Ratify the Chemical Weapons Convention

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Mr. HARKIN. Mr. President, the Chemical Weapons Convention [CWC] is a watershed agreement that will eliminate an entire class of weapons of mass destruction. Upon ratification, the CWC calls for the complete elimination of all chemical weapons within 10 years.

This landmark treaty is perhaps the most comprehensive arms control agreement ever signed. To begin with, the Chemical Weapons Convention requires all signatories to begin destruction of their chemical weapons stockpiles within 1 year of ratification, and to complete this destruction within 10 years. In addition, the CWC prohibits the production, use and distribution of this class of weapons, and provides an intrusive international monitoring organization in order to prevent the development of these weapons.

This verification allows not only for the inspection of “declared” sites, but also permits international inspectors access to any suspected undeclared facilities. Signatories do not have the right of refusal to deter inspection. Should a member nation request a “challenge inspection” of a suspected chemical facility, the nation called into question must permit the inspectors to enter the country within 12 hours. Within another 12 hours, the inspectors must have been allowed entry into the suspected warehouse. It is very unlikely that every trace of the banned chemicals could be eliminated within 24 hours.

In addition to providing broader powers to an international inspection regime, the CWC includes strong punishment to those nations who choose to violate this agreement. The violating nation, as well as nonmember nations, could no longer purchase an entire group of chemicals from member nations. The chemicals which would be banned are necessary for factories to produce products such as pesticides, plastics, and pharmaceuticals. So this measure is not only a “carrot” to induce nations to join, but a “stick” to ensure their compliance.

Obviously, Mr. President, no treaty is 100 percent watertight, but the strength of the international monitoring regime, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, makes the manufacture of chemical weapons difficult to conceal, and the punishment provides a strong deterrent to developing this class of weapons.

Among all weapons of mass destruction--biological, chemical, and nuclear--chemical weapons are the most plausible and potent threat available to terrorists. These chemical weapons are relatively easy to make, and a dosage that can kill thousands is very easy to conceal. Recent events in Tokyo and Oklahoma City have provided the wake-up call to the international community, showing that the world can no longer slumber in a blanket of false security.

From a historical perspective, agreements to curtail chemical weapons use have been largely successful. The best example is the 1925 Geneva Protocol. Even during World War II, the vast majority of nations observed the Geneva Protocol, which banned the first-use of chemical weapons in war. However, the use of chemical weapons by Saddam Hussein against Iran and the Iraqi Kurdish population forced the world community to realize the danger of these weapons. The production of chemical weapons by nations facilitates the proliferation of these weapons to state sponsored terrorist groups.

The United States must place a high priority on the elimination of this deadly class of weapons. If the United States wishes to retain its position as a world leader, the Senate must provide its advice and consent to the ratification of the Chemical Weapons Convention with urgency, and persuade other nations to follow our lead.

Mr. President, to call attention to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, I would recommend a highly informative article by Robert Wright entitled “Be Very Afraid”, which appeared in the May 1, 1995 edition of The New Republic. [...]

I ask that the text of the article be printed in the Record.

There being no objection, the article was ordered to be printed in the Record [...]

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).