News Release

U.S. and Chemical Weapons: “No Leg to Stand On”

MERYL NASS, M.D., merylnass at gmail.com
Nass runs the Anthrax Vaccine blog and recently wrote “Only seven nations are not parties to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). Israel and Myanmar (formerly Burma) signed but failed to ratify the 1993 agreement. Five other nations failed to sign it: Syria, South Sudan, North Korea, Angola and Egypt.

“Nations who are parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention agreed to destroy all their chemical weapons by May 2012, but most have failed to meet that deadline, including the United States. Furthermore, it is by no means certain that all nations possessing chemical weapons declared them, so information on existing stocks of such weapons is incomplete.

“Had the 189 nations who are members of the OPCW complied with the terms of the Chemical Weapons Convention’s required destruction of chemical weapons, there would be many fewer such weapons available for transfer and use. Unfortunately, the 2007 deadline for complete destruction was missed, as was the (final) extension to 2012 missed. So the U.S. and other nations are not in compliance with their responsibility and promise to destroy all their chemical weapons by last year.

“So when Obama says that we know Syria’s Assad has chemical weapons, Assad could be saying the same thing about us!” See: “U.N. Chief Urges Full Chemical Disarmament by 2018,” which notes: “The United States presently intends to wrap up destruction of its chemical arms by 2023.”

JACQUELINE CABASSO, wslf at earthlink.net
Cabasso is executive director of the Western States Legal Foundation, which focuses on weapons of mass destruction. They just released the briefing paper “The Rush to Bomb Syria: Undermining International Law and Risking Wider War” [PDF], which states: “It is hard to see how breaking solemn undertakings to most of the countries in the world by neglecting treaties and principles of international law that the United States has agreed to will either bolster U.S. ‘credibility’ or enhance respect for international law. …

“International law provides no exception for the ad hoc use of force by states in cases involving the actual or possible use of prohibited weapons, such as chemical weapons, by states with which they are not at war. Standing alone, the allegations of chemical weapons use by the Syrian government do not provide a legal basis for military action by any non-party to the conflict.

“Unilateral punitive strikes justified as a defense of the global norm against chemical weapons are unlikely to actually protect Syrians or others against use of chemical weapons and other attacks, may do little to reinforce the norm or even undermine it, and could lead to a significant increase in the level of violence throughout the region.

“There are viable international ways and means to respond to the apparent use of chemical weapons in Syria that should be vigorously pursued before the use of force is considered.”

STEPHEN ZUNES, zunes at usfca.edu
Professor of politics and chair of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of San Francisco, Zunes said today: “Syria, when it had a non-permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council in 2007, introduced a draft resolution to create a weapons of mass destruction free zone for the entire Middle East, but the United States blocked it.” Zunes notes that this would have included addressing Egypt’s chemical weapons and Israel’s nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.

He recently wrote the piece “The U.S. and Chemical Weapons: No Leg to Stand On,” which states: “The first country to allegedly use chemical weapons in the Middle East was Great Britain in 1920, as part of its efforts to put down a rebellion by Iraqi tribesmen when British forces seized the country following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. According to Winston Churchill, who then held the position of Britain’s Secretary of State for War and Air, ‘I do not understand this squeamishness about the use of gas. I am strongly in favour of using poisonous gas against uncivilised tribes.’ …

Zunes also recounts how the U.S. ousted the head of the of the OPCW, Brazilian diplomat Jose Bustani in 2002, because of his “insistence that the OPCW inspect U.S. chemical weapons facilities with the same vigor it does for other signatories. More critically, the United States was concerned about Bustani’s efforts to get Iraq to sign the convention and open their facilities to surprise inspections as is done with other signatories. If Iraq did so, and the OPCW failed to locate evidence of chemical weapons that Washington claimed Saddam Hussein’s regime possessed, it would severely weaken American claims that Iraq was developing chemical weapons.

“U.S. efforts to remove Bustani by forcing a recall by the Brazilian government failed, as did a U.S.-sponsored vote of no confidence at the United Nations in March. That April, the United States began putting enormous pressure on some of the UN’s weaker countries to support its campaign to oust Bustani and threatened to withhold the United States’ financial contribution to the OPCW, which constituted more than 20 percent of its entire budget. Figuring it was better to get rid of its leader than risk the viability of the whole organization, a majority of nations, brought together in an unprecedented special session called by the United States, voted to remove Bustani.”