chemical weapons

the thing about chemical weapons and war contaminants–including tear gas–is that their use is always deliberate. they have their immediate effects–killing and injuring people–but the long term effects are even more insidious. chemical weapons (and I use this term deliberately) can cause long term disability and illness in people immediately exposed to them–think cancer, chemical injury, nerve damage, pulmonary and respiratory illnesses, etc.

but even more distressing than that, is research that demonstrates the long term impact of these chemical agents on environments and communities. this shit stays in the air, the soil, the water. exposure causes not only injury and illness to people immediately in the line of fire, it can cause birth anomalies long after the conflict has ceased. add in the fact that these kinds of weapons are deployed against marginalized populations whose access to healthcare is restricted, and you have effectively suppressed and marginalized not only the current generation, but future ones as well.

There is not a lot of research on this, because these weapons are deployed against people the state wants dead anyway– in our current context, Black people in the US and Palestinians in Gaza. let me be real clear about this: chemical weapons are being deployed against Black people by police; this is directed chemical warfare motivated by racism. 

So with tear gas, you get this funny thing where police are praised for using “less lethal” measures, when in fact the long term consequences are pretty damn lethal, but all of that gets covered up by time and distance and “lack of research”. 

There is a pattern here of dumping toxic shit on people, either through outright violence or through industrial environmental degradation (or both!), and then shrugging when a host of ongoing health problems emerge. In particular, use of chemical weapons constitutes an ongoing act of violence designed to disable and surpress populations. Tear gas is different in degree, not in kind.

Some links on this below the cut:

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Cluster bombs are munitions that air-burst over a target, releasing often either tens, to hundreds ( in some cases thousands) of sub-munitions onto a target.

These can be filled with either smart, or retarded munitions. Incediary, HE, propaganda, what ever the creator of the weapon want’s, can be delivered by cluster bombs.

The reason as to why they’re so heavily frowned upon, is that, like most munitions, they have a dud rate. This varies, from weapon to weapon, nation to nation, battlefield environment to battlefield environment, but is generally some where between 5, and 50%. The issue is, dud’s with a cluster bomb, doesn’t result in one peice of un-exploded ordnance, but possibly tens, or more, per bomb. This can quickly add up. These unexploded bombs are often picked up by children, who assume they’re toys, resulting in a plethora of civilian casualties.

Nations around the globe have come together to ban these weapons. Notable non-signatory’s include the United States, China, and The Russian Federation.

U.S. Honest John missile warhead cutaway, showing M134 Sarin bomblets.

BUSTED: Declassified Memo Shows Rumsfeld's Lies About WMDs Were Worse Than We Thought

BUSTED: Declassified Memo Shows Rumsfeld’s Lies About WMDs Were Worse Than We Thought

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By now, we’re all fairly certain that we’ve seen enough evidence to in the very least convict the major players of the Dubya administration of lying to the American people about Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. There were no weapons of mass destruction; of that we are sure. We’re sure, the people who went looking are sure, even the CIA is sure. The only people who aren’t sure are the top ranking members of…

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Medical sources: Israel using unfamiliar toxic gas against Palestinians in Gaza

Dozens of Palestinians, including children, suffered from suffocation on Thursday due to inhaling what is being described as a “strange toxic gas” launched by the Israeli army during its ground incursion in the north and south of the Gaza Strip, Anadolu news agency reported.

Anadolu quoted Dr. Ashraf Al-Qidra, a spokesperson for the Health Ministry in Gaza, as saying that: “Dozens of Palestinians, including children, arrived at hospitals suffering from suffocation after inhaling a white poisonous gas fired by the Israeli army in the northern Gaza Strip and in the Shawkah neighbourhood near Rafah, to the south.”

Al-Qidra urged the Palestinians in Gaza “not to panic when they inhale the strange gas, to protect themselves using tarpaulin coats or nylon clothes and to cover the doors, windows and vents with a moist cloth to prevent air from leaking inside.”

As the Israeli assault continued by air and sea, dozens of Israeli military vehicles invaded the Palestinian territories west of the town of Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip and in the south near Rafah while Israeli warplanes and helicopters flew over the area at low altitudes, in the largest escalation of violence since the start of the military operation last week.

A spokesperson for Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced the start of the ground operation against the Gaza Strip on Thursday evening, claiming that it aims to destroy the tunnels that Hamas uses to penetrate the Israeli territory.

However, the Middle East Eye reported that one of the first Palestinian casualties of the Israeli ground operation was a three-month old baby named Fares Al-Tarabeen.

The on-going military operation, dubbed by Israel “Operation Protective Edge”, has so far resulted in the killing of at least 249 Palestinians and the wounding of 1860 others, according to Palestinian Health Ministry records.

Even today in just one small village of Caojie, near Jinhua in the province of Zhejiang in China, there are hundreds of victims of biological warfare still suffering from painful wounds originated more than 70 years ago when their village was decimated in 1942 by Japan with glanders, anthrax, and other biological weapon agents. Ruan Shufeng, shown above with his wife, is one such victim who suffers with a festering, open, ulcerous and extremely painful wound in his right leg, That is why Caojie and several other similar villages are called “rotten leg villages”.

