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US Military

Weapons of Mass Destruction

Project: US Military
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President Roosevelt orders the establishment of the US Biological Warfare program. [US Department of the Army, 2/26/2004]

Entity Tags: Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Category Tags: Biological Weapons, Key Events

1942: US Army Develops Napalm

The US Army Chemical Warfare Service, working with a Harvard University team of researchers led by Dr. Louis Fieser, develop napalm (naphthenic palmitic acids), a flammable, gasoline-based incendiary weapon. Early napalm is made by mixing the aluminum soap powder of naphthene and palmitate (naphthenic and palmitic acids) with gasoline. [New England Chemists Journal, n.d. pdf file; Limqueco and Weiss, 1971; Remes, 2000] A later formula, referred to as “Napalm-B,” uses 46 percent polystyrene, 33 percent gasoline and 21 percent benzene. The US uses the weapon in all of its major conflicts. The incendiary weapon produces a fiery explosion that sometimes hits temperatures of more than 5,000 degrees. It sucks oxygen out of the air and can kill people who are not burned to death by asphyxiation. [San Francisco Chronicle, 4/1/2001; Sydney Morning Herald, 8/8/2003]

Entity Tags: Paul Harkins

Category Tags: Incendiary Weapons

The US Army releases swarms of specially bred mosquitoes in Georgia and Florida as part of an experiment aimed at determining if disease-bearing insects could be used as carriers of biological weapons. The mosquitoes are of the Aedes Aegypti type, which is a carrier of dengue fever. [Blum, 1995, pp. 344]

Category Tags: Biological Weapons, Key Events

1960-1973: Agent Orange Used in Vietnam

In Vietnam, the US military uses about 21 million gallons of Agent Orange to defoliate the jungle in order to deny enemy fighters cover. The defoliant—manufactured primarily by Monsanto and Dow Chemical—gets its name from the 55-gallon drums it is shipped in that are marked with an orange stripe. At least 3,181 villages are sprayed with the highly toxic herbicide, which is comprised of a 50:50 mixture of 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T and contaminated with dangerous levels of dioxins. Much of the dioxin is TCDD, which is linked to liver and other cancers, diabetes, spina bifida, immune-deficiency diseases, severe diarrhea, persistent malaria, miscarriages, premature births, and severe birth defects. Between 2.1 and 4.8 million Vietnamese are exposed, as are about 20,000 US soldiers. According to Vietnamese estimates, Agent Orange is responsible for the deaths of 400,000 people. Because there is a continued presence of high dioxin levels in the food chain of several sprayed areas, the health effects of Agent Orange persist to the present day. According to studies by Arnold Schecter of the University of Texas School of Public Health in Dallas, some Vietnamese have dioxin levels 135 times higher than people living in unsprayed areas. Schecter has called Vietnam “the largest contamination of dioxin in the world.” The Vietnamese believe the herbicide has contributed to birth defects in 500,000 children, many of them second and third generation. Though the US government has accepted responsibility for the health complications in US soldiers that resulted from exposure to Agent Orange (providing up to $1,989 per month for affected vets and more than $5,000 per month for those severely disabled and homebound), the US has refused to compensate Vietnamese victims. To date, no US agency, including the US Agency for International Development, has conducted any program in Vietnam to address the issue of Agent Orange. When asked by Mother Jones magazine in 1999 if the Vietnam government has raised the issue in private talks with the United States, a State Department official responds: “Ohhhh, yes. They have. But for us there is real concern that if we start down the road of research, what does that portend for liability-type issues further on?” [BBC, 11/19/1999; Mother Jones, 1/2000; BBC, 11/15/2000; BBC, 12/30/2001; Associated Press, 4/17/2003]

Entity Tags: Dow Chemical, Monsanto

Timeline Tags: US-Vietnam (1947-2001)

Category Tags: Chemical Weapons, Key Events, Veterans Affairs

The US government performs biological and/or chemical weapons tests in Florida, possibly exposing the civilian population to these agents. [Reuters, 10/10/2002]

Category Tags: Chemical Weapons, Biological Weapons, Key Events

The US government sprays florescent particles of zinc cadmium sulfide over Stillwater, Oklahoma, but reportedly does not monitor how the application affects the population. Leonard Cole, an expert on the Army’s development of biological weapons, later explains to an Oklahoma TV news program: “Cadmium itself is known to be one of the most highly toxic materials in small amounts that a human can be exposed to If there were concentrations of it enough to make one sick, you could have serious consequences a person over a period of time could have illnesses that could range from cancer to organ failures.” [KFOR 4 (Oklahoma City), 4/25/2003]

Category Tags: Chemical Weapons, Key Events

The US government performs biological and/or chemical weapons tests in Vieques, Puerto Rico. The civilian population is possibly exposed to these dangerous weapons. [Reuters, 10/10/2002]

Category Tags: Chemical Weapons, Biological Weapons, Key Events

During the Vietnam war, the US uses a total of 373,000 tons of napalm. [St. Petersburg Times, 12/3/2000; Boston Globe, 5/1/2001] One ton of napalm alone is enough to burn a football field in seconds. [BBC, 4/24/2001] The use of napalm in Vietnam is widespread and is a favorite weapon of the US military command. General Paul Harkins says it “really puts the fear of God into the Vietcong—and that is what counts.” [Hilsman, 1967] Pilots are given authority to use the weapon without prior authorization if the original target is inaccessible. [Herring, 1986, pp. 10] Entire villages are destroyed by napalm bombs. [Deans, n.d.]

Timeline Tags: US-Vietnam (1947-2001)

Category Tags: Other WMDs, Incendiary Weapons, Key Events

As part of Project Shipboard Hazard and Defense (SHAD), the US military sprays nerve or chemical agents “on a variety of ships and their crews to gauge how quickly the poisons can be detected and how rapidly they would disperse, as well as to test the effectiveness of protective gear and decontamination procedures….” According to documents released in 2002, there is no evidence that the servicemen had given the military consent to be part of the experiment. [New York Times, 5/24/2002] The US military later claims the experiments were conducted “out of concern for [the United States’] ability to protect and defend against these potential threats.” [Reuters, 10/10/2002; US Department of Defense, 10/31/2002]

Entity Tags: Project Shipboard Hazard and Defense (SHAD)

Category Tags: Chemical Weapons, Key Events

While serving in the US Army, Arnold Parks agrees to take what he is told are “test” medications. Actually, the pills he ingests include sarin, VX, and LSD. Years later (see (2003)), he suffers chronic pain in his legs and arms and has a bad heart. [KFOR 4 (Oklahoma City), 4/25/2003]

Entity Tags: Arnold Parks

Category Tags: Chemical Weapons

As part of Project 112, the US military sprays a biological agent on barracks in Oahu, Hawaii. The agent is believed to be harmless but later shown to infect those with damaged immune systems. The program is coordinated by the Desert Test Center, part of a “biological and chemical weapons complex” in the Utah desert. [Associated Press, 10/8/2002; Associated Press, 10/9/2002] Civilians may have been exposed to the gases. [Reuters, 10/10/2002]

Entity Tags: Red Oak, Phase 1

Category Tags: Biological Weapons, Key Events

Dow Chemical, and other companies like United Aircraft Corp. (which produced it for a shorter period of time), produce napalm for the US Army. [Business Week, 2/10/1969; San Francisco Chronicle, 4/1/2001]

Entity Tags: United Aircraft Corp, Dow Chemical

Category Tags: Incendiary Weapons

1965-1967: Sarin, VX Tested in Alaska

As part of Project 112, the US military performs a series of tests at the Gerstle River test site near Fort Greeley, Alaska, involving artillery shells and bombs filled with sarin and VX, both of which are lethal nerve agents. The program is coordinated by the Desert Test Center, part of a “biological and chemical weapons complex,” in the Utah desert. [Associated Press, 10/8/2002; Associated Press, 10/9/2002] Civilians may have been exposed to the gases. [Reuters, 10/10/2002] The US military later claims the experiments were conducted “out of concern for [the United States’] ability to protect and defend against these potential threats.” [US Department of Defense, 10/9/2002; Reuters, 10/10/2002]

Entity Tags: Red Oak, Phase 1

Category Tags: Chemical Weapons, Key Events

Science magazine reports that at Fort Detrick, Maryland, where the United States’ offensive biological program is headquartered, dengue fever is among those diseases that are “objects of considerable research and that appear to be among those regarded as potential BW [biological warfare] agents.” [Blum, 1995] The biological warfare program is overseen by the US Army’s Chemical Warfare Service. [US Department of the Army, 2/26/2004]

