Daniel Halliday
Nov 23, 2018 · Last update 5 mo. ago.

Who are the forgotten victims of chemical warfare?

The Chemical Weapons Convention has been in force since 1997, and is a treaty ratified by 193 states that bans large-scale use, development, production, stockpiling and transfer of chemical weapons. However chemical weapons appear to have been utilised as recently as the Syrian and Yemeni civil wars, with the victims often overlooked, becoming just another “wartime casualty”. Who are the victims of chemical warfare and can anything else be done to prevent such things from happening in the future?
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100,000 Iranian victims of Saddam Hussein’s nerve gas attacks
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Modern use
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Mustard Gas in WW1
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Agent Orange
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Chemical and Biological Weapons in the Rhodesian Bush War
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200,000 – 580,000 victims of Japan’s Unit 731
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The use of biological weapons by the United States in the Korean War
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100,000 Iranian victims of Saddam Hussein’s nerve gas attacks

During the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980’s Iraqi forces under Saddam Hussein broke the Geneva Protocol by utilising chemical weapons against Iranian soldiers and civilians. Iraq openly claimed to have utilised thousands of tons of mustard gas, tabun and sarin during this period. The human effects of such weapons ranged from instant asphyxiation, to a slow agonising death months later, or even to severe health problems lying dormant for up to 40 years. This legacy is often overshadowed by the failure of the Iraq War and the on-going fallout from it, making these victims the forgotten victims of chemical warfare

Iraq claimed to have dismantled this chemical and biological weapon stockpile in 1991, but much of the 19,000 litres of botulinum alone remain unaccounted for until present. In fact the Iraq Survey Group found that lethal human experimentation continued until 1994, and it is thought the Iraqi military biological weapons program was abandoned in 1995/6 due to UN sanctions, however the groups report found that similar covert small scale operations of this kind continued until 2003. To prevent such things from reoccurring, improved diplomatic relations and improved cooperation, or the better enforcement of international law are the only options, dialogue with a dictator is better than any number of chemical weapons victims.

rferl.org/a/1073150.html cia.gov/library/reports/general-reports-1/iraq_wmd_2004/addenda.pdf

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Daniel Halliday
Nov 10
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DH edited this paragraph
During the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980’s Iraqi forces under Saddam Hussein broke the Geneva Protocol by utilising chemical weapons against Iranian soldiers and civilians. Iraq openly claimed to have utilised thousands of tons of mustard gas, tabun and sarin during this period. The human effects of such weapons ranged from instant asphyxiation, to a slow agonising death months later, or even to severe health problems lying dormant for up to 40 years. This legacy is often overshadowed by the failure of the Iraq War and the on-going fallout from it, making these victims the forgotten victims of chemical warfare

Modern use

The continued use of chemical weapons in the Middle East, in both Yemen and Syria, will remain a tragic episode in modern history, but are made even worse if they remain unprosecuted and out of the public's sphere of concern. Despite Saudi Arabia denying the use of ‘white phosphorus’ in Yemen, both the incriminating bombing of civilians and evidence of phosphorus munitions on social media make these crimes against humanity very likely. Likewise the UN’s reported use of chlorine, mustard gas and probably sarin in Syria, lost in a complex confusion of on-going proxy warfare, and their failure to take action against its use make the victims of these conflicts truly forgotten.

This is made even more tragic as even in on-going conflicts the chemical weapons treaty is being undermined and the culprits are being allowed to get away with it. This terrible state of affairs undermines all that have ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention, complicit governments that allow or support such actions, and bodies such as the UN and the ICC who remain apparently unable to enforce international law. The most pressing solution to keeping the memory of chemical weapons victims alive then is to keep these weapons a memory, ensure they are not used again, and that can only be achieved by maintaining and upholding international law.

wcfia.harvard.edu/publications/forgotten-gas-attacks-yemen-haunt-syria-crisis washingtonpost.com/news/checkpoint/wp/2016/09/19/saudi-arabia-appears-to-be-using-u-s-supplied-white-phosphorus-in-its-war-in-yemen/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.510676820417

