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Bioterror: Manufacturing Wars The American Way
As Washington prepared for a new war against Iraq and other nations declared to be part of the Axis of Evil for stockpiling weapons of mass destruction, the Bush administration abandoned an international effort to strengthen the Biological Weapons Convention against germ warfare. The Washington Post (September 19, 2002) warned, the move will weaken attempts to curb germ warfare programs at a time when biological weapons are a focus of concern because of the war on terrorism and the administration's threats to launch a military campaign against Iraq.
The hypocrisy and dissembling of the U.S. Government is evident today not only in such actions and its language — "Weapons of Mass Destruction" (WMD) being the new, more militaristic buzzword — but also in the fact that the United States has been the only nation ever to have deployed the most lethal of WMDs, nuclear bombs, against civilians. Moreover, the United States has also been the most notorious and prolific practitioner of chemical-biological warfare (CBW) since World War II, endangering not just target populations but U.S. citizens and armed forces personnel as well.
The Los Angeles Times (October 10, 2002) reported that the United States itself had conducted up to 72 tests, spraying VX, e.coli, sarin, tabun, soman and Agent Orange (among others) on civilians and military personnel in the United States, Canada and Europe in the 1960s and 1970s. In fact, much of Washington's prodigious capacity in this field stems from its secret acquisition of the gruesome CBW research data of its wartime foes, Germany and Japan, in return for which it suppressed its knowledge of these activities, not only in the war-crimes tribunals that followed the end of the war but for decades thereafter. It has also long been documented that the United States launched a CBW attack against the Chinese during the Korean War.
During the post-war decades, vast installations were developed at Fort Detrick in Maryland, at the Dugway Proving Grounds in Utah, and elsewhere, with special operations units of experimental scientists devoted to research, production, and testing of CBW agents and toxins. The official line has been that such work was "defensive" only, but there can be virtually no difference between offensive and defensive research in CBW.
Although such military research was highly classified, by 1975 concern over revelations of myriad intelligence abuses led to a comprehensive investigation by the U.S. Senate's Church Committee, which published a CIA memorandum listing the deadly chemical agents and toxins then stockpiled at Fort Detrick. These included anthrax, encephalitis, tuberculosis, lethal snake venom, shellfish toxin, and half a dozen lethal food poisons, some of which, the committee learned, had been shipped in the early 1960s to Congo and to Cuba in unsuccessful CIA attempts to assassinate Patrice Lumumba and Fidel Castro. And this was only what the U.S. Army was safekeeping for the CIA, not its own arsenal of CBW agents, known to include deadly and extremely dangerous binary nerve gas and other esoteric biokillers.
In the wake of its unconscionable and devastating use of CBW during the Vietnam War, Washington repeatedly claimed that its enemies were either using or on the verge of using CBW. In the 1980s, the United States accused Vietnam of dropping so-called "yellow rain” in Cambodia; it accused the Soviet Union of using lethal chemicals in Afghanistan. It accused Iraq and Iran, at different times, of using nerve gas against each other. It similarly accused North Korea, Libya, Syria, and recently Al Qaeda of CBW/WMD capabilities. Many of these accusations were later shown to be outright intelligence disinformation hoaxes or to have involved substances the United States itself had supplied to one side or the other.
In the aftermath of the low-tech but deadly September 11 attacks, Washington launched a high-tech invasion of Afghanistan to destroy Al Qaeda and take its leader, Osama bin Laden, dead or alive. A year of indiscriminate carpet bombing - including of caves, remote villages, wedding parties, and a tribal delegation traveling to Kabul for the installation of a U.S.-sponsored provisional government - has left Afghanistan more dangerous and hopeless than before. Meanwhile, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld neither know nor seem to care whether bin Laden is alive or dead.
A remarkable policy shift occurred when Bush administration hardliners moved to phase two without explanation or apology for the dismal failure of phase one. The next focus of their apparently endless "new" war on terrorism was Iraq: the goal to remove Washington’s former staunch ally, Saddam Hussein, from power in a pre-election campaign that demanded a higher level of military production (and profits) than the diminishing targets of Afghanistan. Control of Iraq, according to Cheney, would secure for the United States 10 percent of the world's oil production.
In launching this latest campaign Washington brushed aside in an instant the norms of international law, hundreds of years in the making. The Bush doctrines of " force resolution" and ”anticipatory self-defense" — in other words, preemptive retaliation (the notion that the United States can attack an enemy simply because it might attack in the future) — are not new. His father invaded Panama, which posed no threat whatsoever to the United States, discarding yet another former collaborator, Manuel Noriega.
During the Reagan-Bush years, and earlier, Israel honed pre-emption to a fine edge, applying it in its internal struggle against the Palestinians and against virtually all its Arab neighbors, generally with U.S. acquiescence. Yet, when Israel bombed the Iraqi nuclear reactor at Osirak in 1981, a preemptive action it justified as selfdefense, the United States joined a UN resolution condemning the attack, even as it was supplying the industrial-scale chemical weapons that found their way to the battlefields of the Iran-Iraq War.
