U.S. Destroys Last Chemical Weapons

09/01/2023
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    Workers destroy a stockpile of rockets containing sarin nerve agent at the Blue Grass Chemical Agent Destruction Pilot Plant in Richmond, Kentucky, in July 2022. (U.S. Army via AP)
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    Former Blue Grass Chemical Activity Commander Major John Riley stands near one of the storage “igloos” at the Blue Grass Army Depot in 2001. (AP/The Richmond Register, Nancy Taggart)
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    A worker at the Blue Grass plant looks at a blast door inside the facility used to destroy chemical weapons. (AP/Dylan Lovan)
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    A worker cuts the metal bands on a pallet of rockets containing sarin nerve agent in July 2022 at the Blue Grass Army Depot. (U.S. Army via AP)
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    Canisters of mustard gas await destruction at the U.S. Army Pueblo Chemical Depot in June 2023 in Pueblo, Colorado. (AP/David Zalubowski)
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In July, the United States closed a chapter. Weapons experts destroyed the last of the country’s chemical weapons. Doing so ended a decades-long campaign to eliminate the lethal stockpile.

God promises that someday humans will no longer “learn war.” (Isaiah 2:4) But for millennia, people have had to study how best to protect groups and nations. The impact of human sin is evident in both the need to develop weapons and the types of weapons people choose to make.

Chemical weapons are toxins that can harm or kill on contact. You may have heard of mustard gases and nerve agents such as sarin. Chemical weapons first appeared in modern warfare during World War I. The Geneva Convention banned them in 1925. But countries continued to stockpile the substances. By the Cold War’s end, U.S. chemical weapons totaled more than 30,000 tons.

Since then, 193 countries have joined the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention. They agreed to get rid of chemical weapons. The United States faced a September 30, 2023, deadline to purge its stockpile.

Workers at army depots in Kentucky and Colorado destroyed the last chemical agents over the summer.

Kentucky’s Blue Grass Army Depot destroyed rockets filled with a nerve agent. The projectiles had been stored there since the 1940s.

In the 1980s, communities near the depot opposed a plan to burn the chemicals. That led to a decades-long battle over safe disposal. Eventually, residents and lawmakers prompted the Army to find alternate disposal methods.

Craig Williams says residents worried about toxic pollution from torching deadly chemicals.

“We had a middle school of over 600 kids a mile away from the [planned] smokestack,” Williams says.

In 2019, the state began destroying chemical weapons. Specialists dilute them for safe disposal.

Workers at the Pueblo, Colorado, site used heavy machinery to carefully load aging weapons onto conveyor systems. Remote-controlled robots did the dangerous work of purging toxic gas.

On June 22, Pueblo workers finished destroying about 2,600 tons of mustard blister agent that had sat in guarded bunkers since the 1950s.

Military experts say the U.S. action sends a message. It tells countries that haven’t joined the agreement that such weapons are not acceptable.

Today, only three countries—Egypt, North Korea, and South Sudan—haven’t agreed to eliminate chemical weapons. But concerns remain that some countries that have agreed to do so, particularly Russia and Syria, still possess undeclared chemical weapons.

They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. — Isaiah 2:4

Why? Completed action on a landmark decision shows how communities and lawmakers can work together to encourage policies and procedures for the well-being of others.

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