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OfflineEllis Dee
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A historical perspective on the US and chemical weapons
    #1435270 - 04/07/03 04:57 AM (13 years, 7 months ago)

In Past Debates, U.S. Defended
The Use of Chemical Weapons

What's so terrifying about chemical warfare?

"Chemical warfare is the most humane method of waging war," argued Brig. Gen. Augustin Prentiss, head of the U.S. Army's Chemical Warfare Service, in 1937. "The suffering caused by chemical action is, on the whole, far less than that resulting from the dismembering violence of explosives."

Chemical warfare dates back to primitive humans, who used smoky fires to drive enemies or animals out of caves. But in 1899, when leaders of 26 nations met at The Hague to establish rules for future wars, most agreed that while poison gas had never been used on a large scale during war, it should nonetheless be banned in the future.

The U.S. was one of the few dissenters. "[It] is illogical and not demonstrably humane to be tender about asphyxiating man with gas," argued Capt. Alfred Mahan of the U.S. Navy, "when … it is allowable to blow the bottom out of an ironclad at midnight throwing 400 or 500 men into the sea to be asphyxiated by water."

The Hague Convention applied only to "projectiles" whose "sole purpose" was to deliver noxious gas. During World War I, every major army found a way to circumvent this compact. In the spring of 1915, the German army embedded canisters of chlorine gas on a windswept battlefield near Ypres, Belgium, and waited for favorable meteorological conditions. The surprised British and French cried foul, but the rest of the war turned into a seesaw between developing more lethal gases and developing better gear to protect against those gases.

Yet even as their armies packed more poison into more weapons, many military and government leaders felt there was something not quite sporting about chemical warfare -- it seemed too far removed from the man-to-man engagements of the classical battlefield. With conventional artillery, soldiers in the trenches felt somewhat shielded, but there was no outrunning a cloud of gas. And a defeated soldier in a gas attack did not have the option of surrendering.

The chemical casualties in World War I were devastating, especially in soldiers exposed to mustard gas , the "king of gases," which blistered and burned any exposed skin, including eyes and lungs. Chemical warfare also exacted a harsh psychological toll called "gas fright." Although soldiers were trained to don their gas masks and protective garb in seconds, they could never be totally confident they were protected from the latest concoction. And once released into the atmosphere, chemicals could do unpredictable things, such as kill innocent civilians.

When the U.S. entered World War I in 1917, its chemical industry lagged far behind that of Germany. The government soon established a chemical-weapon research facility, the Edgewood Arsenal in Maryland, which produced mustard and other gases for use in Europe. Had Germany not surrendered when it did, a war department official later said, "our offensive in 1919, in my opinion, would have been a walk to Berlin, due to chemical warfare."

By the time the war ended, there were more than one million gas casualties world-wide, of whom about 78,000 had died, according to James W. Hammond Jr., author of "Poison Gas: The Myths Versus Reality."

Not long after armistice, the debate over the morality of chemical weapons flared up again. Some people, particularly the military and the Chemical Foundation, an industry trade association, saw gas as an implement of war no more brutal than bayonets or machine guns. "Besides being wounded, I have been buried alive, and on several occasions in peacetime I have been asphyxiated to the point of unconsciousness," wrote J.B.S. Haldane in his 1925 book, "Callinicus: A Defense of Chemical Warfare." "The pain and discomfort arising from those experiences were utterly negligible compared with those produced by a good septic shell wound."

The American Legion, like most veterans groups, lobbied to keep America stocked with chemical weapons. But the International Committee of the Red Cross, and other political leaders and humanitarian groups, called poison weapons "a barbaric invention which science is bringing to perfection."

In 1925, an American delegation to the Geneva Conference signed a treaty prohibiting the use of poison gas in war. They expected no difficulty getting U.S. Senate ratification.

They were wrong. "It is against all human nature to expect a nation to deny to itself the use of a weapon that will save it," argued Sen. James Wadsworth. The Senate didn't vote on the treaty, and it faded from public consciousness. Not until 1975 did the U.S. ratify the Geneva Protocol.

