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Points Of View On Chemical Weapons

June 15, 2015 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 93, Issue 24

May 18, page 37: C&EN reported on the number of minority professors at the leading Ph.D.-granting chemistry departments in the U.S. in 2001 (C&EN, June 4, 2001, page 67). The new survey results are the latest in a continuing effort to track diversity in academia.

The letter by G. David Mendenhall criticizes the cover story on chemical weapons for omitting Israel and castigates Israel for its use of chemical weapons since 1954 (C&EN, May 11, page 2). The letter is a mixture of fact, unproven accusations, and innuendo.

For a more objective analysis of Israel and chemical weapons, I would cite the 2013 article in Foreign Policy (available online) about a CIA report and Israel’s possession of chemical weapons. White phosphorus has legal uses in warfare as well as illegal uses, and each use requires analysis; broad accusations are not appropriate. I am not claiming that Israel is innocent in all of the incidents, but the political and existential considerations of Israel’s role warrant a more objective review.

Alan Schoffman
Teaneck, N.J.

I am disappointed to find C&EN allowing its pages to be misused for attacking Israel when you know that the letter is unrelated to the subject. I note the following distortions of fact:

First, there is no country or organization that considers tear gas a chemical weapon. Israel, as all other countries in the world today, employs tear gas under a variety of circumstances. Israel, like all other countries in the world today, may or may not always follow “proper use” protocols. So what?

Second, even accepting with no proof that “Israeli trained” terrorists used white phosphorus in Egypt in 1954 does not make Israel culpable of using chemical weapons. Following that logic, since the Arabs who attacked the U.S. on 9/11 trained in U.S. flight schools, we are guilty of the attack. This is nonsense or worse.

Finally, to even mention crop defoliants with no reference, much less proof in the context of chemical weapons, advertises this letter writer’s malicious irrelevance. There is no claim of personal injury but rather an unrelated and untrue claim of property rights violations.

There is good reason that Israel was not mentioned in the original article, and that is because Israel has never used chemical weapons (C&EN, Feb. 23, page 8). Hijacking the discussion in an attempt to delegitimize Israel betrays Mendenhall’s prejudice and the lack of journalistic integrity by C&EN.

Bernard H. White

Congratulations. When ISIS or the next Muslim jihad group uses poison gas against Israel, they will have the letter from Mendenhall to state that “Israel did it first.” The last paragraph of that letter should have been edited as it is a pure propaganda lie. The rest of the letter is pure propaganda.

Harold Reisman
Carlsbad, Calif.

The cover story on chemical weapons lists pupil dilation as one of the ­symptoms of exposure to the nerve agents sarin and VX. Quite the opposite is true. One of the first symptoms of even a sublethal dose of nerve agent is pupil ­constriction.

I recall an incident back in the 1970s during my tenure at Edgewood Arsenal where a coworker received an accidental exposure to GB, the military designation for sarin. One day later, his pupils were still so constricted as to be almost nonexistent. Good for depth of field but not so hot for reading in low light.

Donald F. Dustin
Creede, Colo.


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