November 4, 1996


The countdown has begun for the Chemical Weapons Convention. With 65 ratifications now on file, the Convention will enter into force at the end of April. In the intervening months the Senate has the opportunity to accomplish what the political environment would not allow in September: making all Americans safer by ensuring the United States plays a leading role in a treaty that bans the production, acquisition, stockpiling, and use of poison gas by anyone.

The Chemical Weapons Convention will give us more and better tools to fight this scourge. Recall that a small amount of sarin gas killed 12 and injured thousands more on the Tokyo subway last year. Tens of thousands of our own Gulf War veterans are now being questioned about possible exposure to low levels of poison gas. We must do everything in our power to prevent the spread of chemical weapons, and help ensure they never visit our cities, or future battlefields.

The CWC will not only help protect our citizens and soldiers, but our businesses as well. America's single largest exporting sector is chemical manufacturing, representing $60 billion in exports. If we do not join, our closest allies and trading partners will be forced to apply trade restrictions to chemicals that originate here, or are being shipped here. U.S. companies could lose hundreds of millions of dollars in sales and many U.S. jobs simply because the United States does not belong to the treaty.

The United States has been eliminating its own chemical weapons stockpiles since Congress mandated their destruction a decade ago. I urge the Senate to approve the CWC before its entry into force in April -- so that American inspectors will be on the teams that ensure other countries are doing the same.

John D. Holum
U.S. Arms Control and
Disarmament Agency