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Daniel Halliday
Nov 10
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https://wcfia.harvard.edu/publications/forgotten-gas-attacks-yemen-haunt-syria-crisis https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/checkpoint/wp/2016/09/19/saudi-arabia-appears-to-be-using-u-s-supplied-white-phosphorus-in-its-war-in-yemen/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.510676820417

Mustard Gas in WW1

The wide spread use of mustard gas, chlorine, phosgene and tear gas in the First World War was one of the most horrible aspects of this truly horrible worldwide conflict. Although the Hague convention of 1899 already prohibited the use of chemical weapons, modern chemical weapons saw widespread use for the first time during this war, with 50,965 tons of chemical agents causing 1.3 million deaths through this period. Although this was one of the events that led to the general disapproval of chemical weapon use internationally, it is an often-overlooked aspect as it was also the start of trench warfare and part of the continued transition into an industrial warfare age.

Mustard Gas was a particularly horrible chemical weapon, not in its lethality but secondary infections from its effects, caused swelling in the eyes, horrible blisters, intense irritation to throat and chest, vomiting, and diarrhea, leaving troops vulnerable to attacks and illnesses. However many other deadlier gases were also in use in WW1, such as chlorine and phosgene and the horrors that these substances brought to the War led to the ban of their use by the 1925 Geneva Protocol. This treaty declared in its opening line that the “use in war of asphyxiating, poisonous, or other gases, and of all analogous liquids, materials, or devices, has been justly condemned” [1]. However mustard gas continued to be used by Imperial Japan in the Second World War, and was stockpiled and used by Saddam Hussein against Kurds in the Iran-Iraq War. It has been made clear that setting international precedents isn’t enough to stop this sort of history repeating itself, instead these chapters of history should be used to educate and should be remembered, to keep the disgust in and condemnation of chemical weapons alive.

bbc.com/news/magazine-31042472 sciencehistory.org/distillations/magazine/chemical-warfare-from-the-european-battlefield-to-the-american-laboratory [1] forces.net/radio/mustard-gas-weapons-changed-world historyplex.com/facts-about-mustard-gas-used-during-world-war-i

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Daniel Halliday
Nov 9
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DH edited this paragraph
Mustard Gas was a particularly horrible chemical weapon, not in its lethality but secondary infections from its effects, caused swelling in the eyes, horrible blisters, intense irritation to throat and chest, vomiting, and diarrhea, leaving troops vulnerable to attacks and illnesses. However many other deadlier gases were also in use in WW1, such as chlorine and phosgene and the horrors that these substances brought to the War led to the ban of their use by the 1925 Geneva Protocol. This treaty declared in its opening line that the “use in war of asphyxiating, poisonous, or other gases, and of all analogous liquids, materials, or devices, has been justly condemned” [1]. However mustard gas continued to be used by Imperial Japan in the Second World War, and was stockpiled and used by Saddam Hussein against Kurds in the Iran-Iraq War. It has been made clear that setting international precedents isn’t enough to stop this sort of history repeating itself, instead these chapters of history should be used to educate and should be remembered, to keep the disgust in and condemnation of chemical weapons alive.

Agent Orange

During the Vietnam War the United States carried out an extensive chemical weapons campaign indiscriminately dropping a cocktail of chemicals across the Vietnamese countryside. In an effort to use herbicidal chemicals to destroy forest cover that the Vietcong were reliant on during the war the US dropped 76,000 square metres of herbicide and defoliant causing over 31,000 square kilometers of environmental damage. The human cost was by far the most shocking, as an estimated four million people were exposed to these known carcinogenic and mutagenic compounds. This led to around three million of some form of illness, mainly cancer, and led to one million people being severely disabled or debilitated, including 55,000 US veterans.

