Bleach & Ammonia

Back in college, my Phi Mu Alpha brothers and I were doing major spring cleaning of our fraternity house one weekend. (We cleaned the house more than one time... not much more, but a few times.)

Anyway, on this particular occasion, someone had the bright idea to clean the basement with a combination of bleach and ammonia. I am not sure who came up with this wonderful idea, but as I recall they said something about how since ammonia was an effective cleanser and bleach was a good sanitizer, that using them together would work even better.

Poisonus graftThe problem is that when bleach and ammonia are combined, they react to produce deadly Chlorine gas - a potentially lethal combination, which is so powerful that it was used as a weapon in WWI and WWII. This is the same stuff that led to the evacuation of the town of Apex, North Carolina, earlier Friday.

Fortunately, after nearly passing out and killing everyone in the house, the fumes finally dissipated, and we were able to clean the spilled beer soft drinks from the basement floor. However, while the bleach and ammonia were still being added, the problem just kept getting worse.

It seems somewhat counter-intuitive to stop using a cleaner - even though the mess is still there. There is a tendency to add more - not less. However, when the mess gets worse, and especially when there are dangerous unintended consequences, then it's time to stop mixing the dangerous ingredients together.

So, you may be wondering why I am sharing this story now, or maybe you already know...

To me, the whole Ammonia-Bleach Episode of 1988, reminds me of the U.S. War in Iraq.

Since we added ourselves as an ingredient to help clean-up the situation, things aren't getting any better, and, if anything, they're getting worse. American soldiers are being attacked 100 times a day. Over 2,700 Americans are dead and thousands more Iraqis have died. The mess is getting worse - not better.

In addition, the latest National Intelligence Estimate tells us that the war has increased the terrorist threat to the United States and helped spawn a new generation of Islamic radicalism.

Just like continuing to add bleach to the ammonia was a lethal combination, so is the United States' continued military presence in Iraq.

Unfortunately though, instead of having the wisdom of a bunch of fraternity brothers, our President, Vice President, Secretary of Defense and the entire Bush administration continue to refuse to make any changes. They keep putting our troops in harms way, and the only strategy that they propose is to "Stay the Course".

I think I can speak for my fraternity brothers in saying that we're glad we didn't "Stay the Course" and continue to stir the ammonia and bleach together. Now, I just wish the President would heed the same advice.