Arms History

Mai Nhia Xiong
Part of Iraq & Our Energy Future, by students of
Geography 378 (International Environmental Problems & Policy)
at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, USA, Spring 2003.


      "In no future war will the military be able to ignore poison gas. It is a higher form of killing."
    --German professor Fritz Haber, pioneer of gas warfare, upon receiving the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1919.

    It is simply not enough anymore that in these modern times biological and chemical weapons are being used in combat. Sudden occurrences of communicable diseases still plague our modern society just as they did during medieval times, only now, man can purposely inflict such terrible and uncurable illness upon eachother through bio-chemical warfare.

    Global Overview

    As found on the PBS NOVA online website, , the first documented occurrences of biochemicals being used in warfare date back to the early 1300's through the1400's. When loaded with diseased bodies, wood-frame catapults were biological weapons.

    Catapults, such as these, were filled with corpses, and hurled at enemies in a primitive form of biological warfare.

    Human corpses, whose foul smell was known to carry disease if not disposed of properly, were used as a type of ammunition in battle. Later on, during the American Revolution, British troops many times inoculated persons on purpose in order to infiltrate the Continental Army. In 1763 in an infamous moment in history, British General Jeffrey Amherst had blankets laden with smallpox soldiers given directly to the Native Americans during what should have been a peace negotiations.

    World War I was the first time biological or chemical warfare was documented in battle and appplied on a substantial magnitude. Beginning with the Germans, they used their technologically advanced chemical industries to create the first simple chemical weapons. With the upper hand these new munitions provided, Germany was able to sustain some victories in battle. However unfortunate ecologically, the Allies soon caught on and began their own biological campaign in the war thus setting the eternal tone that chemical arms and their combative gear was not only very much a present factor in war, but completely necessary. Though chemical weapons was not what changed the outcome of the war, it greatly increased the deaths on both sides.

    By this time, the world was coming to terms with the power of biological sabotage. Wars were being fought in which animals were given fatal diseases such as anthrax, found naturally in animals, but when purposely cause deaths of great proportions. The Geneva Protocol was created in 1925, only the U.S. Senate would not ratify it until 50 years later. In it, it stated that all countries which signed would hence forth cease and desist in the use of bacteriological methods of warfare, and those who violated the rulings of the protocol would be prosecuted. In 1972 a multi-lateral treaty that banned dangerous biological weapons was created, its ultimate goal was total eradication of weapon systems however allowing room for defensive work to be done in the area.. By the 1996, 137 countries had signed the treaty.

    In 1992 the UN Sustainable Development decided to implement "Agenda 21" after 178 countries voted in support of it at the UN Conference on Environment that same year. Though the agenda was an effort to have cooperation from major governments and groups and United Nations Systems to raise and produce awareness in humanistic matters concerning ecological matters, Section II, Chapter 16 explicitly states the direction and responsibilities of biotechnological studies, namely, bio-chemical warfare.

    One of the worst cases of biological attack occurred in recent history when sarin gas, a deadly toxin was released into the Tokyo subway system. As found on the PBS webpage, "Plague Wars:"

    "On March 20, 1995 the religious cult, Aum Shinrikyo (Supreme Truth) released sarin gas into the Tokyo subway system. Aum members had placed small containers in the trains filled with sarin gas that they then punctured during morning rush hour. Twelve people died and over 5,000 were injured. Due to the poor quality of the sarin gas and the inadequate delivery system, the casualty rate was low for a subway system that handles five million riders each day. Aum Shinrikyo was founded in 1987 by Shoko Asahara. The group had actively developed both biological and chemical weapons and are suspected of running smaller tests on the population before the subway attack." ~


    Iraq's History and Current Involvement

    Iraq's involvement with chemical and biological warfare is assumed to have its roots in Soviet military aid. As the Cold War drew to a close, some professional Soviet scientists who devoted themselves exclusively to such studies, left for the money offered in Iraq. Though Iraq lacked the sophistication that larger nations such as the Soviet Union and the United States held, it began a secret chemical weapons program of its own. According to NOVA, by 1991 Iraq had successfully created as weapons such as boltulinum toxin, anthrax, gas gangrene, aflatoxin, trichothecene, mycotoxins, wheat cover smut, ricin, hemorrhagic conjunctivitis virus, rotavirus, camel pox and many other varieties of chemical arms. After the agreement that ended the 1991 Gulf War forbade Iraq from developing weapons of mass destruction, the U.N. Special Commission (UNSCOM), spent many years inspecting Iraq. Though Iraq had previously along with the U.S., China, and many other countries signed the Biological Weapons Convention, which, similar to the Geneva Protocol prohibited the creation of any biological weapons, it is widely believed by the UNSCOM and the U.S. that Iraq had actively pursued biological weaponry.

