UK’s BMA: incapacitating drugs never “nonlethal” weapons

Coincidental with the 4th European on Non-Lethal Weapons (agenda here), the British Medical Association has released a report titled The Use of Drugs as Weapons. Not surprisingly, their assessment is highly unfavorable towards so-called “tactical pharmacology.” The bottom line (edited for brevity):

The primary conclusion of this report is that the use of drugs as weapons is simply not feasible without generating a significant mortality among the target population…The agent whereby people could be incapacitated without risk of death in a tactical situation does not exist and is unlikely to in the foreseeable future. In such a situation, it is and will continue to be almost impossible to deliver the right agent to the right people in the right dose without exposing the wrong people, or delivering the wrong dose. Countermeasures may be easy to apply if such an attack is expected…

Ethical considerations aside, the BMA views the interest of governments in the use of drugs as weapons as dangerous for three reasons.

  1. The international legal norms which protect humanity from poison and the deliberate spread of disease which have been put in place by decades of negotiation risk being undermined.
  2. Widespread but responsible deployment of drugs as weapons would inevitably result in their reaching the hands of state or non-state actors for whom lethality among those targeted is not of concern. This would simply be chemical warfare with a medical label.
  3. Using existing drugs as weapons means knowingly moving towards the top of a ‘slippery slope’ at the bottom of which is the spectre of ‘militarization’ of biology; this could include intentional manipulation of peoples’ emotions, memories, immune responses or even fertility.

That’s a noble sentiment, but I’m pretty sure the militarization of biology is already well underway, and some surprises await us in the future. Major Western nations may choose not to slide down that slope, but others will definitely do so.

Here’s an older, related post: Militarization of biology: nonlethal weapons

BTW, a little bird tells me some of the taser guys were wearing a look of desperation at the NLW symposium. What, they’re not used to taking the heat (or shocks? – sorry, couldn’t resist) by now?

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6 Responses

  1. [...] more at BGG’s excellent blog. No Comments so far Leave a comment RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI [...]

  2. [...] Finger weg! Das Beispiel vom Theater in Moskau, bei dem 50 Geiselnehmer und 90 Geiseln starben, hat gezeigt: zu [...]

  3. Little attention has been given to attempts to use drugs to engineer combat troops. Tne following link goes to FOIA documents which confirm the U.S. Government’s program.

    Some experts, such as Dr. Richard Gabriel, believe that the experimental testing of those drugs is the cause of one of the forms of Gulf War Syndrome.

  4. Yes, not surprising how the report reads. However, they fail to make the case on how the discrete use of calmative agents by specops would be a bad thing. This looks more like the knee-jerk reaction I’ve seen here in the US on how non-lethal CB agents will inevitably lead to mass use of lethal CB warfare agents and proliferation across the globe. Ain’t necessarily so.

  5. True, and obviously some countries think calmatives/incapacitants are worth dealing with a little bit of international condemnation. And what they do within their own borders can be called law enforcement, so far. Many people feel that despite the deaths at the Dubrovka Theater, without the drugs the end result would have been far worse and the Russians used the best option they had at the time. That argument is (in my opinion) a difficult one for opponents of nonlethal weapons to counter – would they really rather have seen all the hostages murdered by suicide bombers?

  6. […] Read more at BGG’s excellent blog. […]

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