US plan to use illegal weapons
By Severin Carrell
16 February 2003
While American forces invading Iraq face the threat of chemical
attack, they could themselves be using biochemical agents which are
banned under international law.
The US Secretary of Defence, Donald Rumsfeld, revealed earlier this
month that American forces are planning to use "non-lethal" biochemical
weapons such as anti-riot gases and crowd control agents if they invade
Iraq. Mr Rumsfeld and General Richard Myers, chairman of the US Joint
Chiefs of Staff, told the House of Representatives Armed Services
Committee they were preparing to ask President George Bush for
permission to use these weapons, known in military circles as
"calmatives", on Iraqi civilians, in cave systems or to take prisoners.
But two of Britain's leading authorities on chemical weapons,
Professor Alistair Hay and Professor Julian Perry-Robinson, who are
collaborating on an expert guide for the World Health Organisation,
said such weapons are illegal under the 1992 Chemical Weapons
Convention and the 1928 Geneva Protocol, which ban the use of chemical
agents against people in wartime.
"It would be absolutely outrageous if they did this," said Prof Hay,
an epidemiologist at Leeds University. "Surely this war against Iraq is
to stop the use of those weapons, not about also using them."
The dangers of such weapons were exposed, the experts said, when
Russian special forces used an opiate-based crowd control gas, with
devastating consequences, on Chechen rebels holding theatregoers
hostage in Moscow in October. Both men said Mr Rumsfeld's comments also
threatened to put the Pentagon on a collision course with Britain.
Ministry of Defence experts have repeatedly warned their US
counterparts that their proposed use of these weapons in warfare is
19 February 2003 11:05