Agent Orange was the name given to a dioxin containing herbicide, a known carcinogen, and was part of a range of chemicals know to the US military as Rainbow Herbicides and used as weapons as part of the US military's Operation Ranch Hand. These defoliant chemicals caused large-scale environmental damage in Vietnam, with a sharp decline in biodiversity and reforestation of affected areas remaining difficult, leading to the passing of the UN's Environmental Modification Convention. However the human cost remained high also, veterans from both the US and Vietnam have filed compensation lawsuits against both the US military and companies like Monsanto that produced the chemicals. The US has currently funded remediation projects in Vietnam that are still ongoing and has compensated US Vietnam War veterans, with claimant veterans receiving an average payout of about $3,800 each, but more needs to be done and the US needs to recognise it role in this forgotten war crime.

nytimes.com/2017/09/15/opinion/agent-orange-vietnam-effects.html nytimes.com/2014/05/12/us/agent-oranges-long-legacy-for-vietnam-and-veterans.html washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/06/14/AR2007061401077_4.html?noredirect=on books.google.co.jp/books?id=AeT56Pi8LFYC&pg=PA73&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q&f=false voanews.com/east-asia-pacific/vietnams-latest-demand-agent-orange-compensation-described-last-resort benefits.va.gov/compensation/claims-postservice-agent_orange-settlement-settlementFund.asp

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Daniel Halliday
Nov 9
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DH edited this paragraph
During the Vietnam War the United States carried out an extensive chemical weapons campaign indiscriminately dropping a cocktail of chemicals across the Vietnamese countryside. In an effort to use herbicidal chemicals to destroy forest cover that the Vietcong were reliant on during the war the US dropped 76,000 square metres of herbicide and defoliant causing over 31,000 square kilometers of environmental damage. The human cost was by far the most shocking, as an estimated four million people were exposed to these known carcinogenic and mutagenic compounds. This led to around three million of some form of illness, mainly cancer, and led to one million people being severely disabled or debilitated, including 55,000 US veterans.

Chemical and Biological Weapons in the Rhodesian Bush War

The Rhodesian Bush War, or Zimbabwe War of Liberation, was a civil war conflict waged by the Rhodesian government against the forces of Robert Mugabe and of Joshua Nkomo from 1964 until 1979. However it was the actions of the Selous Scouts, the special forces of the Rhodesian Army, employing various terrorist tactics to fight the perceived terrorist threat of the Mugabe/Nkomo insurgencies, the worst of these being chemical and biological weapon attacks that constitute war crimes. At least a thousand people died as a result of these weapons, often civilians due to the unpredictable nature of such weapons, but with funding for this program coming from Saudi Arabia, some have indicated a link to the United Kingdom being the real financial support behind this extensive chemical and biological weapons program.

It is important to bear in mind that UK had explicit interest in the Rhodesian Bush War; the official policy of the UK during this period of decolonisation was slow and stable handing over of power, as the Congo Crisis had followed their independence from Belgium in the early 1960s. The UK consequently deemed Rhodesian Independence as illegal, this standoff between UK and Rhodesian governments, interracial tensions, ideological and political disparities fed into a complex insurgency that led to the war. But it is easy to see how the UK government had the materials and motive to supply such devestating weapons to Rhodesian special forces. There are few actual records to go on but it is widely recognised that human experimentation was taking place, with inexpensive chemicals found in rat poison through to biological agents such as cholera, anthrax, typhus typhoid fever, botulinum and more deadly chemicals such as ricin in use.

herald.co.zw/dirty-war-inside-rhodesias-chemical-warfare globalblackhistory.com/2018/01/chemical-biological-warfare-rhodesia-zimbabwe-1975-1980.html

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Daniel Halliday
Nov 9
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DH edited this paragraph
https://www.herald.co.zw/dirty-war-inside-rhodesias-chemical-warfare/ http://www.globalblackhistory.com/2018/01/chemical-biological-warfare-rhodesia-zimbabwe-1975-1980.html

200,000 – 580,000 victims of Japan’s Unit 731

Based in the Northern Chinese city of Harbin, Unit 731 was an Imperial Japanese research and development centre used for covert chemical and biological weapons tests and lethal human experimentation. Some of the worst war crimes of the Second World War were carried out here, ranging from live vivisection, disease-spreading experiments, chemical/biological weapons delivery tests, weapon testing on live victims, lethal pressure tests, frostbite tests, and rape and forced pregnancy disease experiments. These lethal experiments were carried out on prisoners of war, and Chinese men, women and children, but causalities often involved Japanese military personnel also, when biological weapons were tested by unprepared troops.

