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Chemical Weapons Require Special Consideration and Action by Comparison to Conventional Weapons

As provocative as Price's argument may be, his argument amounts to little more than the contention that chemical weapons have gotten a bad rap over the years. Little imagination or reasonable observation of history is required, however, to understand the uniquely serious threat that chemical weapons pose to human rights. During the early 1980s, for example, former Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein, approved use of chemical weapons against Iran. Reports indicate that as many as 20,000 Iranian troops were killed by mustard gas and nerve agents in horrid fashion (Cooper 173). Later the same decade, the Hussein regime once again used chemical weapons to eradicate Kurds from their villages in northern Iraq as approximately 5,000 men, women, and children died within hours and days of the attacks; meanwhile more than 100,000 Kurdish men disappeared without a trace (Cooper 173). In the hands of a madman like Saddam Hussein, the threat of chemical weapons has no bounds. Almost just as easily as Hussein massacred Iranians and Kurds in the 1980s, chemical weapons could be used by Al Qaeda or other terrorist groups to decimate a major city like Damascus, London, or New York. For the hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of innocent victims of such an attack, Richard Price's claim that chemical weapons have gotten a bad rap would offer absolutely no consolation. Chemical weapons, as Price fails to understand, are a uniquely serious and egregious violation of human rights that not only justify outside intervention but even demand it.

Based on the above findings, it becomes obvious that chemical weapons should be treated differently than conventional weapons when deciding when to use military force against human rights violations. Philosophers and political leaders have long agreed that some wars are justifiable for the preservation of freedom and democracy. In the context of a just war, the use of conventional weapons represents a means to a moral end. In the case of chemical weapons, however, no moral justification can be adduced according to any ethical framework or theory. Chemical weapons are extremely indiscriminate and imprecise attack systems. They are particularly pernicious and hazardous for victims. And what is more, chemical weapons can be used against any target in the civilized world including major cities and metropolitan areas inhabited by millions of innocent human beings. In other words, the risks and potential costs associated with chemical weapons demand a zero-tolerance policy by leaders of the free world. Military action and intervention may, therefore, be considered the first and last line of preemptive defense in cases involving chemical weapons (Lavoy, Sagan and Wirtz 129).

In the final comment, although some critics argue that chemical weapons should not be treated any differently than conventional weapons, analysis of the key facts tells another story. Simply stated, chemical weapons require special consideration and action by comparison to events involving only conventional weapons because chemical weapons are inherently indiscriminate and pose a real and profound threat to the civilized global order. As such, chemical weapons present a uniquely serious and egregious violation of human rights that not only justifies outside intervention but even demands it. Moreover, military action should be considered an acceptable and justified preemptive defense in cases involving the use and/or threat of chemical weapons.

Works Cited

Aji, Albert and Mroue Bassem. "Aid Group: 355 Dead After Syria 'Chemical' Attack." Time. 24 Aug. 2013. Web. 31 Aug. 2013.

Cooper, Allan D. The Geography of Genocide. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, Inc., 2009. Print.

Garrett, Stephen A. "The Chemical Weapons Taboo." Technology and Culture 40.1 (Jan. 1999): 194-195. Web. 31 Aug. 2013.

Lavoy, Peter R., Scott D. Sagan and James J. Wirtz (eds.). Planning the Unthinkable: How New Powers Will Use Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Weapons. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2000. Print.

Physicians for Human Rights. "Chemical Weapons." 2011. Web. 31 Aug. 2013.



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