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Agents of War: A History of Chemical and Biological Weapons, 2nd Expanded Edition

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  • Дата: 4-05-2021, 19:00
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Agents of War: A History of Chemical and Biological Weapons, 2nd Expanded EditionНазвание: Agents of War: A History of Chemical and Biological Weapons, 2nd Expanded Edition
Автор: Edward M. Spiers
Издательство: Reaktion Books
Год: 2021
Страниц: 281
Язык: английский
Формат: pdf (true)
Размер: 10.3 MB

Often described as the misuse of science, chemical and biological weapons have incurred widespread opposition over the years. Despite condemnation from the United Nations, governments and the disarmament lobby, they remain very real options for rogue states and terrorists. This much-needed history is now available in paperback, and has been expanded and updated with two new chapters on political poisoning and chemical weapons in the Middle East. In Agents of War Edward M. Spiers breaks new ground by presenting his analysis in both historical and contemporary contexts, giving a comprehensive chronological account of why, where and when such weapons were used or suspected to be deployed.

Chemical weapons are those weapons capable of disseminating chemical warfare (cw) agents, defined by a United Nations report as ‘chemical substances, whether gaseous, liquid, or solid, which might be employed because of their direct toxic effects on man, animals and plants’. This definition includes riot-control agents and herbicides, as both have been used for their toxic effects in war, most notably in the Vietnam War, acting as ‘force multipliers’ by compounding the effects of conventional ordnance. Chemical warfare agents, therefore, are quite distinct from biological warfare (bw) agents (such as bacteria, viruses and rickettsia), which are defined as ‘living organisms, whatever their nature, or infective material derived from them, which are intended to cause disease or death in man, animals or plants, and which depend for their effects on their ability to multiply in the person, animal or plant attacked’.

Within the spectrum from chemical to biological warfare agents, there are, as the Chemical and Biological Defence Establishment (Porton Down) claims, many potential ‘mid-spectrum’ agents. These include highly toxic industrial, pharmaceutical and agricultural chemicals; agents of biological origin (such as peptides, the precursors of proteins made up of amino acids that could be manipulated genetically to affect mental processes or the regulatory factors of mood, consciousness, temperature control, sleep or emotions); toxins (chemical substances produced by living organisms that are inanimate and cannot multiply); and genetically modified bacteria, viruses or combinations of substances (designed to mask detection, enhance virulence, be resistant to antibiotics and environmental stability).

Biological Weapons (bw) agents resemble their chemical counterparts inasmuch as they are capable of being dispersed in the air and travel with the prevailing wind. Able to penetrate any area where the air can circulate, they may contaminate terrain, clothing, food, water and equipment. Primarily effective against living organisms, whether humans, animals or plants, their effects, like those of cw agents, can be offset by protective clothing and collective protection devices. Although potentially more potent on a weight-for-weight basis than chemical agents, biological agents often have an incubation period, and act more slowly on their victims than rapid-acting nerve agents.

"A comprehensive overview of the development, future, and implications of biological and chemical weapons. Spiers’s book traces the origins of chemical and biological warfare from their ancient beginnings to the first major use of gas in 1915 in World War I, to more recent uses
and suspicions of use." - Arms Control

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