Bush approved use of tear gas in Iraq today. This pretty much validates the possession of chem warfare suits by the Iraqis. Turns out that when the Senate ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention way back when, they added language permitting battlefield use of riot-control agents with presidental approval.
The CWC defines toxic chemicals as “Any chemical which through its chemical action on life processes can cause death, temporary incapacitation or permanent harm to humans or animals.” So tear gas definitely qualifies. It also mentions (in the same article) that domestic riot control is not prohibited. Iraq’s hardly domestic, of course.
And, just to round things out, these two quotes — “Each State Party to this Convention undertakes never under any circumstances… To use chemical weapons,” and “Each State Party undertakes not to use riot control agents as a method of warfare.” There you go.
The Pentagon is arguing that the CWC doesn’t prohibit using the agents for defensive purposes, but that’s fairly obviously untrue. Well, no; it’s true given the way in which we modified it. A while back I was arguing about the legal validity of treaties, such as the UN Charter, and I mentioned that if Congress had an obligation to take treaties seriously; this kind of modification is what I was talking about. We’re clear on this from a legal point of view. How our allies will react, I dunno. Britain isn’t going to use them, and won’t even allow troops to be in operations where they’re used.
The reason the un-modified CWC prohibits riot control chemical weapons is pretty simple, by the by. The four previous major uses of chemical weapons on the battlefield in the past (including the Iraq/Iran war) all started with non-lethal agents. It’s not namby-pambyness, it’s practicality and an awareness of history.
Thanks to gwen for the news.