FACT SHEET: CWC FACTS AND FICTION
(White House on Chemical Weapons Convention) (2890)
(The following fact sheet on the Chemical Weapons Convention, entitled
"CWC Facts and Fiction," was issued by the White House on April 4.)
The Chemical Weapons Convention has been before the Senate since
November 1993, when it was submitted by President Clinton. Over the
past three and a half years, the Senate has held 13 hearings on the
treaty and the Administration has conducted dozens of briefings for
Senators and their staff. The administration has provided the Senate
more than 1,500 pages of information on the CWC -- over 300 pages of
testimony, over 500 pages of answers to letters and reports, over 400
pages of answers to questions for the record, and over 300 pages of
other documentation. In April 1996, the Senate Committee on Foreign
Relations voted the treaty out of committee by a strong bipartisan
majority, 13-5. Despite this thorough scrutiny and debate, opponents
continue to raise concerns about the treaty. For the record here are
the facts, not the fiction, about the CWC:
The Deterrence Fiction: By ratifying the CWC, the United States will
surrender a vital deterrent to chemical attack.
-- This treaty is really about other countries' weapons, not our own.
Well before the Bush Administration signed the CWC, President Reagan
signed the law requiring the United States to destroy the bulk of our
chemical weapons arsenal. The CWC will help ensure that other
countries follow our lead.
-- As the Bush and Clinton Administrations have understood, we don't
need chemical weapons to deter chemical weapons. We have the world's
most powerful military. Saddam Hussein refrained from using his
chemical stockpile during the Persian Gulf War not because he feared
retaliation in kind, but because he feared retaliation of comparable
or greater magnitude. As JCS Chairman General Shalikashvili has said:
"Desert Storm proved that retaliation in kind is not required to deter
the use of chemical weapons.... From a military perspective, the
Chemical Weapons Convention is clearly in our national interest."
-- The CWC allows parties to maintain robust chemical weapons defense
programs to help further deter the acquisition or use of chemical
The Rogue States Fiction: Because rogue states will refuse to join the
treaty, it will tie our hands but not theirs.
-- The CWC will shrink the chemical weapons problem down to a few
rogue states and help curb their ability to obtain the materials to
make chemical weapons.
-- Under a law signed by President Reagan, the United States is
destroying the bulk of our chemical weapons. Our military has decided
we are better off without them. So, whether or not we ratify the CWC,
we are getting out of the chemical weapons business. By ratifying, we
can set an example for others and pressure them to follow our lead.
-- Non-Party states will be affected. Over time, they will be shut out
of the market for many "dual use" chemicals that can be used to make
both chemical agents and commercial products like ink. Such states
will find it much more difficult to produce or acquire chemical
weapons. By imposing permanent trade restrictions against non-members,
the CWC will generate permanent pressure on them to sign up -- or be
excluded from the world's chemical markets.
-- Right now, without the CWC, about 20 countries are suspected of
pursuing chemical weapons programs. With the treaty, they will fall
into one of two camps: 1) those that suffer trade restrictions and a
clear cut stigma as pariah states; 2) those that have agreed to allow
short-notice inspections of any suspicious site. This is clearly
better than the status quo.
-- As General Schwarzkopf has said, "We don't need chemical weapons to
fight our future warfares. And frankly, by not ratifying that treaty,
we align ourselves with nations like Libya and North Korea, and I'd
just as soon not be associated with those thugs in that particular
The Verification Fiction: The treaty is unverifiable.
-- Opponents of the CWC would make the perfect, the enemy of the good.
Verification is never perfect -- but perfection is the wrong standard.
We have laws on the books that prohibit tax evasion or burglary or
murder not because they are guaranteed to prevent these acts, but
because such laws make crimes less likely to occur. Similarly, the CWC
strengthens our hand against chemical weapons cheaters -- without it
we have no hand at all, for chemical weapons are perfectly legal to
make and prepare for use. And significant violations will be more
readily detected because of the treaty's verification regime.
-- In fact, the CWC is the most extensive arms control treaty yet. Its
inspectors will have the right to conduct short notice inspections
wherever they suspect prohibited activities are being carried out,
coupled with access to inspection technologies that will pose
important new barriers to cheating. The treaty's verification
provisions cover every aspect of a chemical weapons program from
development through production, stockpiling, transfer and use. The
treaty also ties the United States into a global verification network
and strengthens our access to information about other countries. It
gives us new tools to deal with problems we must face with or without
the CWC -- the threats of chemical weapons proliferation and chemical
-- The military use of chemical weapons typically requires significant
testing, equipping and training of forces that will be more difficult
to hide in the face of a vigorous on-site inspection regime. Such an
effort would more likely be detected with the CWC's verification
measures than without them.
-- The allegation that the treaty is unverifiable is ironic, given
fearmongering from the same quarters about the treaty's allegedly
draconian inspection and reporting requirements. How can it be both
too tough and not tough enough?
