On the potency of chemical weapons

Chemical weapons, despite their WMD label, aren’t very effective it seems.

Chemical weapons are not WMD’s

Eh, I’d disagree. A chemical warhead lobbed into an urban center wouldn’t kill many directly, but it would cause terror that would have an impact far beyond its actual lethality.

The same weight of explosives would kill far more, which would probably have more of an impact.

Nah. People are more scared of chem weapons than they are of explosives, illogically.

The man has a simple point:

I’m not saying that a chemical attack would be a completely trivial matter, but it would almost always be preferable to being hit by the same weight of high explosives.

Weapons of mass fear, sure, but WMD? No.

High explosives are also easier/safer to handle by the amateur and easier to deliver. I agree with Lum, but a fucking huge explosion killing a bunc of people also causes terror.
But yeah, if you were a terrorist (and not a dictator waging war) the benefit of striking fear into people by killing a few in a highly unpleasant manner probably ranks chemical weapons higher - too bad (for the terrorists) they are a bitch to make and deliver properly.

But 9/11 really showed us, that you don’t need avanced weaponry to strike terror into millions of people… just a very clever plan.

“Not very effective?” I think the tens of thousands of vets suffering from Gulf War Syndrome and the folks present during the sarin gas attack in Tokyo would disagree. Better yet, ask the Kurds how effective chemical weapons can be. Sure, they may not have the high instant kill factor of traditional explosives, but anything capable of disabling a huge number of people silently and without detection for an indeterminate length of time is nothing to fuck with.

The Gulf war syndrome is caused by exposure to weaponised chemicals? That’s news to me, especially since the troops going in were all equipped with full NBC kits to defend against such exposure.

The gas attack on the Tokyo subway is probably the best example of how chemical weapons can be more dangerous than explosives, when released in a confined and crowded space for a long time, but the same amount of explosives in that space would have killed many more people. The official count for that event was 2 dead and roughly a thousand injured as I recall. Explosives would have killed more and wounded many less. Still, a victory for terror.

As for the gas attacks on the Kurds in Halabja, did you bother to read the article? Saddam’s trops could just as easily have shelled the town with explosive grenades for the same death count. Hell, this being Iraq at the height of Saddam’s power, he could just have sent in an army brigade to shoot everyone, street by street.

Chemical weapons have not been ruled out as the cause of Gulf War Syndrome, but yes, they are only one of several possible causes. You don’t really think the soliders were wearing that gear 24/7, do you?

And it’s fairly easy to tell the difference between a Kurd that was killed by explosives or bullets versus one that had his/her face chemically melted off. Not to mention the huge spike in birth defects and horrible diseases that happened after the attacks.

Chemical weapons haven’t been ruled out as the cause of Gulf War syndrome, but I fail to see how that is somehow evidence. Besides that, chemical weapons aren’t deployed to make soldiers chronically fatigued or naseous over a decade, they’re deployed to kill people and it’s fairly freaking obvious if you’re under attack. If soldiers unwittingly wandered into an area with a lot of chemical residue then they might get affected but that has no bearing on how efficient chemical weapons are at actually killing people.

As for the Kurds, nevermind the difference between how they died, the point is that they’re both dead and it’s practically always cheaper and easier to blast people to bits than saturate an area with chemicals. You’re letting the OMG HORROR! SILENT KILLER emotions get in the way of an objective assessment. Coughing up blood until you choke isn’t a pleasant way to die, but neither is having your leg blasted off in an explosion or taking shrapnel in the guts.

Clearly you guys forgot about the impact on this country from a few envelopes of anthrax.

No, don’t misunderstand me. I totally agree that living in fear of anything, especially the eternally imminent chemical attack, is ridiculous and foolhardy given the statistical chances of it happening. I just don’t understand this current idea that chemical weapons have somehow become less dangerous. A reduced change of danger does not negate the actual damage inflicted by said danger should you draw the short straw. Same reason I don’t go out of my way to stand next to a tall metal pole during a thunderstorm.

So why were chemical weapons ever developed, if the same amount of explosives is better? Presumably not for sheer terror value, since that tends not to be an objective for conventional military wepons development?

Actually, the terror value was part of it. Troops get scared, too.

Chemical weapons, AFAIK, were developed during WWI. It was very hard to kill opposing troops with conventional artillery, as they were all in deep trenches, and you had to score a direct hit on the width of the trench to do any real damage. Lobbing shells a mile or so to hit a trench perhaps 12 feet wide is pretty hard. But chemicals just have to be in the right area, with the wind blowing the right way (or not at all).

Still, IIRC, chemical weapons, though they caused gruesome injuries and lots of fear, weren’t particularly decisive in that war.

Chemical weapons were developed for use in WW1. At the time there was no known counter, but after they were first deployed gas masks were developed in short order. They had a minimal impact on the fighting after that, though they were still used frequently.

No chemical weapons were used in World War 2 which is pretty good evidence that they simply weren’t efficient enough to use even at a time when the most powerful nations on earth made every concievable effort to win a long and hard war.

So a bomb squad professional with the right equipment isn’t as afraid of a chemical weapon as an explosive one? Wow. I’m no debater, but bringing that across to argue about the effect they have on civilians, who of course have no training nor equipment, strikes me as wrong.

I do not think they would qualify as a WMD. Look at what a nuke will do. That is MASS destruction.

One bomb will level a city. If it is a dirty bomb, then the whole area is off limits for 60 years or more.

Chemical weapons aren’t even in the same realm of destructive power.

They are just being called that for purely political purposes. Never let the truth get in the way of a good lie.

Anthrax is a biological agent.

There’s really no argument to be had; in literal terms chemical weapons are most certainly not weapons of mass destruction.

He made some other points too.

No, I agreed with you on that.
Which is why chemical weapons (and flour in an envelope) are great fear inducers - that doesn’t make them WMDs, though.

We’re not arguing that. We’re arguing their effectivness as weapons of MASS Destruction… not weapons-of-making-ill-informed-phlebes-really-really-scared, which they clearly are very good at.
I’m sure that 10 persons dying messily from ebola in the middle of NYC would strike the world with a terror far greater than another “conventional” attack killing thousands at once.
But chemical (and I know ebola is bacterilogical) weapons aren’t effective for killing lots of people. They’re hard to work with and hard to deliver and dissipate too easily.

Kalles examples are sound. They were used in WWI because artillery was even worse and still they often failed to do the job or blew back in the attackers trench if the wind changed - we developed conventional munitions and artillery at the same time as experimenting with chemical weapons, ans by WWII artillery was much more usefull than chemicals, so they were stockpiled but not used.
(our fishermen still catch mustardgas shells dumped by the germans at the end of the war - there’s been a few sick fishers but no deaths)