Chemical weapons usage by military force Essay Example

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Chemical weapons usage by military force


Industrial chemical such as ammonia have been used during war times and have adverse effects on the affected population. This has led to numerous casualties both allies and foes resulting in stringent international laws governing chemical use in war that is enacted by the Chemical Weapons Convention. This paper discusses in detail the use white phosphorous as a military chemical weapon and the how various fertilizers that contain ammonia are being used to manufacture explosives.

Case study; White phosphorous

White phosphorous is an allotropic form of elemental phosphorous. This chemical has two unique chemical properties that have been exploited to create chemical weapons. This substance possesses a pungent smell and is pyrophoric (spontaneously flammable). When mixed with air, oxidation occurs rapidly causing it to ignite forming tetra phosphorus hexoxide. This chemical process generates a lot of heat, and the yellow flame produced forms a bright white acrid smoke (Meyer, 2004).

These properties have been exploited by various military functions during wartimes. It is used for signaling, forming smoke screen that reduces enemy visibility and direct attacks by causing fires. Ta night, the substance is used in navigation by mapping enemy territories. This weapon saw widespread usage during World War 1 in the form of mortar bombs and grenades by the American military and allied forces as a smoke generating agent. This chemical was also used by the United States Army during the war in Fallujah. It was used for “illumination purposes and later to smoke out insurgents seeking refuge in trenches and tunnels not accessible by U.S soldiers” (Paul, 2005, White Phosphorus: weapon on edge).

The Chemical Weapons Conventions prohibits the use of air-delivered incendiary weapons on civilian populations or any area located near civilians. Use of white phosphorus should only be used once the necessary precautions have been taken by the military to ensure civilian safety. It is also against the law to use this substance in forest or land designated for cultivation unless these natural elements are being used to conceal criminal elements.

Ammonia use in making Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs)

Ammonium nitrate is the main component found in fertilizers used in making explosives. This compound is not explosive if used singularly but acts as a catalyst for WMDs. Fertilizer is mixed with fuel in certain ratio while a detonator is used to generate enough energy to ignite the mixture ( The detonator must contain a certain amount of an explosive element such as gun powder which when ignited discharges a detonation wave. This wave is emitted outwards at speeds of up to 3 miles/second through the ammonium nitrate and fuel mixture. The energy generated from the detonation causes the ammonium nitrate to vaporize leading to the release of large amounts of oxygen. This massive surge of oxygen release coupled with the flammability capability of the fuel is what causes the explosion. The pressure waves resulting from the explosion travel at a very high speed and can harm individual and lead to the destruction of property. The heat from the explosion can also set fires.

The federal government has development stringent regulations that require individual to produce identification before purchase of any fertilizer containing ammonium nitrate. Sellers are also required to maintain records of such sales. Congress enacted laws in 1995 that calls for incorporation of chemical tagging in explosives elements such as dynamite that may be used as detonators to help authorities track those responsible for making bombs.


Military forces continue to use chemical weapon against perceived enemies on the battlefront to weaken their defenses and increase the chances of victory. This strategy has been used numerous times in the past, but with the advancement in technology and know-how in chemical manufacture, its use has been rampant in recent years. Such weapons are used to demoralize, cause physical harm or even kill rebel forces. A terrorist has also taken to use of fertilizer bombs manufactured using locally available materials leading to loss of human life and infrastructure.


Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (U.S.), United States., United States., Cantrell, K. J., Meyer, P. D., Ye, M., & Neuman, S. P. (2004). Combined Estimation of Hydrogeologic Conceptual Model and Parameter Uncertainty. Washington, D.C: United States. Dept. of Energy.

Reynolds, P. (2016). BBC NEWS | Americas | White phosphorus: weapon on the edge. Retrieved 13 November 2016, from

Anhydrous Ammonia Pipeline Rupture Near Kingman, Kansas, October 27, 2004. (2016). Retrieved 13 November 2016, from

GRAY, J. (2016). Senate Votes to Aid Tracing of Explosives. Retrieved 13 November 2016, from