    On February 5, of 2003 Secretary of State Colin Powell went before the United Nations Security Council to make a case for a war against Iraq through Iraqi defectors, such as former scientists of the program. Information/communication interceptions, and satellite photographs, the U.S. claimed evidence that such a program existed but Powell could not secure votes for war from the Council majority.

    Iraq's U.N. ambassador Mohammed Aldouri stated at the time though that any weapons of mass destruction were destroyed back in 1990's, and that the U.S. was using the U.N. in an attempt to invade Iraq. As he stated, found on CNN's page, "All the sites that the United States and the Britons alleged in their two recent reports produced weapons of mass destruction were repeatedly inspected, X-rayed, and environmental samples were taken, to make sure that nothing happened there," Aldouri told reporters. "The result is to prove that Iraq is clear of weapons of mass destruction" at those sites. Supporting this theory was former U.N. Weapons inspector Scott Ritter, who also claimed that the previous chief of the program, Richard Butler had sold out to the United States and allowed the program to become corrupted, and affiliated with one country's wishes. As found on the CDI's website, Terrorism Project,

    CDI's Inspections Update #6 ~ Feb. 28, 2003

    ~ Endeavors to develop missiles with ranges beyond those currently allowed by U.N. resolutions.

    ~ Communications between Iraqi military officials who appeared to conspire to hide evidence of proscribed equipment and munitions.

    ~ Indications that Iraq is actively covering up evidence of a variety of banned weapon programs.

    ~ Reports that Iraq may have as many as seven mobile biological weapons production facilities for the production and weaponization of anthrax and botulinum toxin.

    ~ Imagery suggesting ongoing efforts to conceal chemical warfare agents at dual use facilities.

    ~ Imagery suggesting chemical weapons continue to be stored in munitions bunkers.

    ~ Reports that Iraq had tested an unmanned aerial vehicle intended to deliver proscribed weapons.

    ~ Reports that Iraq continues to explore ways to reconstitute its nuclear weapons program.

    ~ Reports that high strength aluminum tubes imported by Iraq were manufactured to tolerances high enough to make them suitable for centrifuges for the enrichment of uranium.


    British Prime Minister Tony Blair along with U.S. President George W. Bush the world that concealed biological weapons, the main platform of their war on Iraq, will be found, and destroyed. Hundred more bases, are still waiting to be explored extensively by Coalition troops and scientists. Dismissing any argument that chemical arms will never be uncovered to justify the war in Iraq, Tony Blair stated to CNN on April 28th, ""There is no doubt that weapons of mass destruction existed, that they have been subject to a systematic program of concealment...I am confident they will be found." The UN weapons inspectors and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan want to be part of the search, for the sake of the "credibility" of any possible discovery.

    The person known as the father of Iraq's chemical warfare program, Nassir Hindawi strongly believes as he tells CNN that the program ended back during the Gulf War Cease-fire in 1991, and with the new economic sanctions that were placed on Iraq after its invasion of Kuwait would have been enough to shut the program down permanently.

    A Short History of Biochemical Weapons

    By Dr. Zoltan Grossman
    Assistant Professor of Geography
    University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire

    400s BC.: Spartan Greeks use sulfur fumes against enemy soldiers.

    1346: Crimean Tatars catapult plague-infected corpses into Italian trade settlement.

    1500s: Spanish conquistadors use biological warfare used against Native peoples.

    1763: British Gen. Jeffrey Amherst orders use of smallpox blankets against Native peoples during Pontiac's Rebellion.

    1800s: Smallpox and other diseases ravage Native American communities; U.S. officials use quarantine techniques to
    isolate diseases in white communities, but not in Native villages.

    1907: Hague Convention outlaws chemical weapons; U.S. does not participate.

    1914: World War I begins; poison gas produces 100,000 deaths, 900,000 injuries.

    1920s: Britain proposes use of chemical weapons in Iraq "as an experiment" against Kurdish rebels seeking independence; Winston Churchill "strongly" backs "the use of poisoned gas against uncivilised tribes."

    1928: Geneva Protocol prohibits gas and bacteriological warfare; most countries that ratify it prohibit only the first use of such weapons.

    1935: Italy begins conquest of Abyssinia (Ethiopia), using mustard gas.

    1936: Japan invades China, uses chemical weapons in war.

    1939: World War II begins; neither side uses bio-chemical arms, due to fears of retaliation in kind.

    1941: U.S. enters World War II; President Roosevelt pledges U.S. will not be first to use bio-chemical weapons.

    1943: U.S. ship damaged by German bombing raid on Bari, Italy, leaks mustard gas, killing 1000.

    1945: Germans use Zyklon-B in extermination of civilians. Japanese military discovered to have conducted biological warfare experiments on POWs, killing 3000. U.S. shields officers in charge from war crimes trials, in return for data. Soviets take over German nerve gas facility in Potsdam. The Nazis had stockpiles of nerve gas against which the Allies had no defenses, and had also been working on blood agents.

