Chemical and Biological Warfare: A Reference Handbook
Unlike most books on this topic, the expanded second edition of Mauroni's popular reference handbook is neither sensationalistic nor moralistic. Instead, it offers readers a reasoned, thorough, and fact-based introduction to this highly charged issue.
Covering the period from World War I through the Iraq War, "Chemical and Biological Warfare" not only describes the development of key chemical and biological agents, such as anthrax, tularemia, brucellosis, VEE, Q fever, and botulinum toxin, it also assesses the threats we face, compares military CB warfare with terrorist incidents, explains effective defensive measures, and clarifies the responsibilities of the various federal agencies charged to address these issues. With extensive new material, this edition provides an authoritative and up-to-date introduction to this vitally important topic.
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This subject is too complicated and nuanced for this author to handle, despite or perhaps because of his years of working for the US Army's chemical weapons establishment. Generalizations such as "most defense analysts" predicted the use of chemical weapons in World War II have no basis in fact; the casual reference to $2 billion spent during the war to support the Chemical Warfare Service needs to be broken down into the vast amount allocated for biological weapons and for the distinction to be made between traditional chemicals (not used in the war) and incendiaries (widely used on cities in Germany and Japan). Frederic Brown's book "Chemical Weapons: A Study in Restraint" is the first-class account of this epoch. On Japan and chemical and biological weapons, again, the facts are handled somewhat carelessly: the Japanese performed biological experiments on at least 3000 Chinese captives (not 800) and used such weapons not in the late 1930s but starting in 1940. Unit 731 and Pingfan were identical, not separate centers for research and development and, once the Japanese occupied Beijing, Nanjing, and Shanghai, they build more centers there to conduct a series of germ attacks on Chinese villages and towns. On US policy, the Reagan administration's foolhardy binary chemical weapons initiative was stopped by the refusal of Congress to fund their production. Mauroni (p.136) gives the impression that Congress backed the project.
The biographical note on Matthew Meselson (p.132) reveals an unfortunate political bias at odds with this book's pretension to be an authoritative reference guide. Meselson, a top Harvard scientist, played a key role in the 1969 Nixon decision to shut down the US BW program, within CWS. From that came the 1973 Biological Weapons Convention that internationally bans the research, production and development of germ weapons. Mauroni ignores those facts in the history of this area.
But the worse problem is Mauroni's misrepresentation of Meselson's role as a scientific consultant to government during the Reagan administration. In 1980, Meselson was asked by the CIA to evaluate evidence for a 1979 outbreak of anthrax in the Soviet city of Sverdlovsk. He and Nobel laureate Joshua Lederberg both responded that the outbreak could be due to natural causes, i.e. contaminated meat. Meselson went further in Congressional testimony to encourage the collection of more and better facts and he himself made repeated efforts thereafter to persuade the Soviets to allow him to bring a team of experts to Sverdlovsk to solve the mystery. In 1992, right after the demise of the Soviet Union, he led such a team, whose research showed that the nearly 100 victims of the anthrax epidemic had died from an aerosol release from Sverdlovsk's secret BW military facility. Meselson did not "recant" as Mauroni erroneously asserts; rather he and his team showed the value of scientific inquiry, while also revealing new facts about the disease of anthrax. The 1994 reference Mauroni obliquely cites is actually an article in Science that succinctly summarizes this unique and successful project.
In this same time period, Meselson questioned the Reagan administrations assertion that in the 1970s the Soviet Union had cooperated with Laos in using unusual mycotoxins to kill Hmong tribespeople who had been US allies during the Vietnam War. Meselson, again with a team of experts gathering evidence, proved the US allegations wrong. The Reagan defense analysts were pushing for binary weapons and needed a salient threat--but Meselson showed the toxin was nothing more dangerous than the "yellow rain" of tropical bee feces. Some in the Department of Defense were angry at his revealing the shoddy science on which the claim rested. The Wall Street Journal, siding with them, devoted 13 editorials mocking his skepticism and supporting an enlarged chemical weapons arsenal. But his and his team's analysis of the evidence held--and public rejection of chemical weapons.