Tuesday, September 03, 2013

(Chemical) Blast from the Past

The New York Times, August 5, 1988:- (note, per the article itself, this article appeared after 5 continuous years of use of chemical weapons by Iraq).  This article is relevant because the Syrian government's use of chemical weapons recently is said to have crossed a red-line, legitimized the use of chemical weapons, blah, blah, blah, thereby justifying a military strike (i.e., killing people and blowing up things) in Syria as a deterrent to future use of such weapons.

Let us note that US doctrine is, that, officially not having any more biological or chemical weapons, it will view an attack on the US with any Weapons of Mass Destruction -  biological, chemical, or nuclear weapons - as inviting a retaliatory nuclear strike.   Of course, the Syrian government's action is not seen as meriting a nuclear strike, something to be thankful for.

PS: the last bit that Iran also used chemical weapons, I am informed, is apparently US government disinformation.  It has apparently been acknowledged later that Iran did not use chemical weapons.

WASHINGTON, Aug. 4— American military officers say Iraq's routine use of chemical weapons against Iran in their eight-year-old war could encourage the common use of poison gas in future wars between third-world nations. 

''It is a poor man's way to wage war,'' a Pentagon officer said. 

The fact that there has been only limited negative world reaction over the use of chemicals in the war, the first widespread use since World War I, may be seen as tacit repudiation of an international agreement outlawing chemical warfare, the officer said. 

Iraq Accused in U.N. Report 
On Monday an independent team of experts appointed by the United Nations issued a report accusing Iraq of using chemical weapons on an ''intense and frequent'' scale against Iran. And Iran accused Iraq of two more attacks this week in which, it said, a total of 2,700 people were wounded. 

Iraq first began extensive use of chemical warfare in 1983, when its army was on the defensive and having difficulty stopping the human-wave battlefield attacks by Iran's Revolutionary Guards. ''At first it was an act of desperation,'' an American general said. ''But as the war progressed the Iraqis incorporated the use of chemicals in their artillery planning as a standard practice.'' 

The general said the Iraqis, when defending against an Iranian attack, used persistent chemical agents, usually mustard gas, so the effects would linger and contaminate the areas through which the Iranians were attacking. 

Later, when they themselves were on the offensive, the Iraqis systematically targeted Iranian command posts, artillery and supply points with dissipating chemicals to kill and disable them, but to leave them free of chemicals by the time attacking Iraqi troops reached them. In most cases, both defensively and offensively, the Iraqis used artillery barrages to release the chemicals. 
No Widespread Protest 
Iraqi chemical attacks brought international criticism this year when the Iraqi Air Force bombed the Iraqi town of Halabja in Iraqi Kurdistan with mustard gas, after it had fallen to the Iranians. Thousands of civilian Kurds were reportedly killed in the attack. But for the most part there has been no widespread public protest. 

Since the bombing of Halabja, Iraq has used chemicals extensively in its offensives around Fao, Basra, Majnoon, and in attacks along the central front after the recent Iranian agreement to accept a United Nations call for a cease-fire. 

Iran, too, has used chemical weapons, but not as frequently nor extensively as the Iraqis. Each side blames the other for starting their use. Figures for total casualties from chemical weapons in the Iran-Iraq war have not yet been made available.