- Biological And Chemical Warfare
- Modern-Day Threat
100kg of Anthrax over a large city on a clear night could kill between
one and three million people. This is every bit as deadly as a One-megaton
- Since ancient times when dead animals
were used to foul the water supplies of their enemies, disease has been
used as a weapon.
- Some scholars have even suggested that
the Black Death which swept Europe between 1347 and 1351 originated after
the Tartars besieged the walled city of Kaffa catapulted plague-infested
bodies into the city.
- Modern warfare
- But this century biological and chemical
warfare has reached new heights of ingenuity.
- On April 22, 1915, the Germans used poison
gas for the first time at Ypres in Belgium. By 1918, one in four shells
on the western front was a gas shell, and its use resulting in more than
one million casualties and more than 100,000 deaths.
- Japan reportedly used plague and other
bacteria in the war against China in the 1930s and 1940s.
- More recently, there is evidence Iraq
used chemical weapons extensively during the Iran-Iraq war between 1983
and 1988 and subsequently against the Kurds.
- The terrorist threat
- Now that most countries have agreed to
destroy military stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, the biggest
remaining threat is terrorism.
- The series of Sarin gas attacks made
on the Tokyo subway system by a cult in March 1995 that killed a dozen
people and injured thousands brought the use of chemical and biological
weapons to international attention.
- As well as nerve gas, the group had shown
interest in anthrax weapons.
- It was not the first to try such an attack,
- In 1984, a safehouse belonging to the
German Red Army Faction, a militant group, was reportedly uncovered in
- Inside the safehouse an improvised laboratory
was said to have been found containing flasks of deadly botulism toxin.
- The bomb that damaged the World Trade
Center in New York in 1993 reportedly also contained cyanide, but the chemical
apparently evaporated in the explosion.
- In 1994 two members of a religious cult
in Oregon successfully used salmonella to poison the salad bars of local
restaurants in an attempt to affect the outcome of local elections.
- More than 700 people were believed to
be affected, though none were apparently killed, and the reason for the
outbreak was not uncovered for a year.
- Putting the genie back in the bottle
- Although several countries are suspected
to retain some chemical or biological weapons capabilities, nearly all
have formally agreed to renounce their military use.
- Even as early as ancient times, the Greeks
and Romans condemned the use of poison as a violation of the rules of war,
though they continued to use it.
- After World War I, the Geneva Protocol
of 1925 outlawed the use of both chemical and biological weapons in war,
but countries were unable to agree on a treaty to ban stockpiles.
- In 1956 Marshal Zhukov announced to the
Soviet Congress that chemical and biological warfare weapons would be used
as weapons of mass destruction in future wars
- This caused the US to renew its own programmes,
but in 1969, US President Nixon ordered the termination of all research
on biological warfare and the disarmament of all such weapons.
- It was not until January 1975 that the
US, USSR and China joined other nations - including Iraq - in signing the
Biological Weapons Convention.
- This outlawed the production, stockpiling
and use of biological weapons. In July 1995, however, Iraq admitted that
it had tried to build up stocks of biological weapons after UN inspectors
found large amounts of anthrax, botulinum and other toxins.
- In January 1993 a ban on the production,
stockpiling and use of chemical weapons - The Chemical Weapons Convention
was signed by 130 countries.
- Iraq has yet to sign this ban, however,
and of the 165 countries which have now signed, 62 have yet to ratify the
- The current Gulf crisis stems from UN
Security Council resolution 687, which calls for the elimination of Iraq's
weapons of mass destruction.
- A Few Pounds Can Wipe
Out An Entire City
By Karen Foerstel and Marilyn Rauber
From The New York Post 2-20-98
- WASHINGTON - Anthrax is one of the deadliest biological weapons known to
mankind - it began as a livestock disease thousands of years ago and is
known in the Bible as the "fifth plague." But few troops being
sent to the Persian Gulf have had anthrax shots - and the Pentagon is now
considering speeding up its inoculation program, which is set to start
this summer and eventually protect every man and woman in the military
within six years.
- The move comes amid rising fears that
Iraq's Saddam Hussein could fire off biological or chemical warheads at
the United States - and yesterday's arrest of two white supremacists in
Nevada charged with making the deadly stuff and planning to release it
in a New York subway.
- Experts say only a small amount of the
infectious disease can kill hundreds of thousands of people - that the
closed confines of a subway would make be the perfect launching point.
- "A few kilograms in a briefcase
on a hill in Washington will take out the whole town," said John Gaughan,
who served on the president's advisory committee on Gulf War illness.
- Anthrax is not only potent, but it can
survive harsh conditions for years as dormant spores, before unleashing
its deadly effects on the human body.
- Anthrax can be absorbed through cuts
in the skin, inhaled into the lungs, or ingested.
- When it comes into contact with the skin,
it is usually treatable. But when inhaled or ingested, it can kill in a
matter of days and is almost always fatal.
- The first symptoms are similar to those
of a flu - aches, coughs, a fever - and therefore make it hard to diagnose.
The disease is still treatable during the first day or two after infection,
with doses of penicillin.
- But after a few days, the symptoms turn
violent as the anthrax disease attacks the lungs and intestines, causing
massive internal bleeding and infections. The victim dies after days of
- People can be inoculated against anthrax,
although the vaccine is not generally available to the public.
- Only one or two companies in the United
States make the vaccine, in relatively small quantities. It is usually
given just to the military, veterinarians and people who work with cattle
- and sometimes travelers abroad.
- The vaccine consists of six shots over
a yearlong period, and booster shots are required every year.
- President Clinton has pooh-poohed the
idea of civilian inoculations - and a spokesman said yesterday he doesn't
think that the commander-in-chief has been inoculated.
- However, Defense Secretary William Cohen
has said he and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Hugh Shelton will be "the
first two in line to receive a vaccination when the time comes."
- Cohen said he wanted to reassure troops
that the shots are "safe and effective."
- At the Pentagon, nerves are so frayed
that part of the complex was temporarily sealed off yesterday after a suspicious
package was discovered. It turned out to be a taped-up box of trash.
- The Pentagon, which gave at least the
first of the six anthrax shots to about 300,000 of the 500,000 troops in
the 1991 Persian Gulf War, is taking other precautions.
- The Pentagon said troops are equipped
with the latest masks and new lightweight chemical protective suits, called
MOPP gear, and special detectors for chemical and biological weapons also
have been deployed to the Gulf region.