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How Did Iraq Get Its Weapons? We Sold Them (Read 146 times)


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How Did Iraq Get Its Weapons? We Sold Them
Sep 8th, 2002 at 9:18pm
by Neil Mackay and Felicity Arbuthnot, Sunday Herald (Scotland)   
THE US and Britain sold Saddam Hussein the technology and materials Iraq needed to develop nuclear, chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction.

Reports by the US Senate's committee on banking, housing and urban affairs -- which oversees American exports policy -- reveal that the US, under the successive administrations of Ronald Reagan and George Bush Sr, sold materials including anthrax, VX nerve gas, West Nile fever germs and botulism to Iraq right up until March 1992, as well as germs similar to tuberculosis and pneumonia. Other bacteria sold included brucella melitensis, which damages major organs, and clostridium perfringens, which causes gas gangrene.

Classified US Defense Department documents also seen by the Sunday Herald show that Britain sold Iraq the drug pralidoxine, an antidote to nerve gas, in March 1992, after the end of the Gulf war. Pralidoxine can be reverse engineered to create nerve gas.

The Senate committee's reports on 'US Chemical and Biological Warfare-Related Dual-Use Exports to Iraq', undertaken in 1992 in the wake of the Gulf war, give the date and destination of all US exports. The reports show, for example, that on May 2, 1986, two batches of bacillus anthracis -- the micro-organism that causes anthrax -- were shipped to the Iraqi Ministry of Higher Education, along with two batches of the bacterium clostridium botulinum, the agent that causes deadly botulism poisoning.

One batch each of salmonella and E coli were shipped to the Iraqi State Company for Drug Industries on August 31, 1987. Other shipments went from the US to the Iraq Atomic Energy Commission on July 11, 1988; the Department of Biology at the University of Basrah in November 1989; the Department of Microbiology at Baghdad University in June 1985; the Ministry of Health in April 1985 and Officers' City, a military complex in Baghdad, in March and April 1986.

The shipments to Iraq went on even after Saddam Hussein ordered the gassing of the Kurdish town of Halabja, in which at least 5000 men, women and children died. The atrocity, which shocked the world, took place in March 1988, but a month later the components and materials of weapons of mass destruction were continuing to arrive in Baghdad from the US.

The Senate report also makes clear that: 'The United States provided the government of Iraq with 'dual use' licensed materials which assisted in the development of Iraqi chemical, biological and missile-system programs.'

This assistance, according to the report, included 'chemical warfare-agent precursors, chemical warfare-agent production facility plans and technical drawings, chemical warfare filling equipment, biological warfare-related materials, missile fabrication equipment and missile system guidance equipment'.

Donald Riegle, then chairman of the committee, said: 'UN inspectors had identified many United States manufactured items that had been exported from the United States to Iraq under licenses issued by the Department of Commerce, and [established] that these items were used to further Iraq's chemical and nuclear weapons development and its missile delivery system development programs.'

Riegle added that, between January 1985 and August 1990, the 'executive branch of our government approved 771 different export licenses for sale of dual-use technology to Iraq. I think that is a devastating record'.

It is thought the information contained in the Senate committee reports is likely to make up much of the 'evidence of proof' that Bush and Blair will reveal in the coming days to justify the US and Britain going to war with Iraq. It is unlikely, however, that the two leaders will admit it was the Western powers that armed Saddam with these weapons of mass destruction.

However, Bush and Blair will also have to prove that Saddam still has chemical, biological and nuclear capabilities. This looks like a difficult case to clinch in view of the fact that Scott Ritter, the UN's former chief weapons inspector in Iraq, says the United Nations destroyed most of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and doubts that Saddam could have rebuilt his stocks by now.

According to Ritter, between 90% and 95% of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction were des troyed by the UN. He believes the remainder were probably used or destroyed during 'the ravages of the Gulf War'.

Ritter has described himself as a 'card-carrying Republican' who voted for George W Bush. Nevertheless, he has called the president a 'liar' over his claims that Saddam Hussein is a threat to America.

Ritter has also alleged that the manufacture of chemical and biological weapons emits certain gases, which would have been detected by satellite. 'We have seen none of this,' he insists. 'If Iraq was producing weapons today, we would have definitive proof.'

He also dismisses claims that Iraq may have a nuclear weapons capacity or be on the verge of attaining one, saying that gamma-particle atomic radiation from the radioactive materials in the warheads would also have been detected by western surveillance.

The UN's former co-ordinator in Iraq and former UN under-secretary general, Count Hans von Sponeck, has also told the Sunday Herald that he believes the West is lying about Iraq's weapons program.

Von Sponeck visited the Al-Dora and Faluja factories near Baghdad in 1999 after they were 'comprehensively trashed' on the orders of UN inspectors, on the grounds that they were suspected of being chemical weapons plants. He returned to the site late in July this year, with a German TV crew, and said both plants were still wrecked.

'We filmed the evidence of the dishonesty of the claims that they were producing chemical and biological weapons,' von Sponeck has told the Sunday Herald. 'They are indeed in the same destroyed state which we witnessed in 1999. There was no trace of any resumed activity at all.'

