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Washington Post: Why are Chemical Weapons Different?

Author: Joby Warrick
September 1, 2013


"Even after 100,000 deaths in Syria, the chemical weapons attack evoked a visceral response."

Nearly a century [after World War I], images of another chemical-weapons attack are stirring some Western capitals into action, this time over the alleged gassing of thousands of Syrian civilians by their government. Now, as then, the toll of dead and injured is relatively small, roughly equal to the average number of fatalities in an ordinary week in Syria's civil war.

The response has prompted the same question that arose during the debates of the early 1920s: Why are chemical weapons different?

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