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U.S. Still Cleaning up Chemical Weapons from World War II… in 40 States

By Noel Brinkerhoff and Danny Biederman | AllGov | March 26, 2014

Bring us your nerve gases, your blister agents, your horrible weapons of warfare, your wretched refuse of World War II… This about sums up the decision of leaders in Washington after World War II when it came time for the American military to dispose of its arsenal of chemical weapons and those belonging to both the countries it fought against and alongside.

After the war’s conclusion, the U.S. government buried thousands of munitions loaded with chemical agents all across the country. These weapons of mass destruction were part of the U.S. arsenal as well as those belonging to ally Britain and enemies Germany and Japan.

The bombs and containers were simply dumped in the ground and buried, without concern for long-term environmental and health consequences.

Alabama is home to the largest of 249 such sites that are located in 40 states. Redstone Arsenal, a longtime U.S. Army base, sits atop miles of hidden trenches containing blister agents, choking agents, blood agents and more.

The 38,000-acre base is surrounded by homes, schools, churches and shopping centers—a city of 200,000 people. It was reported that few residents are aware of the toxic danger lurking nearby.

A disposal team has been working at Redstone since the 1970s trying to locate all of the chemical weaponry that is buried beneath 17 six-mile-long trenches. Once those trenches have all been located, the next step—scheduled to begin in 2019—is to remove the bombs and containers with great care, due to the uncertainty of the weapons’ condition after being held deep underground for decades. No more than six munitions can be safely removed each day.

“Even if we tried to do this as fast as anybody could ever get it done, we’re talking decades and decades,” James Watson, a disposal team member, told the Los Angeles Times. “This stuff is very dangerous to dig up. It’ll hurt you. It will blister you up. If you get that nerve agent on you, it will kill you.”

Redstone’s cleanup is expected to take until at least 2042. The quantity of weapons: 388,000. Between 20,000 and 25,000 of these are intact and, once disturbed, may be volatile.

Alabama has a second site, at former Camp Sibert (pdf) near Huntsville, with at least 13 stockpiles of mustard and phosgene gas.

Another of these sites is located in Spring Valley, Virginia, not far from the White House. Its arsenal features even older chemical munitions—possibly including mustard and arsenic—manufactured during World War I.

Several years ago, a vast supply of munitions from World War II was discovered beneath the grounds of Odyssey Middle School in Orlando, Florida. One of the weapons ignited into flames, but didn’t explode, injuring an Army Corps of Engineers contractor attempting to remove it. More than 200 potentially volatile explosives were found, most under the school and some near homes in the surrounding neighborhood. Home values, which were originally in the $600,000 range, plunged by at least 30%, while banks told homeowners their residences were worthless to lend against.

The U.S. military also dumped a huge volume of chemical weapons off both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. There are no plans to clean up those sites, although Congress has authorized studies to look into it.

In 1958, about a hundred miles offshore of California, the SS William Ralston—loaded with more than 300,000 mustard gas bombs and 1,500 one-ton containers of Lewisite, a blistering agent—was scuttled by the U.S military. To this day it sits beneath nearly 14,000 feet of water just outside of San Francisco.

Ralston believes the U.S. task of removing 1,300 tons of secured chemical weapons from Syria for destruction at sea will be something of a breeze compared to the job here at home. “In Syria, you know where the weapons are and what they are, and they can move them with a forklift,” Watson told the Times. “Here, we don’t know. We have to go out there and dig them out of the ground … The sheer mass of this stuff is overwhelming.”

To Learn More:

Deadly Chemical Weapons, Buried and Lost, Lurk Under U.S. Soil (by David Zucchino, Los Angeles Times)

Redstone Arsenal: Yesterday and Today (by Michael Baker, U.S. Army Missile Command)

A Generation of Indiscriminate Dumping (Daily Press) (pdf)

March 26, 2014 Posted by | Environmentalism, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Leave a comment

Chemical Weapons: a Quiz

By GARY LEUPP | CounterPunch | September 20, 2013

1. Which of the following is the most accurate statement?

1. chemical weapons were first used during the First World War

2. chemical weapons were invented and first used in the 19th century

3. chemical weapons have been around since prehistoric people first put poisons on arrowheads

4. the first real chemical weapon was “Greek Fire” invented by the Byzantines in the 7th century

5. chemical weapons were first produced in the 18th century, based on formulae found in Leonardo da Vinci’s rediscovered writings

2. An international conference in 1899 produced the Hague Treaty, which bans the use of projectiles containing poison gas in warfare. Only one country’s representative dissented. What country was this?

