By Max Singh
The biological weapon, also called germ weapons, chemical weapons, radiological weapons, and nuclear weapons, are commonly referred to as weapons of mass destruction. However, the term is not genuinely appropriate in biological and chemical armaments as they only target live beings, not the destruction of infrastructure, buildings, or equipment. Nevertheless, because of the indiscriminate nature of these weapons—mostly dropped from airborne bombs, the potential for starting widespread pandemics, the difficulty of controlling disease effects, and the simple fear that they inspire—most countries have agreed to ban this entire class of weapons.
“In recent years, the gassing of Kurds in Iraq, and isolated acts of biological terrorism in Russia, Japan, and the UK have shown the effectiveness of biological weapons in fatal attacks.”
Among the agents deemed likely candidates for biological weapons use are the toxins: ricin, botulinum toxin, anthrax, brucellosis, cholera, pneumonic plague, tularemia, Q fever, smallpox, ganders, Venezuelan equine encephalitis, and viral hemorrhagic fever. Besides, various states at various times have looked into weaponizing dozens of other biological agents. In recent years, the gassing of Kurds in Iraq and isolated acts of biological terrorism in Russia, Japan, and the UK have shown the effectiveness of biological weapons in fatal attacks.
Most weaponized lethal biological agents are intended to be delivered as airborne aerosols, which would cause infections when breathed by the targeted human or animal wildlife. Protection, including over garments, including boots and gloves, helps prevent biological agents from contacting open wounds or breaks in the skin. Before, however, little if any warnings of a bioweapon attack have led to horrible, painful deaths almost instantly in documented cases.
Under the terms of the International Biological Weapons Convention (IBWC), member states are prohibited from using biological weapons in warfare and developing, testing, producing, stockpiling, or deploying them. However, several states have continued to pursue biological warfare capabilities in secret. Besides, the threat that some deranged individual or terrorist organizations will manufacture or steal biological weapons is also a growing security concern.
A History of Biological Weapons
1914-1918. World War 1 – Mass scale chemicals such as mustard gas in the war in Europe demonstrate the potency and effectiveness of using these agents to kill citizens and soldiers
1925: Spurred by World War I’s horrors, delegates in Switzerland create a Geneva Protocol banning the use of chemical and bacteriological warfare methods. Thirty-nine countries sign the protocol. The United States Senate refuses to ratify the treaty but agrees to the terms.
1941: In World War 2, the US, British, Japanese, and Germans develop biological weapons testing centers focusing on harnessing germs such as botulism and anthrax for war.
1942: The Japanese test Salmonella on Chinese prisoners. They later disperse the bacteria that cause typhoid, cholera, and other food-borne diseases over Chinese populations.
1961: United States Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara orders a review of the US chemical and bioweapons program, leading to an expansion of in-field testing and more research on the feasibility of distributing biological agents through spraying from airplanes rather than dropping bombs.
1969: US President Nixon Renounces Biological Weapons by the United States. As a result of Nixon’s Executive Order, the US offensive bioweapons program is terminated; further biological research by the military is limited to defending and immunizing against such weapons.
1972: The Biological Weapons Convention, which bans all bioweapons, is completed and opened for signature. Seventy-nine nations immediately sign the treaty. In 1975, the US Senate also finally ratifies the 1925 Geneva Protocol.
1979: Nearly 70 people die of anthrax in the Soviet city of Sverdlovsk. The government of the USSR claims the deaths resulted from people consuming infected meat. The US suspects that anthrax bacterial spores were accidentally released from a Soviet military biological facility in defiance of the Biological Weapons Convention, which it had ratified in 1975.
1980-1988: The Iran-Iraq War features the widespread use of biochemical weapons, first by Iraq, then by both sides. As part of a wide-ranging military campaign against the Kurds, the Iraqi government uses biochemical weapons against Kurdish cities, such as Birjinni and Halabja. It has been estimated that more than 5,000 Kurds were killed by nerve and mustard agents dropped on them by Iraqi aircraft between March and August of that year.
1989: A Soviet defector from Biopreparat, Vladimir Pasechnik, reveals a continuing offensive biological weapons program in the USSR.
1991: The UN Security Council orders Iraq to stop all biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons programs and inspectors are authorized to ensure compliance.
1992: Russian President Boris Yeltsin admits the 1979Anthrax outbreak was caused by the Soviet military. He also reveals that the Soviet Union had operated an offensive biological warfare program to violate the Biological Weapons Convention.
2001: Envelopes filled with anthrax bacteria spores are sent to various media and political figures in the US, twenty-two people from Florida to Connecticut, are infected including several postal workers; five of them die
2003: The United States leads an Iraq invasion insisting that Saddam Hussein’s government possesses weapons of mass destruction, but no such weapons have been found.
2018: A total of 188 states had signed the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) banning Biological warfare, including such countries as China, India, and North Korea
Sources: pbs.org/ Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)/bioweapons info/ Britannica.com/ WorldHealth.org. Arms Control Association/ Geneva protocol.org