Skip to comments.U.S. sent Iraq germs in mid-'80s
Posted on 09/25/2002 12:42:34 PM PDT by Jolly Rodgers
U.S. sent Iraq germs in mid-'80s
By DOUGLAS TURNER News Washington Bureau Chief 9/23/2002
WASHINGTON - American research companies, with the approval of two previous presidential administrations, provided Iraq biological cultures that could be used for biological weapons, according to testimony to a U.S. Senate committee eight years ago. West Nile Virus, E. coli, anthrax and botulism were among the potentially fatal biological cultures that a U.S. company sent under U.S. Commerce Department licenses after 1985, when Ronald Reagan was president, according to the Senate testimony.
The Commerce Department under the first Bush administration also authorized eight shipments of cultures that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention later classified as having "biological warfare significance."
Between 1985 and 1989, the Senate testimony shows, Iraq received at least 72 U.S. shipments of clones, germs and chemicals ranging from substances that could destroy wheat crops, give children and animals the bone-deforming disease rickets, to a nerve gas rated a million times more lethal than Sarin.
Disclosures about such shipments in the late 1980s not only highlight questions about old policies but pose new ones, such as how well the American military forces would be protected against such an arsenal - if one exists - should the United States invade Iraq.
Testimony on these shipments was offered in 1994 to the Senate Banking Committee headed by then-Sens. Donald Riegle Jr., D-Mich., and Alfonse M. D'Amato, R-N.Y., who were critics of the policy. The testimony, which occurred during hearings that were held about the poor health of some returning Gulf War veterans, was brought to the attention of The Buffalo News by associates of Riegle.
The committee oversees the work of the U.S. Export Administration of the Commerce Department, which licensed the shipments of the dangerous biological agents.
"Saddam (Hussein) took full advantage of the arrangement," Riegle said in an interview with The News late last week. "They seemed to give him anything he wanted. Even so, it's right out of a science fiction movie as to why we would send this kind of stuff to anybody."
The new Bush administration, he said, claims Hussein is adding to his bioweapons capability.
"If that's the case, then the issue needs discussion and clarity," Riegle said. "But it's not something anybody wants to talk about."
The shipments were sent to Iraq in the late 1980s, when that country was engaged in a war with Iran, and Presidents Reagan and George Bush were trying to diminish the influence of a nation that took Americans hostages a decade earlier and was still aiding anti-Israeli terrorists.
"Iraq was considered an ally of the U.S. in the 1980s," said Nancy Wysocki, vice president for public relations for one of the U.S. organizations that provided the materials to Hussein's regime.
"All these (shipments) were properly licensed by the government, otherwise they would not have been sent," said Wysocki, who works for American Type Culture Collection, Manassas, Va., a nonprofit bioinformatics firm.
The shipments not only raise serious questions about the wisdom of former administrations, Riegle said, but also questions about what steps the Defense Department is taking to protect American military personnel against Saddam's biological arsenal in the event of an invasion.
Riegle said there are 100,000 names on a national registry of gulf veterans who have reported illnesses they believe stem from their tours of duty there.
"Some of these people, who went over there as young able-bodied Americans, are now desperately ill," he said. "Some of them have died."
"One of the obvious questions for today is: How has our Defense Department adjusted to this threat to our own troops?" he said. "How might this potential war proceed differently so that we don't have the same outcome?
"How would our troops be protected? What kind of sensors do we have now? In the Gulf War, the battlefield sensors went off tens of thousands of times. The Defense Department says they were false alarms."
U.S. bioinformatics firms in the 1980s received requests from a wide variety of Iraqi agencies, all claiming the materials were intended for civilian research purposes.
The congressional testimony from 1994 cites an American Type shipment in 1985 to the Iraq Ministry of Higher Education of a substance that resembles tuberculosis and influenza and causes enlargement of the liver and spleen. It can also infect the brain, lungs, heart and spinal column. The substance is called histoplasma capsulatum.
