Russia, Syria Make Powerful Case At United Nations.

“I will put another rhetorical question: For do you understand the dangerous threshold towards which you are bringing the world? One of the areas where there’s hostility where that is most stark, that is on Syria. The terrorists and extremists supported by external sponsors are enduring a defeat there. Let us recall that we are talking about those terrorists and extremists who you supplied, financed and deployed in the country to oust a legitimate government. And now it is clear why this is causing hysteria among those who invested political and material capital in these dark forces.”

Russian Federation Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia – United Nations Security Council, April 9, 2018

(Transcript)

ut unfortunately the situation is such that I will have to say a great deal today, and it will be incumbent upon you to listen to what I have to say. We are grateful to Mr. deMistura for his briefing as well as to Mr. Markram. The Russian Federation demands both for this meeting to be held on the agenda item: ‘Threats to International Peace and Security’.

Insofar as we are deeply alarmed at the fact that in a number of capitals of, above all in Washington, and those blindly following it, of London, in Paris … there was a deliberate policy undertaken to stoke international tensions. The leadership of the United States, of the United Kingdom and of France, without any justifications and without considering the consequences, have engaged in a confrontational policy against Russia and Syria, and they are prompting others to follow suit.

A broad arsenal of methods is being leveraged: slander, insults, hawkish rhetoric, blackmail, sanctions and threats to use force against a sovereign state. Russia is being unpardonably threatened. The tone with which this is being done has gone beyond the threshold of what is acceptable even during the Cold War. Such boorishness against my country is something which your predecessors did not take the liberty to undertake.

What is next?

We recall a rhetorical question which the Russian president put forward in 2015 from the United Nations General Assembly to our Western partners, above all the United States, concerning their reckless geopolitical experiments in the Middle East: Do you understand now what you have done? And the response at that time hung in the air, but there is a response: No, you do not understand – just as you fail to understand what you are doing now.

The lack of a clear strategy on any issue is appalling, not just to us. It confounds not only us. This is confounding to the majority of those seated here, but they are, have decided, not to openly put this forward to you, following you everywhere you go regardless of what you … everything you touch chaos is left behind. In the brackish waters of which you try to take out, fish, something, but only mutant fish are being taken out.

I will put another rhetorical question: For do you understand the dangerous threshold towards which you are bringing the world? One of the areas where there’s hostility where that is most stark, that is on Syria. The terrorists and extremists supported by external sponsors are enduring a defeat there. Let us recall that we are talking about those terrorists and extremists who you supplied, financed and deployed in the country to oust a legitimate government. And now it is clear why this is causing hysteria among those who invested political and material capital in these dark forces.

Recently, thanks to the efforts undertaken by Russia in line with implementation of Security Council resolutions, a large scale operation has been undertaken to lift the siege of eastern Ghouta. Its residents for a number of years were forced to endure the mockery and torture of fighters. More than 150,000 civilians were evacuated from that Damascus suburb – complete, purely voluntarily with the requisite security conditions being provided. Tens of thousands of them have already been able to return to the liberated areas, and many were met with their … many met with their relatives.

There has been no change in democratic composition which is being shouted about by supporters of the Syrian opposition has occurred – these are lies. With the leaders of armed groups there were difficult negotiations that took place. As a result many of them left the areas they had occupied with full respect for guarantees for their safety. Incidentally during these transportation operations several attempts were undertaken to stage terrorist attacks, when the militants attempted to put … to reach the buses with the (explosive) belts.

Others preferred to settle their status with the Syrian authorities … Thanks to presidential amnesty, they now will be able to return to civilian life, and subsequently it is possible they may enter the Syrian security forces. We are talking about implementation of a UN principle – demobilization, disarmament and reintegration. However, this positive dynamic is not to the liking of some. Foreign sponsors, Western countries were willing to take up any new straw just to maintain a hotbed of terrorist resistance at a striking distance from the Syrian capital.

This for the fighters to continue to terrorize ordinary civilians, to cease their food and to request from the international, to beg of the international community, that humanitarian assistance be delivered. Incidentally, they were not prepared to share medicine with ordinary civilians, as was shown in the inspection of the strongholds left behind by the fighters, as was the case in the past and eastern Aleppo, improvised hospital facilities in basements were full of medicine, which as a result of sanctions, Western sanctions, were not provided to Damascus and other government controlled areas. Also, large storage (inaudible) were found as were the bodies of the corpses of people who had been subjected to torture.

