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Chemical warfare – different times, different standards ?

| by Victor Cherubim

( September 2, 2013, London, Sri Lanka Guardian) There are many different types of weapons that have been used by man to kill man over centuries. “Nations have blown their own people with high explosives; they have also tortured them, according to their whim and fancy over time.” Modern weaponry has today grown more lethal, but also grown more precise. Perhaps, in order of magnitude, we hear of nuclear weapons, biological weapons, radiological weapons, chemical weapons and other forms of “weapons of mass destruction” in use today.

Many of us will remember that Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons against the Kurds in Halabjah. In fact, thousands of Iranians in 1980-88 war were poisoned to death by chemical weapons by Iraq.
These weapons have been used at different times, for different purposes, under different standards. But what is less evil –nuclear weapons or chemical weapons?

Paul Waldman states:”Getting killed by mustard gas (chemical weapon) is surely awful. But so is getting blown up by a bomb. Using one against your enemies gets you branded a war criminal, but using the other doesn’t”.

Many of us will remember that Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons against the Kurds in Halabjah. In fact, thousands of Iranians in 1980-88 war were poisoned to death by chemical weapons by Iraq.

Use of Chemical weapons
The use of chemical weapons is contrary to the standards adopted by the vast majority of nations. International efforts since the Geneva Protocol 1925 banned the use of chemical weapon attacks. The Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) is an arms controls agreement which outlaws the production, stockpiling and use of chemical weapons. Its offices are in the Hague, Netherlands.

Syria is one of only five nations which are not signatories to the Chemical Weapons Convention. The others are Angola, Egypt, North Korea and South Sudan.

As far as reports reaching us show, the first use of chemical weapons since the beginning of the Syrian uprising, was in March 2013. However, it was on 21 August 2013 that testimony emerged from people in Damascus, residents and rebel fighters alike, in a suburb called Ghoula that 355 people had died last week from what is believed to be a neuro toxic agent. No one knows for sure who used these chemical weapons? UN Inspectors last week collected samples and have taken them for examination in the Netherlands.

UN spokesman, Martin Nesirsky stated:

“The whole process will be done strictly adhering to the highest established standards of verification recognised by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. The samples are scheduled to be sent to laboratories in Finland and Sweden. The whole process would take two weeks.”

UN has since requested the Inspectors to speed up the Syrian investigations ahead of the G20 Summit and the US Congressional debate because of the deadly consequences in Syria.

What are the symptoms of Chemical warfare?

Some observers maintain:”they include frothing at the mouth, respiratory disorders, convulsions and blurring vision”. Chemical agents can be dispersed in gas, liquid and in solid forms.

Medics state that chemical agents such as sarin, mustard or “nerve gas” and /or white phosphorous, “causes the brain to lose the ability to control the muscles, including the muscles in the diaphragm that enable breathing, resulting in muscle contracting convulsions, loss of control of the bladder, chest tightening up, ultimately respiratory failure causing death”. These have yet to be independently verified.

Deadly consequences
The Syrians claim rebels were responsible to cause international intervention. The West claims there is “compelling evidence” of the use of chemical weapons – weapons of mass destruction – by Syria.

Britain’s decision not to support military intervention has come after Parliament voted to Thursday (28 August 2013) not to back international action. France is awaiting a decision from US. It is highly likely for the United States not to contemplate military action before the G20 Summit in St.Petersburg and the US Congressional debate authorising President Obama to strike. A Russian spokesman stated:”Hysteria around chemical attacks suits those who want military intervention”. Iran’s reaction on Syria shows a semblance of restraint. Israel is said to collect gas masks, in preparation for a possible backlash.

It appears to be a very confused position. Each of the major players is contemplating action in Syria according to their national self interest. No one has given a definitive answer why they want to intervene now rather than having not taken decisive action earlier.

Perhaps, and it is only a surmise, that like in Iraq, the West is awaiting not Congressional approval, but the depletion of the stockpile of chemical weapons inside Syria before any attack.
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