By Dr. Chuck Missler
The largest stockpile of toxins, blister and blood agents in the United States has been burned away, as part of an international convention to rid the world of chemical weapons. While America has eliminated 90 percent of its chemical weapons stockpiles, Russia is not even halfway there, and it is uncertain how many tons of chemical agents Libya still has.
Goodbye Mustard Gas
The U.S. Army has been finishing the last of its work destroying stockpiles of chemical agents left over from the Cold War. This week, twenty-three final projectiles were heated to 1500 degrees and baked for two hours to render harmless the last of the mustard agent on them. The final two-ton containers of Lewisite, a skin, eye, and lung irritant, were being burned away at the Area 10 Liquid Incinerator, ending a 16-year process of emptying The Army's Deseret Chemical Depot in Utah, where the largest stockpile of the weapons was held.
The weapons destroyed represent 90 percent of the chemical stockpiles in the country. Ten percent remains of the 31,500 tons of chemical weapons that America declared in 1985. The U.S. expects it could take until 2021 to finish eliminating that final 10 percent at depots in Colorado and Kentucky. Destruction of the full 100 percent was originally set to be accomplished by April 29, but the U.S. expects that the job could last until 2021. America is doing better than Russia, which has only eliminated 48 percent of its chemical weapons.
An international tribunal agreed not to hit the U.S. with sanctions for missing the deadline, voting instead to submit the U.S. and Russia to inspections. The U.S. and Russia are supposed to submit plans by April 29 detailing how they will finish the job in their countries. Libya is also behind; the fall of Gaddafi’s regime revealed more chemical weapons in that country than previously suspected.
A small drop of nerve agent can kill a human within minutes of exposure, and the process of dying is generally excruciating. Doses that do not immediately kill can still cause extreme and long-term suffering.
Chemical Weapons Convention
The United States signed the Chemical Weapons Convention on 13 January 1993 along with 129 other states, and the CWC went into effect on April 29, 1997, 180 days after it had been ratified by 65 of them. (The U.S. ratified it April 25, 1997.) According to the agreement, every state that is party to the CWC must willingly destroy its chemical weapons and avoid making any more. The original timeline to finish was ten years; by April 29, 2002 the nations of the world were to have eliminated 20 percent of their chemical weapons, and all chemical agents were supposed to have been rendered inert by April 29, 2007—with no extensions past 2012.
Just seven countries, the U.S., the Russia Federation, Libya, Albania, India, Iraq, and an unnamed State Party (possibly South Korea), declared that they had chemical weapons. Albania, India, and the State Party have eliminated all of them. As of November 30, 2011, 50,619 metric tons of chemical agent, or 71.10 percent of the originally declared 71,195 metric tons, have been verifiably destroyed.
Thirteen states declared chemical weapons production facilities, and of the 70 declared sites, all have been inactivated and 67 have been inspected.
Now it is 2012, and there are still aging chemical weapons stockpiles lingering in the U.S. and Russia, with who-knows-how-much piled away in Libya. According to the CWC, any state party can petition the Director-General to send an inspection team to any other state party at any time. Even the United States agreed to submit to these inspections "any time, anywhere", and sensitive information is supposed to be kept locked away at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons at the Hague in the Netherlands.
Whether it’s necessary or beneficial or remotely desirable for an international tribunal to send inspectors to the United States, the U.S. signed and ratified the convention. In the meanwhile, it will be a long time before the chemical agents are safely destroyed in Russia and Libya.
US Army Burns off Final Chemical Weapons in Utah • ABC News
Worries Grow Over Syria Chemical Weapons Arsenal • The Media Line
Mustard gas stockpiles still in Libya • UPI
Army destroying last chemical weapons in Utah cache • Los Angeles Times
US Army destroys world’s largest stockpile of chemicals weapons, in Utah • Washington Post