The Pot Calling the Kettle Black

A Short History of Bio-Chemical Weapons – Published on ZNet, by Zoltan Grossman, Sept 2, 2013.

The U.S. and its allies have long been complicit in the manufacturing and use of biological and chemical weapons, yet has targeted other countries for alleged possession and use of these same weapons. This partial chronology is intended as a starting point for critical research and analysis of bio-chemical weaponry and foreign policy:  

  • 400s B.C.: Spartan Greeks use sulfur fumes against enemy soldiers.
  • 256 A.D.: Sasanian Persian Empire may have used toxic smoke against Roman soldiers in a tunnel in modern-day Syria.
  • 1346: Tatars catapult plague-infected corpses into Italian trade settlement in Crimea.


  • … 2000: “Topoff Exercise” involving federal and state authorities fails to cope with simulated chemical, biological and nuclear attacks in three widely separated metropolitan areas.
  • 2001: U.S. withdraws from the first round of Biological and Toxic Weapons Convention (BTWC), crippling international efforts to establish global measures against biological weapons. In wake of September 11 attacks, anthrax spores sent by mail to multiple political and media targets around the U.S., resulting in anthrax exposures, infections, and at least 5 deaths. Real anthrax attacks accompanied by increase in anthrax hoaxes by “Army of God” and other groups and individuals.
  • 2002: Russian police use chemical gas against Chechen rebels holding hostages in Moscow theater; 42 rebels and 120 hostages died from the gas raid. Bush Administration renews allegations that Iraq possesses biochemical weapons (drawing on allegations by Iraqi exiles), reluctantly acquiesces in return of United Nations weapons inspectors (after four years of absence) to prove or disprove the claim. Chief UN arms inspector Hans Blix reports no evidence of renewed chemical or biological weapons programs in Iraq.
  • 2003: UN inspectors find evidence of Iraqi violations of ballistic missile range limits, and begin to destroy missiles. Bush Administration not satisfied with extent of UN inspection. Just prior to U.S.-U.K. invasion of Iraq, UN orders inspectors out of country. After invasion, U.S. contends it will hunt for Weapons of Mass Destruction on its own, and finds none. As a member state of the UN Security Council, Syria proposes a WMD-Free Zone in the Middle East, which the U.S. rejects.
  • 2004: During the First Battle of Fallujah, U.S. forces use white phosphorus artillery shells (intended for aerial illumination) as an incendiary weapon against Iraqi insurgents, killing and injuring many civilians. Pentagon finally admits in 2013 its use of white phosphorus as a weapon in Fallujah. Environmental justice protests in Anniston, Alabama oppose incineration of chemical weapons in populated area.
  • 2007: Al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia carries out chlorine gas tank bombings in Iraqi civil war. White phosphorus train derails in Ukraine, contaminating 90 sq km.
  • 2008: Israel uses white phosphorus shells during its three-week war against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. U.S. government employee suspected in 2001 anthrax attacks commits suicide.
  • 2009: Taliban and U.S. forces accuse each other of using white phosphorus as weapons. Rebels in Yemen accuse Saudi warplanes of dropping white phosphorus.
  • 2011: Some news sources report white phosphorus use by NATO forces in Libya. Four militia members arrested in Georgia for plotting to use ricin to attack politicians, media, and the IRS.
  • 2012: U.S. has closed 7 of 9 chemical weapons depots and destroyed 90 percent of its stockpiles, to meet the provisions of the Chemical Weapons Convention it signed in 1993. Israel hits UNRWA compound in Gaza City with white phosphorus; announces the following year that it will stop using white phosphorus weapons.
  • 2013: Actress allegedly mails ricin mailed to the President and other U.S. leaders. In January, UK issues licenses to export chemicals to Syria that could be used to make sarin; licenses revoked when sanctions begin against Syria in July. Syrian government and rebels trade accusations of using sarin in April and August. Doctors Without Borders documents 355 killed in August sarin attack in Ghouta area; Secretary of State John Kerry claims that Syrian government is responsible for killing 1,429 Syrians. UK declines to back military strikes on Syria; France, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Israel back U.S. military action.

(full long text).

(Dr. Zoltan Grossman is a Professor of Geography and Native Studies at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, and earned his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin. His faculty website is Zoltan Grossman, and email is here. List compiled in 1998, 2003, and 2013 from articles in Z magazine by Stephen Shalom (“Bullets, Gas, and the Bomb,” Feb. 1991), Zoltan Grossman (Ecocide in the Gulf?, March 1991), Council for a Livable World, Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, National Geographic, William Blum’s Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II, and from news reports and Wikipedia timelines. Thanks for Stephen Shalom for comments).

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