10 September 2013

About those chemical and biological weapons

An op-ed piece at The Guardian presents some viewpoints that may make Americans uncomfortable:
Obama warned last week that Syria's use of poisoned gas "threatens to unravel the international norm against chemical weapons embraced by 189 nations"... In 1997 the US agreed to decommission the 31,000 tonnes of sarin, VX, mustard gas and other agents it possessed within 10 years. 

In 2007 it requested the maximum extension of the deadline permitted by the Chemical Weapons Convention – five years. Again it failed to keep its promise, and in 2012 it claimed they would be gone by 2021. Russia yesterday urged Syria to place its chemical weapons under international control. Perhaps it should press the US to do the same. 

In 1998 the Clinton administration pushed a law through Congress which forbade international weapons inspectors from taking samples of chemicals in the US and allowed the president to refuse unannounced inspections. In 2002 the Bush government forced the sacking of José Maurício Bustani, the director general of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. He had committed two unforgiveable crimes: seeking a rigorous inspection of US facilities; and pressing Saddam Hussein to sign the Chemical Weapons Convention, to help prevent the war George Bush was itching to wage.

The US used millions of gallons of chemical weapons in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. It also used them during its destruction of Falluja in 2004, then lied about it. The Reagan government helped Saddam Hussein to wage war with Iran in the 1980s while aware that he was using nerve and mustard gas. (The Bush administration then cited this deployment as an excuse to attack Iraq, 15 years later).

Smallpox has been eliminated from the human population, but two nations – the US and Russia – insist on keeping the pathogen in cold storage. They claim their purpose is to develop defences against possible biological weapons attack, but most experts in the field consider this to be nonsense. While raising concerns about each other's possession of the disease, they have worked together to bludgeon the other members of the World Health Organisation, which have pressed them to destroy their stocks.
More at the link.


  1. Also be nice if the US joined the international ban on antipersonnel mines- perhaps after we ban the usage of (radioactive) depleted uranium rounds that have continued to cause such a massive spike in severe birth defects in Iraq.


    1. I hope your source of information is also considered invalid, since it is not one of the official sources of the american government.

    2. And let's not forget the ravages of Agent Orange on Viet Nam to this very day...


  2. this makes my head hurt.
    real bad.

  3. We used a lot of agent orange in Viet Nam (which can hardly be classified as a weapon as it doesn't kill people for 30 years and then only a small percentage of the people exposed - which is not to say we should have used it, only that we weren't using it to kill people) and we used white phosphorus in Falluja. Getting white phosphorus on you is probably about as fun as breathing mustard gas, but it isn't a banned chemical weapon.

    The Army would have gotten rid of the last of their chemical weapons a long time ago except that environmentalists and NIMBYist won't let them. They wanted to ship them by train to Long Beach and put them on a boat to Johnson Atoll for incineration - guess why that never happened.

    I'm not sure why we're keeping the small pox viruses since the small pox genome has been transcribed and it could be recreated from scratch if we really needed it. As I recall, it's being kept by the Center for Disease Control, not by the Army.

    We did apparently tell Saddam where the Iranian troops were massing fully aware that he was going to gas them, which I guess makes us hypocrites. At least they were only using it against soldiers who were trying to take over their country (not that Iraq didn't start that war).

    War is a nasty horrible business that we should really learn to live without. But don't be surprised that awful things happen during every war and that they're committed on both sides because nobody on either side really wants to die for their country. It reminds me of a story a Viet Nam vet told me. It seems their fire base was about to be over run by the Viet Cong. So, the commander had the base howitzers loaded with flechette rounds which, by the Geneva Convention, can't be used on personnel. As they were depressing the howitzers to zero altitude, he told the gunners, "Aim for their canteens, boys."

    1. "The Army would have gotten rid of the last of their chemical weapons a long time ago except that environmentalists and NIMBYist won't let them."

      Citations please.


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