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America's Struggle With Chemical-Biological Warfare. (Book Review).

America's Struggle With Chemical-Biological Warfare, Albert J. Mauroni. Westerfield, Connecticut: Praeger, 2000.

The first chapter of this book really captures the reader's attention. The author lays out a dispassionate defense for the necessity of this country to prepare for the use of WMD by people who wish to cause harm to the United States. Even though you may not like the thought of this, and find the use of such weapons repugnant, the mounting evidence indicates that many countries, even small developing ones, are working overtime to develop WMID capability, especially chemical and biological weapons.

Mr. Mauroni lays out some cogent arguments for the consideration of WMD and for increasing our capability in that area. Beneath the surface, you can detect the rumblings that the author believes this country should get back into the offensive WMD business--that is weapons other than nuclear. We, however, are not likely to do that because of various treaties to which this nation is a signatory that forbid the development of chemical and biological offensive weapons. Unfortunately, there are a number of countries that have not signed these treaties.

Given the revelations of BIOHAZARD by Dr. Ken Alibek, it seems clear that the Russians had offensive weapons well after the United States renounced the use of offensive chemical and biological weapons during the Nixon administration. The United States remains steadfast to that promise, but how do we retaliate if attacked with chemical or biological weapons?

The second chapter discusses the famous Skull Valley sheep kill. The author takes a somewhat different view than members of the 4th Estate, who were quick to blame the Chemical Corps when the blame may have been elsewhere. This chapter is interesting in that it is reasonable and well researched. It clearly shows that the rush to blame the government, that is the Chemical Corps, for the incident was premature, but it sure made good headlines.

The author's next chapter deals with other incidents and a bad press that begin to erode the nation and politicians', which in this case didn't take much, use of nonlethal incapacitating agents and herbicides in South Vietnam. In 1969, the antiwar lobby was in full cry. Anything the Army did, especially operations involving chemicals, the media seized the opportunity and published headlines that could be called "loud and biased." Those in political and leadership positions were not slow to read the "tea leaves." Ever quick to bow to public pressure, thoughts of doing away with chemical-biological warfare altogether were given serious attention.

The author gives detail experience on the near death of the Chemical Corps in the late 1960s because of the press' lack of knowledge concerning chemical warfare and its less-than-charitable attitude toward the matter. To understand how and why this happened, the author takes the case that was used by the press and public then, and compares it to what we know now--hindsight is always better.

The time between 1968 and 1990 was one of the most important and critical periods in the Chemical Corps's history. Although the author had to abridge much of the history of research and development of defensive equipment, he tried to divide the book equally into a discussion of policy and the research and development world to show better the total picture of this important decade leading up to the Gulf War.

Although some may not agree with his conclusions or his layout of the tone at the time, the book wasn't written to bring consensus but to present information that would cause the reader to stop and give serious thought to the situation. If clear thought replaces gut reactions, we are all better off.
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Title Annotation:Review
Author:Wright, Dr. Burton
Publication:CML Army Chemical Review
Article Type:Book Review
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 1, 2001
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