Entity Tags: US Army Chemical Warfare Service

Category Tags: Biological Weapons

May 1967: US Tests Sarin in Hawaii, Panama

The US military tests the “effectiveness of artillery shells using sarin in the jungle.” The tests, code-named “Red Oak, Phase 1,” are conducted in the Upper Waiakae Forest Reserve on Hawaii and near Fort Sherman in the Panama Canal Zone. According to reports released in late October 2002, there was “no indication of harm to troops or civilians.” [Reuters, 11/1/2002]

Category Tags: Chemical Weapons, Key Events

The US government sprays bacillus globigii from a submarine “over part of Oahu, Hawaii, and over several boats off the coast, to gauge how Venezuelan equine encephalitis would be carried by wind.” The project is called, “Folded Arrow.” [Associated Press, 7/1/2003]

Entity Tags: Folded Arrow

Category Tags: Biological Weapons, Key Events

1968: US Sprays E.coli on Hawaiian Rainforest

The US government sprays two types of bacteria, one of which is E. coli, on a Hawaiian rainforest hoping to determine how long the bacteria will remain on the vegetation. The project is known as “Blue Tango.” [Associated Press, 7/1/2003]

Entity Tags: Blue Tango

Category Tags: Biological Weapons, Key Events

In Laos, a 16-member US Special Forces “Studies and Observations Group” (SOG) and about 140 Montagnard tribesmen are dropped sixty miles from the South Vietnamese border and several miles away from its targeted village. They are told that the objective of the mission, code-named “Operation Tailwind,” is to eliminate a village where VietCong, Russians, and American defectors are believed to be moving freely. The troops are instructed to kill anyone they encounter, combatant or otherwise, including American defectors who pose a special threat to the US because of the sensitive knowledge they possess. [ [Sources: Robert Van Buskirk, Thomas Moorer, Jay Graves, Jim Cathey, Mike Hagen, Unnamed SOG Recon team commando [1]] Another possible objective of the mission is to divert enemy attention from Operation Gauntlet, an offensive operation to regain control of territory in Laos. [US Department of Defense, 7/30/1998] The SOG and Montagnards are all equipped with M-17 gas masks for the mission. [ [Sources: Robert Van Buskirk, Craig Schmidt, Unnamed SOG Recon team commando [2]] For three days, the team fights its way to the targeted village. On the third night, they camp on the outskirts of the village while it is “prepped” by Air Force A-1s. The next morning, the unit raids the village. The battle ends quickly, in about 10 minutes, because of the previous night’s bombing and because most of the people are not combat personnel, but belong to a transportation unit. [ [Sources: Mike Hagen] When they enter the village, they find more than one hundred bodies. Some are combatants, but many are also women and children. [CNN, 7/2/1999 Sources: Robert Van Buskirk, Eugene McCarley, Mike Hagen, Jimmy Lucas] One member of the SOG sees Montagnard soldiers shove grenades down the throats of women and at least three children. [ [Sources: Robert Van Buskirk] The soldiers report seeing between 10 and 20 Caucasians among the dead and speculate that they were American defectors, though the Pentagon insists they were Russians. Platoon leader Robert Van Buskirk later tells CNN that he killed two American defectors during the attack when he dropped a white phosphorus grenade into a tunnel where the two had fled. [ [Sources: Robert Van Buskirk, Mike Hagen, Jim Cathey] Rescue helicopters are then called in and the troops head to a rice paddy and put on their gas masks. As the helicopters prepares to land, it drops gas canisters (CBU-14), probably sarin nerve gas, to incapacitate a swarm of enemy fighters who are coming down a hill towards the landing zone. The enemy fighters immediately drop and go into convulsions when the gas is deployed. [ [Sources: Robert Van Buskirk, Mike Hagen, Craig Schmidt, Mike Sheperd, John Snipes, Unnamed pilot [1], Unnamed pilot [2], Unnamed pilot [3], Unnamed pilot [4], Unnamed SOG Recon team commando [2]] As the rescue choppers are taking off, SOG members and Montagnards are vomiting and have mucous running uncontrollably from their noses. [CNN, 6/7/1998; CNN, 6/14/1998; Time, 6/15/1998; Oliver and Smith, 1999; CNN, 7/2/1999 Sources: Robert Van Buskirk, Mike Hagen, Mike Sheperd, John Snipes, Unnamed pilot [1], Unnamed pilot [2], Unnamed pilot [3], Unnamed pilot [4], Unnamed SOG Recon team commando [2]]

Entity Tags: Robert Van Buskirk, Jimmy Lucas, Jim Cathey, John Snipes, Craig Schmidt, Eugene McCarley, Mike Sheperd, Mike Hagen

Category Tags: Chemical Weapons, Key Events

An American physicist and nuclear weapons designer warns of the dangers of nuclear terrorism. First in a series of articles in the New Yorker written by John McPhee, and later in a book, Theodore B. Taylor, a physicist who has designed nuclear bombs for the US military, says that terrorists could fashion a small nuclear bomb with stolen uranium or plutonium. This is the first time that such a warning is given wide publicity. Taylor has worked on the miniaturization of nuclear devices. Making a small bomb is easier than most people think, says Taylor. Weapons-grade nuclear material is not adequately secured at power plants or when in transit. As an example of where such an attack could cause the most damage, Taylor says that the newly-built World Trade Center could be brought down with a suitcase-sized bomb if strategically placed. “There’s no question at all that if someone were to place a half-kiloton bomb on the front steps where we came in, the building would fall into the river.” [New Yorker, 12/3/1973; McPhee, 1974, pp. 226] After 9/11, Taylor’s warning will be recalled in discussions of the threat of nuclear terrorism. [Time, 9/24/2001; Popular Mechanics, 3/2002; Washington Post, 7/31/2005]

Entity Tags: Theodore B. Taylor

Category Tags: Arms Proliferation, US Military Dominance, Nuclear Weapons

President Carter’s secretary of state, Cyrus Vance, says in an official US policy statement: “The United States will not use nuclear weapons against any non-nuclear-weapon state party to the Non-Proliferation Treaty or any comparable internationally binding commitment not to acquire nuclear explosive devices, except in the case of an attack on the United States, its territories or armed forces, or its allies, by such a state allied to a nuclear-weapon state, or associated with a nuclear-weapon state in carrying out or sustaining the attack.” [Graham and LaVera, 2003]

Entity Tags: Cyrus Vance

Category Tags: Nuclear Weapons, Key Events

In Geneva, Protocol III (Protocol on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Incendiary Weapons) of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons is adopted on October 10, 1980, making it illegal to use incendiary weapons on civilian populations and restricting the use of these weapons against military targets that are located within a concentration of civilians. Such weapons are considered “to be excessively injurious or to have indiscriminate effects.” 51 countries initially sign the document and on December 2, 1983, its provisions are entered into force. By the end of 2004, 104 countries sign and 97 ratify the protocol. [Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons Protocol III, 10/10/1980; United Nations, 11/19/2004] The US is not a party to this protocol and continues to use incendiary weapons in all its major conflicts. It is the only country to do so. [Independent, 8/10/2003]

Category Tags: Incendiary Weapons, Key Events

The US government conducts tests for the purpose of establishing methods for deploying biological weapons from submarines. [Associated Press, 7/1/2003]

Category Tags: Biological Weapons, Key Events

The Foundation for Economic Trends sues the US Department of Defense and forces it to acknowledge the existence of its chemical and biological weapons programs. The Pentagon admits that it is operating 127 chemical and biological warfare research sites in the US. Science magazine reports that the suit reveals that the “DoD is applying recombinant DNA techniques in research and the production of a range of pathogens and toxins including botulism, anthrax and yellow fever.” [Science Magazine, 2/27/1987]

