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How big a deal are chemical weapons?

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  • Romi Elnagar
    How Big a Deal Are Chemical Weapons? by Howard Uhal / May 1st, 2013 What do Saddam Hussein, Bill Clinton, and Vladimir Putin have in common? They’ve all been
    Message 1 of 1 , May 3, 2013
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      How Big a Deal Are Chemical Weapons?
      by Howard Uhal / May 1st, 2013
      What do Saddam Hussein, Bill Clinton, and Vladimir Putin have in
      common? They’ve all been reported to have used nerve gas on their own
      In 1988, Saddam Hussein ordered a poison gas attack on the Kurdish
      city of Halabja in northern Iraq. Thousands of people are reported to
      have been killed and many others injured. Chemicals used in the attack
      are said to have included the nerve agents sarin, tabun, and VX.1
      During the protests at the 1999 World Trade Organization Ministerial
      Conference in Seattle, US police mostly used chemical agents known as
      irritants (e.g., pepper spray) for crowd control. However, on the day
      that President Bill Clinton visited the conference, the police (and I
      use that term loosely) used a type of nerve agent known as CNX on the
      crowd. This was discovered by doctors at free clinics treating the
      protesters, who reported undeniable symptoms of nerve agent poisoning in their patients. Some have chosen to call this substance an
      “incapacitating agent”, but in its action it is clearly neurotoxic.2
      In 2002 Chechen militants invaded the Dubrovka Theater in Moscow and
      held hundreds of people hostage. Russian Alfa special forces ended the
      two-and-a-half day crisis by shooting or fatally gassing everyone left
      in the theater, including 130 hostages, using a previously unknown nerve agent said to have been an opiate gas. Russian officials have never
      accepted responsibility for the deaths, which occurred during the
      presidency of Vladimir Putin. This substance also could be called an
      “incapacitating agent”, but it also is neurotoxic.3
      Now we’re being told that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has used
      chemical weapons (a nerve agent) on his own people, which if true would
      surely be a heinous crime.4 But before we go off the deep end, perhaps we should ask ourselves
      whether he’s just following the lead of fellow presidents Vlad and Bill. Why should there be a “red line” crossed when Ba’athists use nerve gas, but none when Russians and Americans do?
      1. “Thousands die in Halabja gas attack,” BBC News. [↩]
      2. “Nerve Agents Used in Seattle It Appears.” [↩]
      3. “Moscow Theater Siege 2002: Russians Mark Chechen Hostage Taking.” [↩]
      4. “Were Chemical Weapons Used in Syria?” New York Times. [↩]
      Howard Uhal is a Vietnam era veteran of the US
      Army and a former nuclear submarine officer. He has held various
      positions in the nuclear and environmental industries and has degrees in Geology and Environmental Systems Engineering. He can be reached at: htuhal@.... Read other articles by Howard, or visit Howard's website.


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