1. Russia

2. U.S.

3. United Kingdom

4. Japan

5. Union of South Africa

3. In the First World War, what percentage of fatalities were due to chemical weapons?

1.  4%

2. 12%

3. 39%

4. 51%

5. 59%

4. In April 1917, British forces used poison gas against German and Ottoman forces in

1. Turkey

2. Germany

3. Austria

4. Libya

5. Palestine

5. Who made the following comment in May 1919, regarding the use of mustard gas against Mesopotamian Arabs?

“I do not understand this squeamishness about the use of gas…I am strongly in favor of using poisoned gas against uncivilized tribes… It is not 
necessary to use only the most deadly gasses: gasses can be used which cause great inconvenience and would spread a lively terror and yet would leave no serious permanent effects on most of those affected.”

1. Benito Mussolini

2. Winston Churchill

3. Georges Clemenceau

4. Woodrow Wilson

5. Ibn Saud

6. Mustard gas was invented in 1917 by a scientist in

1. U.S.

2. Austria

3. Norway

4. Germany

5. Japan

7. During the First World War, Germany was the largest producer of chemical weapons. What country was number two?

1. U.K.

2. U.S.

3. Japan

4. Italy

5. France

8. 88,000 people died due to chemical weapons during the First World War. 56,000 of these were in one country. What was it?

1. Russia

2. Japan

3. China

4. Germany

5. France

9. At the Washington Arms Conference of 1922 which country opposed inclusion in a treaty of an article banning chemical weapons?

1. France

2. U.S.

3. U.K.

4. Russia

5. Japan

10. Over 60 U.S. merchant seamen were killed by mustard gas in an Italian port in December 1943. Why did this happen?

1. The ship was accidently attacked by a British submarine, with torpedoes armed with mustard gas

2. German troops attacked with gas

3. Italian guerrillas attacked with gas

4. The gas was aboard their ship and released when German forces bombed it

5. None of the above

11. How many tons of chemical weapons material did the U.S. at peak inventory?

1. The U.S. never built or stockpiled such weapons

2. 10,000 tons

3. 30,000 tons

4. 50,000 tons

5. 110,000 tons

12. Napalm was invented

1. by the ancient Greeks

2. by a Swedish scientist in 1876

3. by scientists at Harvard University in 1943

4. by Dow Chemical Corp. during the Vietnam War

5. by the Japanese military during World War II

13. Which president announced that the U.S. would not be the first to use chemical weapons?

1. Wilson

2. Eisenhower

3. Kennedy

4. Nixon

5. Carter

14. Napalm is:

1. A mix of petroleum plus a gelling agent that sticks to skin and causes severe burns when ignited

2. A gas that causes asphyxiation

3. A type of explosive bullet

4. An invisible gas released at low altitude by helicopters

5. A kerosene-based jet fuel used in firebombs

15. Over 2 million tons of napalm were used in World War II. Between 1965 and 1973 how many tons of napalm were dropped on Vietnam by U.S. forces?

1. 1 million

2. 2 million

3. 5 million

4. 8 million

5. 15 million

16. Up to March 1992, according to a Senate study, the U.S. licensed export of anthrax and VX nerve gas to which country among the following?

1. Zimbabwe

2. South Africa

3. United Kingdom

4. Iraq

5. Canada

17. In March 1988 Iraqi forces attacked Kurds in northern Iraq with chemical weapons, killing over 3000. How did the U.S. react?