Category Tags: Chemical Weapons, Biological Weapons, Key Events

In a military journal, William S. Lind, a defense intellectual, and several officers warn that the US must transform its military to fight a new kind of war they call “fourth-generation warfare” or “4GW.” Unlike previous types of warfare relying on massive firepower and centralized command structures, 4GW will resemble terrorism and guerrilla warfare and could emerge from non-Western areas like the Islamic world. They write: “The fourth generation battlefield is likely to include the whole of the enemy’s society. Such dispersion, coupled with what seems likely to be increased importance for actions by very small groups of combatants, will require even the lowest level to operate flexibly on the basis of the commander’s intent. Second is decreasing dependence on centralized logistics. Dispersion, coupled with increased value placed on tempo, will require a high degree of ability to live off the land and the enemy. Third is more emphasis on maneuver. Mass, of men or fire power, will no longer be an overwhelming factor. In fact, mass may become a disadvantage as it will be easy to target. Small, highly maneuverable, agile forces will tend to dominate. Fourth is a goal of collapsing the enemy internally rather than physically destroying him. Targets will include such things as the population’s support for the war and the enemy’s culture. Correct identification of enemy strategic centers of gravity will be highly important. In broad terms, fourth-generation warfare seems likely to be widely dispersed and largely undefined; the distinction between war and peace will be blurred to the vanishing point.… A fourth generation may emerge from non-Western cultural traditions, such as Islamic or Asiatic traditions. The fact that some non-Western areas, such as the Islamic world, are not strong in technology may lead them to develop a fourth generation through ideas rather than technology.” [Marine Corps Gazette, 10/1989] After 9/11, this article and others developing similar ideas on the need for a smaller, more agile military, will be called remarkably prescient. New York Times columnist Bill Keller will comment: “The fourth-generation threat sounds, when you read this text today, uncannily like al-Qaeda. The authors suggested the threat would emerge from a non-Western culture like Islam, that it might be stateless, that, lacking modern means, its warriors would infiltrate our society and use our own technology against us, that they would regard our whole civilization as a battlefield. Fourth-generation warriors would ‘use a free society’s freedom and openness, its greatest strengths, against it.’” [CounterPunch, 9/29/2001; Hindu, 10/9/2001; Atlantic Monthly, 12/2001; New York Times Magazine, 3/10/2002] This article and others with a similar orientation will be praised in an article by “Abu ‘Ubeid Al-Qurashi,” reportedly the pseudonym of an Osama bin Laden aide and al-Qaeda theorist. He will say: “In 1989, some American military experts predicted a fundamental change in the future form of warfare.… [F]ourth-generation wars have already occurred and […] the superiority of the theoretically weaker party has already been proven; in many instances, nation-states have been defeated by stateless nations.… The time has come for the Islamic movements facing a general crusader offensive to internalize the rules of fourth-generation warfare.” [MEMRI Special Dispatch, 2/10/2002; Insight on the News, 12/24/2002; American Conservative, 4/7/2003]

Entity Tags: William Lind, Al-Qaeda, Bill Keller

Category Tags: US Military Dominance, Other WMDs

On the homeward journey from their Middle East trip (see August 5, 1990 and After), Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney hands General Colin Powell, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a copy of Powell’s proposal to retire the US Army’s tactical nuclear weapons stockpile. Powell states that the arsenal is expensive, difficult to maintain, inaccurate, and, in light of modern weaponry, virtually irrelevant. The proposal is heavily annotated by Cheney’s aide David Addington. Cheney and Addington adamantly oppose any such move to retire the tactical nuclear arsenal. “[N]ot one of my civilian advisers supports this,” Cheney tells Powell. Powell’s viewpoint will eventually prevail, but not until September 2002. [Dubose and Bernstein, 2006, pp. 101]

Entity Tags: Colin Powell, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, US Department of the Army, David S. Addington

Category Tags: Other, Nuclear Weapons

El Al Flight LY1862, en route from New York to Tel Aviv, crashes into a block of apartment buildings shortly after take-off from Schiphol Airport, located south-east of Amsterdam. At least 43 people on the ground are killed (The exact number of deaths is unknown, since many of the incinerated victims were undocumented immigrants). Information about the plane’s cargo and the crash is suppressed: El Al withholds information about the plane’s several tons of “military cargo;” 12 hours of videotape made during the rescue and clean-up operation (42 cassettes in all), along with police audiotapes, are erased and shredded; and El Al documents and the plane’s cockpit voice recorder (CVR) mysteriously disappear. It is later learned that the plane, a Boeing 747, was carrying several tons of chemicals, including hydrofluoric acid, isopro-panol and dimethyl methylphosphonate (DMMP)—three of the four chemicals used in the production of sarin nerve gas. The shipment of chemicals—approved by the US commerce department—reportedly came from Solkatronic Chemicals Inc. of Morrisville, Pennsylvania and its final destination was the Institute for Biological Research (IIBR) in Ness Ziona near Tel Aviv, Israel, which is reported to be the “Israeli military and intelligence community’s front organization for the development, testing and production of chemical and biological weapons.” A former IIBR biologist later tells the London Sunday Times in October of 1998, “There is hardly a single known or unknown form of chemical or biological weapon… which is not manufactured at the institute.” In fact, it was IIBR that provided the poison and the antidote used in the attempted assassination of a Hamas leader in Jordan in 1998. The IIBR does not appear on any maps and is off-limits even to members of Israel’s Parliament, the Knesset. Israel denies that the chemicals were to be used in the production of chemical weapons and instead claims that they were needed to test gas masks. But as an article in Earth Island Journal notes: “[T]his explanation is puzzling since it only takes a few grams to conduct such tests. Once combined, the chemicals aboard Flight 1862 could have produced 270 kilos of sarin—sufficient to kill the entire population of a major world city.” During hearings on the crash in 1999, it is learned that since 1973, El Al planes are never inspected by customs or the Dutch Flight Safety Board and that El Al security at Schiphol is a branch of the Israeli Mossad. Furthermore, it is discovered that every Sunday evening a mysterious El Al cargo flight arrives at Schiphol en route from New York to Tel Aviv. The flights are never displayed on the airport arrival monitors and the flights’ documents are processed in a special, unmarked room. [BBC, 10/2/1998; Earth Island Journal, 1999; Covert Action Quarterly, 10/20/2004] Over a thousand residents living near the crash site later become sick with respiratory, neurological and mobility ailments and a rise in cancer and birth defects is later detected among the population. [ZNet, 10/12/2002]

Entity Tags: El Al, Institute for Biological Research (IIBR), Solkatronic Chemicals Inc

Category Tags: Chemical Weapons, Key Events

The US Energy Department, Defense Department, and the CIA begin conducting classified biodefense programs. [Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 1/2003]

Category Tags: Biological Weapons, Key Events

The Defense Science Board completes a study that observes: “Non-lethal incapacitating chemical agents could lead to greater lethality by making enemies more vulnerable to lethal weapons. So, the results of non-lethal weapons are not clear-cut in all cases.” [Asia Times, 4/1/2003]

Entity Tags: Defense Science Board

Category Tags: Chemical Weapons, Key Events

US Secretary of State Warren Christopher reaffirms the United State’s commitment to its 24-year-old pledge (see June 12, 1978) not to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states. He says, “The United States reaffirms that it will not use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon States Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons except in the case of an invasion or any other attack on the United States, its territories, its armed forces or other troops, its allies, or on a State toward which it has a security commitment, carried out or sustained by such a non-nuclear-weapon States in association or alliance with a nuclear-weapon State.” [Washington Times, 2/22/2002; Arms Control Association, 3/2002]

Entity Tags: Warren Christopher

Category Tags: Nuclear Weapons, Key Events

President Bill Clinton is the first world leader to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). The treaty, which will ultimately be signed by 154 nations, will extend the international ban on above-ground tests to underground testing, resulting in a total ban on all nuclear explosions. In 1999, however, the Republican-controlled Congress will vote not to ratify the treaty (see October 13, 1999). [White House, 7/20/1999; CNN, 10/13/1999]

Entity Tags: William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton

Category Tags: Nuclear Weapons

US Congress votes 392-22 in favor of legislation that restricts international inspections of chemical sites in the United States, effectively killing the Chemical Weapons Convention. [Henry Stimson Center, 6/16/1998 pdf file; Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists website, 2/23/2004]

Entity Tags: US Congress

Timeline Tags: US International Relations

Category Tags: Chemical Weapons, Key Events

In a party-line 48-51-1 vote, the US Senate decides not to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) that President Bill Clinton signed in 1996 (see September 24, 1996). The vote marks the first time in US history that the Senate has rejected an arms control treaty. The treaty, which needed a two-thirds vote for ratification, would have extended the current international ban on above-ground tests to underground testing as well, resulting in a total ban on all nuclear explosions. [CNN, 10/13/1999]

Category Tags: Nuclear Weapons, Key Events

The National Institute for Public Policy (NIPP) publishes a report arguing for a “smaller, more efficient, arsenal” of specialized weapons. The report claims that developing a new generation of smaller, tactical nuclear weapons is necessary for the US to maintain its deterrent. The report suggests that nuclear weapons could be used to deter “weapons of mass destruction (WMD) use by regional powers,” deter “WMD or massive conventional aggression by an emerging global competitor,” prevent “catastrophic losses in conventional war,” provide “unique targeting capabilities” (such as the use of “mini-nukes,” or “bunker-busters,” to destroy deep underground/biological weapons targets), or to enhance “US influence in crises.” Many of the report’s authors are later appointed to senior positions within the Bush administration, including Linton Brooks who becomes head of the national nuclear security administration overseeing new weapons projects, Stephen Hadley who is appointed deputy national security adviser, and Stephen Cambone who becomes undersecretary of defense for intelligence. [National Institute for Public Policy, 1/2001 pdf file; Guardian, 8/7/2003] The document is said to influence the Pentagon’s controversial Nuclear Posture Review that is submitted to Congress a year later (see January 8, 2002).

