A Brief History
On April 4, 1984, President Ronald Reagan made a public plea to the world to ban chemical weapons. Already outlawed by previous treaties, the widespread use of various chemical weapons in World War I was the peak of chemical warfare, but these terrible weapons have not totally disappeared. Today we list 10 Fiendish, Horrible, Evil Weapons We’re Not Supposed to Use, either by International agreement or our own decision. At times even crossbows were banned for use against “Christians,” as were square projectiles.
10. Poison Gas.
Not to be confused with your baby nephew and his highly toxic diaper, a variety of poisonous gases were used during World War I, notably Chlorine, Phosgene, and Mustard (which is also a blistering agent that horribly burns the skin and mucous membranes). Scientists have created a cornucopia of more modern poison gases, such as VX, Nerve Gas (GA, GB, GD), Sarin and others. Most of these disperse with time, but Mustard notably lingers for many years, creating an environmental nightmare. Some of these jewels of science gone mad also blind the victim. Use of poison gas goes all the way back to 1000 BC when toxic substances such as Arsenic or irritating herbs such as Mustard were burned to produce noxious clouds. Although first banned in 1899 and 1907 at the Hague, the use of poisoned weapons and poison reached an all-time high during World War I when the French became the first of the combatants to use poison gas. The 1925 Geneva Convention produced a protocol which nations signed promising to never use poison or poison gas. (The US Senate did not ratify this treaty until 1975!) Many countries used various forms of poison and poison gas between the World Wars, but only Japan used these chemicals in any meaningful way during World War II, but only against the Chinese. Since World War II, rogue states such as Iraq have used poison gas and terrorists have employed chemical weapons. Despite enormous stockpiles of toxic chemicals, the Soviet Bloc and Western Allies never did resort to using these weapons during the Cold War. Non-lethal chemical agents such as tear gas, vomiting agents, and malodorants may be used as long as they do not cause any permanent damage.
9. Biological Toxins.
These are naturally produced toxins that can be deadly, and are treated like chemical weapons, both in use and in being legally banned. Examples include, Ricin, Saxitoxin, and Botulinum toxin.
8. Biological Diseases.
From ancient times warfare had included throwing dead bodies infected with smallpox, plague or other diseases over the wall of fortifications to attack the defenders. Europeans intentionally gave blankets infected with smallpox to Native Americans, effectively wiping out enormous numbers of the Native Americans. Weaponized Anthrax is a favorite of the 20th and 21st Century mad military scientists. Disease could also be used to decimate an enemy’s crops or livestock. Apocalyptic movies and television shows, novels, and the like often depict a weaponized virus or germ (“Captain Tripps,” the “T Virus” etc.) that becomes out of control and either kills everyone, almost everyone, or creates zombies. Scientists claim such evil efforts at creating a super disease can indeed cause millions or even billions of deaths.
7. Poison and Poisoned weapons.
Another supposedly banned practice is using some toxic coating on weapons to make them more lethal, such as coating bullets in cyanide or some such poison. The past practice of poisoning water supplies with either chemicals, diseases, or toxins is also frowned upon today. Booby traps containing sharp bamboo staves (Pungi sticks) supposedly dipped in Water Buffalo urine or feces were used by the Viet Cong against Americans in Viet Nam.
6. Nukes in Space.
A treaty known best as The Outer Space Treaty (the formal name is ridiculously long) bans the use of Weapons of Mass Destruction from outer space, and bans the militarization of the Moon. This treaty, circa 1967, was meant mainly to keep Nukes from being stationed in orbit above the Earth. An oversight in drafting the treaty failed to include stationing conventional weapons in space, which includes some not so conventional stuff, just not Nukes or chemicals and biologicals. What about lasers or other death-ray type devices that can shoot down an enemy’s nuclear missiles? This is up for debate.