We are stunned (at) the scale of the tunnels that were being used by jihadists, and some of them … small trucks were able to freely move about. These surprising underground facilities, brought together the positions of groups who are viewed by some as moderate, and they were linked to the strongholds of jihadis. On 6 April the new head of Jaish al-Islam, following instructions of sponsors, derailed evacuation of a party of fighters from Douma, and resumed the rocket and mortar firing against the residential areas in Damascus.

According to official information – (8) eight died and (37) thirty seven civilians were wounded. Unfortunately, we failed to see statements from Western capitals condemning the shelling of a historical district of Damascus. The following day 7 April fighters accused the Syrian authorities of dropping barrel bombs with toxic substances. At the same time diversions were being mixed up. They were … it was either called sarin, at times chlorine or at times a mix of toxic substance, of gases.

Based on a well known scheme these rumors were immediately taken up by those financed by Western capitals. I’m referring to, what – on NGOs and the White Helmets, who are mendaciously acting under the cloak of health professionals. And these reports were also taken up and transferred to media outlets. It behooves us once again to state that many of these dubious opposition structures have a clear list of the email addresses of representatives of Security Council members, which shows that some of our colleagues recklessly approached, with the reckless approach towards their status, are leaking sensitive information to their proteges.

Incidentally, all should recall the way that accidentally the White Helmets put on the internet and a video – video where, which showed preparation for staging a so-called victim of an alleged attack perpetrated by the Syrian army. In 2011 the chemical serial began and this continues … to be shown to us with the calculation for each new episode to be more resonant than the one prior to it. In Washington, London and Paris, immediately conclusions were drawn pinning blame on the Syrian authorities, or, as they call it, the ‘regime’.

Has nobody put the question after themselves why does Damascus need this? There were insults against the Syrian government, however the Syrian leadership … however the main burden of responsibility was pinned on Russia and Iran, and I think that this is hardly surprising to anybody at this point. Now, this has been done based on current trends, immediately, without any investigation being conducted. On 8 April the Syrian troops sweeping through (inaudible) near Douma found a homemade … a manufacturing area of Jaish al-Islam to manufacture chemical substances artisanally.

Chlorine agents of German manufacturer and special equipment were also discovered. In Istanbul an opposition journalist (name inaudible) whose base put on his Twitter page a video allegedly from the area of the incident … This was probably from the White Helmets – an unknown individual next to a handmade bomb with a chemical of which allegedly … which allegedly struck the bedroom of a building in Douma. All of this is accompanied by comments about another attack by the regime against civilians. The staged nature of this action is something of which there’s no doubt.

The trajectory of , the alleged trajectory of the bombs is unnatural; this entered this through, fell through a roof and naturally calmly fell into a bed without damaging that bed – a wooden bed without damaging the wooden bed, clearly was placed there prior to preparation for the staging. And an interesting … There’s an interesting incident that the chemical provocation in Douma on Saturday 7 April occurred immediately after the US delegation at the Security Council received instructions to convene for today Monday 9 April, to convene expert level consultations on their draft resolution on the mechanism to investigate incidents with chemical weapons.

The initial text today has far-reaching changes and revisions. In the, under these obscure … under these obscure circumstances of course we need to get to the bottom of what is taking place. However, we need to do so in an honest, objective, impartial way without disregarding the principle of presumption of innocence, and by no means prejudging the outcome of the investigation. Despite the provocations Russian specialists continued their efforts to resolve the situation in eastern Ghouta.

In afternoon 8 April Sunday following a new agreement that was reached, the evacuation of Jaish al-Islam fighters resumed. Following the liberation of Douma from fighters, Russian specialists were sent there – a specialist on radiological, chemical and biological protection to collect evidence and information. They took soil samples which they … which show the lack of nerve agent and chlorine containing substances. And locals were … were interviewed about the cessation of resistance to the fighters. Not a single local resident confirmed the chemical attack having taken place. A local about a hospital … those, there were no reports about symptoms from a toxic substance such as chlorine.

Other medical facilities are not located in Douma; the bodies of the dead as a result of contamination were not found; medical personnel and residents have no information about their potential burial areas. Thereby the use of sarin and chlorine is not confirmed. Incidentally, the representatives of the Syrian Red Crescent refuted the statement allegedly made on their behalf on the delivery of assistance to victims of toxic gas.