Entity Tags: Stephen J. Hadley, Linton Brooks, Stephen A. Cambone, National Institute for Public Policy (NIPP)

Category Tags: Nuclear Weapons, Key Events

Israeli troops use unknown poison gases on Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank on at least eight different occasions. The gases cause their victims to vomit, go into seizures and spasms, then collapse and lose consciousness. The symptoms last from a few hours to several weeks. Doctors who treat the patients say it is unlike the tear gas which has been used by Israeli forces in the past and suggest it may be nerve gas or at least a highly concentrated concoction of different tear gases. [Longley, 2001 pdf file; Palestinian Centre for Human Rights Weekly Report, 2/15/2001; Palestinian Centre for Human Rights Weekly Report, 2/22/2001; Palestinian Centre for Human Rights Weekly Report, 3/7/2001; Palestinian Centre for Human Rights Weekly Report, 3/29/2001; Al-Ahram, 4/5/2001; Palestinian Centre for Human Rights Weekly Report, 4/5/2001; Media Monitors, 1/8/2003]

Category Tags: Chemical Weapons, Key Events

The 24th negotiating session convenes to negotiate a proposal to add an enforcement and verification protocol to the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC). For three days, representatives from 55 member-states speak favorably of ending the negotiations and adopting the protocol. The mechanism would require member-states to annually declare their biodefense facilities and programs as well as any industrial facilities with capabilities to produce microbial cultures in quantity. Additionally, all member-states would be subject to random inspections of any plant where biological weapons could be made. Inspections would also be conducted if a facility is suspected of illegally producing bioweapons; there are allegations of bioweapons use; or in the event of a disease outbreak suspected to be the result of the activities of a bioweapons facility.
Abrupt US Withdrawal - But on July 25, US Ambassador Donald Mahley announces that the US will block any consensus on the proposed changes to the convention. “The United States has concluded that the current approach to a protocol to the Biological Weapons Convention… is not, in our view, capable of… strengthening confidence in compliance with the Biological Weapons Convention,” he says. “We will therefore be unable to support the current text, even with changes.” US opposition to the convention is based on fears that inspections of US facilities might harm the profits of US biotech companies and impede the United States’ current “biodefense” program. [US Department of State, 7/25/2001; CounterPunch, 10/25/2001; CNN, 11/1/2001; Common Dreams, 8/5/2002; Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 1/2003] While the protocols cannot guarantee with 100 percent accuracy that signatory nations will not violate the treaty, the participants in the negotiations are well aware of the limitations, and the impossibility of 100 percent verification. The protocols are designed to make it harder for signatories to cheat. But, as State Department official John Bolton says, that is no longer good enough for the US: “The time for ‘better than nothing’ proposals is over. It is time for us to work together to address the [biological weapons] threat.” However, instead of proposing stiffer verification proposals, the Bush administration will later propose much laxer “voluntary” standards (see November 19, 2001-December 7, 2001), and when those are rejected, will demand that further talks be postponed for four years. Bolton will later say of the treaty, “It’s dead, dead, dead, and I don’t want it coming back from the dead.” [Scoblic, 2008, pp. 186]
US 'Standing Alone' - Negotiations for the new treaty have been ongoing for seven years, and enjoyed the full support of the US under President Clinton. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan says the US is “practically standing alone in opposition to agreements that were broadly reached by just about everyone else.” After the US withdraws its support, the treaty conference will quickly be suspended. Chairman Tibor Toth will explain that delegates see no reason to continue without US participation: “In the light of the US concerns about the overall approach, it would be some sort of negotiations in a vacuum without the US being engaged. They were referring to the overwhelming role the US is playing in the industry. The US has more than one-third of the global industry and in the defense area, which is disproportionately higher than others.”
Bush Administration's 'Wholesale Assault on International Treaties' - Author and former National Security Council member Ivo Daalder says, “The [Bush] administration has, from day one, engaged in a wholesale assault on international treaties.” Daalder is referring, among other treaties, the Kyoto Protocols governing global warming that the Bush administration summarily rejected (see March 27, 2001). [CBS News, 7/24/2001; Chicago Sun-Times, 7/25/2001; Voice of America, 8/17/2001; Carter, 2004, pp. 271]

Entity Tags: Donald Mahley, Clinton administration, Ivo Daalder, Kofi Annan, Bush administration (43), Tibor Toth, John R. Bolton, Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, US International Relations

Category Tags: Biological Weapons

It is learned that the United States is developing weapons that undermine and possibly violate international treaties on biological and chemical warfare. For example, the CIA is “building and testing a cluster munition, modeled on a Soviet bioweapon, to spread biological agents.” [Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 1/2003] And in the Pentagon, the Defense Intelligence Agency is planning to genetically engineer a Soviet strain of Bacillus anthracis (the causative agent of anthrax) that is thought to be antibiotic-resistant. [Guardian, 10/29/2002; Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 1/2003] Other biological and chemical weapons projects include the development of a rifle-launched gas grenade (see September 10, 2001) as well as non-lethal gases designed to knock people out such as the hallucinogenic BZ gas and fentanyl. [Guardian, 10/29/2002; Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 1/2003; Independent, 2/16/2003] Fentanyl was the gas used in October 2002 by Russian Special Forces against the Chechen rebels who were holding civilians hostage in a theatre. In that incident, the gas was responsible for killing most of the 120 people who died during the rescue operation. [Scotsman, 10/30/2002; Christian Science Monitor, 2/14/2003; Independent, 2/16/2003] The US claims that these weapons are for defensive and “law-enforcement” purposes only. For instance, calmative agents might be used by US troops for defensive purposes when confronting hostile crowds, fighting in cave systems, or taking prisoners. [Guardian, 10/29/2002; Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 1/2003; Independent, 2/16/2003]

Category Tags: Chemical Weapons, Biological Weapons, Key Events

The US Army applies for a patent on a new rifle-launched gas grenade which is purportedly meant for non-lethal crowd control. It is designed to release aerosols “selected from the group consisting of smoke, crowd control agents, biological agents, chemical agents, obscurants, marking agents, dyes and inks, chaffs and flakes.” [United States Patent and Trademark Office, 2/25/2003; Global Security Newswire, 5/28/2003; San Francisco Chronicle, 6/9/2003] The patent is approved in February (see February 25, 2002) .

Category Tags: Chemical Weapons, Biological Weapons, Key Events

A second attempt at crafting and ratifying the Biological Weapons and Toxin Convention (BWC) fails after US officials disrupt the negotiations with what the journal New Scientist calls “a last-minute demand it knew other governments would reject.” The conference members hoped to complete the negotiation of an enforcement and verification protocol. The BWC would ban all biological warfare, and would provide enforcement for the ban, something the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention lacks. The US scuttled earlier talks on the new convention by abruptly pulling out of the proceedings (see July 23-25, 2001). Though US officials continue to insist that the Bush administration is in favor of a new treaty, European Union officials now believe that the US has no intention of allowing any such treaty to be ratified. EU officials question if they can continue to work with US officials on any international arms control treaties. One hundred and forty-four nations are attempting to salvage the talks, but the US’s participation is considered critical. An hour before the talks were to wrap up for the week, the US introduces a demand to strike a mandate under which treaty members have been negotiating legally binding compliance measures. Other nations have long since accepted the legally binding mandate, and, until Friday afternoon, US delegates had not voiced an objection. When US officials suddenly demand that the mandate be “terminated” in favor of a measure that would merely require signatories to follow current technological developments, it sparks an uproar among other delegates from European and Asian countries. To prevent the outright failure of the Review Conference, the chairman suspends negotiations until November 2002. Oliver Meier of the arms-control lobbying group Vertic says: “[T]here was never a question of that [measure] substituting for the negotiating mandate. If the US wanted to discuss that it could have brought it up any time during the three weeks.” The last-minute demand, says Meier, “was obviously an attempt to sabotage the conference.” Jan van Aken of the Sunshine Project, a German-American anti-bioweapons group, calls the US officials “liars” and characterizes their behavior as “insulting.” EU officials refuse to continue meeting with US officials after the sudden demand. Elisa Harris of the Center for International and Security Studies says that a failure to reach an agreement on the treaty “would send a very bad signal to proliferators that the international community lacks the will to enforce compliance with the BWC.” [New Scientist, 12/10/2001; Nuclear Threat Initiative, 2/2002; Common Dreams, 8/5/2002; Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 1/2003]

Entity Tags: Jan van Aken, New Scientist, Oliver Meier, Bush administration (43), Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, Elisa Harris, European Union

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, US International Relations

Category Tags: Biological Weapons

Rock Island Arsenal in Illinois produces 500 Mark-77 firebombs for the US Marines. [Sydney Morning Herald, 8/9/2003] Mark-77 firebombs are a more advanced and perfected design (see 1963-1973) of the napalm bombs that were used during Vietnam (see August 2003).

