Weapons of mass destruction

A brief history of chemical weapons

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First World War
Chemical weapons were deployed for the first time in warfare. Chlorine and phosgene gases were released from canisters and dispersed by the wind. It is estimated that 90,000 died as a result. In 1916 the British government established the Porton Down facility in Wiltshire to research and develop chemical weapons.

Britain's invasion of Soviet Russia
In 1919 Winston Churchill authorised the use of chemical weapons in northern Russia as part of the attempt to overthrow the new Soviet regime.

New Nukes are Bad News

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Tim Webb condemns Britain's nuclear proliferation.

Apart from Iraq, foreign and defence policy hardly rated a mention during the recent election. That is about to change. The government now faces a major decision on whether it should renew its nuclear weapons or fall in line with all other European countries, except France and Russia, in acknowledging that these are massively expensive, have no discernible targets and provide only an illusion of power in a world that has changed dramatically since the end of the Cold War.

Weapons: The Scoop That Didn't Hold the Press

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Before the war, John Barry of Newsweek produced an amazing scoop. He obtained a leaked copy of the interview between General Kamal, Saddam's son in law, and the UN weapons inspectors.

Kamal was actually in charge of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programme - his defection to the west in 1995 caused panic in Baghdad. Every single assertion about Iraq's WMD programme, every government dossier and major speech relies heavily on Kamal's evidence. However, Barry showed that while Kamal exposed Iraq's pre-1991 WMD programme - the chemical and biological weapons, the plans for nuclear bombs - he actually also said these programmes were destroyed after 1991, although some documents were retained.

Hutton Inquiry: Indecent Exposure

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Was Alastair Campbell responsible for the government's deliberate lies about Iraq's 'Weapons of Mass Destruction'? The Hutton inquiry evidence suggests not.

Instead the e-mails and memos show the whole government machine was behind the 'sexing up' of Saddam's threat. Campbell is there, but so too are Jonathan Powell, John Scarlett, Godric Smith and a host of press officers, all obsessively worried about the drafts and ever more melodramatic redrafts of the government's dossier. The initials 'TB' recur, showing the prime minister's close involvement in the propaganda programme and subsequent squeeze on Dr Kelly.

Shock and Awe

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Mike Davis analyses the Pentagon's plans for a revolution in military affairs.

Imperial Washington, like Berlin in the late 1930s, has become a psychedelic capital where one megalomaniacal hallucination succeeds another. Thus in addition to creating a new geopolitical order in the Middle East, we are now told by the Pentagon's deepest thinkers that the invasion of Iraq will also inaugurate 'the most important revolution in military affairs (RMA) in 200 years'.

Weapons of Deception

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Top of the league for weapons of mass destruction is the US, and the biggest danger in the Middle East is Israel.

A history exam paper might contain the following question: which Middle East country expelled the majority of the original inhabitants, has attacked neighbouring states three times in the last 50 years, accumulated a considerable arsenal of weapons of mass destruction and flouted countless UN resolutions? If you put Iraq the answer would be wrong. The right answer would be Israel.

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