After border patrol officers lobbed 2-chlorobenzylidene malononitrile (CS), more commonly known as tear gas, at Central American migrants illegally trying to cross the border this Sunday near Tijuana, nearly every news agency in the country ran the same headline image — one depicting a woman with her two young children fleeing with a plume of white gas behind her. An odd article appeared in the Washington Post the following day bemoaning the deployment of illegal war gas.
Depending on interpretations, CS gas is illegal for use by troops in combat under the Chemical Weapons Convention. Granted, when I was deployed to Iraq we had CS gas out in the ammo bunker. CS gas is also in the Army’s DODIC, the catalog of all munition available to soldiers to request. Besides that, the article is strange in that on Sunday CS gas was not used by troops but rather by Border Patrol officers, members of a law enforcement agency. The skirmish on America’s southern border was not war, and the stipulations in the Chemical Weapons Convention don’t apply in this case. Many countries use CS gas to quell riots.
The bottom line here is that the Border Patrol’s use of CS gas was lawful. It was also far from unprecedented.
According to data researched by the Washington Times, CS gas was used about once a month at the border during the Obama administration:
U.S. Customs and Border Protection has used 2-chlorobenzylidene malononitrile, or CS, since 2010, and deployed it 26 times in fiscal 2012 and 27 times in 2013. The use dropped after that, but was still deployed three times in 2016, Mr. Obama’s final full year in office.
Use of CS rose again in fiscal 2017, which was split between Mr. Obama and Mr. Trump, and reached 29 deployments in fiscal 2018, which ended two months ago, according to CBP data seen by The Washington Times.
That articles like this were not written during the Obama administration is just another example of how the Trump administration is treated differently — and uniquely by the press — rather than as just another president who must be held accountable. Criticism is normal and healthy, but in this case what is the less than lethal weapon that would be more appropriate to use at our border?
No one wants to see women and children tazed or shot with rubber bullets, so it seems that using CS gas to deter illegal immigrants from attempting to cross the border is the most humane option.