I call upon those who will speak against me, slandering the regime, to proceed from the premise that there was no chemical weapons attack. Sweden drew up a draft resolution to investigate the incident. In principle, in order to conduct an investigation OPCW needs no resolution. However we are willing to consider this resolution. Today we propose that what you envisage in your project and your draft be done. Let the OPCW which through the technical … the Director-General of the Technical Secretariat Mr. (inaudible) stated a willingness to get to the bottom of what took place.

Let it immediately, tomorrow … fly to Damascus. There the Syrian authorities and Russian troops will provide conditions to travel to the area of the alleged incident for them to familiarize themselves with the situation. Incidentally, this is what President Trump and other Western leaders called upon on us to undertake. As for the possibility of a chemical attack, being a possibility, this was repeatedly warned about by the Syrians at the Russian Center for the reconciliation of opposing sides. It was stated that in order to take a film of a chemical attack – and I put this in quotes – the ‘necessary equipment has already been brought in’.

We too made the relevant statements of the Security Council. You’ve heard these warnings. You’ve heard, but deliberately ignored them insofar as they do not align with the doctrinal views of those who sleep within (inaudible), in elimination of a legitimate government in another Arabic country. Still what is not being looked into – at the fact that a significant number of chemical weapons were discovered November December 2017 in Syrian territory that had been liberated from fighters.

… (Hama) 20 one-ton containers were discovered; more than 50 munitions were found which contain toxic chemicals … (Idlib) 24 tons of toxic chemicals were discovered and this is believed to be chlorine. In the storage site 30 kilometers northeast of Damascus 140-160 millimeter caliber munitions were found; plastic canisters were found with phosphorus, with phosphorus substances and compounds in the area of a (inaudible) province … An industrial complex that was found for the synthesis of various toxic substances; 54 chemical munitions were found; with 44 chemical containers were found, and these could be used for the manufacture of toxic substances.

From the beginning of this year alone four instances were reported of fighters using toxic chemicals are from, up against positions where government troops are located in (inaudible). More than 100 Syrian troops were hospitalized at 3 March. When (inaudible) were liberated in eastern Ghouta, fighters from government troops discovered in a tunnel an underground artisanal manufacturing site to make chemical munitions of a handmade nature.

And this is far from a full list. It points, it … to the wrongdoings and abuses by the irreconcilable opposition. However, the OPCW’s experts being sent there to identify evidence is not something which we see people eager to do. We demand that OPCW verify all of those areas. Access is being … can be provided. Also, information is surfacing that at Tanf the camp American instructors … instructors have trained a number of groups of fighters to stage provocations with chemical weapons used to create a pretext for a strike.

It was clear to us that they attempt to shelter terrorists, and at the same time to punish the regime so hated by some Western capitals will sooner or later be undertaken. Speaking heads on television screens sought to repeat last year’s … last year’s chemical attack against Syria – last year’s strike. This morning there were strikes … missile strikes against the T4 Air Field in Homs province.

We are deeply troubled by such actions. Provocations in Douma echo last year’s incident in Khan Sheikhoun. The unifying moment aspect is the fact that there’s a planned nature of these attacks. Analysis of the US operations prior to and after the incident in Khan Sheikhoun in April 2017 shows that Washington, ahead of time, prepared for its operation. The US Porter and Ross naval destroyers from 4 to 7 April last year, that is, when the toxic substance was used in Khan Sheikhoun before the strike against the Shayrat airbase, were already present in the Mediterranean waters where they were engaged in planned operations.

They did not enter the ports where an exchange of munitions could have been taking place by increasing the number of cruise missiles. Inter alia 4-5 April the Porter destroyer was located southeast of Sicily and the Ross naval destroyer was in a passage from the (inaudible) naval base in the area southernmost, south of Sardinia. Later 6 April an expedited … a movement of both naval destroyers were reported in the firing positions south, what … more southwest of Cyprus. From there on 7 April they conducted a mass strike against the Shayrat airfield. At the same time the number of Tomahawk missiles that were launched, 59 units, surpassed the overall munitions aboard two naval destroyers if they had actually been engaged in the anti-missile defense operations that had been assigned to them.

And for that purpose only 48 units were necessary. Thereby, US naval vessels even prior to the chemical incident in Khan Sheikhoun entered military service at the … with strike equipment that is an increase of cruise missiles that were necessary for the anti-missile defense. And this could attest to prior planning by Washington of an act … a strike against Damascus.

