]]]]]]]]]]]   CHEMICAL AND BIOLOGICAL WARFARE:    [[[[[[[[[[[[[[
           Should Defenses Be Researched and Deployed?
                       Jane M. Orient, MD
                      (Freeman 85716ORIE)

[Brackets for references added by Bob Long. I may have missed some!]

1601 N. Tucson Blvd. Suite 9
Tucson, AZ 85716
Telephone:  602-325-2689


     The threat of chemical and biological weapons of mass
destruction has intensified due to improved delivery systems and
advances in chemistry, genetics, and other sciences. Possible US
responses include deterrence, defenses, and/or disarmament,
including a reaffirmation of the Biological and Toxin Weapons
Convention of 1972, which is now in jeopardy.  The choice of
response should take into account weapons proliferation to third
world nations and terrorist groups, as well as Soviet actions
(such as alleged treaty violations).
     "The noise of fourteen thousand aeroplanes advancing in open
     order.  But in the Kurfurstendamm. . . , the explosion of
     anthrax bombs is hardly louder than the popping of a paper
                             Aldous Huxley, Brave New World, 1932

     In the nuclear age, another type of weapon of mass
destruction is often forgotten.  Yet the stockpile of nerve gas
in the US alone is estimated to be sufficient to kill the entire
population of the world 4000 times over,[1] given an efficient
delivery system.  Chemical and biological weapons may be the
ultimate "capitalist weapon," leaving the economic infrastructure
intact to an even greater extent than the neutron bomb.

     However unthinkable the use of these horrific weapons, there
is ample historical precedent.  In 1347, the Tatars, afflicted
by bubonic plague during their siege of Caffa, used catapults to
hurl their dead into the city, spreading the disease to Genoan
defenders, who took the Black Death with them when they fled to
Italy.  In colonial days, the British gave American Indians
"gifts" of smallpox-carrying blankets.[2] In World War I, at least
1.3 million men were wounded by gas (including Adolf Hitler), and
91,000 of them died.[1]  In the 1930s, the Italian army repeatedly
gassed Ethiopians, and Japan launched more than 800 gas attacks
in its conquest of Manchuria.[3]   The Japanese probably used
biological agents to attack the Chinese, and are believed to have
conducted experiments with the agents in thousands of Chinese
prisoners of war.[1]  Many other examples could be cited.
     In World War II, the use of chemical and biological weapons
might have been far more extensive than it actually was.  The
Germans had developed tabun and sarin, extremely potent
cholinesterase inhibitors, and German factories were capable of
producing around 12,000 tons of poison gas per month.  The
Luftwaffe had half a million gas bombs. Though lagging in
research on nerve gas, the British biological warfare project was
years ahead of the Nazis.  The British actually produced 5
million cattle cakes filled with anthrax, and the US had a
contingency plan to use the anthrax bomb against Germany.[1]        

Existing and Potential Weapons
     The US stockpiled about 40,000 tons of chemical warfare
agents4 before production ceased around 1969.  The agents include
include phosgene, hydrogen cyanide, and mustard.[5]   About half
the inventory is nerve gas.[4]  Due to chemical deterioration, only
about 10% of the stockpile has immediate military utility, and an
additional 10 to 20% limited utility, according to the Department
of Defense.[6]  Currently, the US is replacing this inventory with
binary weapons, two relatively safe components that form a lethal
agent when mixed.[7,8]  The Soviets are believed to have stockpiled
300,000 to 400,000 tons of a variety of chemical weapons,
including phosgene, nerve agents (tabun, sarin, soman), hydrogen
cyanide, and blistering agents (mustard).[9]  At the Paris
Conference on Chemical Weapons, the Soviet Union announced that
it would destroy its stockpile[10], which it declares consists of
50,000 tons of toxic substances.[11] 
     Numerous pathogenic organisms, including bacteria,
rickettsiae, viruses, and fungi, have been proposed and probably
investigated as agents of biological warfare.[12-15]  Many of the
organisms are highly lethal, although others (such as
brucellosis, developed as a potential weapon by the US during
World War II),[1] might be used with the intention of simply
incapacitating the enemy for long periods.  Smallpox virus has
been called the most important agent,[12] possibly because there is
an effective vaccine as well as a somewhat useful (but generally
unavailable) drug, methisazone.  Conceivably, a nation might
protect its own population, then unleash the virus against an
unvaccinated world.  (Although widely believed to be extinct,
samples of the virus are still kept in maximum-security reference
repositories, under the auspices of the World Health
Organization, in Moscow and Atlanta.)[16]
     Instead of the organisms themselves, their toxins might be
used.  Although toxins could not start epidemics, they might
survive transport better.  A number of toxins, including
botulinus toxin, have been studied by the US Department of
Defense.  Trichothecenes, derived from the mold Fusaria and
allegedly found in a few samples related to "yellow rain"
attacks, are believed to be produced at Berdsk Chemical Works
near Novosibirsk, a facility suspected of involvement in chemical
and biological warfare.  At least 22 articles in the Soviet
literature concern the optimum conditions for biosynthesis of
this agent in large quantities.[17] 
     Advancements in biotechnology open prospects for the
development of organisms that are resistant to existing drugs and
vaccines or that produce more lethal toxins, possibly by
modifying normally harmless or relatively benign
microorganisms.[18]  The Soviets have recognized this possibility
for at least two decades.  The incorporation of the genetic code
for a component of cobra venom into viruses such as influenza is
one of the ominous possibilities suggested in a series of
articles in the Wall Street Journal.[19]  The role for such weapons
was discussed during a Warsaw Pact scientific conference in East
Germany in 1971, where it was reported that:
     the rapid development of biological engineering will make it
     possible in just a few years to produce synthetic or
     partially synthetic toxins on a large scale.  Such toxin
     agents represent a combination of the hitherto chemical and
     biological weapons....
          Neurotropic toxins are toxic proteins which are
     primarily byproducts of the life cycles of microorganisms.
     The neurotropic toxins are the most toxic chemical
     substances...Under combat conditions, they can be used as an
     aerosol or in solid or liquid state in mixed elements of
     ammunition; they can also be used for sabotage purposes.[9]

