Object of the Fortnight 23/08/2013
‘MENACE OF CHEMICAL WARFARE TO CIVILIAN POPULATIONS’ LEAFLET With all of the film footage and eye witness accounts coming out of Syria about the alleged use of nerve gas on civilians, it seemed apt to choose an object connected to chemical warfare.
The leaflet entitled ‘Menace of Chemical Warfare to Civilian Populations’ was published in 1932 by the Chemical Workers’ Union. It was written by Arthur J. Gillian. Chemical warfare was becoming a major concern and reality after the WWI, which had seen the use of mustard gas and chlorine on the battlefields. The latest threat in the 1930s was the development of nerve agents. Chemical warfare is not a 20th century invention. It has been used for thousands of years. In Prehistoric times, the Stone Age, hunters and gatherers would use poison arrows and spears to hunt animals. Ancient sources show that China in the 2nd century BC and also 2nd century AD had seen the use of toxic smoke (made from mustard and arsenic) in battles to overwhelm and overcome enemy forces.The Hague Declaration (1899) and Convention (1907) prohibited the use of poison or poisoned weapons in warfare but this didn’t stop over 50,965 tons of chemical agents being deployed in WWI causing 85,000 fatalities and 1,176,500 non-fatalities. The Geneva Protocol in 1925 was signed by 16 countries who promised never to use chemical weapons in warfare again after the horrific results of chemical warfare in WWI. However, the development and use of chemical agents has occurred by various countries, governments and groups since then. The Chemical Weapons Convention outlawed the production, stockpiling and use of chemical weapons. As of June 2013, 189 states/countries had agreed to this. But as this week has shown, despite Conventions, chemical warfare is still real threat to today’s world.