WASHINGTON, March 2 (IslamOnline.net & News Agencies) ñ While the United States kept hawkish calls to disarm Iraq of its allegedly banned weapons, it
prepared to use the toxic riot-control agents CS gas and pepper spray against the Iraqi people in a looming and seemingly inevitable military
aggression against their country.
The U.S. Defense Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, has asked President George W. Bush to authorize their use and the latter, who has often spoken of
"smoking out" the enemy, is understood to have agreed, a leading British paper reported on Sunday, March 2.
"Internal Pentagon documents also show that the U.S. is developing a range of calmative gases, also banned for battlefield use," said The
"Calmative" gases are similar to the one that killed 120 hostages in the Moscow theatre siege last year, could also be employed.
Rear Admiral Stephen Baker, a Navy commander in the last Gulf War who is now senior adviser to the Center for Defense Information in Washington, told
the paper that U.S. special forces had knock-out gases that can "neutralize" people. He added: "I would think that if they get a chance to use
them, they will."
The Pentagon said last week that the decision to use riot control agents "is made by the commander in the field".
Rumsfeld became the first senior figure on either side of the impending conflict to announce his wish to use chemical agents in a little-noticed
comment to the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee on February 5, the same day as Colin Powell's presentation of intelligence about
Iraq's weapons of mass destruction to the UN, added the paper.
The Defense Secretary attacked the "straitjacket" imposed by bans in international treaties on using the weapons in warfare.
He specified that they could be used "where there are enemy troops in a cave [and] you know there are women and children in there with them".
General Richard Myers, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke of using them against human shields.
The revelations leave the Bush administration open to charges of double standards at a time when it is making Iraq's suspected arsenal of chemical
and biological weapons the casus belli, said The Independent.
"This all adds to the confusion over how the war will be conducted. If the argument with Saddam Hussein is over disarming him of weapons of mass
destruction, it is perverse of the U.S. to push the boundaries of international chemical warfare conventions in order to subdue him," Charles
Kennedy, leader of the Liberal Democrats, said.
But Leading experts and Whitehall officials fear that using even pepper spray and CS gas would destroy the credibility of the Chemical Weapons
Convention, provoke Iraqi chemical retaliation and set a disastrous legal precedent, the paper said.
Professor Julian Perry Robinson, one of the world's foremost authorities on the convention, said: "Legally speaking, Iraq would be totally justified
in releasing chemical weapons over the UK if the alliance uses them in Baghdad.
"When the war is over and these things have been used they will have been legitimized as a tool of war, and the principle of toxic weapons being
banned will have gone. The difference between these weapons and nerve gas is simply one of structural chemistry."
The U.S. plans to use these gases was met by wide opposition, even by its ever staunchest ally Britain.
Although, according to The Independent, both CS gas and pepper spray are available for use by UK police forces, it is British policy not to allow
troops to take part in operations where riot control agents are employed, read the press report.
The British Ministry of Defense has warned the U.S. that it will not allow British troops to be involved in operations where riot control agents are
used, or to transport them to the battlefield, but Britain is even more concerned about the calmatives, added the paper.
Britain would be in a particularly sensitive position if the U.S. used the weapons as it drafted the convention and is still seen internationally as
its most important guardian.
The Foreign Office said: "All states parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention have undertaken not to use any toxic chemical or its precursor,
including riot-control agents. This applies in any armed conflict."
A special working group of the Federation of American Scientists concluded last month that using even the mildest of these weapons to incapacitate
people would kill 9 percent of them. It added: "Chemical incapacitating weapons are as likely as bullets to cause death."
The use of chemical weapons by U.S. forces was explicitly banned by President Gerald Ford in 1975 after CS gas had been repeatedly used in Vietnam to
smoke out enemy soldiers and then kill them as they ran away