Delivery Mechanisms
     The effectiveness of aerosols for dispersing biological
weapons has been demonstrated in over 200 experiments in the US
alone.  In 1950, US Navy vessels released clouds of Bacillus
globigii and Serratia marcescens over San Francisco.  Nearly
everyone in the city inhaled 5000 or more particles contaminated
with bacteria.  In 1966, the Chemical Corps Special Operations
Division released aerosols of bacteria (believed to be harmless)
in the New York subway.  Due to the turbulence generated by the
trains, bacteria were carried to the ends of the tunnels within
minutes.1  These methods could easily be employed by terrorists.
     Many types of delivery mechanisms are feasible:  missiles,
artillery, mines, multiple rail and tube-launched rockets,
fighter-bombers, and attack helicopters.[15, 20]  Intercontinental
delivery of chemical and biological agents is now possible with
ballistic missiles.  Some investigation has been carried out in
the USSR into the effects of warhead "tumbling" as a means of
dissemination of chemical agents from large missiles.[15]  (While
large-scale intercontinental attacks against civilians with
chemical weapons are unlikely, the possibility of such use of
biological weapons has to be taken seriously, given that
biological weapons weigh 105 to 106 times less than chemical
weapons of the same "yield" in numbers of casualties.[21])
     Cruise missiles might be the ideal delivery system for
biological weapons, because of their ability to place a toxic
cloud close to the ground.  Flight at subsonic speeds would avoid
some of the problems of heating of the agent when it is ejected
into the wind stream.  The combination of the cruise missile and
existing lethal organisms would be vastly superior to the blast
effect of nuclear weapons and would rival nuclear weapons fallout
in terms of area coverage per ton of payload.[21]   The
calculations that led to this conclusion are based on atmospheric
tests of nuclear weapons, experiments in the dispersal of
nonlethal agents from aircraft, the lethal dose of various
biological agents, and assumptions about meteorological
conditions.  In the BRAVO test explosion at Bikini Atoll (yield
14 to 15 megatons), the lethal fallout contour (300 rads in 96
hours) covered an area of about 10,000 sq mi.22, p. 437  Given
suitable weather conditions and a cruise missile flying like a
crop duster, 100 gm of a biological agent (about 1010 lethal
doses of anthrax spores) could cover about 1 square mile under
light wind conditions at night, and 1 ton could cover about
10,000 sq mi, an area the same order of magnitude as the lethal
fallout from a groundburst nuclear warhead weighing more than 1
ton (a warhead weighing 1 ton has a yield of about 1 megaton).
     The Soviet literature also states that infectious-disease
vectors can be propagated over tens of thousands of square
kilometers by means of aerosols.[23]        

