American Friends Service Committee
Patrica Watson, Editor
Sara Burke, Assistant Editor
Pat Farren, Founding Editor
2161 Massachusetts Ave.
Peacework has been published monthly since 1972, intended to serve as a source of dependable information to those who strive for peace and justice and are committed to furthering the nonviolent social change necessary to achieve them. Rooted in Quaker values and informed by AFSC experience and initiatives, Peacework offers a forum for organizers, fostering coalition-building and teaching the methods and strategies that work in the global and local community. Peacework seeks to serve as an incubator for social transformation, introducing a younger generation to a deeper analysis of problems and issues, reminding and re-inspiring long-term activists, encouraging the generations to listen to each other, and creating space for the voices of the disenfranchised.
Views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily of the AFSC.
Don't Blame Saddam Hussein for This One
Scott Ritter was a UN weapons inspector in Iraq from 1991-1998. The following is abridged from his article of 10/19 in the London Guardian.
The current spate of anthrax attacks on media and government buildings in the US has heightened the undercurrent of concern since Sept. 11 about the possibility of links between the perpetrators and the Iraqi regime. However, fears that the hidden hand of Saddam Hussein lies behind these attacks are based on rumor and speculation that, under closer scrutiny, fail to support the weight of the charge.
First, there is the history of UN weapons inspections in Iraq from 1991 to 1998. It is true that Iraq has not fully complied with its disarmament obligation, particularly in the field of biological weapons. However, this failure does not equate to a retained biological weapons capability. Far from it. Under the most stringent on-site inspection regime in the history of arms control, Iraq's biological weapons programs were dismantled, destroyed or rendered harmless during the course of hundreds of no-notice inspections. The major biological weapons production facility--al Hakum, which was responsible for producing Iraq's anthrax--was blown up by high explosive charges and all its equipment destroyed. Other biological facilities met the same fate if it was found that they had, at any time, been used for research and development of biological weapons.
Moreover, Iraq was subjected to intrusive, full-time monitoring of all facilities with a potential biological application. Breweries, animal feed factories, vaccine and drug manufacturing facilities, and university research laboratories, and all hospitals were subject to constant, repeated inspections. Thousands of swabs and samples were taken from buildings and soil throughout Iraq. No evidence of anthrax or any other biological agent was discovered. While it was impossible to verify that all of Iraq's biological capability had been destroyed, the UN never once found evidence that Iraq had either retained biological weapons or associated production equipment, or was continuing work in the field.
Another factor is purely scientific: Iraq procured the Vollum strain of anthrax from American Type Culture Collection, a company based in Rockville, Maryland, which provides commercially available bacteria--such as anthrax--to consumers worldwide. While Iraq had investigated other strains, including those indigenous to the country, it was the Vollum strain that Iraq mass-produced for weapon use. It is a unique, highly virulent form of anthrax, and its use would represent the kind of link needed to suggest Iraq as a likely source. That is not to say that the presence of a Vollum strain would automatically indict Iraq, or that a non-Vollum strain clears Iraq. However, federal investigators currently think that the anthrax used in New York and Florida are both most probably the Ames strain, a variety native to the US. The strain used in Washington is as yet unidentified, but it has been assessed as non-weapons grade and responsive to antibiotics. Based upon this information, it would be irresponsible to speculate about a Baghdad involvement.
America's policy towards Iraq continues to be one of abject
failure, and President Bush's administration exhibits the
same level of frustration and impotence shown by its predecessor
in trying to piece together a viable plan for dealing with Saddam
Hussein's continued survival. Washington finds itself groping
for something upon which to hang its anti-Saddam policies and
the current anthrax scare has provided a convenient cause. Those
who have suggested that Iraq is the source of the anthrax used
in the current attacks--including Richard Butler, a former
chairman of the UN weapons inspection effort--merely fan
the flames of fear and panic. There is no verifiable link whatever.