-92-26 Patriot Missile Software Problem

To add up to the previous writeup, the chemical agent protection given to the civilians could safeguard them from certain nerve agents (like Sarin, which the Iraqis were thought to possess) while not from others (like VX, which absorbs through skin and requires full protective suit). In fact, infants in their little filtered plastic incubators were probably the safest. They instructed the people to seal one of the rooms in their houses and stay in it during attacks; such a measure, as they claimed, reduces the fatalities in a poisonous gas attack by 10 times. The question still remains whether the home front command ever believed a chemical attack might take place.

As to the inaccuracy of the Patriot missles, there was an Iraqi caricature at that time:

A Scud missle is flying by the Patriot.
The Patriot stops it and asks -- "Scud?".
"No, Al Hussein!" -- answers the Scud and procedes on it's way.

Lets try a few facts.

  • the performances of the Patriot missile during the war were poor - Correct. The patriot missiles were designed as AA missiles, and were converted to location defense against ballistic missiles. Had they been used for their purpose - protecting an isolated base from a missile attack, they may have done somewhat better. Protecting densely populated areas with them was a mistake.
  • more than 70% of all civilian masks were malfunctioned, and would have been futile in case of a chemical attack - Partially correct. While many of the gas masks were outdated they offered better protection than no gas masks at all. The efficiency of active-carbon filters is reduced with time, as they get exposed to humidity. Gas masks that aren't fully sealed with filters that aren't in the best shape aren't what you would want to give your child (actually, you'd probably rather your child wouldn't be in a situation that makes this question relevant), but it beats the shit out of being protectionless.
  • Protection wasn't efficient against VX, that requires a full protective suit - Incorrect. While a person working or (more likely) fighting in an environment contaminated with VX should certainly wear a protective suit, VX is heavier than the air and is mostly in puddles a short time after an attack (initially it's in aerosol form, but it generally accumulates on the ground after a while). In the case of a VX attack, the walls and windows of houses that didn't collapse/break would provide most of the initial protection necessary. Population would than be evacuated from the region through paths that would have been partially decontaminated, and the simple act of wearing boots and not touching anything with your hands would have gotten most of the population out alive. The atropine given as first aid to the population works against all acetylcholinergic nerve agents, including VX.

The protection given to civilians at the time by "Haga" - the civil defense authority (The home front command didn't exist at the time) was far from perfect, but would have seriously reduced casualties in the case of a chemical attack.

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