New Telegraph

February 29, 2024

The challenge of chemical weapons

 

Chemical weapons are chemical agents whether gaseous, liquid, or solid, that are employed because of their direct toxic effects on humans, animals and plants. They inflict damage when inhaled, absorbed through the skin, or ingested in food or drink.

Some of them are chlorine, lewisite, mustard, phosgene, sarin, soman, and tabun. They fall into four major classes: nerve, blister, choking and blood agents. Ben Wallace as British Defence Secretary in 2021 reportedly warned that a breakdown in the international order has led to a growing threat of chemical attacks around the world.

Wallace said some regimes around the world increasingly believed it was acceptable to use nerve agents and pathogens against their opponents. Only recently the Turkish Police detained the president of the country’s medical association, Sebnem Fincanci , after she called for a probe into the use of chemical weapons against Kurdish militants in northern Iraq.

 

This was in response to the fighters release of names and photos of people portrayed as alleged ‘martyrs’ killed by poison gas in the region.

Turkish officials strongly rejected the allegations that its military used chemical weapons against the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The group however, is considered a terrorist organisation in Turkey, Europe and the United States that must be exterminated. Despite the dangers of chemical weapons, state-sponsored scientists continue to develop the weapons under various guises around the world.

 

A Pentagon factsheet released on June 9 this year read that US government sponsored civilian laboratories and health care institutes in Ukraine as part of a peaceful campaign during the past 20 years. Commenting on the Pentagon factsheet, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Zhao Lijian, demanded that the US disclose full and detailed information about the activity of the US military laboratories in Ukraine, especially when it has been stated that during the special military operation in Ukraine, foreign officials discovered evidence pointing to an emergency clean up by the Kiev regime of traces of a military biological programme conducted in Ukraine and financed by the US Defense Department.

The Defense Department reportedly gave out millions of dollars to EcoHealth Alliance, the New York city-based non-profit organisation that funnelled federal grant money to the Wuhan Institute of Virology for bat coronavirus research – with most of the Pentagon money reportedly going toward murky research on countering biological weapons.

 

In fact Eco-Health Alliance has already come under scrutiny for redirecting funds from the National Institute of Health (NIH) to the Chinese lab, from where many believe COVID – 19 leaked to set off the worst pandemic in a century.

Richard Ebright, a professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Rutgers University and Lab Director at the school’s Waksman Institute of Microbiology, told the New York Post that such grants from the defense and intelligence communities are distributed “outside the normal processes” for such research, with no transparency and oversight beyond what can be provided by the members of congress.

For several years, the USA Today conducted an investigation into the biosecurity of US germ labs and found systematic safety failures and repeated non-compliance to safety procedures with US GAO – the investigative arm of Congress – reaching similar conclusions regarding these lapses.

 

For example, in 2015 the Pentagon discovered that one of its laboratories in Dugway Proving Ground, Utah, had inadvertently sent live anthrax to almost 200 laboratories worldwide over the course of 12 years, because the lab’s “inactivation” (removal of hazardous effects) of the pathogen was found to be incomplete. In the latest warning regarding DNA testing, two US Representatives have reportedly warned that DNA testing could lead to genespecific bioweapons.

 

The use and possession of chemical weapons is prohibited under international law but several nations continue to maintain active chemical weapons programmes. The alarm raised by Wallace last year of the growing threat of chemical attacks around the world was justified recently when the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the government of the Kingdom of Morocco brought together medical emergency response experts from African countries in Rabat, and trained them on toxic chemical incident preparedness for hospitals (HOSPREP).

 

Ibrahim writes from Kaduna

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