Today's chemical agents are far more lethal than the ones used in World War I. Exposure to a tiny amount of the nerve agent sarin can cause death in less than 10 minutes. Other modern weapons are also more deadly -- the so-called daisy cutter bomb can ignite a fireball that destroys everything around it as far as 900 feet. Somehow, though, chemicals still seem more alarming.

"Gas," noted Gen. Amos Fries, first head of America's Chemical Warfare Service, "has unfortunately, among those who are unacquainted with it, the power of ghost stories over the imagination."

_________
My opinion, the use of gas is no more barbaric than the use of napalm to burn people to death which the USA does all the time. It's just another weapon, and a good one. All weapons have a place in a well stocked arsenol, IMO.


--------------------
"If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do."-King Solomon

And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,


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OfflineWaldarbeiter
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Re: A historical perspective on the US and chemical weapons [Re: Ellis Dee]
    #1435481 - 04/07/03 09:12 AM (13 years, 7 months ago)

got a link regarding chemical warfare: Fritz Haber. He gave us synthetic fertilizer, but on the other hand weapons of mass destruction (gas), which he found to be "human"(!?)
http://www.nobel.se/chemistry/laureates/1918/haber-bio.html



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InvisibleinfidelGOD
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Re: A historical perspective on the US and chemical weapons [Re: Ellis Dee]
    #1435490 - 04/07/03 09:18 AM (13 years, 7 months ago)

My opinion, the use of gas is no more barbaric than the use of napalm to burn people to death which the USA does all the time. It's just another weapon, and a good one

That's some twisted logic.


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OfflineEllis Dee
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Re: A historical perspective on the US and chemical weapons [Re: infidelGOD]
    #1435520 - 04/07/03 09:38 AM (13 years, 7 months ago)

If it's ok to burn enemies to death with napalm why is it not ok to kill them with gas? They both inflict very brief suffering before death. Personally I'd fear a nerve gas attack less than an explosive attack. I have no fear of death, but I do fear dismemberment and blindness. To me, it would be the lesser of evils to be quickly and humanely killed with gas than have my limbs blown off with explosives. This may be harsh or disturbing to you, but I've thought it out and I don't believe it's twisted.


--------------------
"If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do."-King Solomon

And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,


Edited by Ellis Dee (04/07/03 09:39 AM)


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InvisibleinfidelGOD
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Re: A historical perspective on the US and chemical weapons [Re: Ellis Dee]
    #1435539 - 04/07/03 09:51 AM (13 years, 7 months ago)

Gas attacks humane? what if it doesn't kill you but just leaves you with neurological damage? it might be a quick death for some, it'll be a lifetime of misery for many others.

What about this from the article:
"a defeated soldier in a gas attack did not have the option of surrendering."
really humane...

But besides that it was just the logic you used to justify it that struck me:
"the use of gas is no more barbaric than the use of napalm" which implies that if we are already doing something evil, it's ok to do something equally bad. You could justify just about anything using this logic.


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Anonymous

Re: A historical perspective on the US and chemical weapons [Re: infidelGOD]
    #1435560 - 04/07/03 10:02 AM (13 years, 7 months ago)

My opinion, the use of gas is no more barbaric than the use of napalm to burn people to death which the USA does all the time. It's just another weapon, and a good one

That's some twisted logic.

how so? sounds perfectly fine to me.


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OfflineEllis Dee
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Re: A historical perspective on the US and chemical weapons [Re: infidelGOD]
    #1435564 - 04/07/03 10:03 AM (13 years, 7 months ago)

Quote:

What about this from the article:
"a defeated soldier in a gas attack did not have the option of surrendering."
really humane...

But besides that it was just the logic you used to justify it that struck me:
"the use of gas is no more barbaric than the use of napalm" which implies that if we are already doing something evil, it's ok to do something equally bad. You could justify just about anything using this logic.




So they can't surrender? They die. That's war.

War is evil. Using high explosives, napalm, gas, lasers, and boobytraps to kill people could all be called evil. It's also an essential part of warfare. To deny yourself a useful tool or weapons system is foolish. It's kill or be killed. It's primitive, the strong survive.


