By Rida Zeenat
Pakistan is an important ally of United States of America in the war against terrorism. The U.S. has been using drone attacks to target Al- Qaeda linked militants over the past few years in Pakistan’s tribal areas, a lthough the drone strikes violate Pakistan’s sovereignty even then they’re launched from Pakistani territory and are counterproductive because they’ve killed scores of civilians and are setting the base for new recruits for the militants. The rate of recruitment has increase for the militants as the locals have no other possible way to retaliate rather than join the militants’ army.
Pakistan has been co-operating in every way with the United States, providing human resource, military bases, political support etc. Pakistan sacrificed thousands of innocent civilian who got killed in retaliation of the terrorist in suicide bombings.
But lately Pakistani authorities have exposed some awful details about U.S. drone attacks in Pakistani tribal areas. According to media news Pakistani physicians and experts reported that the U.S. uses chemical munitions in its drone attacks on the country’s civilians.
According to doctors in Peshawar Pakistani civilians who received injuries from U.S. drone attacks are affected with different skin, eyes and respiratory diseases, which is a clear clue that Washington is using chemical weapons in its attacks in Pakistan. Due to the fatal chemical materials used in the missiles a large number of the wounded people in these attacks have been affected with complex diseases.
But this is not new; there are a number of examples where United States has been violating the Chemical Weapon Convention (CWC) to which it is party to. The same happened in Iraq.
Chemical weapons were used consequentially causing widespread cancer. This has been proved by Wikileaks also that US has violated Chemical Weapon Convention (CWC) in Iraq invasion in 2003.1 The United States has been caught with at least 2,386 chemical weapons deployed in Iraq. The items which were used appear in a spectacular 2,000 page leak of nearly one million items of US military equipment deployed in Iraq given to the government transparency group Wikileaks.2
The same was done in Vietnam War. Even though President Nixon in 1969 had made a pledge that United States would never use chemical weapons, even then almost 10% of Vietnam had been intensively sprayed with 72 million liters of chemicals, of which 66% was Agent Orange, laced with its super-strain of toxic TCDD3 by the end of war.
Years after the Vietnam War, chemical weapons used by US troops are still exacting a hideous toll on each new generation. The point of consideration is that such is the disastrous effect of use of chemical weapons.
The history itself is a proof of United States aggressive and inhumane policies. The policies implemented in order to secure national interest have no respect for humanity. United States also used chemical weapons in Cambodia and Laos because United States had an idea that these states are supporting Viet militants.
According to some sources like in Alan Friedman’s book The Spider’s Web: the Secret History of How the White House Illegally Armed Iraq gives the idea how Iraq under Saddam Hussein was supplied with dangerous chemical weapons by USA for use against Iran in Iran-Iraq War (1980-88).
And now Pakistan is facing the same. Although the harm is of smaller scale but if United States is not stopped it may escalate up to the level of strikes being conducted inside the industrial hub and other main cities of Pakistan with disastrous consequences.
On the other side the deadline of chemical weapons total destruction is approaching which is April 2012. A number of states had already abided by the original deadline which was 2007 but United States and Russia were given the extension of five more years. According to some analysts both the states are to miss the deadline and are further asking for extension.
Russia might get complete destruction of chemical weapons by 2016 and United States by 2017 and Pentagon is really serious about it and asking the chemical agencies to act fast not forgetting that latest budget indicates the Pentagon intends to spend more than $500 million over the next five years. 4The disarmament community expects the states to be responsible enough to meet the given deadlines and fulfill their responsibilities to make the world a safer place.
As far as United States is concerned 13,996 metric tons (13,775 long tons) of illegal weapons had been shattered by June 2007 to meet the Phase III quota and deadline.5 Originally the phase III of CWC demanded all countries to destroy 45 percent of their chemical weapon stockpile by 2004. Anticipating the failure to meet the deadline United States requested for an extension in the deadline till 2007 for phase III and requested the deadline of 2012 for the phase IV of the CWC which is total elimination of the chemical weapons stockpiles. And now United States is again saying that it might not be able to meet the deadline due to environmental challenges and the U.S. decision to destroy leaking individual chemical shells before bulk storage chemical weapons.6
Whereas according to an estimate the U.S. Army announced that it had eliminated 75 percent of the nation’s stockpile of chemical warfare materials and is working hard to meet the set demilitarization deadline. 7
The Army Chemical Materials Agency is charged with destroying 28,350 tons of materials, mostly mustard blister agent and the nerve agents VX and sarin. Moreover it had incinerated or chemically neutralized 22,958 tons of material and destroyed more than 2.1 million munitions.8
Ultimately the Army agency will be responsible for eliminating 90 percent of the total U.S. arsenal. Disposal of the remaining 10 percent of the original declared 31,500-ton U.S. stockpile falls to another Defense Department office, the Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives program.
This proves that anything is possible only if the political will and states determination to do so is there. The fact is understood that United States and Russia posses the largest percentage of total world’s chemical weapons and therefore the process is costly and time consuming but deceiving the world by requesting for more deadlines of total destruction of chemical weapons on one side and using those fatal weapons on other states and killing hundreds of innocent civilian on the other side is not at all acceptable.
Here the point of reference is to United States conduction of drone strikes on Pakistan and usage of chemical munitions in it. This has increased the sentiments against United States in Pakistani masses and is pressurizing the government to formulate a strategy to stop the drone attacks.
The United States plays the role of a guardian to the Chemical Weapon Convention and if United States will violate it then no expectations from other smaller states or the non-signatories of the Chemical Weapon Convention.
If Middle Eastern states that are non-signatory to the CWC use chemical weapons it would not be a crime as they are not violating any treaty. But if US does so that means it has no respect for the treaty and is violating it.
United States must be responsible enough and meet the deadline no matter what circumstances are, together with Russia so that the non-signatories of CWC can be invited to sign which will result in a universal treaty qualitatively as well as quantitatively.
1. “US violates chemical weapons convention”, Wikileaks,2007-11-08 (Thursday) retrieved from http://wikileaks.org/wiki/US_violates_chemical_weapons_convention
3. “Spectre Orange”, Cathy Scott Clark and Adrian Levy, The Guardian, march 2003. Retrieved from http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2003/mar/29/usa.adrianlevy
4. John Norton. “Pentagon on chemical weapons: not so fast”. Chieftain. 21-06-2011.retrieved from http://www.chieftain.com/news/local/pentagon-on-chemical-weapons-not-so-fast/article_2ddf538c-9bdb-11e0-bd0f-001cc4c03286.html
7. “U.S. reaches the chemical weapons deadline milestones” Chris Schneidmiller, Global Security Newswire, 7th july 2010.retrieved from http://www.globalsecuritynewswire.org/gsn/nw_20100707_7289.php