5. Napalm and Fire Weapons against Civilians.
After the US and UK incinerated German and Japanese cities during World War II, including their populations, it took until 1980 that a treaty banning incendiary weapons such as Napalm as used against civilian targets. The United States refused to agree to this International Law until 2009, and even then, with the reservation that we could use these fire weapons on civilians if such use would save more civilian lives than such use cost! (Try to figure that equation!)
4. Neutron Bomb.
A nuclear bomb with a small yield blast but with enhanced radiation (ERW) in order to produce a brief but intense dose of radiation. This enhanced amount of radiation is meant to kill mass quantities of people (soldiers?) while minimizing damage to buildings and infrastructure. Sound fiendish to you? It sounded fiendish to the Allies of the US and these Allies refused to have such weapons based in their countries during the 1980’s, and the ERW’s that were produced were quietly retired. Another use of the ERW’s was to use in warheads of anti-ballistic missile, missiles, with the hope that the large release of radiation would deactivate or cause partial fission of incoming nuclear warheads. International opinion and not an actual treaty has banned these weapons. (“Dirty bombs” are highly radioactive material blown up and scattered over a large area, without a nuclear explosion and are kind of related to ERW’s. The idea of a “dirty bomb” fascinates terrorists that cannot build an actual nuclear weapon.)
3. Dum-Dum bullets.
The invention and use of smokeless gunpowder resulted in bullets traveling so fast down the rifle bore that the lead would be wiped off by the rifling grooves and the bore would foul and the bullets would not go straight. The solution was to encase the lead bullet in a “jacket” of copper gilding metal. The result of such a “full metal jacket” bullet was that the bullet would not flatten on impact with a person, and would often zip right through a body leaving minimal damage to flesh and bone. The British Army came up with a solution at the Dum Dum Arsenal in India, which was to remove the nose area of jacket (a soft point) from the bullet, exposing a soft lead nose that would expand in a person, possibly even fragmenting, leaving a massive, horrible wound. A similar technique quickly followed, that of leaving a hollow cavity in the nose of the bullet (a hollow point) which gave a similar performance to the soft point. Germany protested this development in 1898, and in the Hague Convention of 1899 expanding bullets were outlawed for military use. Note: Exploding bullets were banned in 1868.
2. Blinding weapons.
The 1980 Protocol on Blinding Laser Weapons outlawed the use of lasers or other such devices to cause permanent blindness to the enemy soldiers. Unfortunately, the use of laser range finders and laser guided weapons can still “incidentally” cause blindness without violating the law.
1. Non-detectable Fragments.
Another fiendish weapon is the use of non-metallic mines, bullets, or bomb casings (usually mines to avoid mine detection). These weapons may use various plastics or glass that does not show up on X-rays or other medical detection devices and may cause undue suffering and misery to the victim by preventing effective medical treatment.
Bonus Hellish Weapon:
Unmarked, scatterable anti-personnel mines would include those cluster bomb delivered instant minefields that can easily be blundered into by civilians. In fact, mines from past wars, even many decades ago blow up and maim thousands of civilians every year, as millions and millions of mines have been either hidden by shallow burying or scattered about the countryside in countless wars. Anti-tank mines and command detonated mines are still allowed, but for anti-personnel mines to be used they must be able to be deactivated remotely when not needed and the mine field must be clearly marked. Kids are especially vulnerable to anti-personnel mines as they often play with the little bombs when the mines are found.
Question for students (and subscribers): What weapons, devices, or techniques from Hell would you include on a ban against such things? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
Your readership is much appreciated!
For more information, please see…
Croddy, Eric A., James J. Wirtz, et al. Weapons of Mass Destruction: An Encyclopedia of Worldwide Policy, Technology, and History; Volume I: Chemical and Biological Weapons and Volume II:: … Technology, and History (2 volume set). ABC-CLIO, 2004.
Harris, Robert and Jeremy Paxman. A Higher Form of Killing: The Secret History of Chemical and Biological Warfare. Random House Trade Paperbacks, 2002.
Spiers, Edward M. A History of Chemical and Biological Weapons. Reaktion Books, 2010.