The introduction of chemical warfare to the battlefield on 22 April 1915 changed the face of total warfare. Not only did it bring science to combat, it was both the product of societal transformation and a shaper of the 20th century societies.
This collaborative work investigates the unfolding catastrophe that the unleashing of chlorine against the Allied positions meant for individual soldiers and civilians. It describes the hesitation on the German side about the effectiveness, and hence impact on combat operations of the weapon whilst reflecting on the lack of Allied response to the many intelligence pointers that something significant was afoot.
It goes on to describe the massive transformation that societies were undergoing as a consequence of industrialisation, science and technology, and the impact these trends were to have on the emergence of what we know today as ‘total war’. Chemical warfare pitted the brightest minds from the various belligerents against each other and in some ways this competition revealed early thinking about intellectual superiority that was to define the decades after the Armistice. The ability to survive in a chemically contaminated environment was proof of a higher level of achievement. In simple terms, chemical defence equalled survival of the fittest.
- Edited by Dr Jean Pascal Zanders
- Introduction by Ahmet Üzümcü, Director-General of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)
- To be published in December 2015
- Ahmet Üzümcü (Director-General Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons): Preface
- Jean Pascal Zanders: Introduction
- Jean Pascal Zanders: The Road to The Hague
- Olivier Lepick: Towards total war: Langemarck, 22 April 1915
- Luc Vandeweyer: The Belgian Army and the gas attack on 22 April 1915
- Dominiek Dendooven: 22 April 1915 – Eyewitness accounts of the first gas attack
- Julian Putkowski: Toxic Shock: The British Army’s reaction to German poison gas during the Second Battle of Ypres
- David Omissi: The Indian Army at the Second Battle of Ypres
- Bert Heyvaert: Phosgene in the Ypres Salient: 19 December 1915
- Gerard Oram: A War on Terror: Gas, British morale, and reporting the war in Wales
- Wolfgang Wietzker: Gas Warfare in 1915 and the German press
- Peter van den Dungen: Civil Resistance to chemical warfare in the 1st World War
- Leo van Bergen and Maartje Abbenhuis: Man-monkey, monkey-man: Neutrality and the discussions about the ‘inhumanity’ of poison gas in the Netherlands and International Committee of the Red Cross
- Jean Pascal Zanders: The road to Geneva
[Cross-posted from The Trench]
The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has just announced the accession of Angola to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). The country deposited its instrument of accession with the UN Secretary-General on 16 September, which means that it will become a party to the CWC 30 days later, that is, 16 October.
Angola will thus be the 192nd state to join the OPCW. No other treaty limiting possession or use of a particular type of weaponry can boast that many parties. The Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) has 191; the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) 173.
Middle East – The hard nut
According to the OPCW statement, only four states now remain outside the treaty: Egypt, Israel, North Korea and South Sudan.
North Korea presents the simplest problem. There is no diplomatic interaction at all, so expectations that Pyongyang will join the CWC any time soon are as good as zero.
Some optimism exists about South Sudan. Efforts are underway to secure succession (Sudan has been a party since June 1999) as part of a broader package that includes offers of assistance to rebuild the war-torn state. Having said that, the date of OPCW membership keeps getting pushed back into a less definite future in parallel with the floundering efforts to bring peace to the country.
Egypt remains of course obsessed by Israel’s nuclear weapons, while Israel continues to fail to see any benefits in collective security in its pursuit of a peace-first policy in a region that seems to be descending ever further into violence and instability. The fact of the matter is that neither country would lose an iota of national security by joining the CWC; quite on the contrary. Symbolism can be a powerful demotivator …
And what about Palestine?
Among the NPT’s membership is the State of Palestine, which acceded to the treaty as the 191st party in February 2015. It deposited its instrument of accession in London and Moscow (but not Washington). On 10 September the UN General Assembly voted to fly the Palestinian flag outside the UN building—together with that of another non-member observer state maintaining a permanent observer mission at the UN Headquarters, the Holy See.
OPCW statements do not list this Palestine in its statements on universality. It should be noted that UN membership is not a precondition for becoming a party to the CWC. Article XX speaks about accession of ‘any state’; Article XXIII designates the UN Secretary-General as depository and provides no grounds for rejecting any state. The Vatican joined the CWC in June 1999.
As far as I know, Palestinian authorities have not made any statements about acceding to the CWC. It may be that some low-level contacts are taking place between the OPCW and the Palestinian Mission to the EU in Brussels, but if this is the case, it is definitely not yet causing any ripples.
Is there an abundance of caution as a consequence of US laws that defund UN agencies that accept Palestine as a full member, thereby seemingly legitimising its quest for full statehood? While it is true the the USA is the single biggest contributor to the OPCW budget, reality is that (1) the OPCW is not a UN agency, and (2) as noted above, the CWC is not an invitation-only club. Unlike, for example, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), OPCW members do not get to vote on the accession of another state.
So, for the OPCW, four or five more countries before full universality, that’s the question!
Just a quick post to note that IAEA DG Amano announced on Sunday that he has personally visited the Parchin facility, including the building that has been the subject of so much speculation regarding it’s alleged use as a testing space for nuclear explosive initiators. In a statement about his visit, he said that he and his team were allowed into the building, and that environmental tests were performed in collaboration with Iranian technicians. This was the first time that the IAEA had visited this particular building, though it had visited the Parchin facility twice previously.
The political significance of the DG’s visit to this part of the Parchin facility is huge. It is almost certainly supposed to represent the capstone being placed upon the IAEA’s investigation of the site and it’s role in the agency’s PMD inquiry. And as the Parchin facility has been the most visible and specific part of the agency’s PMD allegations against Iran since the DG’s November 2011 report, this visit appears highly politically symbolic in also marking the beginning of the end of the IAEA’s PMD inquiry as a whole. The JCPOA, of course, provides that the DG must submit a report on the PMD issue to the IAEA BOG by December 15, 2015, upon receipt of which the BOG is supposed to act “with a view to closing the issue.” So the DG’s visit to Parchin would seem to be a communication that everything is moving forward toward this outcome, as planned.
I and others have written a lot about the PMD issue, and the Parchin facility specifically, on this blog over the past few years. I’ve argued all along that the PMD issue was both inappropriate as a subject for the IAEA to be investigating, and overblown in the significance attached to it by many observers (e.g. David Albright, Mark Hibbs). It has been very gratifying to me over the past year or so to see that my view of the PMD issue – i.e. that it should be pragmatically dealt with and the IAEA investigation expeditiously ended – has been the view adopted by the P5+1 negotiators, and eventually by the IAEA itself. This outcome will certainly not satisfy those who pushed so hard for Iran to be required to completely capitulate and confess every detail of its nuclear research programs. But it is the right outcome of an issue that should never have been made into an issue by the IAEA in the first place, and which has demonstrated serious problems regarding the IAEA’s own understanding of its legal mandate, and its utilization of third-party intelligence information.
I will be very pleased to see the PMD issue put to rest, so that the more meaningful and productive issues of forward-looking safeguards on Iran’s nuclear program can be focused on.