With Syria in the headlines and talk of red lines, air strikes and diplomacy swirling, the issue of chemical weapons seems to be on the mind. And even as news outlets are reporting that the Syrian government might have agreed to give up its chemical weapons I find myself wondering what it is about them that frightens us in a way other weapons don’t.
Chemical weapons is an umbrella term for a set of chemicals ranging from LSD to Ricin to Mustard Gas that do all sorts of different (and terrible things) to people. While I conjure images of World War I when I think of chemical warfare (the first mass use was at the Battle of Ypres) its use has been around much longer stretching back Roman times and to an archeological site in, of all places, Syria. And even after they are banned in 1925 by the Geneva Protocol there is Napalm from the Vietnam War and Anthrax laced letters lurking in our more modern history.
I suppose part of the reason chemical weapons frighten us so is that it is indiscriminate, works far beyond (and long after) the control of those who release them and can be the work of very few people. Perhaps it is because many chemical weapons are substances that have been created or used for more positive uses and have been turned into something terrible. Or maybe we tend to get anxious around too much science. Or that gas masks are scary.
Whichever it is, I’m going to go home, hug my puppies and hope for the best.
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