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Chemical Weapons Must Not Be Used In A Warlike Manner

Updated on April 4, 2013
Participation in the Chemical Weapons Convention as of March 27, 2009: Signed and ratified - lt green; Acceding or succeeding - dk green; Only signed - yellow; Non-signatory - red.
Participation in the Chemical Weapons Convention as of March 27, 2009: Signed and ratified - lt green; Acceding or succeeding - dk green; Only signed - yellow; Non-signatory - red. | Source


The Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) prohibits the development, production, stockpiling and use of weapons dispersing toxic chemicals. These include any chemical that can cause death, temporary incapacitation or permanent harm to humans or animals. The CWC also specifies the destruction of existing chemical weapons stockpiled by the world's military organizations. The whole intent of the CWC is to prevent chemical warfare between nations. Nearly every country in the world has signed the CWC, which was drafted in 1992. Seven states have not signed it, among them are Egypt, Israel, Syria and North Korea.


As with any human endeavor, there are loopholes. “Riot Control Agents”, which can produce rapid sensory irritation or disabling physical effects which disappear in a short time and are not used as a method of warfare, are allowed. This allows riot police to use tear gas to quell rioting. Another loophole, states that “Law enforcement including domestic riot control purposes” is “not prohibited under this convention”.

1916, german western front, 18cm calibre "Gaswerfer" are prepared. Mortar-like devices to throw containers with poisonous gas into enemy positions.
1916, german western front, 18cm calibre "Gaswerfer" are prepared. Mortar-like devices to throw containers with poisonous gas into enemy positions. | Source


George Orwell introduced the term “DoubleThink”, meaning the power to simultaneously hold two contradictory belief's and accept both of them, a type of controlled insanity. So, in that tradition, countries are not allowed to attack one another with chemical weapons, while leaving the door open for countries to use them on their own citizens.

Incapacitating Gas

Currently, the worst case of domestic use of nerve agents occurred in October 2002, when Russian special police units pumped in an unknown “incapacitating gas” to free 850 hostages held by 40 or 50 Chechen terrorists in a Moscow theater. At least 129 of the hostages died from the gas, 700 were poisoned and many suffered long-term injury. It was a nightmare scenario, no matter how it was handled, but what's more incapacitating than being gassed to death? The situation was made worse when officials refused to identify the chemical agent, thereby complicating efforts to treat the victims.

Is the UK Researching Chemical Weapons for Domestic Use?

In February 2012, neuroscientists in the UK, fearing that the Government is investigating new developments in neuroscience and may be preparing to exploit the CWC loophole regarding domestic use of nerve agents for riot control, have asked the Government to clarify its position on developing “incapacitating chemical agents”. Up until now, the British Government has stated that only relatively mild irritant chemical agents, like tear gas or pepper spray that are used for riot control are exempt from the treaty. The scientists claim that the Government has shifted or is shifting its position and is investigating the development of more dangerous nerve gases similar to that used by the Russian security forces in 2002. Rod Flower, professor of biochemical pharmacology at the University of London stated, “The trouble is that it is impossible to make a safe incapacitating agent and delivery system”. The scientists fear that some chemical weapons banned in warfare may be be developed for and potentially used by British police on British subjects.

Protecting Who

There is a fine line between protecting the populace from terrorists and protecting the government from the people. To deter terrorism, the security forces are allowed more leeway at the cost of individual freedoms. At some point these new powers are abused-- there's too much temptation to use them for other purposes-- the war on drugs, for example. From there, it's a slippery slope. There seems to be a trend of governments turning inward, so to speak, and gearing up to protect themselves from their own people. There is the increased militarization of police in the US who are being supplied with heavier firepower and armored vehicles-- under the auspices of fighting terrorism, though more often than not are used in more routine police matters. Look at the now-iconic campus policeman strolling back and forth shooting streams of pepper spray into the faces of sitting protesters-- as if he was spraying for bugs.

Protesters in London, 2008.
Protesters in London, 2008. | Source

We Are Not Paying Attention

Popular culture always comes up with its own memes and one that keeps popping up lately is “V for Vendetta” with V masks and the underlying theme: “People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people”. Hopefully, our governments will not push for new domestic incapacitating agents but who knows what will happen if we don't start paying attention?


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    • UnnamedHarald profile imageAUTHOR

      David Hunt 

      7 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      Thank you, Deborah. I couldn't believe that the CWC expressly exempts law enforcement from the treaty. They could have not said anything, but they chose to have that in there. Thanks for the vote up.

    • Deborah Brooks profile image

      Deborah Brooks Langford 

      7 years ago from Brownsville,TX

      wow this is interesting.. You have made some good points..

      voted up



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