Although the United States is a signatory to the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention, the Bush administration refused to accept the 1997 protocol on verification of compliance. While Washington demanded that Iraq and any other country accused of CBW capacity open its doors to inspectors, it rejected the protocol because it would grant foreign inspectors too much access to U.S. installations and companies. It might expose, they argued, legitimate U.S. military and commercial secrets. And now, in its war fever, Washington takes the position that inspectors in Iraq would be ineffective.
In April 2002, the U.S. Government forced the resignation of the director of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, alleging he was mismanaging the organization, but the real concern was his efforts to persuade Iraq to sign the convention and allow UN inspections, which could have removed one of the administration's main justifications for a preemptive attack against that country. Washington's true agenda, no longer secret in light of its frenzy of accusations against Iraq, is the imperial notion that U.S.preparedness includes the inalienable right of preemptive retaliation.
Rarely is it acknowledged that during the 1980s, when relations between the United States and Iraq were restored, it was Washington that supplied Iraq with more than a dozen biological and chemical agents with military potential, almost all of the material now suspected of use by Iraq in bioweapons research. At the same time the United States went so far as to veto a UN resolution condemning chemical warfare there. Donald Rumsfeld, now Secretary of Defense, was President Reagan’s personal envoy who reestablished those relations and who oversaw the resumption of such chemical munitions trade, in an effort to prevent Iran's victory in the Iran-Iraq War. Rumsfeld was in Baghdad with Hussein the day that veto was cast. Under President George Bush (Snr.) U.S. support for Iraq intensified, as described in Jack Colhoun's article, only to terminate abruptly with Iraq's invasion of Kuwait and the commencement of the Gulf War.
Hawks in the current Bush administration recently floated the spurious accusation that the government of Cuba has "a limited capacity for germ warfare research," suggesting it could some day be used against the United States or provided to its enemies. Yet there has never been a hint of such research in Cuba, which is world-renowned for its bio-pharmaceutical laboratories. In the face of White House disapproval, former President Jimmy Carter visited Cuba in the spring of 2002 at the height of the accusations and toured some of these facilities. He announced there was no evidence of any CBW research, causing a Bush administration official to admit there were difficulties in proving the allegation.
Then, in mid-September, as war drums along the Potomac rose in intensity, Undersecretary of State John Bolton, a former Jesse Helms protégé, leaked to a right-wing scandal sheet the latest disinformation line from the White House, alleging that Cuban CBW might be responsible for the West Nile virus epidemic. Bolton based his claim on a document he said was to be given to the Senate Intelligence Committee, a document supposedly suppressed. The outbreaks of the virus had been traced to birds that "may have been infected at Cuban bioweapons labs,” Bolton stated.
As part of this new wave of disinformation, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Dan Fisk claimed that Cuba was intentionally disrupting U.S. efforts to combat terrorism. Both allegations have been vigorously denied by the Cuban Government, but the fact that such preposterous claims are being raised does not bode well for the peace and security of Cuba. Cuba, in fact, has for more than 4O years been the victim of deadly U.S. biological warfare, not the perpetrator, as is described in detail in the article on dengue fever in this book.
The specter of smallpox is also again haunting the world. More than 20 years after it was virtually wiped of the face of the globe, fear of a smallpox epidemic is in the headlines because neither the United States nor the Soviet Union agreed to destroy the small amounts of the bacteria kept in laboratories after the elimination of the disease. The security of such samples, it now transpires, has been astonishingly lax and no one knows who might have stolen some.
It is further irony that the only people ever in history to use smallpox as a weapon are the Americans whose colonial forebears, as early as the 1760s, gave blankets laced with smallpox to the indigenous inhabitants of the land they were rapidly expropriating. Thousands of Native Americans were killed by this virulent disease, to which they had never before been exposed. The tactic was repeated by the U.S. Army in the Indian Wars of the mid- and late-19th century, a history described in Ken Lawrence's overview.
As part of its new imperial strategy and war fever, the United States is now leading a hysterical campaign of "preparedness," ostensibly against terrorists — or whomever it labels as terrorists — who might use the scourge of smallpox or similar diseases as a bioweapon. The multibillion dollar Bioterrorism Preparedness Act, signed into law in June 2002, allocates more than $600 million to is produce and stockpile vaccines for everyone in the United States. The Food and Drug Administration has suspended its basic requirement of advance human testing.
Originally, the plan called for offering the vaccine to every U.S. citizen, but shortly after the act was passed the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices rejected the proposal and called for the immunization of only about 15,000 "first responders,” those health care and law enforcement workers who would be likely involved in responding to a biological attack. Adverse reactions, to both smallpox and anthrax vaccinations, including serious illness and death, are statistically very high.