Entity Tags: Rock Island Arsenal

Category Tags: Incendiary Weapons

Congress receives an edited version of the Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), a comprehensive review laying “out the direction for American nuclear forces over the next five to ten years.” [US Department of Defense, 1/9/2002] Congress requested the review in September 2000. [Los Angeles Times, 3/9/2002] The classified document, signed by Donald Rumsfeld and now being used by the US Strategic Command to prepare a nuclear war plan, advocates that the US adopt a “New Triad” of weapon types for its strategic arsenal that would include an “offensive strike leg” (nuclear and conventional forces), “active and passive defenses” (anti-missile systems and other defenses) and “a responsive defense infrastructure” (ability to develop and produce nuclear weapons and resume nuclear testing). The new triad would replace the United States’ current triad of bombers, long-range land-based missiles and submarine-launched missiles. [US Department of Defense, 1/9/2002; Los Angeles Times, 3/9/2002; Los Angeles Times, 3/10/2002; Globe and Mail, 3/12/2002] The report asserts that the new strategy is necessary in order to assure “allies and friends,” “dissuade competitors,” “deter aggressors” like rogue states and terrorist organizations, and “defeat enemies.” [US Department of Defense, 1/9/2002; Globe and Mail, 3/12/2002] The review offers several possible scenarios where nuclear weapons might be used. For example, the document explains such weapons could be deployed to “pre-empt” the use of weapons of mass destruction against American or allied troops; in retaliation for an attack involving nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons; “in the event of surprising military developments;” or against targets that the US is incapable of destroying by conventional means, such as bunkers located deep underground. The NPR even names countries that could become targets of US nuclear weapons. For example, it says that they could be used against China, North Korea, Russia, Libya, Syria, Iraq, or any Arab country that threatens Israel. [Los Angeles Times, 3/9/2002; Daily Telegraph, 3/10/2002; Los Angeles Times, 3/10/2002] The NPR says that nuclear weapons could be deployed using ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, or other modified conventional weapons. US Special Forces on the ground could be used to pin-point the targets and direct the weapon’s deployment. [Daily Telegraph, 3/10/2002; Los Angeles Times, 3/10/2002] Arms control advocates warn that the document shows that the Bush administration does not view its nuclear arsenal only as a weapon of last resort or as a deterrent. They also say that the new policy would encourage other countries to develop their own nuclear programs. [Los Angeles Times, 3/9/2002]

Entity Tags: US Congress, Donald Rumsfeld

Category Tags: Nuclear Weapons, Key Events

Referring to a 1978 US pledge not to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states (see June 12, 1978), US Undersecretary of State John R. Bolton says in an interview with Arms Control Today, “We are just not into theoretical assertions that other administrations have made.” He explains: “We would do whatever is necessary to defend America’s innocent civilian population…. The idea that fine theories of deterrence work against everybody… has just been disproven by September 11.” [Washington Times, 2/22/2002; Los Angeles Times, 3/10/2002] Just five years earlier, the Clinton administration had reaffirmed its commitment to the pledge (see April 11, 1995).

Entity Tags: John R. Bolton

Category Tags: Nuclear Weapons, Key Events

A US Army patent for a rifle-launched gas grenade (see September 10, 2001) is approved by the US Patent office. [United States Patent and Trademark Office, 2/25/2003; Global Security Newswire, 5/28/2003; San Francisco Chronicle, 6/9/2003]

Category Tags: Chemical Weapons

April 2002: Anthrax Spores Leak in Maryland

Two leaks of Anthrax spores are detected at an Army biodefense research building at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Maryland. [Washington Post, 4/24/2002]

Category Tags: Biological Weapons, Key Events

Scientists with the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology and a microbiologist from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York genetically reconstruct the “Spanish Flu” influenza virus that killed 20-40 million people in 1918. [Sunshine Project, 10/9/2003; Sunshine Project, 10/9/2003]

Entity Tags: Sunshine Project

Category Tags: Biological Weapons, Key Events

The US National Research Council issues a report that notes: “Chemical non-lethal weapons programs that deliver chemical contaminants to a crowd—other than riot control agents—would likely fail in meeting the Hague requirement for ‘distinction’ as the delivery method is not isolated and/or cannot be controlled well enough to prevent the chemical contaminants from affecting people who are not related to the intended military target. It is unlikely that calmatives in their current form will be lawful under international law, when used in warfighting situations.” [National Research Council, 2003; Asia Times, 4/1/2003]

Entity Tags: National Research Council (NRC)

Category Tags: Chemical Weapons, Key Events

US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld sends President Bush a memo requesting authority to appoint US Strategic Command (STRATCOM) commander Adm. James O. Ellis Jr. in charge of all of the United States’ “strategic” warfare options to combat terrorist states and organizations. By giving STRATCOM warplanners jurisdiction over the full range of the country’s warfare options, the president would effectively remove a decades-old firewall between conventional and nuclear weapons which had served to prevent nuclear arms from being anything but a weapon of last resort. According to William Arkin, a columnist for the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the request, if approved, would remove “nuclear weapons out of their long-established special category and [lump] them in with all the other military options.” Bush approves the request early the following month (see Early January 2003). [Los Angeles Times, 1/26/2003 Sources: Unnamed senior military officials at US Central Command, Memo obtained by the LA Times]

Entity Tags: Donald Rumsfeld, George W. Bush, James O. Ellis Jr

Category Tags: Nuclear Weapons, Key Events

A Sunday Herald investigation reveals that Britain is supplying “toxic chemical precursors” (TCPs)—dual-use chemicals that can be used for harmless activities like farming or made into chemical weapons like sarin nerve gas—to Libya, Syria, Sudan, Israel, Iran, Cyprus, India, Kenya, Kuwait, Malaysia, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Tanzania, Thailand, Turkey, Uganda and Yemen. Some of these countries are not signatories to the chemical weapons convention and therefore do not recognize the international ban on chemical warfare. The exports are authorized by Britain’s Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) which cannot say for sure how the recipient country will use the TCPs. It only says that they are being sold “in the belief” that they will be used “benignly” in agriculture or as detergents. [Sunday Herald (Glasgow), 6/9/2002]

Entity Tags: Jim Hecker

Category Tags: Chemical Weapons, Key Events

A team of scientists, headed by Mark Buller of the University of St. Louis and funded by the US government, develops an extremely deadly form of mousepox. In experiments, the virus proves 100 percent lethal—even for mice that have been given antiviral drugs as well as a vaccine that would normally protect them. Bullers says his work is necessary in order to anticipate what bioterrorists might do. [New Scientist, 10/29/2003; Miami Herald, 10/31/2003]

Entity Tags: Mark Buller

Category Tags: Biological Weapons, Key Events

Former US serviceman Arnold Parks learns that “test” medications he had been given by the US Army in 1965 (see 1965) were in fact VX, sarin, and LSD. In an interview with KFOR in Oklahoma City, he says that according to his military medical files: “[O]n this date they gave me VX, on this date they gave me sarin, on this date they gave me LSD. I was angry. As a matter of fact, I came unglued…. The VX they gave, it was a pill. And I asked the guy after I took that, you know, I asked him what was that? He said, ‘That’s the new pill for polio.’” After taking the LSD, he experienced serious hallucinations. “Some of these hallucinations got a little bit scary,” he says. “I think I had about four and the only one that was OK was the one that I watched this movie, it was a love story on TV. But there was no TV in the room, so I couldn’t have watched that movie on TV. So it was all an acid trip, basically it was a trip but the other three was the killing things.” Arnold Parks believes that the sarin and VX pills he ingested in 1965 caused damage to his arms, legs and heart. But the Veteran’s Administration has told him that the government is not liable for any damage unless it can been confirmed that the test pills given to him by the US government are the direct cause of his ailments. Mr. Parks wants compensation for being tricked into taking the harmful agents. “Pay me compensation. I want that and I would like to be treated. But I don’t think they can treat this.” [KFOR 4 (Oklahoma City), 4/25/2003]

Entity Tags: Arnold Parks

Category Tags: Chemical Weapons, Key Events

The proposed 2004 budget of the Energy Department’s Nuclear Security Administration includes some $15 million for the development of a nuclear bunker-buster bomb called the “Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator” and $6 million for two of the nation’s nuclear weapons laboratories, Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore. The labs would “assemble design teams to study advanced nuclear concepts,” the Washington Post reports. [Washington Post, 2/20/2003; USA Today, 7/6/2003]

Category Tags: Nuclear Weapons, Key Events

According to analysis by the Federation of American Scientists (FAS), “non-lethal” gases can be lethal. Summarizing a report by the organization, David Isenberg of the Asia Times explains, “[W]hen an incapacitating agent that is exceptionally safe by pharmacological standards (therapeutic index (TI) =1000) is delivered under ideal conditions to a uniformly healthy population, 9 percent of victims would die if the goal were to incapacitate almost everyone (99 percent) in a particular place (often an enclosed space), as in hostage rescue or urban military operations.” [National Research Council, 2003; Asia Times, 4/1/2003]

