This paper will explain the significant events of chemical and biological warfare on life. Readers will be able to understand what chemical and biological warfare is, where non-munitions warfare developed, and the devastating and horrific effects they have on people. Lastly, an expansion on the Geneva Protocol is given as a solution to barring the production and storage of these weapons.
Biological and Chemical Warfare Should Be Banned
When one thinks of war, they automatically picture in their mind a gruesome sight of man against man, army against army, fighting with guns, bombs, and other munitions in a quest to maim and devastate their opponent for the sake of some disagreement between their countries. What is imagined is a scene from a video game, where a soldier takes a gun, aims, and fires a bullet into the enemy. If asked what war entails, no one answers as it being a means of infecting a nation’s population with a disease or completely impairing their bodily functions; however, warfare may no longer be a means of combatting to the death on an open field, but instead an epic battle of trying to destroy a nation’s civilian population.
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Many people know about nuclear weaponry and the impending doom which lingers over their head if a nuclear war was ignited, but there are many other horrific weapons out there that can have as much of a devastating effect on the world. Such arms are biological and chemical weapons. Biological weapons transport microorganisms and toxins to deliberately contaminate people, animals, and agriculture with a disease, and chemical weapons use the lethal properties of chemical substances to create physical or physiological effects on an enemy (Biological & Chemical Weapons, 2013, p. 2-3). Biological and chemical weapons do not affect people the same as other munitions or explosives, but instead they infect people with diseases or impair them, leading to a slow, agonizing death. Furthermore, biological and chemical weaponries do not damage buildings or other structures, like traditional warfare does, therefore not affecting the nation’s government, but solely affecting the people. Throughout history, this type of warfare has been used, but over the ages, it has advanced, creating a more devastating effect. Because of the wreckage brought on by biological and chemical warfare, the Geneva Protocols were put in place to ban the use of the weapons, but not the production and storage. Because of the horrific fate the world may endure from use of such weaponry, the Geneva Protocols should be expanded to eliminate the storage and production of the weapons.
Chemical and biological warfare is by no means a new tactic of war. It has been dated back over two thousand years, with ancient tribes lacing arrow tips with natural toxins, and shooting them at an enemy to cause an infection in the arrow wound. Ancient people also found ways to poison enemy water supplies to gain their land or numbers over their adversary. The trick to war was to use whatever advantage one could gain over an opponent. In the nineteenth century, it was discovered that attacking important civilian factories and warehouses was important in crippling an enemy. In the twentieth century, a wide range of substances were created to replace traditional guns and bullets during World War I (WWI), which included various gases, then used to destroy an enemy. Then in the twenty-first century, the age of terrorism began, and war was no longer fought to conquer land and resources, but instead to create mass demise and even more terror within the nation (George, 2011, p. 3). Such weapons created mass hysteria amongst the people and damaged much more than a country’s army, forcing the country to surrender for the well-being of the civilians.
The most recent use of biological and chemical weapons was during World War II and the Vietnam War. In WWII, German scientists discovered a new and extremely potent nerve gas which was going to be used against enemies, but Hitler feared his enemies would retaliate with similar gases and weapons. However, he did decide to use various gases during the Holocaust to kill large numbers of prisoners at one time. Furthermore, during the Vietnam War, the United States used a powerful herbicide, Agent Orange, to clear vegetation for greater visibility of communist soldiers. The use of Agent Orange and other chemical weapons left an overwhelming effect on the people and environment surrounding the areas where the weapons were used.
The catastrophic impact left by the use of biological and chemical weapons has caused appalling effects on the human population. They have devastated both the land and people so horribly, side effects are still lingering today. According to the website Information for Action, “Approximately 19 million gallons of Agent Orange were used by the US military in southern Vietnam between 1962 and 1971” (“The Impact Of,” n.d., p. 1). With the drop of Agent Orange, millions of people were exposed to the harmful chemicals found within the agent. The chemicals found within were later discovered to cause cancer and birth defects, which would impair a child for the rest of their life. Therefore, Agent Orange is an extremely potent substance which should have never been used, along with other types of chemical weapons.
