NBC Weapons: September 17, 2003


Last February, the Department of Defense announced that it was asking the president to authorize the use of tear gas in combat situations. Since 1975, American troops have only been allowed to use tear gas for controlling civilian mobs. If the civilians have guns, you can't use tear gas on them as that could be considered a "military use of an incapacitating gas." Although a series of chemical weapons treaties (1925, 1993) make reference to the use of tear gas in combat, the language is vague. To be on the safe side, in 1975 American troops were forbidden to use tear gas in combat. The army and marines protested this, as experience in Vietnam had shown tear gas to be an effective way to save American (and enemy) lives in combat. But on April 2nd, it was announced that president Bush had authorized troops to use tear gas. But there have been few situations that called for tear gas. Baghdad fell quickly, and most of the attacks on U.S. troops have been at long range, with the attackers promptly fleeing. But the ruling is still in force, and U.S. troops are still authorized to use tear gas against anyone, even if they have guns. 


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