Entity Tags: National Research Council (NRC)

Category Tags: Chemical Weapons, Key Events

US President George Bush approves Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s December request (see December 11, 2002) to give US Strategic Command (STRATCOM) warplanners jurisdiction over the full range of the country’s warfare options, including nuclear weapons. Many senior officials are concerned, according to columnist and reporter William Arkin, “that nuclear weapons—locked away in a Pandora’s box for more than half a century—are being taken out of that lockbox and put on the shelf with everything else.” [Los Angeles Times, 1/26/2003 Sources: Unnamed senior military officials at US Central Command]

Entity Tags: Donald Rumsfeld, George W. Bush

Category Tags: Nuclear Weapons, Key Events

The Bush administration prepares a “Theater Nuclear Planning Document” for Iraq which includes the possible use of nuclear weapons. According to multiple sources interviewed by columnist and reporter William Arkin, nuclear weapons are being considered for use in an attack against Iraqi facilities located deep underground or to preempt the use of weapons of mass destruction. The planning is being carried out at “STRATCOM’s Omaha headquarters, among small teams in Washington and at Vice President Dick Cheney’s ‘undisclosed location’ in Pennsylvania,” the Los Angeles Times reports. [Los Angeles Times, 1/26/2003 Sources: Unnamed senior military officials at US Central Command]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), Richard (“Dick”) Cheney

Category Tags: Nuclear Weapons, Key Events

US Army personnel at the US Blue Grass Army Depot discover a leaking mustard gas 155-mm artillery shell in one of its storage igloos. The base stores “about 55,000 rockets, land mines and other artillery with about 523 tons of chemical weapons,” the Associated Press reports. [Associated Press, 1/6/2003]

Timeline Tags: Iraq under US Occupation

Category Tags: Chemical Weapons, Key Events

Defense Department officials and representatives from the Lawrence Livermore and Los Alamos laboratories attend the “Stockpile Stewardship Conference Planning Meeting” called by Dale Klein, the assistant to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, to prepare for a secret conference on nuclear weapons during the week of August 4, 2003 (see Early August 2003). The purpose of the conference will be to discuss the construction of a new generation of nuclear weapons, including “low-yield” neutron bombs designed to destroy chemical or biological agents and “mini-nukes,” or “bunker-busters,” which could be used to destroy underground targets. Another purpose of the meeting will be to consider restarting nuclear testing and to discuss how the American public can be convinced that the new weapons are necessary. [San Francisco Chronicle, 2/15/2003; Guardian, 2/19/2003; Washington Post, 2/20/2003]

Entity Tags: Dale Klein

Category Tags: Nuclear Weapons

US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and General Richard Myers, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, inform the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee that they intend to seek permission from George Bush to use calmative agents (see February 12, 2001-March 30, 2001) against Iraqi civilians, in cave systems or to take prisoners. [NewsMax, 2/6/2003; Independent, 2/16/2003] Rumsfeld calls the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) a “straightjacket” [Baltimore Sun, 3/27/2003; Guardian, 4/8/2003] and insists that “there are times when the use of non-lethal riot agents is perfectly appropriate.” [NewsMax, 2/6/2003; Christian Science Monitor, 2/14/2003; Guardian, 3/12/2003; Guardian, 4/8/2003] Under the provisions of the CWC, military use of chemicals—including non-lethal gases like tear gas—is prohibited. The treaty only permits the use of non-lethal agents for law enforcement purposes. [NewsMax, 2/6/2003; Christian Science Monitor, 2/14/2003]

Entity Tags: Richard B. Myers, Donald Rumsfeld, George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: Iraq under US Occupation

Category Tags: Chemical Weapons, Key Events

A group of 23 Republican members of the House Policy Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs issues a policy paper calling for the repeal of a 10-year ban on research on small, low-yield nuclear weapons of less than 5 kilotons. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the paper proposes a “new doctrine under which the country would be able to launch nuclear attacks not just in response to a nuclear attack, or the threat of one, but to preemptively destroy stockpiles of other weapons, such as chemical or biological weapons, in the hands of hostile countries” such as China, North Korea, Iran and Iraq. “Possession combined with evidence of the intent to use those weapons is sufficient” for a pre-emptive nuclear strike, the paper asserts. The paper also says that these weapons should be developed soon so that the military can have them available for use at its disposal. It recommends that preparations for the resumption of underground nuclear testing be accelerated at the Nevada Test Site so that testing can begin in as little as one year’s time. [San Francisco Chronicle, 2/15/2003; San Francisco Chronicle, 2/15/2003; Washington Post, 2/20/2003]

Category Tags: Nuclear Weapons

The House of Representatives and the Senate agree to spend $15.5 million to develop a nuclear bunker-buster, or “mini-nuke,” called the “Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator” (see January 2003). They also agree to allocate funds to make changes to the Nevada Test Site (see Early March 2003) in order to shorten the amount of time that would be needed to resume nuclear tests to as little as 18-24 months. [Guardian, 3/7/2003; USA Today, 7/6/2003]

Category Tags: Nuclear Weapons, Key Events

In its 2004 budget proposal, the US Defense Department asks US Congress to lift the 1992 “Spratt-Furse restriction,“a 10-year ban on developing small nuclear warheads known as “mini-nukes.” Buried deep within the proposal, is a single line statement that calls on Congress to “rescind the prohibition on research and development of low-yield nuclear weapons.” [Guardian, 3/7/2003; USA Today, 7/6/2003]

Entity Tags: US Department of Defense, US Congress

Category Tags: Nuclear Weapons, Key Events

The United States admits to using Mark 77 firebombs, an incendiary weapon that has virtually the same effect as napalm (see 1942), in Iraq. The weapon is so similar in fact that troops commonly refer to it as napalm. [CNN, 3/21/2003; Sydney Morning Herald, 3/22/2003] In August 2003, Marine Colonel Mark Daly will confirm that Mark 77 bombs were dropped by Marine jets around the Kuwait-Iraq border at the start of the war. A senior Pentagon official confirms that the bombs have “similar destructive characteristics” to napalm. Early reports of “napalm” being used in an attack on Iraqi troops at Safwan Hill, near the Kuwait border, by an Australian journalist were denied by US officials, who claimed that the military destroyed its last batch of napalm in April 2001. However, only the Vietnam-era Napalm-B was actually destroyed. [Sunday Mirror, 8/10/2003] According to Marine Colonel Randolph Alles, “The generals love napalm—it has a big psychological effect.” [San Diego Union-Tribune, 8/5/2003] A Pentagon official says: “It is like this: you’ve got an enemy that’s hard to get at. And it will save your own lives to use it.” The Mark 77 is loaded with 44 pounds of gelling compound and 63 gallons of jet fuel. The use of incendiary weapons on civilian populations is banned by Protocol III of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (see October 10, 1980-December 2, 1983), which also restricts the use of these weapons against military targets that are located within a concentration of civilians. The UN’s ban, passed in 1980, has never been signed by the US. [Sunday Mirror, 8/10/2003]

Entity Tags: Mark Daly, Randolph Alles, United Nations, US Department of Defense

Timeline Tags: Iraq under US Occupation

Category Tags: Other WMDs, Incendiary Weapons, Key Events

The US Air Force website emphatically denies the use of napalm in Iraq (see March 22, 2003), posting a “disinformation alert” on its website. “The claims that we are using napalm in Iraq are patently false,” the alert claims. It also says that the United States’ stock of napalm bombs was destroyed in 2001 and that the Sydney Morning Herald has said it will be pulling its story (see March 22, 2003), which it never does. [US Department of Defense, 3/22/2003]

Timeline Tags: Iraq under US Occupation

Category Tags: Incendiary Weapons

CNN and the Sydney Morning Herald report that the US used napalm to destroy an Iraqi intelligence gathering operation on top of Safwan Hill in southern Iraq. A source tells reporter Lindsay Murdoch that US Navy aircraft dropped 40,000 pounds of explosives and napalm (see 1942). However, a US Navy spokesman in Washington, Lieutenant Commander Danny Hernandez, denies that napalm was used in the attack. Hernandez claims that it is not even in the military’s arsenal. [CNN, 3/21/2003; Sydney Morning Herald, 3/22/2003] It is later learned (see August 2003) that the actual weapons were Mark 77 Firebombs, an incendiary weapon that has virtually the same effect as napalm.