    1947: U.S. possesses germ warfare weapons; President Truman withdraws Geneva Protocol from Senate consideration.

    1949: U.S. dismisses Soviet trials of Japanese for germ warfare as "propaganda." Army begins secret tests of biological agents in U.S. cities.

    1950: Korean War begins; North Korea and China accuse U.S. of germ warfare--charges still not proven. San Francisco disease outbreak matching Army bacteria used on city.

    1951: African-Americans exposed to potentially fatal simulant in Virginia test of race-specific fungal weapons.

    1952: German chemical weapons researcher Walter Schreiber, working in Texas, exposed as a perpetrator of concentration camp experiments, and flees to Argentina.

    1956: Army manual explicitly states that bio-chemical warfare is not banned. Rep. Gerald Ford wins policy change to give U.S. military "first strike" authority on chemical arms.

    1959: House resolution against first use of bio-chemical weapons is defeated.

    1961: Kennedy Administration begins hike of chemical weapons spending from $75 million to more than $330 million.

    1962: Chemical weapons loaded on U.S. planes during Cuban missile crisis.

    1966: Army germ warfare experiment in New York subway system.

    1968: Pentagon asks for the chance to use some of its arsenal against protesters to demonstrate the "efficacy" of the chemicals. Maj. Gen. J.B. Medaris says, "By using gas in civil situations, we accomplish two purposes: controlling crowds and also educating people on gas. Now, everybody is being called savage if he just talks about it. But nerve gas is the only way I know of to sort out the guys in white hats from the ones in black hats without killing any of them."

    1969: Utah chemical weapons accident kills thousands of sheep; President Nixon declares U.S. moratorium on chemical weapons production and biological weapons possession. U.N. General Assembly bans use of herbicides (plant killers) and tear gasses in warfare; U.S. one of three opposing votes. U.S. has caused tear gas fatalities in Vietnamese guerrilla tunnels.

    1971: U.S. ends direct use of herbicides such as Agent Orange; had spread over Indochinese forests, and destroyed at least six percent of South Vietnamese cropland, enough to feed 600,000 people for a year. U.S. intelligence sources gives swine-flu virus to anti-Castro Cuban paramilitary group, which lands it on Cuba's southern coast (according
    to 1977 newspaper reports).

    1972: Biological and Toxic Weapons Convention. Cuba accuses CIA of instilling swine fever virus that leads to death of 500,000 hogs.

    1974: U.S. finally ratifies 1928 Geneva Protocol.

    1975: Indonesia annexes East Timor; planes spread herbicides on croplands.

    1979: Anthrax leak from Soviet biological weapons lab kills 60 near in the Ural Mountains of Russia, near Sverdlovsk.
    Washington Post reports on U.S. program against Cuban agriculture since 1962, including CIA biological warfare component. Anthrax outbreak among Africans in white-ruled Rhodesia (in the last stages of the Zimbabwe independence war) results in 10,000 cases, 182 of them fatal (according to Covert Action Quarterly #43)

    1980: U.S. intelligence officials allege Soviet chemical use in Afghanistan, while admitting "no confirmation."
    Congress approves nerve gas facility in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. Iraq begins eight-year war with U.S. arch-enemy Iran.

    1981: U.S. accuses Vietnam and allies of using mycotoxins (fungal poisons) in Laos and Cambodia. Some refugees report casualties; one analysis reveals "yellow rain" as bee feces, but questions remain. Israel bombs Iraqi nuclear reactor, leading to Iraqi decision to build chemical weapons.

    1984: U.N. confirms Iraq using mustard and nerve gasses against Iranian "human wave" attacks in border war; State Department issues mild condemnation, yet restores diplomatic relations with Iraq, and opposes U.N. action against Iraq.
    Bhopal fertilizer plant accident in India kills 2000; shows risks of chemical plants being damaged in warfare. President Reagan orders over a half-million M55 rockets retooled so they contain high-yield explosives as well as VX gas. (The Army later claimed that many of these rockets were "unstable" and leaking nerve gas.)

    1985: U.S. resumes open-air testing of biological agents. U.S. firms begin supplying Iraq with numerous biological agents for a four-year period (according to a 1994 Senate report).

    1986: U.S. resumes open-air testing of biological agents.

    1987: Senate ties in three votes on resuming production of chemical weapons; Vice President Bush breaks all three ties in favor of resumption.

    1988: Iraq uses chemical weapons against Kurdish minority in Halabjah; U.S. continues to maintain agricultural credits with Iraq; President Reagan blocks congressional sanctions against Iraq.

    1989: Paris conference of 149 nations condemns chemical weapons, urges quick ban to emerge from Geneva treaty negotiations; U.S. revealed to plan poison gas production even after treaty signed.