The act exempts from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act the locations and users of bio-agents and toxins, making it more difficult for opponents of CBW research to object to specific projects, or to learn of accidents at or thefts from CBW installations. New government regulations, designed to limit access to certain materials to those scientists and students approved by the administration, are leading some universities to consider rejecting new government research work. Defense Department regulations are designed to control the publications, speech, and travel of scientists who accept Pentagon research funds.
The articles that follow appeared in CovertAction magazine between 1982 and 1993. The first two, Ken Lawrence's "History of U.S. Bio-Chemical Killers," and Bob Lederer's "Chemical-Biological Warfare, Medical Experiments, and Population Control," provide an overview of the history of U.S. chemical and biological warfare, noted above. This sordid history bears some study; it has been steady and consistent, usually secret, and not always directed against foreign nations. And its sweep has been grand, if perverse, as Richard Hatch's article, "Cancer Warfare," demonstrates.
Another article, extremely significant in light of recent developments, is Dr. Meryl Nass’s analysis of "Zimbabwe's Anthrax Epizootic" of 1978. In the anthrax scare shortly after the September 11 attacks, five people died in the United States; this has yet to be explained. For nearly a year the FBI made virtually no headway. The administration originally tried to shield its apparent ineptitude from media scrutiny by accusing both Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda of possessing the deadly microbe. Yet the U.S. Government alone possesses the precise strain of anthrax used in the letter mailings, with which it has been experimenting at Dugway for many years. While most investigators concluded the attacks were homegrown, probably involving a U.S. scientist or bio-researcher, this U.S. terrorism has never been part of any international dialogue on CBW and WMD. The U.S. Government rejected a proposal that the UN Security Council condemn the attacks in order to eliminate any call for an international investigation.
During the spring and summer of 2002, however, the New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof published a series of articles about “Mr. X,” a former U.S. Army biological researcher, of whom the FBI had been aware since October, and who should have been a prime suspect. He noted that Mr. X (revealed by Kristof as Dr. Steven J. Hatfill) had worked with the infamous Selous Scouts of Ian Smith's racist regime in Rhodesia (where he got his medical degree) and with the South African Defense Force under its apartheid government. At that time he claimed he was working for the U.S. Special Forces in Africa, and that he was an innocent patriot.
There has been no public discussion of the events in Rhodesia during Hatfill’s time there, but, as Dr. Nass's investigation notes, during the final years of the war of independence against the racist Smith regime, there was an unusually severe anthrax epidemic that killed vast numbers of black farmers. What role the patriotic Dr. Hatfill had in that disaster, or the current anthrax scare, remains to be seen, but it is difficult to imagine that either was the work of a sole culprit. Ironically, although Hatfill has been classified as a "person of interest” by Attorney General Ashcroft, his name appeared in the long-dormant list of UN registered weapons inspectors, from whom the team to go to Iraq was to be chosen.
The next three articles describe other examples of U.S. chemical-biological warfare. “The 1981 Cuba Dengue Epidemic," describes in detail the introduction of a widespread and deadly epidemic into Cuba by the CIA and its Cuban-exile agents. A. Namika's ”Agent Orange: The Dirty Legal War at Home,” and Tod Ensign's "Gulf War Syndrome: Guinea Pigs and Disposable Gls,” both recount an equally tragic aspect of America's use of CBW in the process of waging secret and illegal chemical wars against foreign enemies, Vietnam in the case of Agent Orange, a deadly toxic defoliant, and lraq in the case of depleted uranium, a radioactive component of powerful U.S. antitank missiles. ln both wars, the ”collateral damage" was to unwitting U.S. Gls who deployed these weapons. Hundreds and thousands of veterans returned home with the growing degenerative effects of working in close proximity to these chemicals building in their bodies. Because of the inherent secrecy, the U.S. Government was loath to admit any responsibility, or indeed any problem, and the U.S. victims have had to fight for years, often with little success, for recognition or recompense. Of course the millions of victims in Vietnam and in Iraq would be beyond the scope of reparations.
Finally, in "Bush Administration Uses CIA to Stonewall Iraqgate Investigations,” Jack Colhoun details how the first Bush administration fought a member of Congress to prevent the disclosure of the weapons it supplied Iraq. Sales and loans were authorized up to the very day of the invasion of Kuwait, with many huge U.S. corporations profiting handsomely.
In light of those very dealings, the U.S. rush to war, calling for a “regime change" in Iraq, should be viewed as transparently imperialistic. In accusing Iraq of the capacity to produce WMD, vague allegations of Iraq's ability to produce nuclear weapons sometime in the future were raised, with no evidence of possession of or intention to use those weapons against the United States and none of any preparations to use chemical and biological agents against the United States, Israel, or any other country. Iraq had not, critics pointed out, employed CBW during the first Gulf War, as had been feared. Nevertheless, by its actions, the Bush administration is putting U.S. citizens, people in the Middle East, and indeed the whole world at risk.
As more and more information emerges, the articles in this book shed historical light on the audacity of Washington's accusations about the threat posed by WMDs today. We hope they help point the finger of blame where it belongs. Where it has belonged for 250 years, since Native Americans became the first victims of CBW.