Marines find mustard.

Marines with 2nd Tank Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 6, preparing to mobilize for a night patrol of the Main Supply Routes (MSR) surrounding Al Fallujah, Iraq, in their M1A1 Abrams Tank. The Marines with 2nd Tank Battalion were tasked with patrolling the MSRs and keeping them clear of anti-coalition force activity.

(Photo by Corporal Samual Corum, 6 JUN 2007.  [DOD has no official released photographic documentation of 2nd Tank Battalion from their downrange activities during 2008.] Part 6 of article by C.J. Chivers,  NYTimes, 14 OCT 2014. Part 1. Part 2. Part 3Part 4. Part 5. Also watch the Times Documentary video with soldier interviews.)

By mid-2008, as incidents with mustard shells accumulated, ordnance disposal techs suspected one area had become a principal source of the weapons: Al Muthanna State Establishment, the former nexus of Iraq’s chemical warfare program.

Although incidents with chemical arms were scattered across Iraq, many were clustered near the ruined complex, which this June was overrun by the Islamic State.

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United Nations disarmament inspectors at the Muthanna State Establishment, the former nexus of Iraq’s chemical-warfare program, in 2002. After the American-led invasion of 2003, many incidents with chemical arms were clustered near the ruined complex. (Karim Sahib/Agence France-Presse-Getty Images)

During the occupation, little remained of Al Muthanna. The United States had destroyed much of it from the air in the 1991 gulf war. United Nations demilitarization in the 1990s had made the grounds a boneyard.

But one bunker, a massive, cruciform structure, still contained a menacing dud — a 2,000-pound airdropped bomb among a stockpile of sarin-filled rockets, according to people familiar with the complex.

On July 11, 2008, a platoon of Marines unwittingly discovered that another bunker still held mustard shells, too.

The shells were found after about 15 Marines from the Second Tank Battalion’s scout platoon noticed a freshly cut hole in a small bunker, according to three Marines who participated.

A peek inside, said one of them, Jace M. Klibenski, then a corporal, showed “there were just rounds everywhere.”

As the Marines were carrying the shells out, another corporal swore. Mustard agent had spilled on his upper body. Corporal Klibenski helped him pull off his fire-retardant shirt.

“We climbed out,” he said, “and high-tailed it” to their base, Combat Outpost Hawas, from which they were moved by helicopter to Balad Air Base.

Six Marines had been exposed: five lightly, and the corporal who had lifted the leaking shell, the participants said. Doctors sedated him ahead of the expected symptoms.

“He was pretty much just laying flat as the blisters started popping up,” said another participant, Jonathan Martin, then a private first class.

The exposed corporal’s skin erupted on his right arm, left hand, right side and feet, according to the victim, who asked for anonymity to protect his medical privacy.

The military evacuated the corporal to the United States. Five days after being burned, he was awarded a Purple Heart. He later returned to duty.

Mr. Klibenski said an officer visited the other five exposed Marines at Balad and urged them not to talk about what had happened. “They told us that this was something that was going to be kept confidential for a long time,” he said.

The incident remained out of public view, and with it knowledge that mustard shells remained on Al Muthanna — long after two wars and an international demilitarization effort to remove them.

Discoveries Could Help Neutralize Chemical Weapons

Researchers at The Univ. of Tennessee are a step closer to creating a prophylactic drug that would neutralize the deadly effects of the chemical weapons used in Syria and elsewhere.

Jeremy Smith, UT-ORNL Governor’s Chair and an expert in computational biology, is part of the team that is trying to engineer enzymes — called bioscavengers — so they work more efficiently against chemical weapons. The work is a joint effort between scientists at UT, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and a French national laboratory in Grenoble. Their study was published recently in the Journal of Physical Chemistry.

Read more:

Syria: Strong Evidence Government Used Chemicals as a Weapon

Evidence strongly suggests that Syrian government helicopters dropped barrel bombs embedded with cylinders of chlorine gas on three towns in Northern Syria in mid-April 2014. These attacks used an industrial chemical as a weapon, an act banned by the international treaty prohibiting chemical weapons that Syria joined in October 2013. The Syrian government is the only party to the conflict with helicopters and other aircraft.

On April 29, the director-general of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) announced  a new mission to establish facts surrounding allegations of use of chlorine in Syria. The group said the Syrian government has agreed to accept this mission and to provide security in areas under its control.

Human Rights Watch interviews with 10 witnesses, including five medical personnel, video footage of the attacks, and photographs of the remnants strongly suggest that government forces dropped barrel bombs containing embedded chlorine gas cylinders in attacks from April 11 to 21 on three towns in northwestern Syria. Witnesses told Human Rights Watch they saw a helicopter dropping a barrel bomb or heard a helicopter immediately prior to an explosion, followed immediately by a peculiar odor.  The witnesses consistently described the clinical signs and symptoms of exposure to a choking agent (also known as a lung or pulmonary agent) by victims.

