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US supplied anthrax to Iraq

By Geoffrey Holland

(The Badger ) Documents purporting to link Osama bin Laden’s terrorist network with Saddam Hussein, discovered by a journalist in the former headquarters of the Iraqi intelligence service in Baghdad, are only the tip of the iceberg. United States Senate documents obtained from Washington by the badger provide evidence of a sinister link between the United States government and the regime of the fallen Iraqi dictator.

Hidden from view for nine years, these hitherto unreported Senate papers reveal a tale of intrigue and deception which goes right to the heart of the American system. Here in Britain, after weeks of correspondence between this writer and every Member of Parliament, and following more than two-hundred written replies and several meetings with concerned MPs, we may now disclose what we know about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction.

First brought to the attention of the House of Commons by Labour MP Peter Kilfoyle on 26 February 2003, the Riegle Report details the findings of Senate hearings chaired by Senator Donald Riegle in 1994. The report confirms that when US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was a member of the President’s General Advisory Committee on Arms Control in the 1980s, biological materials were being exported to Iraq under licence from the US Department of Commerce. These included botulinum toxin and anthrax, later identified as major components in the Iraqi biological warfare programme.

Following repeated denials by Mr Rumsfeld of any knowledge of this evidence, including in statements to the Senate and on British television, Conservative MP Sir Teddy Taylor pressed our own Secretary of State for Defence on 3 March to supply details of the extent of the weapons of mass destruction supplied to Iraq by the United States. Mr Hoon could only reply that the US Defense Secretary had categorically denied making those kinds of equipment available to Iraq.

Then, in answer to a further question from Mr Kilfoyle on 10 March, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said, as far as he knew, that anthrax did not come from the United States. Nevertheless, he did concede that if it did, it would have been wrong. To be fair, Mr. Straw did not appear to know very much at this point. Presumably, he had not yet read the Senate documents which conclude categorically that the United States did supply at least seven batches of anthrax to Iraq between 8 February 1985 and 29 September 1988.

The following day, Sir Teddy Taylor addressed the matter to the Speaker of the House of Commons. Expressing a growing disbelief in Mr Rumsfeld’s denials, he requested an immediate response from the Ministry of Defence, repeating this request on 13 March to the Leader of the House, Robin Cook, and stressing that the information was urgently required.

Finally, on 14 March, the Ministry of Defence replied to Sir Teddy Taylor with a written statement confirming that it was now aware of the Riegle Report, though it stopped short of providing any specific details. Three days later in his landmark resignation speech, Robin Cook made the first public declaration by a member of the British Cabinet that US companies had sold anthrax to Iraq. Here was an announcement of the greatest magnitude, pointing to a direct breach of the internationally binding Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, signed by Britain and the US in 1972 and ratified in 1975. Yet, remarkably, the significance of Mr. Cook’s statement received no comment in the British press.

In the final Iraq debate of 18 March, Sir Teddy Taylor was on the case again, this time urging the Prime Minster to make a statement before the war began, asking him, “Will he tell the House whether there has been any identification of the countries that have supplied these terrible biological materials - should those countries not be identified - named by the Prime Minister and condemned?” Mr Blair replied with just eight words, saying, “Much of the production is in Iraq itself.”

Let us examine that answer. First, it does not answer the question. Second, it does not answer the question. Third, it does not answer the question. But Sir Teddy - an honest man who speaks the truth - answered the question himself. 

“Those materials were not produced by Iraq, but provided and sold by western powers. It is abundantly clear that the US Department of Commerce approved every single thing that went from the United States to Iraq. It was not a question of secret firms doing nasty things; this was approved by Government.”

The British Government in its Biological Weapons Green Paper last year, in a section headed “UK Policy,” confirmed the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention to be a “principal international and legally binding instrument” and said that “those at every level responsible for any breach of international law will be held personally accountable.’ But who is accountable to whom, and when?

It is clear from the US Senate’s Riegle report that Article III of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention has been breached by the United States. Under Article VI of that Convention, Britain, having knowledge of the breach, should formally report the matter to the United Nations Security Council. Not only is this obvious moral responsibility, but it corresponds directly with UK policy.

However, on Tuesday of this week two further documents have been received by this writer, which seem to indicate that it is the intention of the British Government to do absolutely nothing about the matter.

The first is a public document, which may appropriately be termed a weapon of mass disinformation, as its cover explains that it is now being sent by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in answer to many thousands of letters. Forwarded by the Iraq Policy Unit, it is chock-full of messages intended to jolly us all into believing that everything is quite alright. Buried within it is the following bland statement, which in one short sentence swiftly sweeps away any doubts we may ever have about US complicity in the supply of weapons of mass destruction to Iraq, saying simply, “The US is fully compliant with its international obligations on WMD.”

The second document, forwarded to this writer by an honest MP, is an internal House of Commons Library paper, fresh from the desk of the International Affairs and Defence Section. This may well carry the British Government’s final word on the subject, as it points out that under the terms of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention the Government “may” lodge a complaint with the Security Council but is under no “obligation” to do so.

So, there we have it; this is the state of play as you read this article; the crime has been committed, the evidence is there, Government policy is to act, but it may not do so.

© Copyright 2003 the Badger (University of Sussex student magazine May 2003)


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