iChange Issues

What are chemical weapons ?

– Anuja Khadka

With the rising issue of Syria using chemical weapons, many of us are in dilemma about what actually the chemical weapons mean?

Chemical weapons use poisonous chemicals for the mass destruction. When chemical is used for the direct toxic effect on the enemy, that becomes a chemical weapon. It was first used during World War I. While millions of people were killed by the usages of chemicals, it continued to World War II. Although Organophospates which are less toxic in nature are used widely as insecticides in plant fields since ages, the history of chemical weapons lies with the days of Fritz Haber. He was chemist, militant and very patriotic. He gave an idea of ‘Chorline Gas’ to the stalemate of trench warfare.

After he proposed this idea, German government decided to experiment, where third experiment was successful. Germany came up with an idea of Mustard gas in 1917, which could poison both through inhalation and skin penetration. It is also referred to as the “king” of agents as it costs low and easy in production having predictable properties and ability to cause resource-devouring casualties. With respond to that, special dress for the entire protection of the body apart from the gas mask was created. Chemical weapons were used by Nazi party as well as some Asian nations. The British and French quickly responded to the Germany‚Äôs use of chlorine. Chlorine use was followed by the use of the more toxic gas Phosgene done by French in projectile and this method became the principal means of delivery. This chemical irritates the eyes as well as respiratory tract. This is known as choking agent. These are classic chemical agents.

But, today’s Syria issue is not limited to Chlorine and Phosgene. It is further to the Nerve gas – Sarin. Sarin is an organophosphorus compound which is classified as a weapon of mass destruction in UN Resolution 687. Sarin was first used in 1995. Although, since 1899, International law has prohibited the use of chemical weapons, there were massive destruction taking place. 1925 Geneva Protocol had outlawed the usage of chemical and biological weapons. But, this treaty couldn’t work well as countries had reserved the right to retaliate if attacked, which meant they could make chemical weapons.

In 1993, the production and stockpiling of Sarin was outlawed by the Chemical Weapons Convention.

1997 Geneva Protocol for the prohibition of the use of chemical and biological weapons “Use in War Asphyxiating, Poisonous or other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare” was signed by many countries. Usage of Chemicals weapons after 3 September, 1992 was illegal. But 189 countries have signed this convention while Syria has not. The United Nations called for the complete destruction of all specified stockpiles of chemical weapons by 2007.

By 2006, India destroyed more than 75 percent of its chemical weapons stockpile and is committed to eliminating the balance.

Chemical warfare (CW) is regarded as the worst of all. This type of warfare uses the chemicals as weapons. It is not a nuclear or a biological warfare. It involves the weaponized chemical agents which can cause mass destruction. Chemical payloads can be delivered by remote controlled container release, aircraft, or rocket. Protection against chemical weapons includes proper equipment, training, and decontamination measures.

In history, Sarin was adopted by Soviet Union and USA in 1950s. During 50s, Engineer Maddison died during the Sarin test on human in England. Sarin gas was also used during Iraq-Iraq war. It was also used in the subway of the Tokyo Metro. Lately, this gas has been found used in Syria. Whether it’s Assad’s government or other opponent who is using this weapon is controversial.


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