     The recent furor over the Libyan complex near Rabta, which
is potentially capable of producing tens of tons of toxic
substances daily, has called attention to the "poor man's atomic
bomb."  The US Defense Intelligence Agency believes that about 20
other nations (in addition to the US, the USSR, and France) now
possess chemical weapons.3  Many other third world nations have
chemical warfare capability.  Iraq is said to have produced
several thousand tons of mustard gas and tabun and sarin since
the early 1980s.[24]  Ten nations are believed to be developing
biological weapons.[25]  The appeal of such weapons to third world
nations is obvious.  Sophisticated technology is not required,
and the weapons are very cost-effective.  For a large-scale
operation against a civilian population, casualties might cost
$2000/km2 with conventional weapons, $800 with nuclear weapons, 
$600 with nerve gas, and $1 with biological weapons.[26] 
     Long-range delivery systems are also proliferating.  Aging,
"obsolete" ballistic missiles cast off by the superpowers are
being acquired by third world nations.  The range of the missiles
is extended if they carry a lighter, chemical or biological
warhead, and inaccuracy is a lesser problem.   The Soviet Scud B
missile is believed to be in the hands of Iran, Iraq, North
Korea, Libya, Syria, and several other nations.  The US Nike-
Hercules missile has been modified by South Korea.  Argentina,
China, and Brazil are marketing new missiles.[3] 

Disadvantages of Chemical and Biological Weapons
     While chemical and biological weapons can terrorize their
victims with ghastly effectiveness, they also pose problems for
the user.  Invading troops would have to operate in a
contaminated environment.  Biological weapons might outwit their
creators' precautions for protecting their own population; living
organisms can develop resistance to vaccines or antibiotics. 
Accidents at production facilities could threaten enormous
numbers of people.
     Over the long term, persistent ecological consequences of
chemical and especially biological agents are a possibility that
could make the byproducts of the nuclear weapons industry seem
insignificant by comparison.  On most of the islands in Pacific
atolls that are still called "uninhabitable" after nuclear
weapons tests, the radiation dose from all exposure pathways
ranges (depending on diet) from 45 to 100% of the US population-
weighted external background dose or from 23 to 50% of the
Denver, Colorado external background dose.[20]  More fearful
consequences from biological agents have already been
demonstrated.  The myxomatosis inoculation of a few rabbits in
France in 1952 resulted in the spread of disease over an entire
continent.[28]  At the scene of British World War II tests of
anthrax bombs on the island of Gruinard, a 1979 survey still
detected viable spores,[29] despite an effort at decontamination by
burning off the heather.[1]  (By 1983, the area of significant
contamination was small enough to make effective decontamination
feasible using sporocides such as potassium permanganate,
formaldehyde, glutaraldehyde, and peracetic acid, although such
agents might also raise ecologic concerns.[30])  Numerous
hypothetical consequences, especially the unpredictable long-term
effects of biological warfare agents, have also been discussed.[28] 