Another chemical weapon used was mustard gas. Mustard gas was predominantly used during WWI, where German soldiers used it to expel enemy soldiers from their trenches. As said by Gert G. Harigel in an article entitled Chemical and Biological Weapons: Use in Warfare, Impact on Society and Environment, (2001), mustard gas causes severe blisters on one’s skin and later causes internal and external bleeding, and those unlucky enough to survive, suffer from impaired breathing and respiratory problems for the rest of their lives. The effects from mustard gas are severe and have impacted people’s lives in a way which has devastated them and caused them to lose many loved ones.
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Not only have biological and chemical weapons impacted people, but also the surrounding environment. According to the article The Ethics of Chemical and Biological Weaponry, biological agents developed by certain governments to use against unwanted crops, like the opium poppy or the coca plant, are producing fear because of the potential to infect non-targeted species (Reyes, D., n.d., p. 1). If other species of plants are decimated, biodiversity is affected, leading to a downfall of other plant species and animals which thrive off of the plants, creating a domino effect. Therefore biological weapons create a large threat because it is virtually impossible to reverse the effects unleashed onto to ecosystem.
Furthermore, chemical weapons have the potential to wipe out vegetation, causing a lack of biodiversity. Agent Orange, especially, has caused some major devastation to Vietnam: “Agent Orange eradicated around 15% of south Vietnam’s vegetation” (“The Impact Of,” n.d., p. 1). The abolition of Vietnam’s vegetation began to give way to a major drop in the plant population, therefore leading to a drop in the animal population as well. With the decline in vegetation, both agricultural and indigenous, an economic downfall may be followed because of the lack of sales from produce. All in all, biological and chemical weapons have left a horrific impression upon the environment; therefore the protocols put in place should be expanded to eliminate any possibility to such weapons being used.
After WWI, the Geneva Protocols were put in place to help alleviate the problems with biological and chemical warfare. As stated in the article Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or Other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare (Geneva Protocol), “At the end of World War I, the victorious Allies decided to reaffirm in the Versailles Treaty (1919) the prewar prohibition of the use of poisonous gases and to forbid Germany to manufacture or import them” (“Protocol for the,” n.d., p. 1). The Geneva Protocols simply terminated the use of biological and chemical weapons, but did not forbid the production and storage. If these weapons are still being manufactured and stored, there is still the possibility for the illegal use of them. Furthermore, the use of chemical and biological weapons could possibly lead to another world war, devastating the planet yet again. Therefore, the Geneva Protocols should be expanded to dismiss the production and storage of chemical and biological weaponry.
Although there is great opposition to having chemical and biological weapons, there are still many people out there who believe the weapons are a necessary evil. In the article Point: Chemical Weapons Are a Necessary Evil, it is explained why the world should have chemical weapons: “But even [terrorist] attacks are not reasons to try to abolish CBW. The loss of life is always horrific, but in comparison to the potential of the arsenals of state-owned CBW, these attacks afford the terrorist limited casualties and advantages in causing civil disruption” (Kramer, O. & Goodwin, C., 2011, p. 2). The article further explains the world should keep chemical and biological weapons for a retaliation method if such weapons were used against the United States. Contrary to the belief of keeping the weapons in storage, the weapons should be banned because of the potential damage they can cause. Therefore, if there were no weapons, Americans would not have to fear for the possibility of a chemical or biological agent attack, and furthermore, would not have to retaliate against the weapons.
In conclusion, biological and chemical warfare can destroy nations and its population. Using chemical and biological weapons have been used in the past to destroy an enemy, without a doubt succeeding. The use of mustard gas has caused horrific and painful deaths to those exposed, and additionally, impaired people’s respiratory functions. Likewise, the use of Agent Orange has devastated a number of human’s lives, and moreover has destroyed habitats, ecosystems, and agricultural plants, weakening the Vietnamese economy. Biological and chemical weaponry is said to be kept around in case of an attack with various chemicals and diseases, however, there would be no critical need for them if the Geneva Protocols were expanded to abolish all weaponry so they could not be used. All in all, biological and chemical weapons are a nuisance to the world, and have the potential of igniting another world war, or even a doomed nuclear war. If the world must have war, it should be limited to man on man combat solely, instead of a biological or chemical attack which the world may never recover from.
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