The fake news on Saturday from Douma are geared inter alia towards drawing attention of society away from the Skripal case which was muddled up by London, and pulling … and throwing on Russia completely unconfirmed accusations, and with the aim of pulling solidarity to build an anti-Russian alliance. Now the English are stepping away from a transparent investigation and putting forward specific … specific responses for the questions put, and at the same time they are sweeping up their tracks.

During the Security Council meeting 5 April on the Skripal case, we cautioned that an attempt to unjustifiably place blame on us of having had a hand in the Salisbury incident was linked to the Syrian chemical dossier. Yesterday this issue saw new interesting developments. For the moment UK foreign minister Boris Johnson continues to disclose things against Russia and attempt to be witty – and here’s the following pearl.

British naval experts south of Cyprus intercepted on the day of Skripals’ poisoning … on the day of Skripals’ poisoning intercepted reports from Damascus suburbs to Moscow, and this is what Times is reporting. It contains the following sentence, the phrase: “the message has been delivered”. The parcel has been delivered and two individuals successfully left. This turns out to be part of the intelligence information provided by London to allies two hours prior to the expulsion of Russian diplomats. However, is it not clear that there’s an irrefutable link here? Is that not clear to all – Syria, Russia, Salisbury?

I will … I would (inaudible) to the British intelligence services and I will do so without charge. …Another powerful course – a step. Why not propose that novichok, which is so liked now, was received … reached Salisbury directly from Syria – by parcel, to cover up their tracks. This is complete mockery here.

Ambassador Haley very simply stated that Russia will never be a friend of the United States, and I wish to respond to that. Friendship is something which is both reciprocal and voluntary – one cannot force a friendship, and we are not particularly keen to be friends with you. We are not begging to be friends with you. What we want from you is really nothing. It’s something that is normal: civilized relations which you arrogantly refuse, disregarding elementary courtesy, basic courtesies. And you’re misguided if you think that you have friends.

You have so-called … friends of yours are only those who cannot say no to you and this is the sole criterion for friendship in your understanding. Russia has friends and unlike your selves we do not have adversaries. We do not view the world through that prism. And yes, international terrorism … that is our enemy.

However we continue to propose cooperation. This needs to be respectful, and mutual, cooperation. It needs to be geared towards resolving real – not imagined – problems. And you should be equally interested, equally as interested as we are in such cooperation. Ultimately as permanent members of the Security Council we bear the main responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security.

Through the relevant channels we already conveyed to the US that armed force under mendacious pretexts against Syria, where at the request of the legitimate government of the country Russian troops have been deployed, could lead to grave repercussions. We call upon Western politicians to scale down their hawkish rhetoric, to meaningfully consider possible repercussions, and to cease the reckless spill over of threats to global security.

What military misadventures of the West bring about are well known to us if we consider the examples of Yugoslavia, Iraq and Libya. And nobody has vested you with the power to act as … act as policemen of the world, and at the same time to act both as investigators, prosecutors, judges – and executioners. We call for your return to the legal fold, to comply with the UN Charter, and to jointly tackle problems that arise rather than attempting at each step to advance your egotistical geopolitical games.

All of the energy needs to be focused on support for the political process in Syria to which end it is necessary to constructively pull the efforts of all influential players. Russia always stands ready to engage in such cooperation. To conclude Mr. President, I wish to take this opportunity to request an open briefing of the Security Council on the outcomes of the UN assessment mission in Raqqa and the situation in the (inaudible) camp.

As the members of … we see the way members of the Commission attempting to create a smokescreen around this issue, which is a result of their actions in Syria, including the operation to raze Raqqa to the ground through the bombings. No chemical provocations will detract attention from this – from what you’ve done.

Thank you.

***

Syrian Arab Republic Ambassador Dr. Bashar Jaafari addressed the Security Council after the delegations from United States, United Kingdom and France exited.

(Thank you to The Syrian Mission to the United Nations)

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Eight Reasons Why the Latest Syria Chemical Weapons Attack Allegations are Almost Certainly Complete Nonsense

what's left

April 8, 2018

By Stephen Gowans

There is much ambiguity surrounding the alleged chemical weapons attack in Douma, said to have taken place late Saturday, but there are a few matters that are clear.