Entity Tags: Danny Hernandez

Timeline Tags: Iraq under US Occupation

Category Tags: Incendiary Weapons

The US Department of Energy announces that the United States has reconstituted its nuclear weapons program. It is again capable of producing nuclear weapons for the first time in 14 years and is manufacturing plutonium parts for the stockpile of nuclear weapons. It will also begin plans for a new factory that could produce components for hundreds of weapons a year. The factory would be ready for production by 2018. [Los Angeles Times, 3/24/2003]

Entity Tags: US Department of Energy

Category Tags: Nuclear Weapons, Key Events

Defense Department spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Don Sewell asserts in an email to the San Francisco Chronicle, “The Army and all other components of [Defense Department] have no plans, programs, or intentions to develop chemical or biological weapons prohibited by statute or treaty.” [San Francisco Chronicle, 6/9/2003]

Entity Tags: Don Sewell

Category Tags: Chemical Weapons, Biological Weapons

When the United States’ patent on a rifle-launched gas grenade (see September 10, 2001) is publicized, it creates a controversy because the development of any “delivery system for use as a weapon” that contains “biological agents” is a violation of the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention and the US Biological Weapons Antiterrorism Act of 1989 which prohibit developing devices for delivering biological weapons agents. Miguel Morales, the public affairs officer for the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center in Aberdeen, Md., who oversaw development of the grenade, claims that the inventors and patent attorney had wrongly described the invention when they said it could release chemical and biological agents. “The attorney and the inventors were simply trying to claim their invention as broadly as legally entitled,” Morales claims, adding, “It is clear now, in hindsight, that inserting the term chemical or biological ‘agents’ was unfortunate.… There was never any intent to use this for chemical or biological warfare agents.” [Global Security Newswire, 5/28/2003; San Francisco Chronicle, 6/9/2003]

Entity Tags: Miguel Morales

Category Tags: Chemical Weapons, Biological Weapons

The US says it is using Mark-77 firebombs in Iraq. Mark-77s are incendiary weapons that have a “remarkably similar” effect to that of napalm. The main difference between the two weapons is that Mark-77 firebombs use kerosene-based jet fuel whereas napalm used gasoline. The newer firebombs are also said to be more difficult to extinguish but to have less of an impact on the environment. [San Diego Union-Tribune, 8/5/2003; Agence France-Presse, 8/8/2003] But critics say the difference is minute. Technically, the name, “napalm,” refers to the combination of naphthalene and palmitate which was used only in the very earliest versions of such bombs (see 1942). Later firebombs, such as the napalm used in Vietnam, was made from polystyrene instead. Yet these bombs continued to be referred to as napalm, or “Napalm-B.” Therefore critics say that by substituting jet fuel for gasoline, the military had just developed a more advanced napalm bomb. John Pike, director of the military studies group GlobalSecurity.Org, explains: “You can call it something other than napalm but it is still napalm. It has been reformulated in the sense that they now use a different petroleum distillate, but that is it.” [Sydney Morning Herald, 8/8/2003; Sydney Morning Herald, 8/9/2003; Independent, 8/10/2003]

Entity Tags: John Pike

Timeline Tags: Iraq under US Occupation

Category Tags: Incendiary Weapons

During the week marking the 48th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, 150 people attend a secret conference at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska to discuss plans to develop a new generation of nuclear weapons, including the so-called “mini-nukes” and “bunker busters,” that could be used against rogue states and terrorist organizations. The B-29 planes that dropped the atomic bombs on the two Japanese cities, Enola Gay and Bock’s Car, were both built at Offutt. Another topic to be discussed is whether the development of nuclear weapons would require a repeal of the 1992 “Spratt-Furse restriction,” which banned such weapons. Though the exact identities of the attendees are not known, unnamed sources tell the Guardian of London that the meeting is attended by scientists and administrators from the three main nuclear weapons laboratories, Los Alamos, Sandia and Livermore; senior officers from the air force and strategic command; weapons contractors; and civilian defense officials. No representatives from Congress, however, are at the meeting. According to the Guardian, “Requests by Congress to send observers were rejected, and an oversight committee which included academic nuclear experts was disbanded only a few weeks earlier.” One congressional weapons expert tells the London newspaper, “I was specifically told I couldn’t come.” [Guardian, 8/7/2003] According to the January meeting that had planned for this event (see January 10, 2003), other issues to be addressed include the possible recommencement of nuclear testing and how to convince the American public the new nuclear weapons are necessary.

Entity Tags: US Congress

Category Tags: Nuclear Weapons, Key Events

“Gulf War syndrome” is affecting some US troops in Iraq, and the use of depleted uranium munitions could be the cause of the mysterious and controversial condition, according to some press reports. Depleted uranium, or DU, is an abundant by-product of the nuclear energy industry and nuclear weapons manufacturing. It is militarily invaluable because of its high density; it is almost twice as heavy as lead. DU is used both in armor plating and armor-piercing munitions. Such munitions were heavily used during the first Gulf War and the current Iraq War. Critics of the use of DU in munitions claim that upon impact with a target, such as a tank, hazardous airborne uranium dust is created. Fine particles of this dust can be inhaled by nearby soldiers and civilians, causing internal contamination of many tissues, such as the lungs, bone marrow, liver, and kidneys, leading to cancer and other diseases. These critics insist that depleted uranium retains enough radioactivity to cause internal damage. They also claim that it is chemically toxic when ingested. [New York Daily News, 4/4/2004; New York Daily News, 4/5/2004; Associated Press, 8/12/2004; New York Daily News, 9/29/2004; Vanity Fair, 12/2004]

Entity Tags: US Department of Defense, Asaf Durakovic, Doug Rokke

Category Tags: Other, Other, Other WMDs

2004: US Spending on Nuclear Weapons Increases

The United States Department of Energy spends $6.5 billion on nuclear weapons research and production, 50 percent more than it did during the Cold War. [Los Angeles Times, 3/24/2003; Natural Resources Defense Council, 4/13/2004]

Entity Tags: US Department of Energy

Category Tags: Nuclear Weapons

Darrin Mortenson, a reporter for a local San Diego newspaper who is embedded with an artillery unit during Operation Vigilant Resolve in Fallujah, reports that white phosphorus is being used against human targets. Mortenson describes how mortar team leader Corporal Nicholas Bogert, after receiving a fire mission over the radio, “directed his men to fire round after round of high explosives and white phosphorus charges into the city Friday and Saturday [April 9 and 10], never knowing what the targets were or what damage the resulting explosions caused.” The shells were fired “into a cluster of buildings where insurgents have been spotted all week,” the reporter writes, adding that “[e]very day since they started firing rounds into the city, other Marines have stopped by the mortar pit to take a turn dropping mortars into the tube and firing at some unseen target.” [North County Times, 4/10/2004] In a November 2004 email to the Independent, the reporter writes: “During the fight I was describing in my article, WP mortar rounds were used to create a fire in a palm grove and a cluster of concrete buildings that were used as cover by Iraqi snipers and teams that fired heavy machine guns at US choppers.” [Independent, 11/15/2005]

