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The National Security Archive at George Washington University

CONSORTIUM NEWS - Edited by Robert Parry


March 03, 2003

Toxic Hypocrisy: US to Use Banned Chemical Weapons in Iraq

'US prepares to use toxic gases in Iraq' (3/02/03 - The Independent [UK])

The US is preparing to use the toxic riot-control agents CS gas and pepper
spray in Iraq in contravention of the Chemical Weapons Convention,
provoking the first split in the Anglo-US alliance. "Calmative" gases,
similar to the one that killed 120 hostages in the Moscow theatre siege
last year, could also be employed. [Recall that the US initially
supported Russia's use of the "non-lethal" opiate gas. Now we know why.]

...The US Marine Corps confirmed last week that both [CS and pepper spray]
had already been shipped to the Gulf.

...Internal Pentagon documents also show that the US is developing a range
of calmative gases, also banned for battlefield use. Senior US defence
sources predict these could be used in Iraq by elite special forces units
to take out command and control bunkers deep underground.

...Professor Julian Perry Robinson, one of the world's foremost
authorities on the [Chemical Weapons] Convention [banning chemical
warfare], said: "Legally speaking, Iraq would be totally justified in
releasing chemical weapons over the UK [or the US] if the alliance uses
them in Baghdad."

...[In House testimony on the same day Colin Powell made his pony show for
the UN Security Council] The Defence Secretary [Rumsfeld] attacked the
"straitjacket" imposed by bans in international treaties on using the
weapons in warfare.

[Read the source...]

Related Links:

  • 'US tear gas use in Iraq may violate weapons treaties' (3/02/03 - AP via Mercury News) - US coverage gives a positive spin while minimizing the impact of chemical weapons.
  • 'US Plans for Use of Gas in Iraq' (2/07/03 - The Sunshine Project - includes a downloadable audio clip)

    ...[In his testimony,] Rumsfeld stated that plans are being made for
    multiple applications, including use of gas or aerosols on unarmed Iraqi
    civilians, in caves, and on prisoners. Rumsfeld reiterated the confusing,
    typical US official language about so-called "non-lethal" biochemical
    weapons. Rumsfeld described applications of a "riot agent" that clearly
    imply the complete incapacitation of victims, combatant and non-combatant,
    in armed conflict - a definition and usages that are at odds with the
    Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). Rumsfeld acknowledged US ratification
    of the CWC but expressed "regret" about its restrictions, stating that the
    US has "tangled ourselves up so badly" on policy for use of incapacitating
    biochemical weapons. Rumsfeld indicated that — in his opinion — if
    President Bush signs a waiver of long-standing restrictions on US use of
    incapacitating chemicals, that the US will be able to legally field them
    in Iraq and elsewhere.
  • "Non-Lethal" Incapacitating and Anti-Material (Bio)Chemical Weapons (@ The Sunshine Project) - General background information and related news articles.
  • 'Pentagon Perverts Pharma with New Weapons' (2/11/03 - The Sunshine Project) - Details current Pentagon R&D into "calmative" and "incapacitating" agents, and includes a chart showing which agents are the top picks. "Many of the Pentagon's so-called 'nonlethal' (bio)chemical weapons candidates are pharmaceuticals. Different names are used for these weapons ('calmatives', 'disabling chemicals', 'nonlethal chemicals', etc.). Used as weapons, all minimally aim to incapacitate their victims. They belong to the same broad category of agents as the incapacitating chemical that killed more than 120 hostages in the Moscow theater."
  • Adobe Acrobat document 'Chemical Incapacitating Weapons Are Not Non-Lethal' [PDF] (March 2003 - FAS Working Group on Biological Weapons) - A position paper refuting the notion of non-lethal incapacitating chemical weapons.
  • Adobe Acrobat document 'Beware the Siren's Song: Why "Non-Lethal" Incapacitating Chemical Agents are Lethal'
    by Lynn Klotz, Martin Furmanski, and Mark Wheelis [PDF] (March 2003 - FAS Biological and Chemical Weapons Control Program) - A technical paper detailing the lethality of "non-lethal" chemical agents.

  • Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction (@ The Henry L. Stimson Center) - Complete text of the Chemical Weapons Convention. [Alternate link @]


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