First, the reports are “unverified”, according to The Wall Street Journal [1] and British Foreign Office [2] and are unconfirmed, according to the US State Department [3]. What’s more, The New York Times noted that it “was not possible to independently verify the reports,” [4] while The Associated Press added that “the reports could not be independently verified.” [5]

Second, according to The Wall Street Journal, it isn’t “clear who carried out the attack” [6] assuming even that one was carried out.

Third, the “unverified photos and videos” [7] which form the body of (unverified) evidence, were produced by two groups which have an interest in fabricating atrocities to draw the United States more deeply into…

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World Order 2018: Vladimir Putin.

St. Petersburg Symphony Orchestra – Palmyra, Syria 2016

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n these times of uncertainty and concern over unsettled international relations on Earth, particularly relations between East and West, greater understanding between the people is vital to establish peace. Increased awareness and understanding of views from all sides of major debated issues is important, in that more beneficial actions and resulting outcomes become possible.

American editor and writer Norman Cousins (1912-1990), in his 1953 book titled “Who Speaks For Man?”, wrote: “War is an invention of the human mind. The human mind can invent peace.” May the high spirit and power of Norman Cousins’ wise words now flood the Earth.

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(Thank you to Russia Insight at YouTube, Inessa S for English translation)

Editor’s note: The video documentary originally published at Russia Insight and here was taken down at YouTube, for reasons we have not determined.

(Transcript)

“If we look at the trends for development in the world, then it’s best to have Russia as your ally. We’re a great power. Nobody likes competition. Competitors are kept at bay – but I think in the long run, we will win. Few expected that we would act so quickly, decisively, boldly. I have some very good anchors – those anchors are the interests of the Russian Federation and its people.”

“World Order – 2018”

amburg, Tehran, Beijing, Paris, Moscow; difficult, sometimes very difficult negotiations … Press conferences, flights – our crew have filmed the President on business trips for over a year … Working with various kinds of people; allies and opponents, politicians and diplomats; the interests of Russia, the interests of the world; principles and contradictions. Everything is as usual – handshakes, photos; 1-on-1 meetings, or in teams … Speaking with journalists.

What happens behind closed doors? What does it take to achieve each new step toward mutual understanding? When he has a chance, Putin answers our questions, explains the logic behind his decisions. Everything that has taken place over the past few years – the difficult search for agreement between different peoples, leaders, states.

“Vladimir Vladimirovich: Who makes Russian foreign policy? Is it you, or is there a team of people? Are there dominant figures, or are they inclined toward various forms of dialogue? How does it happen in the context of daily changing situations?

“You want me to reveal all the secrets?

“That would be very interesting!

“I think it would be wrong. It’s a sacred thing. But you described it as it is – there are different points of view in our teams; different approaches, different proposals. Shall we do it like this or like that? There are times when we are in full agreement – for example during the events in Crimea. But it happens differently more often – discussions, exchange of opinion, but in the end I have to make a final decision. It can’t be any other way…

“The burden of power!

“Well, burden or not, it’s a responsibility. Once a decision is taken, then everyone works to make it happen.”

***

Bashar al-Assad, President of Syria. [Sochi, 2017] He faced the fate of Hussein and Gaddafi; that of his country – Iraq or Libya. “From the people of Syria – I would like to express my gratitude for what you have done. We will not forget it.”

Continue reading “World Order 2018: Vladimir Putin.”

Maria Zakharova: West Launching Anti-Russia Campaign.

By Jerry Alatalo

tilizing a chart of nations with their corresponding numbers of Russian diplomats scheduled for expulsion, Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova spoke on national television about unfortunate developments following the increasingly controversial Skripal affair in the United Kingdom.

Here is a portion of Ms. Zakharova’s comments.

“If it weren’t for these numbers, we’d be guessing where all this crazy, scary performance by London had come from, and who the real beneficiary of this situation is. At this time, after these numbers have been published today, there’s no doubt that behind this provocation that took place in the U.K. are strong, powerful forces that are located in the U.S. and in the U.K.”.

“Here’s your motive to continue attacking our country in informational, propagandist, political and other ways. There are no other theories to conclude from this situation … I think everyone knows who’s behind all this, behind this Russophobic campaign”.

