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Preventing toxin warfare

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Shortly before Secretary Haig's Berlin speech, a Washington report said that officials did not want to go public on findings of toxin warfare in Southeast Asia until a compelling case for them could be made. Mr. Haig did go public, suggesting that such a case could indeed be made. It must have full scrutiny by the independent experts conducting a United Nations investigation of numerous alleged violations of international laws against chemical and biological weapons.

Like the new US assertions, previous allegations were referred to remote areas, such as in Laos, Cambodia, or Afghanistan. Perhaps because of the out-of-sight-out-of-mind temptation, the conscience of people and governments has not been aroused as it should be. Instead or vigorous confrontation of the matter in these areas, there has been understandable concern about how to provide protection elsewhere, in Europe, for example. And there has been in America a decision to produce new nerve gas in addition to the large supplies available to retaliate in kind should an adversary resort to chemical attack.

Debate on such measures is wise. But it must no be allowed to substitute for action against acceptance of such weaponry for any reason. International opinion has to be alerted against a creeping toleration of instruments that humanity has understandably abhorred and acted against in the past.


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