THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — Exactly one century ago Wednesday, German troops opened the taps on a line of chlorine tanks to send a poisonous cloud drifting across no man’s land and into World War I Allied trenches. The gas blinded soldiers and made them retch, vomit and choke, combining with bodily fluids to destroy their lungs.
Today chemical warfare has come full circle.
Reports from Syria about chemical weapons used in that conflict also involve chlorine — a widely available substance that has legitimate industrial and commercial uses. Both government forces and insurgents deny accusations of using the gas.
A report last year by a fact-finding mission set up by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said a toxic chemical, almost certainly chlorine, was used repeatedly in attacks on villages in Northern Syria.
“Leaves on plants … wilted ‘like autumn leaves,'” it cited witnesses as saying. “In one case, a child standing close to the impact site died later because of exposure to the toxic chemical.”