5 Key Talking Points of Chemical Warfare

Chemical weapons, WMDs, sarin gas… We have been using these words as part of our everyday vernacular, but what do they really mean?
1. Chemical weapons vs. biological weaponsSTN0304PIC889_322057k

Chemical weapons are man-made compounds designed to attack the body and cause immobility or death. These highly technical compounds are derived from chemical bases or mixtures and contain a variety of agents—nerve, blood, choking & blister.

Biological weapons are biological organisms used with malice to spread disease and death. Recent attempts to spread the anthrax virus are an example of biological warfare.

Any chemical or biological agent that is used militarily to cause massive harm or death is classified as a weapons of mass destruction.
What-is-Mustard-Gas-22. Mustard gas

This is probably the most commonly known weapon of mass destruction. It has been a go-to agent for mass killings by Mussolini, Emperor Hirohito and Saddam Hussein.

Mustard gas was introduced as a chemical warfare agent during World War I. Defined as a blistering agent, mustard gas causes blistering of the skin and mucous membranes upon contact.

Exposure is rarely fatal, but it can cause severe damage to skin, eyes, respiratory tract, bone marrow and DNA. Due to the devastating use of mustard gas during World War I, the Geneva Protocol was enacted to prohibit the use of chemical and biological weapons in armed conflicts.
3. Nerve agentstumblr_mkubja9kpg1s0o7sao1_500

Nerve agents are the most toxic and rapidly acting of the known chemical weapons. In 1984, Saddam Hussein introduced such agents to the battlefield during the Iran-Iraq war in the form of tabun. Originally developed as a German pesticide, tabun is a colorless, tasteless liquid that becomes a poisonous vapor when heated.
7syria-sarin-weapon4. Sarin gas

Sarin is one of the most dangerous nerve agents of chemical warfare. Originally developed in Nazi Germany as a pesticide, sarin is a clear, colorless and tasteless liquid. When evaporated into a gas it can be used as a silent killer in times of war.

Saddam Hussein used it on the Kurds during the Iran-Iraq war and there is conclusive evidence that it was used by Bashar al-Assad during the current crisis in Syria.

The extent of sarin poisoning depends upon the quantity and manner of exposure. Symptoms will occur within seconds of exposure to sarin gas. Effects include: Loss of consciousness, convulsions, paralysis and respiratory failure. Victims usually die of suffocation due to paralyzed muscles around the lungs.

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5. The most devastating agent you probably never heard of

Zyklon B was used in Germany in the 1940s as a disinfectant and pest exterminator in ships, buildings and machinery. Then, Adolf Hitler got hold of it in August 1941, and used it in the Auschwitz concentration camp as a weapon of mass annihilation in gas chambers. Zyklon B consisted of diatomite granules which are used in the building industry to manufacture bricks, tiles, blocks, boards and sheets. This is saturated with an extremely poisonous liquid called prussic acid. It was delivered to the camps in sealed metal canisters to contain any risk of accidental poisoning.

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2 thoughts on “5 Key Talking Points of Chemical Warfare

  1. Very informative but begs the question: If a leader on a par with the likes of Hitler and Saddam Hussein is brazen enough to use this kind warfare on his own civilians, will a simple slap-on-the-hand air strike by the US deter him at all? What are our options? What a dilemma! Thank you for the clarity, but this is enlightening and horrifying to know.

    • Thank you for your input, Emma. I wish I had answers to your questions…Just when I think I know all the reasons why we shouldn’t take military action in Syria, I hear a compelling pitch the likes of DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Destroying Syria’s military capabilities at the expense of civilian lives is difficulty to rationalize. Fingers crossed that we receive transparency from the administration and Congress throughout this decision making process.

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