--------------------
"If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do."-King Solomon

And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,


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InvisibleinfidelGOD
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Re: A historical perspective on the US and chemical weapons [Re: Ellis Dee]
    #1435577 - 04/07/03 10:10 AM (13 years, 7 months ago)

War is evil. Using high explosives, napalm, gas, lasers, and boobytraps to kill people could all be called evil. It's also an essential part of warfare. To deny yourself a useful tool or weapons system is foolish. It's kill or be killed. It's primitive, the strong survive.

Wait, just a minute ago you were talking about being humane... now this?


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Anonymous

Re: A historical perspective on the US and chemical weapons [Re: infidelGOD]
    #1435587 - 04/07/03 10:15 AM (13 years, 7 months ago)

Gas attacks humane?

not humane, but humane as any of the other forms of modern warfare.

what if it doesn't kill you but just leaves you with neurological damage? it might be a quick death for some, it'll be a lifetime of misery for many others.

which can be said of any other battlefield weapons, probably with more accuracy. people get killed and maimed in war.

"a defeated soldier in a gas attack did not have the option of surrendering."

nor does a soldier being shelled by artillery, or cluster bombs, or napalm, etc.

But besides that it was just the logic you used to justify it that struck me:
"the use of gas is no more barbaric than the use of napalm" which implies that if we are already doing something evil, it's ok to do something equally bad. You could justify just about anything using this logic.

the logic here is that in war we use weapons. we use the best weapons available. whether something is 'humane' or not should of course always remain a consideration, but attacking chemical weapons for being 'inhumane' is ridiculous because the fact is that they are not more 'inhumane' than any of the other time-honored and 'accepted' weapons used in waging war.

You could justify just about anything using this logic.

no, you can't justify just about anything using that logic.

you cannot justify dropping nuclear weapons on civilians, because you cannot argue that "dropping nuclear weapons on civilians is no less humane than conventional methods of waging war".

you cannot justify mass execution of POWs because you cannot argue that "mass execution of POWs is no less humane than conventional methods of waging war".

but you CAN justify the use of chemical weapons because you CAN make the argument that "the use of chemical weapons is no less humane than conventional methods of waging war". this is just what the article sets out to do, and if you read it with unbiased eyes, you'd see that it does it quite well.







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InvisibleinfidelGOD
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Re: A historical perspective on the US and chemical weapons [Re: ]
    #1435612 - 04/07/03 10:34 AM (13 years, 7 months ago)

What do you feel about the use of tactical nukes? They don't target civilians, they can wipe out a whole army though. Really effective... and humane.

we have plenty of them. just like we have tons of chemical weapons.
why don't we use them on a regular basis?

you know the answer.


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OfflineI_Fart_Blue
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Re: A historical perspective on the US and chemical weapons [Re: Ellis Dee]
    #1435628 - 04/07/03 10:48 AM (13 years, 7 months ago)

Quote:

They both inflict very brief suffering before death. Personally I'd fear a nerve gas attack less than an explosive attack.




By the time the war ended, there were more than one million gas casualties world-wide, of whom about 78,000 had died, according to James W. Hammond Jr., author of "Poison Gas: The Myths Versus Reality."

Well, a 7.8% fatality rate out of a million casulties....you're talking 922,000 who experienced very extreme suffering for years. My grandfather was injured in WWII in the pacific by a phosphorus grenade. He's lived with his dibilitating injuries for almost his entire life. He experienced 3rd degree burns over 20% of his body. Had it been a standard fragmentation grenade he probably would have died. Don't fool you'reself into thinking that chemical weapons are in anyway humane. You may die from asphyxiation from some of them....only because your lungs melt. I'll take my chances with a bomb or a bullet over chemical weapons any day of the week.


