THE US and Britain sold Saddam Hussein the technology and materials Iraq needed
to develop nuclear, chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction.
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 Sr, 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 Defense 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
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 programs.'
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 equipment'.
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 licenses 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 delivery system development programs.'
Riegle added that, between January 1985 and August 1990, the 'executive branch
of our government approved 771 different export licenses 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 destruction.
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 des troyed by the UN. He believes the remainder were probably used or destroyed
during 'the ravages of the Gulf War'.
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 to America.
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
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
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 program.
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
'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.'
©2002 smg sunday newspapers ltd