Ban On Biological Weapons

The first time I knew for sure that I wasn’t cut out for a career in the Army was when I attended the CBR school in Fort McClellan, Alabama.

For me, the moment of truth came when they put one drop of nerve agent on the nose of the goat to demonstrate its effectiveness, and the goat instantly went into convulsions. It was a horrible way to watch an animal die, and it certainly wasn’t reassuring when the atropine they administered failed to revive the goat, although they were quick to reassure us that it was an effective antidote if applied quickly enough.

But nerve gas was only a small part of what was discussed in training. Strange diseases like anthrax that were unknown to humans had been designed to kill enemy troops. Now, admittedly, I was there largely to learn how to defend our troops from attack by chemical, biological, and radiological weapons, not to learn how to employ them in combat.

Nevertheless, I was stunned to learn about our own capabilities in these areas. What kind of mad scientist would spend his life developing these weapons? Since we had more than enough nuclear weapons to destroy the world several times over, why did we need chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction? Who would ever use such weapons?

Fortunately, I have been able to largely forget those memories in the ensuing years. Although I’ve periodically heard about these weapons, particularly their use in Iraq on Iraqi citizens, I had naively assumed that they were obsolete weapons waiting to be destroyed.

When international discussions began on banning the weapons, I thought that it was a no-brainer. Virtually everyone seemed to be opposed to them, especially doctors. Certainly the American press and the American government seemed outraged that Iraq had used them on its own people.

Both the local and foreign press were critical of America’s veto of the ban, particularly since America had initiated the attempt to ban it during the Reagan Era.

Now I have no doubt that this is a complex issue. However, I would hope that the American people will look at this veto a little differently after our own anthrax scare in Florida.