Biowarfare and terrorism
Sept. 21, 2001
If the Bush Administration truly intends to wage a war on terrorism, it can start by reversing its policies vis-a-vie the Biological Warfare Treaty.
For the past six months, the Bush Administration has complained that the 1972 Treaty, which bans countries from developing or acquiring weapons that could spread disease was deeply flawed and would not deter nations that wanted to cheat. The agreement, embraced by 143 nations, does have two loopholes: It has no enforcement procedures and doesn’t clearly distinguish between “defensive” and “offensive” weapons. The former is allowed.
After seven years of negotiations aimed at strengthening the Treaty, the U.S. formally withdrew from the Geneva talks in July, with U.S. chief negotiator Donald Mahley arguing that “The draft protocol will not improve our ability to verify Biological Weapons Convention compliance, and will do little to deter those countries seeking to develop biological weapons.”
Well, as difficult as I find it to agree with the Administration, I have to admit it got this one right. The Treaty has allowed one nation to systematically violate its protocols, undermine its spirit, and develop new and more fearsome weapons of biological warfare. Iraq? Iran? North Korea? No, the U.S.
According to the New York Times, both the Clinton and Bush administrations have secretly tested a bomb designed to spread deadly anthrax and bio-engineered the same pathogen to make it immune to current vaccinations. Under the irony-challenged codename “Clear Vision,” the CIA and the Department of Defense (DOD) is carrying out the research at the Battelle Memorial Institute in Ohio.
Both agencies were instrumental in torpedoing the Treaty talks in Geneva, and with good reason. The new protocols would have required all countries to disclose if (and where) they are engaged in any research involving the gene splicing of germs that could be used in weapons. Of course the Bush Administration pulled out of the Treaty talks; it was up to no good.
The White House argues that the research is “defensive,” and hence allowed under the Treaty, but former arms control experts vehemently disagree. Mary Hoinkes, general counsel for the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA), told the Times that any such interpretation is a “gross misrepresentation” of the Treaty.
This is hardly surprising. When it comes to defense spending, especially top secret or“black budget” items, the DOD, the CIA, and the White House simply lie, all under the rubric of “national security.” The fact that the American people might want a say in something of this nature, particularly if it involves a formal treaty dutifully voted on and passed by the Senate, is irrelevant.
Even the Times puts a benign spin on its own revelation, arguing that the U.S. was essentially forced to “restart” its bio-warfare program because “it knew relatively little about the working of exotic arms it had relinquished long ago.” But the U.S. defense establishment never “relinquished” biowarfare, it just redefined “offense” to “defense.” All our nasties are defensive. Offensive weapons are what the other guys have. In fact, the research and bio agents are the same for both, and the U.S. has developed a substantial number of bio-weapons over the years. Take the so-called “turkey feather” bomb, where feathers saturated with hog Cholera successfully wiped out a herd of pigs (U.S. Army Special Report #138), or when the U.S. dusted song birds with cereal rust to initiate a epidemic on St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands.
Weapons containing anthrax and Q fever were detonated at altitudes of up to 10,000 feet over Dugway Proving Grounds in Utah. In one case, the Army allowed anthrax spores to blow over Highway 40 (now Interstate 80) and the town of Wendover on the Utah-Nevada border. Rather than stopping the tests, the Army instructed local sheriff’s to cruise the highway and take down the names of people in stalled cars.
Throughout the 1950s and ‘60s, the Army released rodents infected with plague, tularemia and Q fever at Dugway, as well at Venezuelan equine encephalomyelitis, a disease never seen outside of Florida and Louisiana, and now endemic to Utah.
There is at least some evidence that the U.S. has engaged in active biowarfare. According to the New York newspaper, Newsday, the CIA helped anti-Castro Cubans introduce African swine fever into the island in 1971. The newspaper reported that the pathogen was packed into a canister at Fork Gulick, a former U.S. base in Panama. The epidemic was a disaster for the Cuban pig industry.
Cuba and Nicaragua also charged that the U.S. introduced Dengue II fever to both countries as part of the Reagan Administration’s jihad on the Sandinistas. Both diseases were unknown in the two countries until 1984.
The U.S. denies the charges, and the outbreak may indeed have been coincidental. On the other hand, the denials are by the same people lying to us about operation Clear Vision.
Dumping the Biological Warfare protocols is not just Bush walking away from yet another international treaty. Biowarfare is not a hypothetical missile in another country. The research is right here at home. According to a report by the Senate Governmental Affairs Oversight Subcommittee, safety measure for biological research are “completely inadequate,” and “there appears to be no safety inspections of biological defense contractors prior to contract awards, nor does the DOD require routine safety inspections.”
Let’s imagine gene-engineered, vaccine-proof anthrax loose in the Ohio countryside.
Scientists Susan Wright and Robert Sinsheimer argue the present situation is like nuclear weapons in the 1940s. “Tentative efforts were put forth at that time to seek to prevent the nuclear arms race, with all its perilous consequences. Those efforts failed and we live in the deepening shadow of that failure.”