Nearly a century after it was first used as a weapon of mass destruction during World War I, chemical warfare remains one of the worst nightmares for peace-seeking nations.
After chemical weapons caused more than a million injuries in that war, and killed an estimated 90,000 people, a horrified world sought to ban its use. Most countries signed onto a 1925 Geneva Conference proscribing usage of these WMDs, but in practice it remains a very potent threat to civilized society.
Particularly frightening is the fate of the large chemical weapons arsenal in Syria. According to some experts, after a long and brutal civil war, the Assad dictatorship may finally be nearing an end. There is mounting international concern about what will happen to the WMDs currently under Assad’s control. The possibility of these genocidal weapons falling into the hands of terror groups like Hizbullah and al-Qaida — both of which have a strong presence in Syria — is ringing frantic alarm bells in Yerushalayim and Washington.
Kamaran Haider was 11 years old in his hometown of Halabja, in Iraqi Kurdistan, when most of his relatives were among the 5,000 people who died in April 1988 chemical attack by Saddam Hussein’s forces.
In an interview with the International Business Times he recalled that fateful day.
“People started screaming and we ran to the shelter, along with neighbors and friends,” Haider recalled. “We wanted to leave the city, but Iraqi military used intelligence tactics. At the beginning, they launched napalm bombs to keep people inside their houses and shelter.
“After one or two hours we felt tears dropping from our eyes and a strange smell, like banana, garlic or apple,” he said. “We knew it was a chemical bombardment. It is horrible because it’s not like other bombs: the chemical is mixed with the air. You canrun. You can’t do anything.”
His mother, father, brothers and sisters were all killed that day. Haider, who was injured in the attack, survived by hiding in a makeshift shelter in his garden.
The United States, along with the rest of the civilized world, must take proactive steps to ensure that the Syrian stockpiles of WMDs do not fall into the wrong hands. The risks and dangers are far too great to take any chances.