“… This whole situation with these numbers and the expulsion of the diplomats has its roots in the Skripals’ situation. I personally state that during the E.U. Summit the U.K. didn’t give the countries any facts about what had happened there. There were exclusively political statements and slogans, along with demands to side with this position. Thus, besides giving their political support, these E.U. countries have no idea whatsoever about what had happened in the U.K.”.

“… Demonization of Russia is the main goal. Obviously, what we see right now is the continuance of this elaborate, long-term program for this – I hate this word – rabid Russophobia in action. This is not just an issue for Russia as a country; it’s definitely an issue for all the Russian people, because statements made by the West always say, ‘ehtnic Russian’, ‘Russian citizen’, or ‘Russia’. This is all about the total Russophobia campaign that isn’t even concealed anymore”.

(Thank you to Vesti News at YouTube)

***

Here is the May 6, 2004 article by Rob Evans referenced by Maria Zakharova, cross-posted from The Guardian archives.

The past Porton Down can’t hide

As an inquest reopens into the death of a young airman 51 years ago, Rob Evans reveals the secrets of Britain’s nerve gas tests

Tucked away in 7,000 acres of beautiful Wiltshire countryside lies one of Britain’s most infamous scientific establishments. Porton Down, founded in 1916, is the oldest chemical warfare research installation in the world. The tight secrecy which has surrounded the establishment for decades has fed the growth of all sorts of myths and rumours about its experiments. One Whitehall official once remarked that Porton had an image of “a sinister and nefarious establishment”.

The Porton experiments on humans have attracted a good deal of criticism. It is, for example, alleged that the human “guinea pigs’ – drawn from the armed forces and supposedly all volunteers – were duped into taking part in the tests. There are still concerns that the tests have damaged the long-term health of the human subjects.

This week, its work has been thrown into the spotlight once again: an inquest was reopened into the death, in May 1953, of a young airman, Ronald Maddison. He died after liquid nerve gas was dripped on to his arm by Porton scientists in an experiment. The original inquest decided that his death was accidental, but this new inquest will examine fresh evidence and decide if the verdict should stand.

But what were the scientists at Porton doing? Years after the experiments ended, did they achieve anything of scientific value? The Guardian has pieced together a comprehensive and surprising picture of the nerve gas experiments, drawn from reports of the tests uncovered at the Public Record Office and new documents obtained under the “open government” code.

From a purely scientific point of view, they produced a huge amount of data about the effects of nerve gas on the human body. This data in turn has enabled Porton to develop some of the most sophisticated defences in the world to protect Britain’s armed forces from chemical attack. Porton acknowledges that the human experiments have made a “vital contribution” to this protection. The data also helped Britain to develop its own arsenal of nerve gas before such plans were finally shelved in the late 1960s.

From 1945 to 1989, Porton exposed more than 3,400 human “guinea pigs” to nerve gas. It seems probable that Porton has tested more human subjects with nerve gas, for the longest period of time, than any other scientific establishment in the world. Two other nations have admitted testing nerve gas on humans: the American military exposed about 1,100 soldiers between 1945 and 1975, and Canada tested a small number before 1968. Other countries, including France, the old Soviet Union and Iraq, are also likely to have exposed humans to nerve gas, but very little is known about their tests.

The group of chemicals known as nerve gases were first developed as weapons by the Nazis before and during the second world war. German scientists discovered the potency of these organophosphorous compounds which, in tiny quantities, disrupt a key element of the nervous system.

Human muscles contract when a chemical, acetylcholine, is released from the nerve endings. Muscles do not exist in a permanent form of contraction because acetylecholine is destroyed in a split second by an enzyme (acetylcholinesterase), thus allowing the muscle to relax again. Nerve gases inactivate this important enzyme, and since it is prevented from working, the muscle goes into a state of spasm from which it cannot be relaxed. Victims die because the most important muscles in the body – those of the heart and the rib cage, which control the emptying and filling of the lungs – are paralysed. They suffocate swiftly in a horrifying death.

The nerve gases are more deadly than any other chemical weapon, but during the second world war, only the Germans had spotted their full potential and produced an arsenal of the munitions. As one Porton official has commented, the British and their allies were “caught with our pants down”.

As the Third Reich was collapsing in April 1945, the British discovered stocks of the gas in Germany. Within two weeks, Porton had tested the new gas on batches of human subjects, even though they did not know what the unknown compound was or how it harmed the body.

The discovery of the new weapons instantly transformed Porton, as all its previous work on other chemicals, such as mustard gas, was downgraded. Porton scientists quickly had to find out how nerve gases attacked the human body.

