Chapter 1: Overview: Defense against the Effects of Chemical and Biological Warfare Agents [open pdf - 28KB]
"Gas! Gas!" This warning cry, so common in World War I, almost became real to U.S. forces again as they prepared to liberate Kuwait in late 1990. The threat of chemical, and even biological, warfare was foremost in the minds of U.S. military personnel during Operation Desert Shield, the preparation for the Persian Gulf War. Iraq was known to have a large stockpile of chemical weapons and had demonstrated during its conflict with Iran that it would use them. It was not until after the Persian Gulf War that the U.N. Special Commission on Iraq confirmed that Saddam Hussein also had biological agents loaded in weapons. The chemical and biological threats were major concerns to those in the military medical departments who would be called on to care for poisoned or infected casualties, possibly in a chemically contaminated environment. Fortunately the ground war of the Persian Gulf War (Operation Desert Storm) was brief, and even more fortunately, our adversary did not employ these weapons. Two lessons were learned from this conflict, lessons that should never be forgotten by those in the military. The first was that there are countries that have chemical and biological weapons, and there are other countries that might obtain or produce them. The second was that the U.S. military medical departments must be prepared at all times to treat both types of casualties. As long as potential adversaries exist, the U.S. military might face a chemical or biological battlefield. The breakup of the Soviet Union, and the consequent glut of biowarfare experts on the world employment market, may have actually increased the threat of biological proliferation. In addition to the recent experience in the Persian Gulf, a review of other events of the past 2 decades bears out this conclusion.
Textbook of Military Medicine: Medical Aspects of Chemical and Biological Warfare, p. 1-7