Entity Tags: Nicholas Bogert

Timeline Tags: Iraq under US Occupation

Category Tags: Incendiary Weapons, Combat Actions and Events

US forces use white phosphorus (WP) gas munitions as incendiary weapons against human targets during their seige of Fallujah, Iraq (see November 8, 2004). [Inter Press Service, 11/26/2003; Daily Telegraph, 11/9/2004; San Francisco Chronicle, 11/10/2004; Rainews24 (Italy), 11/2005] White phosphorus—also known as Willy Pete or Whiskey Pete—is used by the military for signaling, screening, and incendiary purposes. White phosphorus munitions, upon explosion, distribute particles over a wide swath of area. They burn spontaneously in the air and will continue to burn until all white phosphorus particles have disappeared. The smoke easily penetrates clothing and protective gear and can burn a person’s flesh to the bone. [Democracy Now!, 11/8/2005; GlobalSecurity (.org), 11/9/2005] According to Jeff Englehart, a US soldier involved in the seige of Fallujah, “Phosphorus burns bodies, in fact it melts the flesh all the way down to the bone.… Phosphorus explodes and forms a cloud. Anyone within a radius of 150 meters is done for.” [Independent, 11/8/2004]
Iraqi Witnesses Allege Use of Incendiary Weapons - “Poisonous gases have been used in Fallujah,” 35-year-old trader from Fallujah Abu Hammad tells reporter Dahr Jamail. “They used everything—tanks, artillery, infantry, poison gas. Fallujah has been bombed to the ground.” Another resident, Abu Sabah, from the Julan area, explains: “They used these weird bombs that put up smoke like a mushroom cloud. Then small pieces fall from the air with long tails of smoke behind them.” He says the pieces then explode into large fires that burn the skin even when water is applied. “People suffered so much from these,” he adds. [Inter Press Service, 11/26/2003] Corroborating their accounts, the San Francisco Chronicle reports that some “Insurgents reported being attacked with a substance that melted their skin, a reaction consistent with white phosphorous burns.” Kamal Hadeethi, a physician at a regional hospital, tells the newspaper, “The corpses of the mujahedeen which we received were burned, and some corpses were melted.” [San Francisco Chronicle, 11/10/2004]
Alternate Explanation - Lieutenant Colonel Steve Boylan, in November 2005, will deny that US troops used white phosphorus gas against people in Fallujah. “I know of no cases where people were deliberately targeted by the use of white phosphorus,” he tells Democracy Now. “White phosphorus is used for obscuration, which white phosphorus produces a heavy thick smoke to shield us or them from view so that they cannot see what we are doing. It is used to destroy equipment, to destroy buildings. That is what white phosphorus shells are used for.” He insists that the pictures showing melted corpses with clothing still intact is not proof of white phosphorus attacks. “That can happen from numerous ways and not just from white phosphorus attacks. That can happen from massive explosions. If you look at the car bombs that the terrorists use today, you have the same effects from car bombs from suicide vests. I have personally witnessed these things here in Baghdad.” [Democracy Now!, 11/8/2005]
Pentagon Confirms Use of White Phosphorus against 'Enemy Combatants' - The Pentagon, however, does not deny that the weapon was used against human targets. On November 14, 2005, spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Barry Venables says that white phosphorus was used to “fire at the enemy.” He adds: “It burns.… It’s an incendiary weapon. That is what it does.” [Independent, 11/15/2005] “It was used as an incendiary weapon against enemy combatants.” [BBC, 11/16/2005]
Against US Army Policy - In 1980, the Convention on Conventional Weapons banned the use of incendiary devices, like white phosphorous, in heavily populated areas. The United States was one of the few countries that refused to sign the agreement (see October 10, 1980-December 2, 1983). Even so, an instruction manual used by the US Army Command and General Staff School (CGSC) at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas states that “it is against the law of land warfare to employ WP against personnel targets.” [Independent, 11/19/2005]
First-Hand Accounts - There are a number of first-hand accounts of the battle, as well as video footage and photographs, suggesting the use of white phosphorus against human targets.
bullet Jeff Englehart, who is in a tactical attack center about 200 meters from where a lot of the explosions that are happening [Democracy Now!, 11/8/2005] , later recalls: “I heard the order to pay attention because they were going to use white phosphorus on Fallujah. In military jargon it’s known as Willy Pete.… I saw the burned bodies of women and children.” [Rainews24 (Italy), 11/2005]
bullet Photographs provided by the Studies Centre of Human Rights in Fallujah [Rainews24 (Italy), 11/2005] include numerous high-quality, color close-ups of bodies of Fallujah residents, some still in their beds, whose clothes remain largely intact but whose skin has been dissolved or caramelized by the shells. [Independent, 11/8/2004]
bullet A documentary, titled Fallujah: The Hidden Massacre, broadcast on Italian news channel RAI a year after the assault shows helicopters launching white phosphorus munitions directly into the city. [Rainews24 (Italy), 11/2005] According to the RAI film, the US has attempted to destroy filmed evidence of the alleged use of white phosphorus on civilians in Falluja. [Rainews24 (Italy), 11/2005; BBC, 11/8/2005]
bullet A March 2005 US Army report written by three US artillery men who participated in the siege will confirm that white phosphorus was used against human targets during the siege. “WP proved to be an effective and versatile munition. We used it for screening missions at two breeches and, later in the fight, as a potent psychological weapon against the insurgents in trench lines and spider holes when we could not get effects on them with HE [High Explosive weapons]. We fired ‘shake and bake’ missions at the insurgents, using WP to flush them out and HE to take them out.” [Field Artillery, 3/2005 pdf file; Independent, 11/15/2005]

Entity Tags: Steve Boylan, Abu Sabah, Abu Hammad, United States

Timeline Tags: Iraq under US Occupation

Category Tags: Key Events, Incendiary Weapons, Combat Actions and Events

In a 233-page ruling, District Judge Jack B. Weinstein dismisses a lawsuit against US chemical companies that supplied the military with Agent Orange during the ‘60s and ‘70s. The lawsuit was filed by a group of lawyers on behalf of a million or so Vietnamese, seeking compensation for the effects of the toxic defoliant, which was sprayed on at least 3,181 villages during the Vietnam War (see 1960-1973). Agent Orange has been linked to cancer, diabetes and birth defects among Vietnamese soldiers, civilians and American veterans. Lawyers for Monsanto Co., Dow Chemical Co., Hercules Inc., and more than a dozen other companies argued that they were just following the legal orders of the commander-in-chief. “We’ve said all along that any issues regarding wartime activities should be resolved by the US and Vietnamese governments,” Scot Wheeler, a spokesman for Dow Chemical, claimed. “We believe that defoliants saved lives by protecting allied forces from enemy ambush and did not create adverse health effects.” Coming to the defense of the chemical companies, the Justice Department filed a brief asserting that a ruling against the firms could cripple the president’s powers to direct US armed forces in wartime. In his ruling Judge Weinstein concludes that the plaintiffs did not prove that Agent Orange had caused their illnesses. “The fact that diseases were experienced by some people after spraying does not suffice to provide general or specific causation,” Weinstein writes. “There is no basis for any of the claims of plaintiffs under the domestic law of any nation or state or under any form of international law. The case is dismissed.” [BBC, 3/10/2005; Associated Press, 3/10/2005]

Entity Tags: Monsanto, Hercules, Inc., Jack B. Weinstein, Dow Chemical

Category Tags: Chemical Weapons, Veterans Affairs

A new report finds that the Defense Department (DoD) is displaying a “precipitous decrease in attention” to securing and controlling US nuclear arms. The report, issued today by the Defense Science Board, is the product of a task force assigned to investigate the August 2007 incident where a B-52 bomber flew across the continental United States carrying six nuclear missiles (see August 30, 2007). The report says, “The decline in DoD focus has been more pronounced than realized and too extreme to be acceptable.” The chairman of the task force, retired Air Force General Larry Welch, testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee in conjunction with the report, and tells the assembled lawmakers of his concern that “the nation and its leadership do not value the nuclear mission and the people who perform that mission.” Welch’s task force points out that Air Force colonels, Navy captains, and mid-level civilians are currently in charge of managing the Pentagon’s nuclear programs, whereas during the Cold War that task was handled by senior flag officers. The task force recommends the appointment of an assistant secretary of defense for nuclear enterprise reporting directly to the defense secretary, and the delegation of flag officers in each of the military services who would focus solely on the nation’s nuclear arsenal. Part of the problem, the report notes, is the “widespread perception in both the Navy and Air Force that a nuclear forces career is not the highly promising opportunity of the past era.” [Washington Post, 2/13/2008]

Entity Tags: US Department of Defense, Larry Welch, Defense Science Board, Senate Armed Services Committee

Category Tags: US Military Dominance, Nuclear Weapons

Time reports on a brewing conflict between President Barack Obama and his Defense Secretary, Robert Gates, over the idea of replacing America’s aging nuclear arsenal. Gates, a holdover from the Bush administration, favors putting the $100 billion Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) Program into effect, because the nation’s nuclear weapons, many produced in the 1970s and 1980s, are becoming old and possibly unreliable. In a November 2008 speech, Gates called the RRW program “not about new capabilities but about safety, reliability, and security.” After Obama selected Gates to remain at the Pentagon, Gates told reporters that Congress must fund the RRW “for safety, for security, and for a more reliable deterrent.” Obama disagrees. After taking the oath of office on January 20, he declared on the new White House Web site’s policy section that his administration “will stop the development of new nuclear weapons.” Nuclear defense expert Michael O’Hanlon describes Obama and Gates “at loggerheads on this.” A Pentagon official asked about the issue says he doesn’t think Obama and Gates have discussed the matter as yet. Many experts such as O’Hanlon suggest retooling existing warheads to ensure their efficacy and functionality, but the Energy Department’s National Nuclear Security Administration, responsible for developing and maintaining the US nuclear arsenal, has said it cannot meet the goals set for RRW by modifying existing weapons. Congress has repeatedly refused to fund RRW. Gates has argued that by enhancing and retooling the nuclear arsenal, the US could afford to dramatically shrink its numbers. Time reporter Mark Thompson explains the logic of Gates’s argument: “After all, if you have only a 50 percent level of confidence that a nuclear weapon is going to perform as advertised, you’ll need twice as many.” Critics note that US policy tends to, in Thompson’s words, “embrace the notion that all nuclear weapons possessed by adversaries will work, while those possessed by the US won’t.” [Time, 1/26/2009]

Entity Tags: Reliable Replacement Warhead Program, Barack Obama, Bush administration (43), Michael O’Hanlon, Robert M. Gates, US Department of Energy, Mark Thompson, US Department of Defense

Category Tags: Arms Proliferation, Nuclear Weapons

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