One of the early tests established just how little one of the nerve gases, sarin, was needed to trigger a reaction in humans. Fifty-six men were sent into gas chambers and exposed to “low concentrations” of gas. The scientists watching recorded that after 20 minutes, the men started to suffer miosis (constriction of the pupil), one of the first symptoms of nerve gas poisoning. Their vision was blurred and darkened, in some cases for up to five days.

Fourteen men were exposed to repeated doses of sarin, some when they were still experiencing the effects of the previous poisoning. Porton scientists observed: “Repeated exposures produced, after the third or fourth occasion, an aggravation of effects …”

By 1950, Porton had begun to test “considerable higher doses” of sarin on 133 men, and catalogued the severity of symptoms, such as runny noses, headaches, vomiting and eye pain.

Within two years, Porton had moved on to look at other aspects. In one study, in 1952, it wanted to see how sarin would impair the mental performance and intellectual ability of humans.

Twenty airmen were exposed to sarin and then measured to see how they performed in intelligence and aptitude tests. From this experiment, Porton inferred that after exposure, the men’s visual co-ordination was worse, but their reasoning and intellectual capability had not deteriorated. Another 12 men were exposed to stronger doses of sarin – Porton found that the men appeared “behaviourally much less disturbed than the increased concentration (of sarin) would lead one to expect”.

Maddison died during what is probably Porton’s most controversial experiment. It will be at the heart of the inquest over the coming weeks. He was one of 396 men who took part in a large experiment whose aim was to “determine the dosage of [three nerve gases] which when applied to the clothed or bare skin of men would cause incapacitation or death”.

The scientists were aiming to expose the men to sub-lethal quantities of the nerve gases and then measure how much each of the quantities was reducing the amount of cholinesterase enzymes in the body. They were trying to establish a ratio between the two figures and then extrapolate them to arrive at the lethal dose for humans. But they discovered that this theory was flawed, as there is no direct correlation.

After Maddison’s death, Porton was limited in the amount of nerve gas it could test on humans, but the trials continued.

About 300 soldiers in the mid-1950s were used to see how well they could conduct military operations after they had been attacked with nerve gas. They were gassed with relatively low levels and then sent on a mock exercise. The men performed well in daylight, but less so at night. The biggest hindrance was that they could not see very well, but the scientists believed that a “determined infantryman” could still fight on after being exposed to low amounts of nerve gas.

They speculated that during the day, “a unit of intact morale” could cope, but at night, the men would have been vulnerable because they would have been prone to panic, especially since their sight was being hampered.

The psychological effects of nerve gas were a continuing focus of experiments in the 1950s. In one set of trials, the men underwent a series of intelligence and aptitude tests after being gassed. Porton found that the men were distinctly unhappy and depressed afterwards, emotions that were combined with a “feeling of reduced mental alertness and a tendency to social withdrawal”.

In the late 1950s, Porton studied the effect of nerve gas on particular parts of the body. One study concluded that nerve gas did not impair hearing; this might have been a problem if troops could not, for instance, hear instructions or orders in the heat of the battle after a gas attack. Another looked at whether nerve gas hindered the circulation of blood through the veins in the leg; it didn’t. Another examined the impact of nerve gas on the heart, as the scientists wanted to see if particular muscles between the ribs were responsible for one of the usual nerve gas symptoms – a “tightness in the chest”.

In the later years of the programme, Porton seems to have focused on assessing the effects of nerve gas on the eyes, a crucial question because, for instance, pilots faced with reading complicated rows of instruments could be put out of action with a slightest amount of exposure to the gas.

The nerve gas programme was substantial at Porton because human testing has been an integral part of the establishment since it was founded. During the past 80 years, some 25,000 humans have been subjected to Porton’s experiments, many in trials with other chemical weapons such as mustard gas and tear gas. Others were used simply to test defensive equipment without being exposed to chemicals.

Today, Porton is devoted totally to devising defensive measures against gas attacks. But the conduct and ethical standards of tests in the past will be under unprecedented scrutiny in the inquest over the coming weeks.

Books
Chemical and Biological Defence at Porton Down 1916-2000, G B Carter, Stationery Office, £16.99

Rob Evans is the author of Gassed: British chemical warfare experiments on humans at Porton Down (House of Stratus, 2000, £20)

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