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 Snr, 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 Defence 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 programmes.'
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
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 licences
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 deliverysystem development programmes.'
Riegle added that, between January 1985 and August
1990, the 'executive branch of our government approved 771 different
export licences 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
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 destroyed by the UN. He believes the
remainder were probably used or destroyed during 'the ravages of the
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
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
programme. 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.'