American Type also provided clones used in the development of germs that would kill plants. The material went to the Iraq Atomic Energy Commission, which the U.S. government says is a front for Saddam's military.
An organization called the State Company for Drug Industries received a pneumonia virus, and E. coli, salmonella and staphylcoccus in August 1987 under U.S. license, according to the Senate testimony. The country's Ministry of Trade got 33 batches of deadly germs, including anthrax and botulism in 1988.
Ten months after the first President Bush was inaugurated in 1988, an unnamed U.S. firm sent eight substances, including the germ that causes strep throat, to Iraq's University of Basrah.
An unnamed office in Basrah, Iraq, got "West Nile Fever Virus" from an unnamed U.S. company in 1985, the Senate testimony shows.
While there is no proof that the recent outbreak of West Nile virus in the United States stemmed from anything Iraq did, Riegle said, "You have to ask yourself, might there be a connection?"
Researchers at the Center for Strategic and International Studies said American companies were not the only ones that sent anthrax cultures to Iraq. British firms sold cultures to the University of Baghdad that were transferred to the Iraqi military, the Center for Strategic and International Studies said. The Swiss also sent cultures.
The data on American shipments of deadly biological agents to Iraq was developed for the Senate Banking Committee in the winter of 1994 by the panel's chief investigator, James Tuite, and other staffers, and entered into the committee record May 25, 1994.
The committee was trying to establish that thousands of service personnel were harmed by exposure to Iraqi chemical weapons during the Gulf War, particularly following a U.S. air attack on a munitions dump - a theory that the Defense Department and much of official Washington have always downplayed.
By SEAN GONSALVES SYNDICATED COLUMNIST
Last week I reported that, with White House approval, U.S. officials -- acting in our name -- continued to supply Saddam Hussein with biochemical warfare ingredients until after the Gulf War.
But digging deeper into my stacks of source material on the murky matter, and after further discussions with several scientific sources of mine, there's some confusion as to when we actually stopped sending this deadly commerce.
The Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs report, more commonly known as the Reigle report, says we last shipped a pathogen to Iraq on Nov. 28, 1989.
However, as BusinessWeek reported last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director sent former Sen. Donald Reigle a list of "all biological materials, including viruses, retroviruses, bacteria and fungi, which CDC provided to the government of Iraq from October 1, 1984, through October 13, 1993." The letter also reveals that the original list sent to Reigle's office failed to identify at least one other additional shipment.
But whether or not we stopped sending Saddam this stuff just before or just after the Gulf War is really beside the point. The fact remains that even after Saddam gassed the Kurds in 1988, the Bush administration thought it proper to keep sending these materials until at least a year after what is now Saddam's most infamous atrocity (though not his most heinous act).
In 1982 President Reagan removed Iraq from the list of states that sponsor terrorism, despite U.S. intelligence reports that Iraq was pursuing a biochemical warfare program, making the rogue nation eligible for dual-use and military technology.
And even though Reagan's Secretary of State George Schultz admits in his book "Turmoil and Triumph" that reports of Iraq using chemical weapons against Iranian troops first began "drifting in" at the end of 1983, he still helped to convince the National Security Council to sell Iraq 10 Bell helicopters that same year.
The helicopters were supposedly for crop spraying though it's now known that Iraq used them in the 1988 chemical attacks against the Kurds at Halabja.
Last week, the American Gulf War Veterans Association reported "that on December 19, 1983, the Middle Eastern envoy who carried a handwritten note from President Reagan to Saddam Hussein to 'resume our diplomatic relations with Iraq' was none other than our present Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld." (See www.gulfwarvets.com/ news11.htm).
The AGWVA also points out: "Probably the most critical piece of information is that according to Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward, in a December 15, 1986 article, the CIA began to secretly supply Iraq with intelligence in 1984 that was used to 'calibrate' mustard gas attacks on Iranian troops" -- meaning that Rumsfeld and company not only knew about the chemical warfare attacks but helped Iraq target the victims!