1. The State Department stated its belief that Iran was behind the attacks

2. Pres. Reagan declared Iraq in violation of international law and asked Congress for permission to punish it

3. U.S. officials openly argued that since Saddam Hussein was a firm ally against Iran the U.S. had to overlook his war crimes

4. The U.S. placed Iraq back on its list of terror-sponsoring nations

5. The U.S. halted military cooperation with Iraq in its war with Iran

18. Which of the following countries are believed to possess stockpiles of chemical weapons?

1. Russia, China, France, U.K., Russia, Syria

2. Egypt, Israel, Syria, North Korea, Russia, U.S.

3. Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, China, France, Russia, U.S.

4. Iran, Syria, Russia, U.S., India, Egypt

5. Iran, Pakistan, North Korea, Russia, U.S., Germany

19. The U.S. claims that Syria possesses about 1000 tons of chemical weapons. How many tons does the U.S. still possess?

1. 500

2. 1000

3. 2000

4. 2500

5. 3000

20.  What countries continue to refuse to ban chemical weapons?

1. Syria, Israel, Zimbabwe, South Korea, North Korea

2. Angola, Egypt, North Korea, South Sudan

3. Syria, Israel, U.S., Russia, China

4. Syria, Iran, Zimbabwe, North Korea

5. Angola, Syria, Egypt, North Korea, South Sudan

Bonus question:

The Chemical Weapons Convention approved by the UN General Assembly that bans use of chemical weapons was first signed by participating nations in what year?

1. 1945

2. 1968

3. 1974

4. 1993

5. 2003

Answers:

1. 3 (Salon of Athens poisoned the Spartan water supply. Henry III used quicklime against the French. In 1675 the French and Germans agreed to stop using poisoned bullets. Chemical warfare is not only modern.)

2. 2 (The U.S. representative wanted no curbs on U.S. inventiveness.)

3. 1 (Remarkably small proportion.)

4. 5 (Mostly British versus Germans, with the latter winning.)

5. 2 (Churchill the consummate colonialist.)

6. 4 (Germany’s chemical industry led the world.)

7. 5 (The U.K. and U.S. produced chemical weapons too, but France was far ahead.)

8. 1 (Compare 9000 Germans, 8000 French, 8000 British Empire, 1500 U.S.)

9.1 (Not surprising, since France was then the world’s leading manufacturer of chemical weapons.)

10.  4 (News of this was hushed up.)

11. 3 (Now down to 3000.)

12. 3 (The scientists were doing war-related research. Napalm was soon used; on March 9, 1945 napalm dropped on Tokyo killed over 87,000 people.)

13. 4 (Nov. 25, 1969 statement.)

14. 1 (From naphthenic palmitic acids.)

15. 4

16. 4 (As part of cooperation during the Iran-Iraq War.)

17. 1 (At the same time anonymous government officials opined that there was no law preventing someone from using weapons of mass destruction on his own people.)

18. 2 (Israel argues that its chemical weapons serve as a deterrent to Syrian attack.)

19. 5 (Russia has about 9000 and plans to destroy it all by next year.)

20. 2 (Now that Syria has signed the treaty, just four countries remain outside it.)

Bonus: 4 (There are now 189 signatories.)

September 21, 2013 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , , | Comments Off on Chemical Weapons: a Quiz

‘UK, France barring UN Syria inspection’

Press TV – April 29, 2013

Syrian Ambassador to the United Nations Bashar al-Jaafari says Britain and France are trying to undermine Damascus’s official request from the United Nation to investigate chemical weapons use in Aleppo.

Al-Jaafari said in an interview with the Lebanese NBN TV channel that the western governments seek to repeat the Iraqi scenario in Syria through questioning its sovereignty by opening its borders to undisciplined inspections by the UN under the pretext of chemical weapons use.

Al-Jaffari said the western sides do not want an investigation to take place suggesting they know full well that the anti-government militants used chemical agents in the town of Khan al-Asal, near Aleppo, and elsewhere.

The Syrian official said the comparison with Iraq is pretty clear as the UN also sent an inspection team to the country to examine weapons of mass destruction claims, but Iraq was occupied despite the fact that the inspection team did not find any WMDs.

