The U.S. develops new
weapons of mass destruction
by Phil Gasper
International Socialist Review,
The Bush administration accuses Saddam
Hussein's Iraq of attempting to develop nuclear, biological and
chemical weapons. Whether or not this charge is true, it is indisputable
that the U.S. is not only the country that has used such weapons
to kill more people than any other, it is also, as the British
playwright Harold Pinter points out,
at this moment developing advanced systems of "weapons of
mass destruction" and is prepared to use them where it sees
fit. It has more of them than the rest of the world put together.
It has walked away from international agreements on biological
and chemical weapons, refusing to allow inspection of its own
factories. The hypocrisy behind its public declarations and its
own actions is almost a joke.'
Indeed, Washington's reckless pursuit
of new weapons programs is one of the major threats to global
stability as it fuels a new arms race around the world.
In May 2000 at the Nonproliferation Treaty
Review Conference in New York, the U.S. government made an "unequivocal
undertaking" to work towards the elimination of all nuclear
weapons. This promise was nothing but hot air. Less than three
years earlier, in November 1997, Bill Clinton had issued a Presidential
Decision Directive which declared that nuclear weapons would remain
central to U.S. defense policy indefinitely and that Washington
has the right to target not only nuclear rivals, but even prospective
nuclear states that might threaten U.S. interests. In March 2000,
then-Deputy Secretary of Defense John Hamre reiterated the policy:
"Nuclear weapons are still the foundation of a superpower...and
that will never change."
Under Clinton, the U.S. began developing
"mini-nukes" at the Sandia National Laboratories in
Albuquerque, N.M.- low-yield "bunker busting" devices
designed to be used in combat, not to act as a deterrent. According
to retired Navy Rear Admiral Eugene J. Carroll Jr., vice president
of the Center for Defense Information, the development of such
is merely one more blatant signal that
the United States is determined to pursue nuclear dominance indefinitely
through enhanced readiness to fight a nuclear war. Additional
preparations include the decision to resume production of tritium
and plutonium pits for thermonuclear weapons, continue subcritical
explosive testing in Nevada and rejection of Russian proposals
to reduce nuclear numbers 75 percent below START II levels.
When he ran for office, George W. Bush
campaigned against ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban
Treaty, and once he became president, he began exploring the possibility
of resuming nuclear tests. According to one news report, "The
Bush administration has asked U.S. nuclear weapons scientists
to examine ways that nuclear test explosions beneath the Nevada
desert could resume more quickly if the government decides to
end a nine-year moratorium on nuclear testing.
Last year, Bush unilaterally renounced
the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in order to press ahead with
a so-called missile defense program, which would supposedly be
able to shoot down enemy missiles. But far from being a defensive
program, Bush's revival of the Reagan administration's "Star
Wars" plan is designed to give the U.S. first-strike nuclear
capability by attempting to remove the threat of retaliation by
other nuclear powers. According to Robert Bowman, president of
the Institute for Space and Security Studies and director of advanced
space programs development for the Air Force during the Ford and
Carter administrations, "We want to be the aggressor. Star
Wars has nothing to do with defense. It's about maintaining absolute
military superiority by developing new offensive weapons in the
guise of defense." It is also likely to provoke even greater
proliferation of nuclear weapons.
In March 2002, a copy of the Pentagon's
revised Nuclear Posture Review that was leaked to the Los Angeles
Times revealed that the U.S. has contingency plans to use nuclear
weapons against China, Russia, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Syria
and Libya, and also in the event of "surprising military
developments." In 1996, the International Court of Justice
ruled that using or threatening to use nuclear weapons is illegal.
