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Thursday | April 03, 2003

US to use tear gas in Iraq

Bush Approves Use of Tear Gas in Battlefield
Weapons experts fear violation of law

by Nicholas Wade and Eric Schmitt
New York Times

President George W. Bush has authorized American military forces to use tear gas in Iraq, the Pentagon says, a development that some weapons experts said could set up a conflict between American and international law.

The U.S. Defense Department said that tear gas, which has been issued to American troops but not used by them, would be used only to save civilian lives and in accordance with the Chemical Weapons Convention, ratified by the United States in 1997. Critics say any battlefield use of tear gas would violate the convention, offend crucial allies including Britain, and hand Saddam Hussein a legal basis for using chemical weapons against the United States.

"Riot-control agents, such as C.S., better known as tear gas, are non-lethal and may be used by U.S. forces only when authorized by the president and only under specific, well-defined circumstances, to protect non-combatants," a Pentagon spokesperson, Lt. Col. Dave Lapan, said in response to questions Friday. Use of the agents for defensive purposes to save lives "would be consistent with the Chemical Weapons Convention, which prohibits the use of riot control agents as a method of warfare," he said.

Some experts disagreed. Elisa Harris, of the Center for International and Security Studies at the University of Maryland, said a violation could arise if riot control agents were used against Iraqi soldiers using civilians as a screen. This battlefield use would contravene the Chemical Weapons Convention, she said, but is explicitly permitted by an Executive Order of 1975

Are you kidding me?

Phil Carter at Intel Dump thinks this is a good idea, but I'm convinced this is going to kill civilians.


CS has a habit of filtering into basements and bunkers and will affect the sick, elderly and young, while the Iraqi Army, which has gas training and gas masks will be unaffected.

There are thousands of Iraqis who survived Iranian gas attacks during the Iran-Iraq War. The minute CS pops up, the implications will be severe for Iraqis. They won't see it as a lifesaving measure. It could very well lead to riots. Reaction in the Arab street, already seething with anger, could be even worse.

The Iraqis will not discern between CS and Sarin while they're coughing their lungs out. They will know they have been gassed by an enemy and that will just harden their resolve even more.

Phil's a former MP, and they're trained to use these weapons to control crowds. And his having been stationed in Korea, where violent riots are a common practice, I can see his point.

But the Iraqis have ONE experience of gas and it is a lethal experience. The stories of gas are part of the PTSD of every survivor of that war and their relatives. Even today, gas victims are dying slowly in Iran. If US forces use gas in crowd control, the political implications for any future occupation could be severe.

Steve Gilliard

Posted April 03, 2003 11:59 AM | Comments (39)


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