Fear over chemical weapons — the real ones — grows

The Bush administration claimed that Iraq harbored up to 500 tons of chemical weapons, but teams of investigators came back empty-handed. Perhaps the U.S. should have invaded Australia — or China, or Russia, or, heck, itself. These countries each possess a share of the world’s estimated 8 million chemical weapons, often unaccounted for and stored in facilities of unknown safety, and environmentalists are among the many groups raising a red flag over the problem. The 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention gave signatories, which include the U.S., Russia, and India, 10 years to destroy their declared chemical munitions. How’s that going? As of last year, the Russians had eliminated 1 percent, the U.S. 20 percent. Often the delays have to do with methods of disposal — most pollute the surrounding environment and are opposed by local communities. The U.S. Army’s initial cost estimate for destroying the weapons was $1.7 billion; two decades later, it’s spent $25 billion and counting. Still, says Global Green USA’s Paul Walker, “the cost of getting rid of them is a small fraction of what we’re spending in Iraq.”