The Proliferation Fiction: The treaty explicitly obligates members to
facilitate the transfer of militarily relevant chemical technology to
untrustworthy countries that can become parties.
-- It would be strange indeed if a treaty expressly devoted to
eliminating chemical weapons required members to help build them. In
fact, the CWC does just the opposite. To help any country build
chemical weapons is absolutely prohibited. The CWC reads: "Each Party
... undertakes never under any circumstances to develop, produce,
otherwise acquire, stockpile or retain chemical weapons, or transfer,
directly or indirectly, chemical weapons to anyone. Each State Party
shall adopt the necessary measures to ensure that toxic chemicals and
their precursors are only developed, produced, otherwise acquired,
retained, transferred or used within its territory ... for purposes
not prohibited under this Convention."
-- This false alarm may be based on a misreading of language in the
Treaty: "...States Parties shall facilitate ... and have the right to
participate in ... exchange of chemicals, equipment and ...
information relating to ... chemistry." This provision is explicitly
restricted to exchanges for "purposes not prohibited under the
Convention." It merely affirms the right of the parties to engage in
chemical commerce for peaceful purposes (e.g., industrial,
agricultural, research, pharmaceutical, medical or other pursuits) as
they do today. A state with chemical weapons aspirations has no treaty
right to anything that furthers those aspirations. And nothing in the
treaty requires the elimination of our export controls on chemical
materials and equipment.
The Vigilance Fiction: It would make us less vigilant about the need
to maintain defenses against chemical threats.
-- Following this logic, we should give chemical weapons to our
potential adversaries to be sure we are reminded to defend against
them. There is nothing inevitable about arms control agreements
lessening our resolve to defend against the threat in question. This
is a matter of political will here at home -- it has nothing to do
with the treaty, which encourages defenses against chemical weapons.
-- The Clinton Administration is committed to maintaining a robust
program to equip and train our troops against chemical and biological
attack. We have asked Congress to increase the Defense Department's
budget for chem/bio defense by $225 million over the next six years.
The Riot Control Agent Fiction: It will prohibit our forces from using
tear gas in the future.
-- The use of RCAs is unrestrained by the CWC for peacetime uses.
Thus, RCAs may be used in normal peacekeeping operations, law
enforcement operations, humanitarian and disaster relief operations,
counter-terrorist and hostage rescue operations and noncombatant
rescue operations outside of internal or international armed conflict.
-- RCAs may also be used in other situations, including when U.S.
forces are conducting: peacetime military operations within an area of
ongoing armed conflict when the United States is not a party to the
conflict (such as Somalia, Bosnia and Rwanda); consensual peacetime
operations when the receiving state has authorized the use of force
(including Chapter VI operations); and, peacekeeping operations under
Chapter VII authority of the Security Council.
-- In all such cases, so long as U.S. forces, or the coalition in
which U.S. forces are participating, do not become engaged in a use of
force of a scope, duration and intensity which would trigger the laws
of war, the CWC would not restrict our RCA use options, including
against combatants who are parties to the conflict.
-- The CWC does not apply to all uses of RCAs in an armed conflict.
When the United States is a party to such a conflict, only the use of
RCAs where combatants are present is restricted. The use of RCAs
solely against noncombatants for law enforcement, riot control or
other non-combat purposes would not be prohibited.
-- Finally, the President has made clear that he is committed to
accelerating efforts to field non-chemical, non-lethal alternatives to
RCAs for use in those situations where the use of RCAs is proscribed.
The Burdens on Business Fiction: Business opposes the treaty because
it will impose huge reporting and inspection burdens on 8,000 American
companies that use chemicals regulated by the Convention.
-- Wrong on all counts. The chemical industry, which worked closely
with the Reagan and Bush Administrations during the CWC negotiations,
strongly supports ratification. The Chemical Manufacturers Association
(CMA), the Synthetic Organic Chemical Manufacturers Association
(SOCMA), the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America
(PhRMA) and other major trade organizations support the CWC and say it
will not pose an undue burden on business. Small business, through the
National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), called treaty
opponent's claims that it opposed the treaty "100% incorrect" (Wall
Street Journal, 2/14/97). An NFIB official predicted its members "are
not going to be impacted."
-- The facts: Under the CWC, about 140 companies will likely be
subject to routine inspections and more detailed reporting
requirements. Many are members of CMA, which strongly supports the
CWC. The rest of the businesses covered -- approximately 1,800
companies -- are producers of large volumes of covered chemicals --
not, as misinformed critics allege, users of chemicals like soap, tire
and paint makers.
-- More than 90 percent of the industry facilities covered by the
treaty will be required to do little more than fill out a two-page
form once a year. Moreover, we expect that challenge inspections in
the United States will be directed largely at military facilities.
-- What the critics fail to point out is the cost to American business
if we fail to ratify. The CMA has estimated that up to $600 million a
year in sales by American chemical companies and many jobs will be at
risk from mandatory trade restrictions designed to pressure rogue
states to join.
