U.S. Ready to Ratify Chemical Warfare Ban

Article excerpt

In 1993 when President George Bush signed the Chemical Weapons Convention, the hope of the world was that finally the scourge of toxic chemical substances in the hands of terrorists or nations would come to an end.

Alas, the U.S. Senate has not yet ratified that treaty, the most ambitious treaty in the history of arms control.

An agreement has now been reached with Sen. Jesse Helms, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, that the Senate will vote to ratify the Chemical Weapons Convention no later than April 30. When that vote occurs, the United States will join 159 nations that have signed the CWC and 42 countries that have ratified it. Approval by the United States will mean that soon the whole world will join in outlawing production or use of nerve or mustard gases similar to those Iraq used on Kurdish villages in 1987 and 1988.

The wide moral consensus on the horrors of nerve and mustard gas and their derivatives is deeper than the widespread feelings against atomic or biological warfare. During the Cold War, the United States viewed with horror stockpiles of about 40,000 tons of chemical weapons held by the Soviets -- an amount far greater than the holdings of the United States.

The moral revulsion against employing gases and chemicals that contaminate and paralyze innocent human beings began after use of toxic chemicals in World War I. The military has sought to retain other weapons such as land mines but somehow has concluded that the use of toxic chemicals to poison or asphyxiate the enemy cannot be morally justified.

The extraordinary consensus that chemical weapons should be banned is the result of the work of multiple forces in the peace community. One of the most effective is Business Executives for National Security, a nonpartisan organization working to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. …