According to House Committee on Government Operations report "Strengthening the Export License System," from July 18 right up until the day Iraq invaded Kuwait, the Bush administration approved of $4.8 million in advanced technology product sales to Iraq -- the end-user being Iraq's Ministry of Industry and Military Industrialization (MIMI), which was identified in 1988 as a facility for Iraq's chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs.
When Saddam was at the pinnacle of his power Rumsfeld and other hard-liners had no problem sitting down at the discussion table with one of the world's axis of evil.
But now, with Saddam's diminished military, it's considered appeasement to pursue weapons inspections and diplomatic efforts? Where's the logic in that?
Edward Peck, former chief of mission to Iraq and deputy director of the White House Task Force on Terrorism under Reagan, has this to say: "Our government is constantly saying that there must be discussions between parties in disagreement, to avoid or at least reduce the risk of war: India and Pakistan; North and South Korea; the Israelis and the Palestinians; the Protestants and the Catholics in Northern Ireland. So why don't we talk to Iraq?"
"This (current Bush policy) is not merely dynamic hypocrisy, it is shatteringly unwise. At the height of the Cold War, we knew the Soviet Union could, with the push of a button, eliminate us from the face of the Earth. That was a known, not hypothetical threat -- a real one. But we had an embassy in Moscow, and they had one here, not because we loved and trusted each other, but because we didn't. You lose nothing when you talk, but the failure to do so in this case may cost us dear."
Despite Peck's sound advice, I wouldn't be surprised if the Ashcroft alliance attempted to smear him as being a Saddam apologist or a blame-America-first terrorist sympathizer.
The Bush administration has a lot of explaining to do.
I just hope Congress has the courage to ask the difficult questions before they vote on a war resolution.
Sean Gonsalves is a columnist with the Cape Cod Times. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Iraqgate (which involved Hillary) went down the memory hole so long as everyone's on board the Iraqi Invasion Winter Tour 2002, right neo-Cons?
We also know that the Reagan administration forbade sales as soon as it became clear Saddam was using them to develop weapons.
It would appear that you are the one spinning like a top. And, not very successfully, I might add.
Suppose it is true, and the facts carry the sinister implications many would ascribe to them. That would appear to be all the reason we need to act now. Or do you think that because these facts are true, we should not act for some reason?
We're about to go to war with Iraq, and the best justification we've got is that they have the potential to manufacture weapons of mass destruction. The fact that we have historically been a supplier of the materials necessary to create that potentiality is hardly bogus. As a matter of fact, it is highly relevant. Your attempt to cover it up by calling names and obfuscating is highly unethical, but not surprising. No matter how much dirt you try to shovel over the truth, it is coming out - one way or another. People are going to know, and they are going to know who tried to pull one over on them.
Rubbish. They have all these germs in the Middle East, and then some. It's utterly bogus. The libs and the peaceniks are absolutely desperate, and there's no limit to the lies and diostortions they'll use to push their swill on an unsuspecting public. Here we have a case in point.
This story has absolutely nothing to do with Saddam violating the ceasefire agreements he made in 1991. Whether we gave Hussein weapons in the 1980s is irrelevant. He agreed to get rid of all he had in 1991. Has he done that? No. Has he violated the terms in which he agreed to in 1991? Yes. Therefore we have justification to resume the war. And to top that, Bush doesn't need approval from congress either.
I would like to know the motivations behind the desire to start killing people. I would like to know whether that killing is just and moral, or whether it is the result of political intrigue and profiteering. Frankly, the administration has been floundering around looking for an excuse to attack Iraq that will gain traction. There are much more valid targets if we are serious about defending against terrorism, but those get overlooked, or even rewarded as allies because there is a lust to go after Iraq.
I would also like to think that we can study our history and learn from our mistakes. Using corrupt and brutal regimes to fight proxy wars for us always seems pragmatic at the time, but always comes back to haunt us in painful ways.
In the face of overwhelming evidence, you continue to deny the truth. That's very sad.
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