--------------------
"A study of the history of opinion is a necessary preliminary to the emancipation of the mind. I do not know which makes a man more conservative-to know nothing but the present, or nothing but the past." -John Maynard Keynes


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Anonymous

Re: A historical perspective on the US and chemical weapons [Re: I_Fart_Blue]
    #1435635 - 04/07/03 10:58 AM (13 years, 7 months ago)

phosporous grenades are incendiary devices. they are conventional weapons. (not chemical weaponry).


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InvisibleinfidelGOD
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Re: A historical perspective on the US and chemical weapons [Re: ]
    #1435642 - 04/07/03 11:01 AM (13 years, 7 months ago)

miss the part about the "922,000 who experienced very extreme suffering for years"?


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OfflineI_Fart_Blue
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Re: A historical perspective on the US and chemical weapons [Re: ]
    #1435644 - 04/07/03 11:02 AM (13 years, 7 months ago)

damn, you're right...well they suck too :wink:


--------------------
"A study of the history of opinion is a necessary preliminary to the emancipation of the mind. I do not know which makes a man more conservative-to know nothing but the present, or nothing but the past." -John Maynard Keynes


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Anonymous

Re: A historical perspective on the US and chemical weapons [Re: infidelGOD]
    #1435651 - 04/07/03 11:10 AM (13 years, 7 months ago)

why don't we use them on a regular basis?

because since the development of these weapons, there hasn't been any conflict in which it would have been necessary to use them. had we had tactical nuclear weapons in WW2, we'd have used them.

right now, we get by just fine using conventional weapons, and do not need to inflame international resentment by unnecessarily using tactical nukes.

we've got a 22,000 pound bomb that does as much damage as a tactical nuke. it's a conventional weapon though. does that make it more humane?

you know the answer.

yes, i do know the answer. and if you think that it's "because it's inhumane", while in the meantime, we're dropping cluster bombs and napalm, and using landmines, you need to have your head examined.

the reason we don't use 'unconventional' weapons frequently is because there is a stigma against them. this stigma is unfounded, but that's beside the point. we're not going to use such weapons if we don't have to, because our napalm and cluster munitions do the job quite well enough, without pissing off quite as many people.


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Anonymous

Re: A historical perspective on the US and chemical weapons [Re: infidelGOD]
    #1435659 - 04/07/03 11:17 AM (13 years, 7 months ago)

By the time the war ended, there were more than one million gas casualties world-wide, of whom about 78,000 had died, according to James W. Hammond Jr., author of "Poison Gas: The Myths Versus Reality."

"Well, a 7.8% fatality rate out of a million casulties....you're talking 922,000 who experienced very extreme suffering for years. "

this is assuming that every 'casualty' of poison gas who wasn't killed "experienced very extreme suffering for years". by the same token, i could argue that every casualty of conventional warfare who wasn't killed experienced the same suffering. people get wounded and maimed in warfare.

you seem to be having trouble clearly outlining the argument you're presenting, but i think i see what you're getting at:

you're trying to argue that chemical weapons are inhumane on the grounds that they have a tendency to inflict debilitating, painful, permanent combat wounds.

is that your argument?



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InvisibleinfidelGOD
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Re: A historical perspective on the US and chemical weapons [Re: ]
    #1435668 - 04/07/03 11:22 AM (13 years, 7 months ago)

if you think that it's "because it's inhumane", while in the meantime, we're dropping cluster bombs and napalm, and using landmines, you need to have your head examined.

Not what I had in mind, but go ahead with your assumptions, obviously unbiased as you are. Remember I didn't bring up the humane issue, Rail Gun was touting chemical weapons as a "humane" alternative to conventional warfare.

you did mention what I had in mind though:
we get by just fine using conventional weapons, and do not need to inflame international resentment by unnecessarily using tactical nukes.

same goes for chemical weapons doesn't it? we're doing more than just fine without them, we're kicking ass without them. why would we ever need them? furthermore, what kind of people would actually use these weapons?

These are weapons of desperation, used from a position of weakness. Like tactical nukes, they are TOO effective, almost cowardly, and definitly not an honorable way to fight.


