U.S. policies in the 80s' weakened world opposition to chemical and
biological warfare and led to Allied soldiers' possible exposure to
chemicals in the war with Iraq, a Rutgers University political scientist
Dr. Leonard A. Cole, in a University of Tennessee-Oak Ridge
National Laboratory journal, says strong international opposition to
chemical and biological weapons in the 1970s helped deter their use.
Cole specifically pointed to U.S. destruction of its biological arsenal,
cuts in its chemical weapons research, and the Biological Weapons
Convention of 1972.
In 1980, American opposition to chemical and biological weapons became less
forceful, Cole says. The United States accused the Soviets of using
biological weapons in Southeast Asia and Afghanistan - though outside
investigators questioned the allegations. Yet the United States maintained
normal diplomatic relations with the Soviets and negotiated other arms
control agreements, he said.
Ô'The United States behaved as if the matter (biological weapons) were of
peripheral importance,'' Cole says.
Cole says the United States also:
* Ignored Iraq's use of chemical weapons in the eight-year
war against Iran in the 1980s;
* Appointed a Chemical Warfare Review Commission in 1985 that recommended
expanded research and development efforts on chemical weapons and
* Increased its annual chemical warfare and biological defense budget from
$160 million in 1980 to more than $1 billion by 1986;
* Tried to retain 2 percent of its chemical arsenal in 1990 after first
agreeing to totally eliminate it. The United States
has now reverted to its initial position of total elimination;
* Reneged on a commitment to allow inspections of all chemical facilities,
then resumed open inspection.
Cole says the number of nations with chemical weapons
programs increased from five in 1980 to 23 in 1990. The trend has
culminated in allegations that Allied soldiers were exposed to chemical
weapons in the Persian Gulf.
A 160-page congressional report released recently lists more than a
dozen incidents where U.S. troops appear to have been exposed to chemical
agents in Iraq, mainly from rocket attacks.
The report disputes the Pentagon's contention that there is
no evidence of Iraqi chemical attacks during the and criticizes the Defense
Department for not being able to confirm whether troops were exposed to
Ô'The international community must foster a sense of ethical
repugnance about the use of chemical and biological weapons,'' Cole said.
Ô'Otherwise, we risk their continued proliferation, likelihood of use, and
consequent debasement of human society everywhere.''
Cole outlines his views in the current issue of Forum for Applied Research
and Public Policy, published by UT-Knoxville's Energy, Environment and
Resources Center and ORNL.
U.S. policy on chemical weapons questioned
Published: Tue Jun 07, 1994 | Modified: Sat Aug 06, 2005 12:44 p.m.