Dear President Bush,
In commemorating the victims of the attacks on
So those of us in other nations who have followed this issue are puzzled. Why should you, who claim to want to build "a peaceful world beyond the war on terror", have done all you can to undermine efforts to control these deadly weapons? Why should the congressmen in your party have repeatedly sabotaged attempts to ensure that biological and chemical agents are eliminated?
In December, your negotiators tore the Biological Weapons Convention to shreds. The 1972 convention, as you know, was impossible to implement. While the treaty banned the development and production of bio-weapons, it contained no mechanism for ensuring that its rules were enforced. So for six years, the 144 signatories had been developing a "verification protocol", which would permit the United Nations to examine suspected bio-weapons facilities. In July, your government refused to sign the protocol. In December, you deliberately scuttled the negotiations by insisting, at the last minute, that the resolution be re-written. One European delegate, referring to the commitments your delegation had made before the meeting, observed, "They are liars. In decades of multilateral negotiations, we've never experienced this kind of insulting behavior." Your actions have rendered the convention useless, leaving the world unprotected from the very weapons you say you want to eliminate.
Four years ago, Republican members of Congress, working alongside the
You should not be surprised to learn that many of us have been wondering why your professed intentions and your policies diverge so widely. Nor should you be surprised to discover that some of us suspect that the
In September last year, the New York Times reported that "the Pentagon has built a germ factory that could make enough lethal microbes to wipe out entire cities." The factory's purpose was defensive: your employees wanted to see how easy it would be for terrorists to do the same thing. But it was constructed without either Congressional oversight or a declaration to the Biological Weapons Convention, in direct contravention of international law. We could, perhaps, agree that if the US had discovered a similar undisclosed plant in a poor nation, then that country's government, if it survived your initial response, would have a good deal of explaining to do.
But of still more concern is the recent discovery that your government has been planning to test warheads containing live microbes in large aerosol chambers at the US Army's Edgewood Chemical Biological Center in Maryland. Experts in this field say that the scale of the experiments suggests that they are not defensive, but designed to help develop new biological weapons.
It is also clear that some elements of your existing defence programme contravene both of the treaties your government and your party have sabotaged. The genetically engineered fungus you have developed for aerial spraying in
Your government has also refused to destroy its stocks of smallpox, and has insisted on developing new and more lethal varieties of anthrax. You say that this is purely for defensive purposes: to study how they might be used by enemy forces, or to develop new kinds of vaccine. But the Federation of American Scientists warns that some of the new research you are funding could be categorised as "dual use": it could lead just as easily to attack as to defence. Even if we were to accept your government's assurances that these programmes are solely defensive in nature, it is surely plain that they are generating the very hazards they claim to be confronting. The anthrax attacks in October appear to have been launched by a scientist from within your own biological warfare laboratories, making use of a strain developed by the US Army's Medical Research Institute.
Mr President, you say you want to save the world from biological and chemical weapons. With or without the help of our own leaders, you seem prepared to go to war in pursuit of that aim. But surely the first step towards dealing with weapons of mass destruction is the mass destruction of weapons? And surely your campaign for world peace would be more convincing if you respected the conventions designed to destroy them?