Although approximately 3,000 victims died directly in experiments and 10,000 prisons lost their lives here, estimates of the total number of victims of Imperial Japan’s chemical and biological warfare programs are thought to be as high as 200,000 to half a million. Despite this massive and grotesque loss of human life the Japanese government has never recognised this tragedy and neither has the United States. At the end of the Second World War Japan surrendered and handed over the running of the country to America. In order to stop the research of Japan’s experimentation programs falling into the hands of the Russians, and because the US could no conduct such tests on American soil, they exchanged the results for impunity of the personnel involved. During the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal only one reference was made to Japan’s war time human experimentation and that is thought to have been a accident, however some of those responsible were prosecuted at the Khabarovsk War Crime Trials conducted by the Soviet Union.

nytimes.com/1995/03/17/world/unmasking-horror-a-special-report-japan-confronting-gruesome-war-atrocity.html theguardian.com/world/2002/aug/28/artsandhumanities.japan news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/correspondent/1796044.stm

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Daniel Halliday
Nov 7
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DH edited this paragraph
Although approximately 3,000 victims died directly in experiments and 10,000 prisons lost their lives here, estimates of the total number of victims of Imperial Japan’s chemical and biological warfare programs are thought to be as high as 200,000 to half a million. Despite this massive and grotesque loss of human life the Japanese government has never recognised this tragedy and neither has the United States. At the end of the Second World War Japan surrendered and handed over the running of the country to America. In order to stop the research of Japan’s experimentation programs falling into the hands of the Russians, and because the US could no conduct such tests on American soil, they exchanged the results for impunity of the personnel involved. During the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal only one reference was made to Japan’s war time human experimentation and that is thought to have been a accident, however some of those responsible were prosecuted at the Khabarovsk War Crime Trials conducted by the Soviet Union.

The use of biological weapons by the United States in the Korean War

Although the United States’ historical use of chemical or biological weapons is often dismissed as enemy propaganda, the United States is known to have maintained a biological weapons development program until 1969, and a chemical weapons program until 1990. Following directly from the legacy of Nazi Germany through Operation Paperclip, and Japan’s Unit 731 through an impunity deal made by General Douglas MacArthur, the US acquired some of the worst chemical and biological weapons known to man after the Second World War. The United States is thought to have used these newly acquired weapons soon after, having been accused of utilising biological weapons in the Korean War and Cuba.

It was during the subsequent fall out of the Korean War that the Americans stand accused of using these newly acquired weapons of mass destruction. Although historians remain divided on the legitimacy of these allegations, the frequency of disease outbreaks, the amount of eyewitness accounts (many of them from US POWs), and the independent investigation by the World Peace Council make for a compelling argument. This would make the Chinese and Korean victims of these attacks the true forgotten victims of biological warfare.

documentcloud.org/documents/4334133-ISC-Full-Report-Pub-Copy.html umsl.edu/~thomaskp/schwab.htm

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Daniel Halliday
Nov 7
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DH edited this paragraph
It was during the subsequent fall out of the Korean War that the Americans stand accused of using these newly acquired weapons of mass destruction. Although historians remain divided on the legitimacy of these allegations, the frequency of disease outbreaks, the amount of eyewitness accounts (many of them from US POWs), and the independent investigation by the World Peace Council make for a compelling argument. This would make the Chinese and Korean victims of these attacks the true forgotten victims of biological warfare.
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