posted 11-03-2002 12:52 AM
GAS USED IN RUSSIAN TRAGEDY PART OF U.S. CROWD CONTROL PLANS
BY STEPHEN JAMES KERR
When Vladimir Putin's generals pumped anaesthetic gas through the vents of that Moscow theatre last week, the inadvertent killing of 117 hostages by their rescuers became the calling card of a new era in chemical warfare. Russian health minister Yuri Shevchenko confirmed yesterday that the substance used was a sedative called fentanyl, in the same family as morphine and heroine.
Ironically, according to the Sunshine Project, an international NGO dedicated to the eradication of bio/chemical weapons, this is the very drug that has caught the eye of American researchers at Penn State who are exploring potential military and police uses of pharmaceuticals.
The Sunshine Project, which has obtained a deluge of documents through the Freedom of Information Act, believes the U.S. military is in fact deeply interested in weaponized "calmatives," particularly Valium, Prozac and Zoloft. Arms monitors are sounding the alarm that, while George W. Bush prepares to invade Iraq over its alleged chemical weapons, U.S. efforts to turn pharmaceuticals into "non-lethal" armaments are themselves in direct violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC).
One of the released documents is a Department of Defense presentation entitled Into The Future: Non-Lethal Capabilities Into The 21st Century. The weapons at the top of the non-lethal list are calmatives that will "attack a target's senses or cognitive/motor abilities."
The text, which carries the logo of the U.S. Marine Corps' Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate (JNLWD), compares images of civilian dissenters, Serbian children protesting NATO bombing and the U.S.S. Cole damaged by al Qaeda -- all enemies of U.S. policy and thus possible targets. The presentation also describes the CWC as a "challenge" to the development of these weapons.
"What the Pentagon planners are anticipating is that U.S. forces will repeatedly be put in a situation where they feel they need to drug large quantities of civilians," says Edward Hammond, a biotech expert with the Sunshine Project.
"But they are also looking at these weapons in what they call "the full spectrum of war,' meaning anti-terrorism and anti-drug operations up through major-theatre-scale conflict like invasion of Afghanistan or Iraq."
Documents demonstrate that reps from JNLWD attended a Non-Lethal Weapons Urban Operations Seminar in London in 2000. "Participants expressed a desire to have a non-lethal weapon" that could quickly incapacitate individuals, and agreed that "a chemically based calmative agent was viewed as the technology that could provide this capability."
Both the UK and U.S. armed forces foresee increasing involvement in what are termed "military operations other than war," which feature "close interaction between the military and non-combatants." The U.S. Army's approach to such non-war operations and to sedative drug weapons was defined by the experience of U.S. forces at Mogadishu, Somalia, in 1992, the same report notes. Somali civilians opposed U.S. intervention, and several U.S. soldiers were killed and dragged through the streets.
The U.S. military is considering just putting future troublemakers to sleep. And that challenges a basic premise of international law on war, that non-combatant civilians should not be the targets of military attack.
The JNLWD hotly denies any involvement in plans to weaponize drugs. "I can tell you that the JNLWD is not pursuing anything like that," says Joseph Rutigliano, a lawyer with the judge advocate office of the U.S. Marine Corps. But Rutigliano was a participant in the London meetings and admits the Marines receive applications from researchers. "I guarantee that there are labs out there working on various proposals that they think might make a good non-lethal weapon. They send those to JNLWD. It's obviously something we're not interested in."
Yet researchers who do work for both the Department of Defense and the Department of Justice are interested. Documents show that scientists at Pennsylvania State University are conducting research into combat calmatives. In 2000, they wrote a report called The Advantages And Limitations Of Calmatives For Use As A Non-Lethal Technique for the Institute for Non-Lethal Defense Technologies. According to the U.S. journal Science, the Institute receives funding from the National Institute of Justice, the research arm of the DOJ.
Penn State researchers found that "new classes of pharmaceuticals are poised to meet the unique requirements of the non-lethal warfare arena." It's fentanyl, whose molecular diagram graces the cover of their report, that really interests them. Carfentanil, a derivative, they say, "has been used successfully to immobilize large animals." But there's bigger game out there, including "hungry refugees agitated over the distribution of food and unwilling to wait."
The study also surveyed methods of getting calmative drugs to these new targets through "drinking water, topical administration to the skin, spray inhalation, a drug-filled rubber bullet."
The Institute is a major recipient of JNLWD contracts, but directorate reps deny it is funding these particular studies. Says Captain Shawn Turner, "The Penn State study was an independent study, not funded by the Department of Defense and not requested by the Department of Defense."
Penn State researchers declined to be interviewed about their own project. University rep Barbara Hale will only say that the report was "designed to list possible alternatives to deadly force for crisis situations."
Paul Root Wolpe, a professor at the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania and chief bioethicist with NASA, believes that "drugging people against their will is fundamentally unethical. Under what authority can you introduce medications into people's bodies without their consent? The answer is never." Drug weapons such as those used in Moscow could never be tested on subjects with informed consent.
That seems to be the interpretation of many Chemical Weapons Convention experts as well. Article 1, section 4, of the CWC, which was ratified by the USA in 1997, states, "Each State Party undertakes to destroy any chemical weapons production facilities it owns or possesses." Section 5 states, "Each State Party undertakes not to use riot control agents as a method of warfare."
Julian Perry Robinson from the University of Sussex and the world's top expert on the CWC says the legal question is unambiguous. "You cannot argue that a calmative or any toxic chemical lies outside it. The CWC defines chemical weapons in terms of the purposes to which they are put."
For Hammond and the Sunshine Project, the prospect of war against Iraq over chemical weapons is especially galling. "If the U.S. is going to go around the world pointing its finger at other countries, it'd better make sure it has its own house in order." the end
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MARK SKY'S PREDICTION HAS COME TRUE!!
WATCH YOURSELF.....GET A GAS MASK!
[Edited 1 times, lastly by Mech on 11-03-2002]