Read more.

Photo: Screenshot from a video posted to YouTube on April 11, 2014 shows substantial yellow coloration at base of the cloud over Keferzita, Syria, drifting with main cloud, and color intensity appears to quickly dissipate over next 20 seconds.

More than 600 U.S. soldiers were exposed to chemical weapons in Iraq 

he U.S. military has been rocked by several scandals this year, with accusations of stranding veterans in bureaucratic limbo, sweeping rape claims under the rug and not doing enough for troops returning with post-traumatic stress disorder.

The New York Times added another controversy to the pile Thursday with a disturbing exposé on how hundreds of troops in Iraq were exposed to chemical weapons since 2003 — and how the military did nothing about it.


Expecting explosives, finding chemical arms.

US Air Force Explosive Ordnance Disposal robot nicknamed Johnny Five, is blasted backward into mid-air while investigating an improvised explosive device during a route clearance operation with the Annihilators of Company A, 2nd Platoon, Special Troops Battalion, 1st Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, in Kirkuk, Iraq.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Margaret C. Nelson, 115th MPAD, 20 JAN 2008. Part 2 of article by C.J. Chivers, NY Times, 14 OCT 2014. Part 1. Also watch the Times Documentary video with soldier interviews.)

The cache that contaminated Sergeant Duling’s team was not the first discovery of chemical weapons in the war. American troops had already found thousands of similar warheads and shells.

These repeated encounters sprang from a basic feature of the occupation: After the invasion, Iraq became a battlefield laced with hidden, lethal traps — most tied to the country’s protracted history in the global arms trade.

Iraq had attacked Iran in late 1980, expecting quick victory against a military sapped of officers by Iran’s revolutionary purges. Mr. Hussein also thought Iranians might rise against their new religious leaders.

He miscalculated. By June 1981, as Iran blunted Iraq’s incursions and unleashed its air force against Iraqi cities, Mr. Hussein was seeking new weapons. He created a secret program — known as Project 922 — that produced blister and nerve agents by the hundreds of tons, according toIraq’s confidential declarations in the 1990s to the United Nations.

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Iranian soldiers wearing gas masks southeast of Basra, Iraq, in 1987, during the Iran-Iraq war. In the 1980s, while at war with Iran, Saddam Hussein created a secret program that produced blister and nerve agents by the hundreds of tons. (Associated Press)

War provided urgency; Mr. Hussein added the cash. Western nations, some eager to contain Iran’s Islamic revolutionary state after the American hostage crisis from 1979 to 1981, lent Iraq support.

With remarkable speed, Iraq built a program with equipment and precursor purchases from companies in an extraordinary array of countries, eventually including the United States, according to its confidential declarations.

German construction firms helped create a sprawling manufacturing complex in the desert south of Samarra and three plants in Falluja that made precursor ingredients for chemical weapons. The complex near Samarra, later renamed Al Muthanna State Establishment, included research labs, production lines, testing areas and storage bunkers.


Iraq produced 10 metric tons of mustard blister agent in 1981; by 1987 its production had grown 90-fold, with late-war output aided by two American companies that provided hundreds of tons of thiodiglycol, a mustard agent precursor. Production of nerve agents also took off.

Rising production created another need. Mr. Hussein’s military did not possess the munitions for dispersing chemical agents. So it embarked on another buying spree, purchasing empty ordnance — aviation bombs from a Spanish manufacturer, American-designed artillery shells from European companies, and Egyptian and Italian ground-to-ground rockets — to be filled in Iraq.

As these strands of a chemical weapons program came together, Iraq simultaneously accumulated enormous stores of conventional munitions.

Much of the chemical stockpile was expended in the Iran-Iraq war or destroyed when the weapons programs were dismantled after the Persian Gulf war of 1991. But thousands of chemical shells and warheads remained, spicing the stockpile of conventional ordnance left unsecured in 2003 after Iraq’s military collapsed as the United States invaded.

Chemical munitions can resemble conventional munitions — a problem compounded by Iraq’s practice of mislabeling ordnance to confuse foreign inspectors and, with time, by rust, pitting and dirt.

These were the circumstances that combined against ordnance disposal teams as they pursued their primary duty in the war: defeating makeshift bombs.

Almost all of the bombs were made with conventional ordnance or homemade explosives. Here and there, among the others, were bombs made from chemical arms.

Syria: Strong Evidence Government Used Chemicals as a Weapon

Evidence strongly suggests that Syrian government helicopters dropped barrel bombs embedded with cylinders of chlorine gas on three towns in Northern Syria in mid-April, 2014. These attacks used an industrial chemical as a weapon, an act banned by the international treaty prohibiting chemical weapons that Syria joined in October 2013. The Syrian government is the only party to the conflict with helicopters and other aircraft.