    1990: U.S., Soviets pledge to reduce chemical weapons stockpiles to 20 percent of current U.S. supply by 2002, and to eliminate poison gas weapons when all nations have signed future Geneva treaty. Israel admits possession of chemical weapons; Iraq threatens to use chemical weapons on Israel if it is attacked.

    1991: U.S. and Coalition forces bomb at least 28 alleged bio- chemical production or storage sites in Iraq during Gulf War, including fertilizer and other civilian plants. CNN reports "green flames" from one chemical plant, and the deaths of 50 Iraqi troops from anthrax after air strike on another site. New York Times quotes Soviet chemical weapons
    commander that air strikes on Iraqi chemical weapons would have "little effect beyond neighboring villages," but that strikes on biological weapons could spread disease "to adjoining countries." Czechoslovak chemical warfare unit detects Sarin nerve gas during air war. Egyptian doctor reports outbreak of "strange disease" inside Iraq. U.S. troops use explosives to destroy Iraqi chemical weapons storage bunkers after the war.

    1992: Reports intensify of U.S. and Coalition veterans of Gulf War developing health problems, involving a variety of symptoms, collectively called Gulf War Syndrome. U.N. sanctions intensify civilian health crisis inside Iraq, making identification of similar symptoms potentially difficult. Two members of anti-government Minnesota Patriots' Council arrested for plan to use ricin chemical against law enforcement officer.

    1993: President Clinton continues intermittent bombing and missile raids against Iraqi facilities; U.N. inspectors step up program to dismantle Iraqi weapons. U.S. signs U.N. Chemical Weapons Convention, but approval later blocked in Senate.

    1995: Japanese cult launches deadly Sarin nerve gas attack on Tokyo subway system.

    1996: Congressional hearings on Gulf War Syndrome focuses on Iraqi storage bunker destruction, rather than other possible causes, and does not call for international investigation of symptoms among Iraqis.

    1997: Cuba accuses U.S. of spraying crops with biological agents . Iraq expels U.S. citizens in U.N. inspection teams, which are allowed to continue work without Americans, but choose to evacuate all inspectors. U.S. mobilizes for military action. Senate act implements Chemical Weapons Convention, with a provision that "the President may
    deny a request to inspect any facility" on national security grounds.

    1998: Chief UN weapons inspector Richard Butler orders inspectors out of Iraq just prior to U.S. bombing. U.S. again bombs alleged Iraqi bio-chemical weapons sites, after Iraq questions role of American U.N. inspector, and restricts inspector access to presidential properties and security. U.S. launches missile attack on pharmaceutical plant in Sudan that it alleges produces nerve gas agents--a claim disputed by most of the international community.

    1998-99: Series of anthrax hoaxes against U.S. targets, such as NBC, Washington Post, State Department, White House complex, post offices. Former Aryan Nations member Larry Wayne Harris carries out anthrax hoax to dramatize warning of alleged "Iraqi threat." Three members of Republic of Texas militia group arrested for intention to use anthrax and other biological agents against public officials. Upsurge in anthrax hoaxes against abortion clinics.

    2000: "Topoff Exercise" involving federal and state authorities fails to cope with simulated chemical, biological and
    nuclear attacks in three widely separated metropolitan areas.

    2001: U.S. withdraws from July's first round of Biological and Toxic Weapons Convention (BTWC), crippling international efforts to establish global measures against bioogical weapons. In wake of September 11 attacks, anthrax spores sent by mail to multiple political and media targets around the U.S., resulting in anthrax exposures, infections, and at least 5 deaths. Law enforcement authorities debate whether source of anthrax threat is foreign or domestic; federal suspicion centers on a U.S. scientist who formerly lived in white-ruled Rhodesia (Zimbabwe). Real anthrax attacks accompanied by enormous increase in anthrax hoaxes by "Army of God" and other groups and individuals.

    2002: Bush Administration renews allegations that Iraq possesses biochemical weapons, reluctantly acquiesces in return of United Nations weapons inspectors (after four years of absence) to prove or disprove the claim. Chief UN arms inspector Hans Blix reports no evidence of renewed chemical or biological weapons programs in Iraq.

    2003: UN inspectors find evidence of Iraqi violations of ballistic missile range limits, and begin to destroy missiles. Bush Administration not satisfied with extent of UN inspection. Just prior to U.S.-U.K. invasion of Iraq, UN orders inspectors out of country. After invasion, U.S. contends it will hunt for Weapons of Mass Destruction on its own. Hans Blix and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan ask that UN be part of inspection to enhance the "credibility" of any discovery.

    Compiled from articles in "Z" magazine by Stephen Shalom and Noam Chomsky (February 1991) and Zoltan Grossman (March 1991), from the Council for a Livable World , William Blum's "Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions
    Since World War II," ADL Militia Watchdog by Mark Pitcavage
    (Feb. 1999), and from recent news reports.