13 March 2008

Busted, Decisively

I mentioned that my wife and I were planning to do some experiments to verify one odd claim made by a certain IVAW member, one Jennifer Sprager, that she poisoned detainees by putting MRE heater material into cigarettes.

First reported here in the local press, this was repeated over at Obiter Dictum.

Parts of her story have already been debunked by Chickenhawk Express.

But I was curious about the MRE heater question. For those playing the Home Game, MREs come with a heater package consisting of a light green plastic bag with a package of some sort of stiff fabric containing a gray powder. You rip open the bag, shove a sealed package of food inside, and add water. The powder reacts to the water and heats up, giving of foul-smelling vapors in the process which you aren't supposed to sniff as they displace oxygen, although they are harmless enough in and of themselves.

Step one was to ask (for safety purposes) what happens when you attempt to burn some of the gray powder. So I slit one of the heaters, took a couple pinches of powder, and applied a BBQ lighter (Weber brand, in case it matters to someone), and got. . . Nothing. It doesn't burn. I held flame on it for two minutes, and got no burning at all.

Then I attempted to roll it into a cigarette. This powder has the consistency of sand, so you have to use a good bit of tobacco to hold it in. If you do not hold the cigarette level, you get bits of gray powder falling out of it. The cigarette lights, but taking a drag on it results in a mouthful of gray powder. It is variously described as "nasty," "disgusting," and "tastes like licking a salty engine block".

So. . .

If you roll MRE heater crud into cigarettes, it tends to fall out. If you attempt to smoke the cigarette, it tastes obviously revolting and tampered with. No one can stomach the taste long enough to actually poison themselves with it.

As Mythbusters would say, this one is "BUSTED"


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You were linked here as well:

6:38 PM  
Anonymous auxdarastrix said...

You should write a letter to the news sources that are repeating the story.

7:16 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

Also linked at Little Green Footballs. http://littlegreenfootballs.com/weblog/

8:42 PM  
Blogger cmad said...

The cigarette lights, but taking a drag on it results in a mouthful of gray powder. It is variously described as "nasty," "disgusting," and "tastes like licking a salty engine block".

To complete the experiment, you need to taste Russian (or Iraqi) cigarettes. There may be no substantial difference in taste.


9:38 PM  
Blogger Robin said...

Great job debunking this ridiculous claim! Nothing like a little research and experimentation to prove someone a fraud! I love it!

10:12 PM  
Blogger Just A Decurion said...

I have tasted Iraqi cigarettes.

They are nasty, but not metallic or salty.

12:44 AM  
Blogger A Soldier's Girl said...

Seriously, I've smoked a hand-rolled Iraqi cigarette and they don't taste like that.

I've also smoked unfiltered Camels and it didn't taste anything like what this tasted like. I literally got a mouthful of this grainy substance that I had to spit out several times.

It was nasty as all-get-out.

1:01 AM  
Blogger Zero Ponsdorf said...

Well done.

2:41 AM  
Blogger FbL said...

Bravo! (As in Italian, not Army speak--sorry, that's the classical musician in me, not the educated civilian, LOL!)

Anyway, I found you from reading comments over at "AD Patriot" and came over here to thank you. You did an excellent job with him and his fellow travelers on the subject of "withdraw from Iraq now." I saw your comments about Patriquin and the work your unit did in Fallujah.

And thank you so much for your service--sounds like you and your brothers in 2006/2007 were the leading edge of what we're seeing spreading across Iraq now, but you were doing it back when so many thought all was lost. I only wish it could've all turned sooner--we would have men like Travis Patriquin still with us... and he would surely be thrilled with the turn things in Iraq seem to be making.

10:04 AM  
Anonymous Bill McD said...

Ohhhhh... they use magnesium, eh? And someone... no. No no. No way someone's going to smoke magnesium and not know it. Hell, when the stuff DOES burn, it produces bright white (and ultraviolet) light like an arc-welder. No way that gets mistaken for anything that should be in a cig.

6:12 PM  

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