Methods for Preventing the Use of Chemical and Biological Weapons
     Those who argue for expanded US investment in research on
these weapons can cite deterrence as the rationale.  Since World
War I, the victims of chemical agents have been nations that had
no capacity to retaliate in kind.[6, 21]  
     A variety of circumstances1 may have prevented Hitler from
using his secret weapons (tabun and sarin) against the Allies,
although no moral scruples prevented him from testing them on
inmates of concentration camps.  It is possible that he hesitated
because of his belief, based on extremely flimsy evidence, that
the British also possessed the secret.  Retaliation would not
only have killed many German civilians, but might have
incapacitated the Wehrmacht's transportation system, which was
heavily dependent on horses.  (Late in the war, Hitler might have
used poison gas in spite of the risk of retaliation, but by then
he lacked an air force to deliver it.)
     One might infer that in-kind deterrence is part of Soviet
doctrine from the fact of their extensive capacity to engage in
chemical -- and possibly biological -- warfare.  At the end of
World War II, German attempts to destroy their own chemical
warfare plants failed, and the Soviets acquired whole factories
along with technical information.[1]  The Defense Intelligence
Agency reported that the widespread Soviet network of
production, testing, and storage facilities was continuing to
expand as of 1985.  More than 45,000 troops specializing in
chemical warfare serve in the ground forces alone.[20]  Up to 2000
scientists and technicians are employed by the Institute of
Molecular Biology near Novosibirsk, the largest of three research
and development institutes believed to be concerned with
biological warfare.[9] 
     The existence of defenses against chemical and biological
weapons might also be considered a part of deterrence (by
preventing an enemy from achieving his objective) or alternately
as evidence of intentions to use such agents.  It is possible
that the British manufacture of 40 million gas masks in 193931
might have helped discourage Hitler from launching a gas attack. 
Allied military leaders arranged to inoculate about 100,000
soldiers against botulism, hoping to convince the Germans that
the Allies were preparing for biological retaliation; the
Germans never called the bluff.[32]   
     Many Western scientists argue against deterrence or
defenses, and in favor of relying solely on international
agreements to ban chemical and biological weapons.  (Such
scientists generally appear to see deterrence/defense and arms
control as mutually exclusive, although proponents of the former
do not necessarily oppose arms agreements in addition to
defense.)  To date, there has been better success in obtaining
agreements to limit chemical and biological agents than to limit
nuclear weapons.  US generals were never able to answer a
question posed by Matthew Meselson in the 1960s:  under what
circumstances would they actually order the use of biological
weapons?  Because their effects are so unpredictable, any
available alternative would be used instead.  Even for
retaliation against a massive and deliberate biological attack,
"the alternative of nuclear weapons was available and would be
preferred."[33]  Convinced by this argument, President Richard
Nixon ordered unilateral disarmament: the abandonment of
development programs for biological weapons and the destruction
of weapons stockpiles.  In 1972, the Biological and Toxin Weapons
Convention was signed by Brezhnev.  The Soviets did not actually
destroy any such weapons; they simply issued a statement claiming
not to possess them.[1], p. 218 
     The Convention does not outlaw research into defenses
against biological weapons.  But recent proposals to increase
spending for such research ($60 million in 198825) have been
opposed by scientists.[34]  More than 500 scientists have signed a
pledge not to do work that could help develop biological weapons. 
Many believe this includes the development of vaccines against
such weapons because "offensive and defensive research are
indistinguishable."[25]  It is also argued that there is no
feasible defense against biological weapons, given the vast
number of possible agents (unless the agent to be used is known),
but that attempts to develop a specific defense would make it
possible to use that specific agent offensively, thus making the
use of the weapons less unthinkable.[25]
     A ban on the use of existing vaccines has also been
proposed:  "negotiating an end to the vaccination of troops [by
the US and the USSR], with its reassuring implications for
reduced biological warfare risk, would be a final step in ending
the fear of smallpox."[35]  In this view, vulnerability to a
weapon seems to be a prerequisite for assuring compliance with a
ban against its use.
     Confidence in the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention
has been shaken by accusations of Soviet violations:  the alleged
use of mycotoxins in Southeast Asia and the Sverdlovsk incident.
     The "yellow rain" controversy has died down.  Reports of
deaths in the wake of flights by Soviet helicopters have ceased,
and many scientists have been persuaded[4, 13] by the bee feces
explanation for the yellow substance -- a hypothesis formulated
by Matthew Meselson, the man who is credited[33] with fathering the
treaty that might be destroyed by proof of Soviet use of
mycotoxins.  Others have an equally strong conviction that toxin
weapons were used against defenseless people.  Incontrovertible
evidence was not adduced, but some have cited inadequacies in the
     The Sverdlovsk incident continues to be a subject of heated
controversy.  The report of an anthrax outbreak due to an
explosion at a Soviet biological weapons factory apparently
originated in Posev, an obscure Frankfurt-based magazine
published by Soviet emigres.[1]  The Soviet news agency Tass
admitted that there had been outbreaks of anthrax in Sverdlovsk,
but attributed them to contaminated meat.  US intelligence
analysts claimed that cases of inhalation anthrax had occurred,
that aerial decontamination attempts were consistent with an
accident at the military facility, and that the 1000 or more
cases exceeded the annual incidence of anthrax throughout the
Soviet Union by at least a factor of 100.[18]  Soviet officials
countered that there had been no cases spread by inhalation, no
aerial decontamination, and only 96 cases of illness.[37, 38] 
(Earlier, a Soviet official had stated that decontamination had
been necessary because some "undisciplined workers" had thrown
contaminated meat into open garbage containers.39)  Their
explanations persuaded a group organized and led by Matthew
Meselson, whose requests to meet with Soviet scientists were
granted under Gorbachev's glasnost,[40] but the Pentagon remains
     While some persons, alarmed by reports of Soviet biological
warfare activities as well as by the proliferation of the
weapons, call for improvements in intelligence and in response
capabilities,[26] others consider these recommendations an
"irresponsible provocation" that might weaken prospects to "stave
off a biological arms race."[41]  Proponents of the latter view
believe that we must restore confidence in the existing legal
regimes of prohibition, and that the main burden for doing so
resides in Washington, not Moscow.  In this view, the best hope
for preventing the genie from escaping is a ban on research into
medical defense against biological war, except for investigations
of "passive defenses" (clothing and vehicles impervious to
chemical and biological agents) that do not involve actual
testing with pathogenic organisms or toxic chemicals.[13, 41]
     The lack of verification provisions in previous treaties has
been noted.[13]  Possible verification strategies have been
extensively discussed,[14] along with the difficulties resulting
from the relative ease of production of chemical and biological
weapons, using technology that has many legitimate applications
such as the manufacture of fertilizer, pesticides, and
pharmaceuticals.[6]  Beyond verification, assuring compliance may
be the key issue.[36] 