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OfflineI_Fart_Blue
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Re: A historical perspective on the US and chemical weapons [Re: ]
    #1435670 - 04/07/03 11:22 AM (13 years, 7 months ago)

Me? No, that is the nature of all weapons. My argument was more that all weapons are inhumane, and chemical weapons are no different. They aren't like some sort of magic knockout gas that sends you into some sort of fairy land and then you die.


--------------------
"A study of the history of opinion is a necessary preliminary to the emancipation of the mind. I do not know which makes a man more conservative-to know nothing but the present, or nothing but the past." -John Maynard Keynes


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Offlineflow
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Re: A historical perspective on the US and chemical weapons [Re: ]
    #1435727 - 04/07/03 11:53 AM (13 years, 7 months ago)

Quote:

and if you think that it's "because it's inhumane", while in the meantime, we're dropping cluster bombs and napalm, and using landmines, you need to have your head examined.



umm, when was the last time the US has used land mines? How about napalm? I'm not positive, but i believe both were last used in Vietnam, land mines may have been korea. As for cluster bombs, well they are incredibly effective at taking out large numbers of dug-in troops, and really aren't much different from other conventional weapons.
In my opinion, the only reason a weapon should not be used is if it is likely to cause unnecessary civilian casualites, and chem and bio weapons are more likely to do this than conventional weapons. In the end though, war sucks, and if the US was invaded one day, you can be sure we wouldn't hesitate to break out the Vx gas.


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Anonymous

Re: A historical perspective on the US and chemical weapons [Re: infidelGOD]
    #1435767 - 04/07/03 12:08 PM (13 years, 7 months ago)

ok.... what i'm getting at is that chemical weapons are no less inhumane than 'conventional weapons'. whether the killing and maiming is done by flying bits of explosive-driven metal, burning jellied gasoline, or poisonous gas isn't important.

you did mention what I had in mind though:

we get by just fine using conventional weapons, and do not need to inflame international resentment by unnecessarily using tactical nukes.

same goes for chemical weapons doesn't it? we're doing more than just fine without them, we're kicking ass without them. why would we ever need them? furthermore, what kind of people would actually use these weapons?

yes, the same does go for chemical weapons. we don't need them, we're kicking ass without them, and we don't need to inflame international resentment by using them. that's why they aren't used. not because they're inhumane, because contrary to the stigma attached to them, they aren't. if there wasn't such a stigma attached to their use, we'd sure as hell be letting loose with the chemical weapons whenever tactically advantagous.

furthermore, what kind of people would actually use these weapons?

people who's need for effective weaponry outweighs their concern for international opinion.


ok... we need a working definition of "inhumane" as applied to weapons and tactics of war. i suggest:

inhumane:

1. causing civilian casualties.
2. leaving dangerous conditions that will persist long after war ends.
3. causing widespread environmental damage.
4. causing unnecessary pain and suffering.
5. killing, torturing, or otherwise mistreating surrendering enemies or POWs.

by all criteria, war itself is inhumane. the weapons and tactics used in warfare are violent. war is hell. whenever possible, steps should be taken to minimize all of the above categories. as long as war is war though, they will never be eliminated. it is the degree of the 'inhumane-ness' that is in question here.

cluster bombs and landmines are in my opinion, very inhumane, because they litter the battlefield with unexploded munitions which wind up killing and maiming civilians for years to come.

nuclear weapons cause long-term environmental damage and greatly affect civilian populations for years.

bombing cities indescriminately kills civilians and so is inhumane.

by any of the above criteria, chemical weapons cannot be said to be more inhumane than 'conventional' weapons. certain chemical attacks could be, such as poisoning water sources. the use of short-acting, quickly dissipated poison gas against enemy troops however, is by no standards less humane than dropping explosives or burning fuel on them.

Like tactical nukes, they are TOO effective

this is ultimately what it all boils down to.. them being too effective. we can always all agree to fight with a hand tied behind our backs for the sake of 'humane-ness', but when somebody starts losing, they're just gonna untie their hand, and then all the rules get thrown out the window on both sides.

they are TOO effective, almost cowardly, and definitly not an honorable way to fight.

that's the same thing as was said about firearms when they were first invented and used in warfare.









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