Tuesday, 17 September 2013
Peace in the age of atoms, chemicals, and guns
Syria has been accused, and apparently evidence demonstrates, the use of chemicals as part of warfare.
Not surprising, it is just one of many instances where chemicals have been used in combat. The global outrage is heartening and perhaps the prelude to a new round of disarmament. Or perhaps that is merely optimistic thinking. A vision of peace is one we can all hope for and express.
The modern age of chemical warfare was heralded in World War one with tear and chlorine gases used despite global treaties banning their use. An estimated 85000 persons died at the hands of chemicals, with over a million others injured.
Sulphur based Mustard gases became dominant in the 30’s and into WWII. Tens of thousands died in Italian invasions in Africa, and thousands through the second world war. Again ignoring a global treaty signed in 1925 precluding the use of gas in warfare. Japan utilized blistering agents in skirmishes with China though the 30’s. Throughout WWII both sides utilized various forms of chemical warfare.
The US frequently used chemicals, namely herbicides , in Vietnam resulting in hundreds of thousands of infant deformities in addition to direct impacts. Again in violation of existing treaties.
Chemicals resurfaced in the 80’s war between Iran and Iraq killing tens of thousands on both sides of the war.
Complacency with chemical warfare has been extended by most developed countries in testing, production, distribution and sales. While use is supposedly precluded, only in upstream bans on production and research will progress truly be made.
While several countries have moved to reducing or eliminating military stockpiles, a pan-global approach to total disarmament and destruction has yet to be firmly attempted.
Perhaps in the wake of some 1400 Syrian deaths, such discussions might have a notion to start.
Then again, perhaps in the wake of another mass shooting using military weapons, gun control might take foot in the US.
It is only with hope and dialogue, that peace can be gained. And peace, is one of the prerequisites for health entrenched in the Ottawa Charter on Health Promotion.