Today, one of the greatest threats to American and global
security is the danger that terrorist groups will obtain
and use chemical or biological weapons.
The US is ready to use chemical weapons against Iraq
LIVERPOOL (SNN) In an act of blatant hypocrisy, US Marines have already been equipped with
chemical weapons for use against the Iraqis. In conflict with the Chemical Weapons Convention, which is signed by the
We have been hearing it from the US Government for weeks now: there is a danger of Iraqi forces using chemical weapons.
It appears US forces are planning to use - and are equipped with - the same types of weapons.
The marines have been equipped with "Crowd control chemical agents", the Pentagon confirms to the BBC World news radio
In the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), article 1 section 5, the use of these weapons are specifically forbidden: "Each
State Party undertakes not to use riot control agents as a method of warfare" (source: CWC)
The riot control agents in question have not been identified, but CS gas is a likely candidate. It has been classified as
anything between "less-lethal" and "non-lethal", depending on who you ask. The use of this type of gas has been banned in
more than 70 countries, and yet, US forces are planning on using it.
CS gas is in use by riot police and anti terrorist police in quite a few countries around the world. It is not without
dangers, however. One research article notes that "An exposure to even a low concentration of CS raises blood pressure and
there is a particular risk of health damage to anyone over 30". The gas is also known to cause cancer and to be especially
bad for the lungs, particularly during prolonged exposure.
Because the use of the gas would be in a relatively contained area - inner city streets in the old city of Baghdad - and
with the risk of civilians being present, chances of people in the concerned age group being present are great. Not to
mention the potential dangers to people with respiratory problems (asthma etc) or heart problems (higher blood pressure).
To avoid getting shot by coalition forces, as a civilian, it is possible to raise your hands and show your best intention.
Gas is less intelligent: Avoiding a gas that is spreading in an area is impossible, unless you run. I do not wish to
speculate in what nervous soldiers holding submachine guns would do to people who are trying to run anywhere.
There are many non-lethal weapons in various stages of use and testing. While most people would agree that the conflict in
Iraq would be better solved with a pillow fight than with carpet bombing, the possibility of use of the chemical varieties
has caused uproar, because that means that the US are planning to break the CWC.
Other than CS, chemical weapons that may be used are the XM1006 sponge cartridges, fired from M203 launchers, which can
also be set to release gas Dexmedetomidine and flunitrazepam (also known as Rohypnol, or the best known "date rape
drug")are two other drugs which could be used for crowd control. Dexmedetomidine is an alpha-blocker and inhibits the
release of norepinephrine, which increases sensitivity to electroshock.
Another possibility is the use of a fentanyl and halothane mixture. This mixture is interesting because it, according to
many experts, falls between the "chemical weapon" and "biological weapon" classifications. Incidentally, this is the
same mixture that was used in the russian theatre in October 2002, when 115 people died because of the weapon.
The war of contradictions
The possible use of chemical weapons is not the first case of moral questions about the Iraq war: Earlier this week, Rumsfeld
said "That's a violation of the Geneva Convention, those pictures you showed", after having been shown footage of US
prisoners of war, captured by the Iraqis. The statement was followed by a media storm raging about the US treatment of the
prisoners at Guantanamo Bay / Camp X-ray.
A similar response was provoked when Bush commanded Hussain to leave his own country. This was the event that eventually
triggered the war, but few people seemed to realize that this request is against the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,
articles 13 and 15.
There has been an awful lot of discussion on this topic. This is where I try to answer some of the most frequently asked
Q: SharQ, what does this really mean? It is just a few nonlethal weapons. Surely, that is better than bullets?
A: Well, if it was only that simple.
The key is that the US have decided to break international regulations. It worries me deeply that the last superpower has such a blatant disregard for rules. You cannot have a police force that breaks the rules they are trying to uphold: It would cause an uprising in the population, and a demand for a new policeforce. My fear is that the same thing will happen to the US: That the world eventually will have enough of their antics and disregard of global political issues (effectively sabotaging the sovereignity of the UN, for example, is putting international diplomacy back by 50 years).
In today's political climate, and with the economical problems the US are facing domestically, can the US really do without the rest of the world? If the answer is yes, then perhaps the US should stay out of the rest of the world. If the answer is no, then perhaps it is time to start listening.
Some people think my article is petty nitpicking about something that is not important. I don't agree. The use of CS gas is a good idea, if it can stop the US forces from killing people. However, in the name of trustworthyness, they should really try to stick to the international conventions, and not use it. If the "crowd control agents" part of the CWC bothered the US, they should not have signed the agreement.
Q: But the US have not actually broken any rules yet. It is illegal to USE these things, but it isn't disallowed to carry them around, is it?
A: You are right, but only as long as they don't use a single cannister of CS. But then, why did they bother bringing them?
Sources (Yes. Sources. In a daylog. Go figure.)
- About the use of crowd suppression chemical agents: http://www.afn.org/~iguana/archives/2001_05/20010512.html
- The Chemical Warfare Convention: http://www.opcw.org/html/db/cwc/eng/cwc_frameset.html
- The Geneva Convention: http://www.asociety.com/geneva1.html (or here)
- If you are interested, there are some great nodes in here as well.
- The 'non lethal' Russian museum gas: http://www.blonnet.com/2002/11/08/stories/2002110800281800.htm
- The 'non lethal' Russian museum gas: http://www.janes.com/security/law_enforcement/news/nbcd/nbcd021031_1_n.shtml
- About Dexmedetomidine: http://dexmedetomidine.com
- About Rohypnol: http://www.biopsychiatry.com/flunit.htm
- About the use of non-lethal weapons in conflict situations: