4/7/03 9:48:36 PM Pacific Daylight Time
Think we'll see anything like the below in the U.S. media? Not likely.
What we'll see instead, if anything, is articles rationalizing their
use. I've already seen the "arguments" being polished for this one,
reference the BBC audio discussion -
- where it was brought up as a possible means to "reduce" the
casualties. Of course, the use of these chemicals in the Russian theater
debacle did not help their cause.
I also got a recent mailing from the Sunshine Project which also
discussed this issue. There are several huge pharmaceutical companies
that stand to make a "killing" (pun fully intended) over the use of this
stuff. Might get more info from their website:
As it struggles to justify its invasion, the US is getting ready to use
banned weapons in Iraq
Tuesday April 8, 2003
When Saddam Hussein so pig-headedly failed to shower US troops with
chemical weapons as they entered Iraq, thus depriving them of a
retrospective justification for this war, the American generals
explained that he would do so as soon as they crossed the "red line"
around Baghdad. Beyond that point, the desperate dictator would lash out
with every weapon he possessed. Well, the line has been crossed and
recrossed, and not a whiff of mustard gas or VX has so far been
detected. This could mean one of three things: Saddam's command system
may have broken down (he may be dead, or his troops might have failed to
receive or respond to his orders); he is refraining, so far, from using
chemical weapons; or he does not possess them.
The special forces sent to seize Iraq's weapons of mass destruction have
yet to find hard evidence at any of the 12 sites (identified by the
Pentagon as the most likely places) they have examined so far. As
Newsweek revealed in February, there may be a reason for this: in 1995,
General Hussein Kamel, the defector whose evidence George Bush, Tony
Blair and Colin Powell have cited as justification for their invasion,
told the UN that the Iraqi armed forces, acting on his instructions, had
destroyed the last of their banned munitions. But, whether Saddam is
able to use such weapons or not, their deployment in Iraq appears to be
imminent, for the Americans seem determined on it.
Chemicals can turn corners, seep beneath doors, inexorably fill a
building or a battlefield. They can kill or disable biological matter
while leaving the infrastructure intact. They are the weapons that reach
the parts other weapons can't. They are also among the most terrifying
instruments of war: this is why Saddam used them to such hideous effect,
both in Iran and against the Kurds of Halabja. And, for an occupying
army trying not to alienate local people or world opinion, those
chemicals misleadingly labelled "non-lethal" appear to provide a
possibility of capturing combatants without killing civilians.
This, to judge by a presidential order and a series of recent
statements, now seems to be the US government's chosen method for
dealing with Iraqi soldiers sheltering behind human shields, when its
conventional means of completing the capture of Baghdad have been
exhausted. It makes a certain kind of sense, until two inconvenient
issues are taken into account. The deployment of these substances would
break the conventions designed to contain them; and the point of this
war, or so we have endlessly been told, is to prevent the use of
Last week Bush authorised US troops to use teargas in Iraq. He is
permitted to do so by an executive order published in 1975 by Gerald
Ford, which overrides, within the US, the 1925 Geneva protocol on
chemical weapons. While this may prevent Bush's impeachment in America,
it has no standing in international law.
The chemical weapons convention, promoted by George W's father and
ratified by the US in 1997, insists that "each state party undertakes
not to use riot control agents as a method of warfare". Teargas, pepper
spray and other incapacitants may be legally used on your own territory
for the purposes of policing. They may not be used in another country to
control or defeat the enemy.
For the past two months, US officials have been seeking to wriggle free
from this constraint. In February, the defence secretary, Donald
Rumsfeld, told Congress's armed services committee that "there are times
when the use of non-lethal riot agents is perfectly appropriate". He
revealed that he and the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, Richard
Myers, had been "trying to fashion rules of engagement" for the use of
chemical weapons in Iraq.
Rumsfeld, formerly the chief executive of GD Searle, one of the biggest
drugs firms in the US, has never been an enthusiast for the chemical
weapons convention. In 1997, as the Senate was preparing to ratify the
treaty, he told its committee on foreign relations that the convention
"will impose a costly and complex regulatory burden on US industry".
Enlisting the kind of self-fulfilling prophecy with which we have since
become familiar, he maintained that it was not "realistic", as global
disarmament "is not a likely prospect". Dick Cheney, now vice-president,
asked the committee to record his "strong opposition" to ratification.
Last month Victoria Clarke, an assistant secretary in Chemical Donald's
department, wrote to the Independent on Sunday, confirming the decision
to use riot control agents in Iraq, and claiming, without supporting
evidence, that their deployment would be legal. Last week the US Marine
Corps told the Asia Times that CS gas and pepper spray had already been
shipped to the Gulf. The government of the US appears to be on the verge
of committing a war crime in Iraq.
Given that the entire war contravenes international law, does it matter?
It does, for three reasons. The most immediate is that there is no such
thing as a non-lethal chemical weapon. Gases that merely incapacitate at
low doses, in well-ventilated places, kill when injected into rooms, as
the Russian special forces found in October when they slaughtered 128 of
the 700 hostages they were supposed to be liberating from a Moscow
theatre. It is impossible to deliver a sufficient dose to knock out
combatants without also delivering a sufficient dose to kill some of
The second reason is that, if they still possess them, it may induce the
Iraqi fighters to retaliate with chemical weapons of their own. At the
same time, it encourages the other nations now threatened with attack by
Bush to start building up their chemical arsenals: if the US is not
prepared to play by the rules, why should they?
The third reason is that the use of gas in Iraq may serve, in the eyes
of US citizens, to help legitimise America's illegal chemical weapons
development programme. As the US weapons research group Sunshine Project
has documented, the defence department and the army are experimenting
with chemicals which cause pain, fear, convulsions, hallucinations and
unconsciousness, and developing the hollow mortar rounds required to
Among the weapons they are testing is fentanyl, the drug which turned
the Moscow theatre into a gas chamber. Since March 2002, the
government's "non-lethal weapons directorate" has been training the
Marine Corps in the use of chemical weapons. All these activities break
The deployment of chemicals in Baghdad could be the event which finally
destroys the treaties designed to contain them, and this, in turn, would
be another step towards the demolition of international law and the
inception of a bloody and brutal era, in which might is unconstrained by
universal notions of right.
You cannot use chemical weapons to wage war against chemical weapons.
They are, as the convention makes clear, the instruments of terrorists.
By deploying them, the US government would liquidate one of the
remaining moral distinctions between its own behaviour and that of the
man it asks us to abominate.