The Trade Secrets Fiction: It could jeopardize confidential business
information through frivolous "challenge inspections" with
extraordinary access to files, data and equipment and inspectors
themselves could be spies (e.g., Chinese inspectors.)
-- In fact, the Chemical Manufacturers Association, which strongly
supports the CWC, helped write the rules covering confidential
business information -- protecting trade secrets was its top priority
during the treaty negotiations. Then, CMA "test drove" the treaty
during seven full fledged trial inspections at chemical facilities to
make sure protections against industrial espionage were strong. They
-- Further, the treaty gives our government the right to reject ahead
of time for any reason any inspectors we believe may try to spy at
-- Fearmongering about the treaty's draconian inspection tools is
ironic, given allegations by opponents that the treaty is unverifiable
-- which is it, too tough or not tough enough?
The Constitutionality Fiction: It might involve unreasonable searches
and seizures that violate the 4th Amendment to the Constitution
-- At the insistence of the United States, the CWC explicitly allows
members to take into account their constitutional obligations when
providing access for a challenge inspection. Both the CWC and its
draft implementing legislation fully protect U.S. citizens, including
businesses, from unreasonable search and seizure. In addition,
sensitive equipment, information or areas not related to chemical
weapons can be protected during challenge inspections using managed
-- Because the U.S. chemical industry fully supports the CWC, the
Administration anticipates inspection access to be granted voluntarily
in almost all cases. In the rare cases where access is denied, the
implementing legislation contains procedures for requesting and
issuing search warrants.
-- As Attorney General Reno wrote to Majority Leader Lott, the
"constitutional concerns (of the treaty's opponents) are unfounded.
The dictates of the 4th Amendment have been scrupulously honored in
the drafting and will be rigidly followed in the implementation."
The Cost Fiction: American taxpayers will bear substantial annual
costs of membership.
-- For FY98, the administration has requested $25 million for meeting
our CWC assessment and an additional $21 million for multilateral
verification at U.S. chemical weapons-related facilities, should that
be necessary. That amounts to about 20 cents from every American. This
is a far cry from the $200 million pricetag critics cite without
basis. Less than a quarter from each American is a small price to pay
to improve the safety of our troops on the battlefield and our
citizens at home -- and a bargain compared to the losses American
business could incur if we fail to ratify.
The Deadline Fiction: The April 29 deadline is of no consequence and
is of the administration's own making.
-- In fact, failure to ratify by April 29 will have significant
adverse consequences for America's security and American business.
-- Our ability to oversee the first critical days and months of
implementation of the treaty will be lost -- Americans who now head up
the divisions that monitor the treaty's budget, security measures and
industry inspections will be replaced by individuals from countries
that have ratified the treaty. Moreover, Americans will not be able to
be hired as inspectors.
-- Hundreds of millions of dollars in sales by American chemical
companies and many jobs will be at risk as a result of mandatory trade
restrictions originally designed to pressure rogue states to join.
-- And failure to ratio would relegate us to the back benches with
international pariahs such as Libya and North Korea, squandering our
international leadership in the fight against chemical weapons and
other weapons of mass destruction.
The Pull Back Fiction: Last September, the administration pulled the
CWC back from the Senate for fear it would unnecessarily burden U.S.
-- In fact, the treaty was put on hold in the midst of the
presidential campaign because, as Republican Senator Richard Lugar
explained, "The whole process was politicized in a way that would be
harmful to our foreign policy. This is not a good time for the
-- As detailed above, the leading trade organizations and small
business all support the CWC and say it will not pose an undue burden
The Russia Loophole Fiction: Treaty loopholes will allow Russia to
produce new classes of nerve agents.
-- In fact, the CWC was explicitly written to account for
technological change by making all chemical weapons illegal, whether
or not they are currently listed on its Schedules of Chemicals (which,
in any event, are illustrative, not exhaustive). The Treaty also
explicitly provides for expanding the list as new agents are
identified. And it provides new tools for monitoring emerging chemical
weapons threats, such as challenge inspections.
The Linkage Fiction: The United States should only deposit its
instrument of ratification after Russia ratifies.
-- This approach would give hard-liners in Russia the power to decide
whether the United States ever becomes a Party to the treaty. By "just
saying no," the Duma could ensure that neither the United States nor
Russia ever joins, thus allowing Russia to keep its chemical weapons
-- President Yeltsin's recent decision to submit the CWC to the Duma
and to press for prompt Russian ratification is evidence that Moscow
is worried about U.S. ratification. Rejecting the linkage approach
will make clear to Russia that the train is leaving the station on
April 29 with the United States on board and Russia left behind.
The Pressure on Others to Ratify Fiction: To pressure the Senate, the
administration encouraged other countries to approve the treaty and
trigger entry into force.
-- President Bush's Secretary of State, Lawrence Eagleburger, signed
the treaty in January 1993. The almost four years it took for the 65th
ratification to trigger entry into force on its face undercuts any
claim this inevitable moment of truth was rushed.