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CBW Events -- March 2017 selections

Each month, entries for a few anniversaries of notable CBW Events are posted. All will appear in the relevant final versions of the chronologies.

35 years ago | 40 years ago | 45 years ago | 65 years ago

35 years ago:

22 March 1982      US Secretary of State Alexander Haig submits a report on "Chemical Warfare in Southeast Asia and Afghanistan" to Congress. The report concludes that Lao and Vietnamese forces (under Soviet supervision) have been using lethal chemical and toxin agents in Laos since 1975, that Vietnamese forces have been using lethal chemical and toxin agents in Kampuchea since 1978 and that Soviet forces have been using a variety of lethal and non-lethal chemical and nerve agents since the invasion of that country.[1]
     [1] As cited in "Chronology of Chemical Weapons: use and prohibition", United States Information Service, Embassy of the United States of America, Stockholm, 13 April 1984.

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40 years ago:

28 March 1977      The US delegation submits a working paper on incapacitating chemical warfare agents to the CCD in Geneva, the first paper on this subject since one submitted by Canada some years earlier [see 16 July 1974].[1] The paper indicates support for inclusion of incapacitants within the scope of the projected CWC and notes: "Potential incapacitating agents are so diverse that it does not appear possible to find any simple definitional formula. In view of the lack of suitable technical criteria, consideration might be given to relying solely on the general purpose criterion".
     The paper categorises incapacitant chemical agents in the following terms: "The most important types of incapacitating agents are found in the following categories: (1) Psychochemicals. These compounds (usually indole, tryptamine, or piperidine derivatives) may be described as psychotropic, psychotogenic, psychotomimetic, or hallucinogenic. The effects produced may include visual and aural hallucinations; a sense of unreality; and changes in mood, behaviour, performance, memory, attitude, concentration, perception, and thought processes. Representative agents of this group are 3-Quinuclidinyl benzilate and Lysergic Acid Diethylamide. (2) Paralysants. Agents that interrupt nerve impulse transmission at the skeletal neuromuscular junction (for example, curare) and those that block transmission in autonomic ganglia (for example, hexamethonium) are found in this group. (3) Pain producers. Physical irritants which have a persistent effect can be considered incapacitating agents. Representative of this group are urushiol (one of the active principles of poison ivy) and bufotenine (a compound which is secreted by the common toad and causes intensive itching)." Notably, the paper makes no express reference to riot control agents.
     The paper contains four conclusions: "1. The view that limitations should be placed on incapacitating agents, as well as on lethal agents is widely shared. 2. In view of the lack of suitable technical criteria for defining potential incapacitating agents, consideration might be given to relying solely on the general purpose criterion. 3. Limitations on incapacitating agents do not appear to pose any novel verification problems. 4. At present incapacitating agents do not appear to have become a major component of CW stockpiles. Their role could increase, however, if they were not covered in a CW agreement."
     [1] United States of America, "Working paper concerning incapacitating chemical warfare agents", CCD/531, 28 March 1977.

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45 years ago:

9 March 1972      The French National Assembly passes a Bill outlawing development, manufacture or stockpiling of biological or toxin weapons. The law is promulgated on 7 June 1972 to become law 72-467. The law forms one component of its response to the Biological Weapons Convention [see 16 November 1971] which it has declared it will not sign [see 29 November 1971].[1]
     [1] SIPRI II, p 187-88.

20 March 1972      In Geneva, the United States submits to the CCD a paper entitled "Work Program regarding negotiations on prohibition of chemical weapons".[1]
     [1] United States of America, "Work Program regarding negotiations on prohibition of chemical weapons", CCD/360, 20 March 1972, 14 pp.

28 March 1972      In Geneva, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Mongolia, Poland, Romania and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics submit to the CCD a "Draft Convention on the prohibition of the development, production and stockpiling of chemical weapons and on their destruction" which has been prepared by those states in association with the Byelorussian and Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republics.[1] The draft is similar to the text of the Biological Weapons Convention agreed some months earlier [see 16 November 1971].
     [Note: these are the same states that introduced an earlier draft CBW Convention, see 19 September 1969.]
     [1] Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Mongolia, Poland, Romania and the Union of Soviet Socalist Republics, "Draft Convention on the prohibition of the development, production and stockpiling of chemical weapons and on their destruction", CCD/361, 28 March 1972, 5 pp.

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65 years ago:

12 March 1952     In the United Kingdom, the Biological Warfare Subcommittee reports "There is no firm evidence of the existence in the USSR of any BW project either for research, mass-production of BW agents, or the development of the necessary special weapons and equipment. There are however indications that a small group of scientists may be engaged on BW research under the control of the Soviet Army. The only broad conclusion possible is that the Russians are now capable of BW sabotage wither [sic] against man, livestock, or crops, and that they could, if such were their intention, have initiated the mass cultivation of bacteria in 1951 and achieve by 1952 at least the level of production attained by the U.S.A. in 1945".[1]
     [1] Chiefs of Staff Committee, B.W. "Report 1950-1951, Report by the Biological Warfare Sub-Committee", 12 March 1952, p.1 as quoted in: Simon M Whitby, Biological Warfare against Crops, (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2002), p 96.

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February 2017 anniversaries