He also rejected claims by Britain and France that chemical weapons were used in Homs four months before the Khan al-Asal incident saying they would have reported it earlier if any such attack ever existed.

The Syrian Foreign Ministry has written to the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon calling on the body to explain the details of a likely inspection in Khan al-Asal.

However, Britain and France have demanded the team to be also sent to other areas of the country to investigate the use of chemical weapons.

The request has been rejected by the Syrian government that says inspectors cannot have unlimited access to all regions of the country without coordination with Damascus.

The Syrian government has also called for an independent inspection of Khan al-Asal saying Damascus and the UN could discuss the details on other alleged chemical weapons uses separately, though the UN has so far refused to do so.

April 29, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , | Comments Off on ‘UK, France barring UN Syria inspection’

Syrian rebels aim to use chemical weapons, blame Damascus – report

RT | June 10, 2012

The armed Syrian opposition has got their hands on chemical weapons, which they acquired from Libya, a media report claims. They allegedly plan to use it against civilians and pin the atrocity on the Bashar al-Assad regime.

­The report by DamPress claims the opposition group in possession of the weapons is being trained in its use inside Turkey. No further detail on the alleged conspiracy is given.

The Libyan stockpile of chemical weapons was a matter of great concern during last year’s civil war in the country. There were fears that they may end up in the hands of the terrorists and used elsewhere in the world. However unlike Libya’s portable surface-to-air arsenal, no reports of the weapons going missing was made public.

Syria has a greater number of chemical weapons than Libya. Military experts say the agents in the Syrian stockpile is also more modern that what Gaddafi had produced for his military. Syria also didn’t join the Chemical Weapons Convention and is not obliged to declare what chemical weapons it possesses.

The chemical framing plot allegations come days after British journalist Alex Thomson from Channel 4 news accused a Syrian opposition group of trying to set him and his crew up to be killed by government forces. He said a western journalist death would give bad publicity for Damascus.

Syria is sliding back into violence after a UN-brokered peace plan failed to bring the rival forces in the country to negotiation table. The worst of the incidents of renewed bloodshed were two massacres of civilians in the villages of Houla and al-Qubair.

Opposition blame the killings on pro-government paramilitary forces, while Damascus says both incidents were provocations carried out by terrorist groups. The UN observer mission currently deployed in Syria failed to establish for certain who committed the atrocities.

The conflict in Syria has been raging for 15 months now, with the exact death toll difficult to establish. UN estimates that about 10,000 people have been killed in the violence.

July 13, 2012 Posted by | False Flag Terrorism | , | Comments Off on Syrian rebels aim to use chemical weapons, blame Damascus – report

Russia Destroys 62% of its Chemical Weapons

April 29, 2012 – RIA Novosti

MOSCOW – About 25,000 metric tons of chemical weapons, or 62 percent of Russia’s stockpile, have been destroyed by April 29, the day when the International Chemical Weapons Convention came into force.

In 15 years Russia destroyed about two thirds of its world-largest stockpile of 40,000 metric tons. The goal is to destroy 100 percent of chemical weapons in Russia by 2015.

The 188 states parties to the Convention initially planned to destroy all chemical weapons in the world by 2012. Russia and the United States, who have 40,000 and 27,000 metric tons of chemical weapons, respectively, said they were behind schedule and the deadline was postponed until December 31, 2015.

The U.S. said it had already destroyed about 90 percent of its chemical weapons. The Department of Defense, however, postponed the deadline for destroying the remaining 2,000 metric tons first until 2021 and then until 2023.

As of January 31, 2012, more than 50,000 metric tons of chemical weapons, or 73 percent of the global stockpile, have been destroyed.

The convention came into force on April 29, 1997, and 188 out of 195 UN member states have joined it. Myanmar and Israel are signatories to the treaty, but are yet to ratify it. Only Angola, North Korea, Egypt, Somalia and Syria are still outside the convention.

The countries that officially admitted having chemical weapons are Albania, Libya, Iraq, India, Russia, the United States and South Korea.

April 30, 2012 Posted by | Militarism, War Crimes | , , , , , , | Comments Off on Russia Destroys 62% of its Chemical Weapons