Nerve Gas For All
By Sue Schuurman
SEPTEMBER 21, 1998:
18 Years Ago This Week
Chemical weapons became a hot issue during the most recent confrontation with Saddam Hussein, and the media appropriately presented their manufacture and deployment as a crime against humanity. Unfortunately, mainstream journalists showed they have short memories, hypocritically ignoring America's own complex history with regards to the manufacture of nerve gas. The following 1980 Albuquerque Journal editorial supports congressional legislation to produce chemical weapons in Arkansas, under the guise of keeping up with the Russians.
"Nerve Gas: Divisive Issue.
"Both the Senate and the House have voted overwhelmingly in favor of a $3 million fund to build a new plant capable of producing weapons for chemical warfare.
"... Before final action can be taken, however, the continued debate is certain to split the nation into two mutually antagonistic camps, divided along emotional if not strategic lines.
"Proponents, as well as critics, will acknowledge that chemical warfare, particularly the use of nerve gas, is most horrible to contemplate. At that point agreement ends, and persuasion moves in opposite directions.
"The measures contemplate the construction of a plant at Pine Bluff, Ark., which would be capable of producing binary nerve gas by 1984. ...
"Proponents of renewed production of U.S. chemical weapons insist the measure is necessary to counter the Soviet Union's chemical weapon superiority. U.S. intelligence has promulgated redundant evidence that Soviet forces have used nerve gas and, probably, other chemical weapons in the course of their military action in Afghanistan. ...
"It is difficult to refute the argument of Sen. Gary Hart, D-Colo., that the United States should give first priority to defensive measures to protect its own troops, not to mention friendly civilian populations, from chemical warfare. ...
"We find greater merit in the arguments of Rep. Jack Edwards, R-Ala., and Sen. Henry M. Jackson, D-Wash.
"Said Edwards: 'It is a terrible weapon, but this is a terrible bill. I wish we did not have to discuss (chemical) programs. But we have to live in a real world.'
"Sen. Jackson insisted that seed money for the proposed Pine Bluff plant is not a commitment to produce nerve gas but, instead, a four-year moratorium offering both opportunity and incentive for progress toward a chemical arms treaty. Then he added: 'This debate is not of bricks and stones. It's of how you negotiate with the Soviet Union, and you don't deal with them from a position of inferiority.'"
--compiled by Susan Schuurman
Source: Albuquerque Journal;
Sept. 20, 1980
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