Some Straight Talk About Chemical Weapons

Big Red Car here.  The Big Red Car is against the use of chemical weapons in any and all forms.  There, I said it.  It is repugnant.

But the entire subject got me thinking about it all and I did a bit of research — don’t tell The Boss because I was supposed to be working on my tan, haha — and I learned some interesting things.  The Big Red Car has always been a damn good sharer, so here goes, Old Sport.

The regulation of chemical weapons

Let’s start with the how chemical weapons are supposed to be regulated.  Since 1968, the world has been working on the idea of banning and destroying chemical weapons.  Well really much before that in the form of the Geneva Conventions after World War I but I am talking about the “modern age” here.

This all started through the United Nations and has now evolved into an entity called the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons which administers a body of “law” called the Chemical Weapons Convention.

While this all started as a United Nations initiative, it is now administered by the OPCW from the Hague in the Netherlands.  It is an independent organization which has promulgated its own “laws” or “convention” and approximately 189 countries have signed the convention.

Two countries are waiting to ratify their agreement internally — Burma and Israel.

Five countries countries have refused to join the effort — Angola, North Korea, Egypt, Syria and South Sudan.  These are bad actors and likely have no intention of ever joining though the situation in Egypt is fluid and may depend upon the ultimate ratification by Israel given regional considerations.

Action plan

The convention requires nations who are signatories to cease production of chemical weapons and to destroy their existing stockpiles.

The regulatory framework provides for verification by inspection.

The destruction of chemical weapons and the decommissioning of production facilities was to have followed the following schedule:

Phase % Reduction Deadline Notes
I 1% April 2000
II 20% April 2002 Complete destruction of empty munitions, precursor chemicals,filling equipment and weapons systems
III 45% April 2004
IV 100% April 2007 No extensions permitted past April 2012

As an example, the United States has already destroyed 90% of its stockpiles of chemical weapons but is still lagging given the above schedule.

Who has chemical weapons?

When the effort began in earnest, the member countries admitted to the following levels of chemical weapons:

1.  A total of 71,315 tons of chemical weapons;

2.  A total of 8,670,000 munitions and chemical weapons containers; and,

3.  A total of seventy production facilities worldwide.

These numbers are likely not perfectly accurate as the Chinese and the Sudan are accused of not reporting their numbers accurately; and, of course, folks like Syria have not become signatories or members and thus their numbers are not included.

Currently the following countries are thought to possess chemical weapons:  Bosnia, Herzegovina, China, France, India, Iran, Iraq, Japan, Libya, Russia, Serbia, United Kingdom, United States, South Korea and the countries that have not ratified the convention including Angola, North Korea, Egypt, Syria and South Sudan.  These countries also likely have production facilities in addition.

Russia had and continues to have the largest stockpile of chemical weapons.  They are apparently destroying their stockpiles slowly but surely.  The Russian destruction has been funded by other countries including the United States.

Who has ever used chemical weapons?

The list of actual historic users of chemical weapons is fairly short:  Italy, Japan, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Iran and Germany.  In every instance, it was the act of a despot to use chemical weapons.  The history is a bit murky on World War I wherein the Big Red Car thinks everyone was using chemical weapons — primarily mustard gas.

Of the folks who have them today, it is likely Syria, Iran, Serbia who provide the greatest concern for future use.

Why is this important, Big Red Car?

The reason this is important is because much of what is happening in Syria today — the threatened military strike in punishment for Syrian use of chemical weapons — is intended to “send a message” to the world at large.

But, really, who in the world requires this message?  Who is likely to use chemical weapons and therefore be impacted by the receipt of this message?

It appears to the Big Red Car like it’s only Syria, Iran and Serbia who are likely to need “the message” and obviously they are not folks who will be influenced by the attack.  Well, except for Syria who will feel the full on sting of it all.

So why send a message when there is nobody home?  Hello?  Hello?  Please do not use chemical weapons.  Thank you, now move along.

But, hey, what the Hell do I know anyway?  I’m just a Big Red Car?  Call your best friend or your parents today.  Do it.

 

 

 

  • Cam MacRae

    For your “has used” section:

    UK, France and the US all used Phosgene. The UK also used Chlorine. In addition to the countries you’ve mentioned, the UK, France, Spain, and Poland (1939) used Mustard gas. The USA deployed it to Italy during ’43, but it’s release was inadvertent.

    There are probably others. Despite the Geneva convention mustard gas did see use in WWII.

    • JLM

      .
      In Italy in WWII the US lost a ship sunk by German air which had 600 tons of mustard gas. The Allies were considering using gas at Monte Cassino.

      Well done. Well played.

      BRC
      .

    • Also, most countries use tear gas. It is not lethal under normal circumstances, but it’s chemical for sure! Of course I’m not comparing it to mustard gas, just trying to point that this are blurred lines.

      • Cam MacRae

        True. But only against civilians. It’s illegal to use CS gas in warfare.

        • JLM

          .
          I used CS gas during military training. The big training exercise was always a tent full of CS with the mask on and then to remove the mask, spell your name and burn your eyes and then out.

          Lots of folks have a violent reaction to CS including unending vomiting.

          I hated it.

          BRC
          .

  • What I’m going to say is not politically correct, but I’ll say it anyway… why are chemical weapons so much worse than other types of weapons? is it ok to shot kids next to a road but it’s not to gas them? you should do neither!!!

    I understand that chemical weapons can be cruel and indiscriminate with the victims, but some conventional weapons can be terrible too. I think that the act of killing is what should be examined. The method is also important, but it can’t be the only thing we look at.

    And that is exactly what Obama was doing when he talked about a red line. If he believed that Syria deserved some bombing for what Assad was doing with the civil population he should have done it long ago. And if he didn’t he should have said nothing about limits and red lines.

    • JLM

      .
      How dare you be so logical and intelligent. People like you are just troublemakers.

      Of course, you happen to be completely correct.

      Despots WILL ALWAYS USE weapons against their enemies and their own people when they must fight to retain power. That’s the definition of a despot.

      Well played.

      BRC
      .

    • the reason that they are worse than a simple machine gun is that they kill far differently. You can run away from a machine gun, or, shoot the operator. But, chemical weapons once released cannot be stopped and kill everything in their path-even innocents.

      • You can’t stop a bullet once it’s shot either. I get what you say, but I think that there’s something else. We all understand how conventional weapons work (or at least we think we understand), but chemical weapons are different. I think we fear what we don’t know or understand. We are afraid of suddenly falling down and don’t getting up again. But I think that fear is irrational. When snipers shot down civilians in Sarajevo during Yugoslavia War those civilians didn’t see it coming nor did have any chance of escaping. All weapons can be used in the worst way, it’s the human behind the weapon who we must fear.

  • Interesting that our include Serbia as one of the countries you are concerned about. I think their drive to join the EU and toppling Milosevich a few years makes them less of a concern. North Korea should be a concern but I guess they can wave the nuclear option rather than the chemical option.

    • JLM

      .
      I think you are completely right on Serbia. Reputations linger on.

      The real threat is CBR — chemical, radiological (including nukes but also dirty bombs) and biological. Bio is the big one that nobody is talking about and it is a very dangerous terror weapon.

      BRC
      .

      • I think that when most of us say chemical we are using it as a broad term that includes biological. But maybe that’s just me!