Defense in Case of Actual Use of Chemical and Biological Agents
     In case the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention of 1972
(as well as current initiatives to restrict chemical weapons)
should fail to prevent use of such agents, perhaps by a third
world power that did not sign the agreement, some nations
actually deploy defenses.  These nations may still recall the
failure of the Geneva Protocol of 1925, which forbids the first
use of chemical and biological weapons.[32] 
     The Soviet corps of chemical warfare specialists has about
30,000 vehicles for decontamination and reconnaissance and has
developed more than 200 areas for teaching all forces how to
protect themselves and how to clean up the area following combat
in which chemical weapons have been used.  The training includes
the use of actual chemical agents.[20]  Soviet civil defense
textbooks used in institutions of higher education instruct
citizens in how to recognize a chemical or biological attack, and
in protective measures.[23, 42, 43]  Gas masks are shown as part of
standard equipment for shelters.  Filmstrips for required civil
defense classes show detailed instructions for the
decontamination of areas affected by various agents (including
mustard and sarin) with solutions of hypochlorite, lime, sodium
hydroxide, or ammonia.[44]  Specifications for ventilating systems
in Soviet blast shelters include provision for operation in
"filter-ventilation" or "total isolation" mode to protect
against radioactive fallout, chemical agents, or toxic gases from
combustion.  The exhaust blast valves are designed to maintain a
small positive pressure to prevent unfiltered air from
     In contrast, specific training in chemical warfare defense
is not given to citizens or even to civil defense organizations
or fire and police personnel within NATO nations.  Apart from
Switzerland and Sweden, no nation outside the Warsaw Pact has any
detection and alarm provision for the civilian population.[9]  
(Swiss blast and radiation shelters are also equipped with
absolute filters to remove chemical and biological agents.)[46, 47]

     At the present time, there are only developmental models of
detectors of aerosols that might carry biological agents.[21]  
However, several possible detection methods appear promising.[14] 
     With regard to biological weapons, Soviet inattention to
public health (as illustrated by the fact that anthrax is
endemic in the Soviet Union, irrespective of the cause of the
Sverdlovsk outbreak) can be said to constitute a "window of
vulnerability."  An efficient network of disease control centers
has been proposed by Newtol Press as a "minimal defensive
     In addition to the passive defenses discussed above, active
defenses might also be deployed against the delivery systems. 
Strategic defenses such as those designed for use against
nuclear-armed ICBMs[48] would work equally well against missiles
armed with other types of warheads.  Such defenses would be more
effective against a few missiles launched by a third world power
than against a massive attack by a superpower.  A substantially
less expensive technology -- the "Brilliant Pebbles" concept --
has recently been proposed with a cost estimate of $10
     While some have argued that strategic defenses would be
ineffective against cruise missiles, which are better carriers
for biological weapons, these subsonic projectiles are actually
targeted more easily than ICBMs.  Soviet SA-10 surface-to-air
missiles and Foxhound fighter airplanes with look-down, shoot-
down radar can already destroy American air-launched cruise

     Chemical and biological weapons exist and are proliferating.
There is considerable precedent for their use.
     It is clearly in the interest of humankind to prevent the
future use of such agents of mass destruction, particularly as
they become ever more lethal with advances in bioengineering.
     As with nuclear weapons, the argument over the best
preventive strategy often pits deterrence and defense against
disarmament treaties.  In actual practice, the Soviet Union has a
substantial investment in the former, although it does sign
treaties.  Western nations (except Switzerland in the realm of
defense only) have a much more limited investment in the
development and production of weapons or protective measures.
     Difficulties in verifying (or enforcing) treaties are
illustrated by the still unresolved disagreements over alleged
Soviet violations.  Whatever one may think of Soviet intentions,
these same difficulties apply to all nations possessing, or
aspiring to possess, these weapons.
     Irrespective of treaties concerning weapons production,
serious discussion is in order regarding improvements in the
means of protecting the civilian population, as well as troops,
against this growing threat.

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50.  Jastrow R:  How to Make Nuclear Weapons Obsolete.  Boston,
     Little, Brown, & Co., 1985.

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