According to David Krieger, president of the Nuclear Age Peace
Foundation, "Just as planning and preparation for aggressive
war was held to be a crime at Nuremberg, U.S. planning and preparation
to use nuclear weapons constitutes...a crime under international
In July 2001, the Bush administration
undermined the 1972 Biological and Toxic Weapons Convention (BWC)-
which prohibits the development, production, stockpiling or use
of biological weapons-by announcing that it would not endorse
a verification and monitoring protocol, which would require all
signatories to submit to international inspections to ensure their
compliance. That December, John Bolton, the U.S. representative
to the Fifth BWC Review Conference, shocked the other delegates
by reversing a promise to allow negotiations on a revised protocol
to continue, thus sabotaging the meeting. According to a Physicians
for Social Responsibility press release:
A European Union (EU) representative
referred to the U.S. delegation as "liars," and said
that in "decades of multilateral negotiations, we've never
experienced this kind of insulting behavior." The EU nations,
including staunch U.S. ally Great Britain, then boycotted a meeting
of the Western Group of States Parties to the BWC saying they
had "been treated like dirt."
But the fact that the U.S. government
opposes inspections is not so surprising. In September 2001, the
New York Times revealed that under the Clinton administration,
the military had initiated a secret new germ weapons program known
as Project Bachus, which was later embraced by Bush." As
part of Bachus, the Pentagon built a bioweapons plant from commercially
available parts, supposedly to show that terrorists could do the
same thing. Other secret U.S. weapons projects include an attempt
by the CIA to replicate a Soviet-designed cluster bomb intended
to deliver biological weapons, Defense Intelligence Agency research
into genetically engineering a strain of anthrax resistant to
antibiotics and a program to manufacture dried anthrax spores
for use as weapons. The U.S. claims that these programs are only
for defensive purposes, but the BWC requires signatories to make
annual declarations of any biodefence research, and Washington
never listed these programs in its reports.
Moreover, in May 2002, on the basis of
documents released under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA),
the Texas-based Sunshine Project revealed that,
U.S. Navy and Air Force biotechnology
laboratories are proposing development of offensive biological
weapons. The weapons, genetically engineered microbes that attack
items such as fuel, plastics and asphalt, would violate federal
and international law. The proposals...date from 1997; but were
recently submitted by the Marine Corps for a high-level assessment
by a panel of the U.S. National Academies of Science (NAS).'3
The development of such weapons violates
not only the BWC, but also the U.S. Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism
In September 2002, the Sunshine Project,
again on the basis of FOIA documents, accused the Pentagon of
running a chemical weapons research and development program that
violates the Chemical Weapons Convention. The violations include
"[c]onducting a research and development program on toxic
chemical agents for use as weapons, including anesthetics and
psychoactive substances,...developing long-range military delivery
devices for these chemicals" and "[a]ttempting to cover
up the illicit program by classifying as secret even its own legal
interpretations of the Chemical Weapons Convention and attempting
to block access to documents requested under U.S. information
According to Malcolm Dando, professor
of international security at the University of Bradford in England,
joint research by the U.S. and Britain into weapons such as the
hallucinogenic gas BZ encouraged Iraq to pursue similar research.
"We showed them the way," says Dando. The U.S. is also
developing knock-out gases like that used by the Russian military
to end the takeover of a Moscow theater by Chechen rebels in October.
Although such weapons are characterized as "non-lethal,"
over 100 hostages were killed by the gas. Whether incapacitants
of this kind are permitted by the Chemical Weapons Convention
is unclear, but according to Dando, by developing them the U.S.
is undermining the treaty and "leading the world down a pathway
that will greatly reduce the security of all."
According to Nicole Deller of the Lawyers
Committee on Nuclear Policy, "The U.S. has undermined the
chemical weapons treaty by passing legislation that conflicts
with the terms of the inspection provisions of the treaty."
Deller, who is a principal editor of the recent report "Rule
of power or rule of law?" adds that "This is part of
a pattern, as our report found that the U.S. has violated, compromised,
or acted to undermine in some crucial way every treaty that we
have studied in detail."
The U.S. government is not only developing
new weapons systems, it has every intention of using them as it
sees fit. "If you are not with us, you are against us,"
President George W. Bush has said," writes Pinter. "He
has also said: 'We will not allow the world's worst weapons to
remain in the hands of the world's worst leaders.' Quite right.
Look in the mirror, chum. That's you."
Phil Gasper is a professor of philosophy
a) Notre Dame de Namur University in California.