2002 smg sunday newspapers ltd
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Posts: 85
Iraq isn't the real enemy
Reply #1 - Sep 9th, 2002 at 12:05am
The danger lies in the spread of nuclear weapons across the region
by Peter Preston, The Guardian UK

Four little words. Alas, they have no lilt to them. They couldn't be lyrics to (say) a Dylan tune. They reek of bureaucracy and dry position papers and men in braid hunched over word processors. Yet, time and again now, they are recited as some bizarre mantra; indeed, as a self-evident truth - a Blair truth, a Bush truth. What do we flee? WMD. What does that mean? Weapons of mass destruction.

It is a curious aggregation of the biological, the chemical, the radiological and the nuclear. The mustard gas that drifted across the Somme 86 years ago is co-joined with Hiroshima - and anthrax in an envelope with a New Jersey postmark. Pass the parcel. You can have your CND, but how do you have a Campaign for the Destruction of Weapons of Mass Destruction?

One problem is that there is no such campaign by our masters of awful warning. For the Camp David two, issuing their stirring injunctions, are pretty soft on all of these weapons. They rather cherish their nukes; and as for pills and poison potions, George W - like other presidents before him - imposes his own restrictions on homeland chemical and biological inspection. America's greatest ally in the Middle East, good old reliable Ariel Sharon, has capability under every heading, and attracts not a word of remonstration. Or even, most of the time, a mention. Awful warnings belong elsewhere.

No: it is apparently not the weapons themselves that are the difficulty, the sum of all these fears. It's the hands they might fall into. And, as was painfully obvious yesterday, the rigour of the best cold war analysis - dispassionate assessment of threat and counter-threat - has fallen as low as the Berlin Wall. We are not being asked to balance contrary positions. We're merely told about this bargain basement of weaponry again in the hope that our timbers will shiver.

Yet what is "the real threat" Mr Blair directs us to confront? Not, from the WMD back catalogue, any chemical or biological stuff. Saddam has got that already. He used chemicals against his own people and, in Somme fashion, against the Iranians. It would be nice if it, like him, could be got rid of - but the urgency of the moment is all about nukes: and our prime minister makes that explicit.

Such urgency, perhaps, was not exactly reflected in the director of the CIA's post-September 11 report to Congress. "We believe that Iraq has probably continued at least low-level theoretical R&D associated with its nuclear programme. A sufficient source of fissile material remains its most significant obstacle to being able to produce a nuclear weapon," George Tenet wrote torpidly. Don't call me, I'll call you.

But now, suddenly, we're in overdrive. Rhetoric first, evidence arriving by second post. Iraq must not be allowed to get the bomb. Iraq must not be permitted to menace its neighbours. Iraq must be turned into a peace-loving democracy - by non-peace-loving means as necessary. You finish the latest Tom Clancy on the plane and head straight for the UN.

Jog back through time, though, to the theories we once held dear: to mutually assured destruction, to the hallowed doctrines of deterrence. Who are these neighbours supposedly ripe for menacing? Look east. Iran, with a little help from President Putin, is much closer to having a nuke of its own than Iraq. (You could almost say Saddam's playing catch-up.) Iran, too, has a long border with Pakistan, which already has the bomb, and tests it when the Indians grow stroppy over Kashmir. The three biggest regional powers on Saddam's eastern doorstep, in short, are already in - or nearly in - the nuclear club.

Look north, and Turkey has its own research programme. Look west, and there Israel sits (with Egypt, Algeria and Syria beginning to make research pushes). Look south into the Gulf at America's warships and submarines. The real awful warning isn't that Saddam will be able to roam around like a wild dog, the only nuclear power on his block. It is that our globe will develop a swath of bomb- toting countries stretching from the Mediterranean to the Bay of Bengal, all preaching mutually assured destruction.

And regime change, then, will be no sort of option. Which Hindu nationalist should we choose to sit in New Delhi? Is there a cuddly Pakistan leader from Jamaat-e-Islami we could trust?

Meanwhile, the pace accelerates. "As their domestic capabilities grow, traditional recipients of WMD and missile technology could emerge as new suppliers of technology and expertise to other proliferators," George Tenet wrote in that same report. "We are increasingly concerned about the growth of 'secondary proliferation' from maturing state-sponsored programmes, such as those in India, Iran, North Korea, and Pakistan.

"These countries and others are not members of supplier groups and do not adhere to their export constraints. In addition, private companies, scientists, and engineers from countries such as Russia, China and India may be increasing their involvement in WMD and missile-related assistance, taking advantage of weak or unenforceable national export controls and the growing availability of technology".

Let's be grimly clear-headed here. The more nukes there are around, the more likely it is that some Bin Laden figure will get hold of them. And the more countries who have nuclear weapons in unstable parts of the world - a mad MAD world - the likelier they are to be used by accident or design.

But it is not individual dictators, scurrying from bunker to bunker, who are the true problem. (Saddam is a cautious, cringing old conservative when it comes to risk-taking for himself.) The problem is the weapons themselves. Conventions against biological and chemical threats begin at home, in the homeland. Nuclear non-proliferation picks up where Mr Bush and Mr Blair - and their four unhelpful little words - leave off.

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