Deceit, Danger Mark US Pursuit of New WMD
by Heather Wokusch
Illegal biological and nuclear weapons production is on the rise - in the United States.
Ignoring the internationally-recognized Biological Weapons Convention, the US Army has patented a new grenade capable of delivering biological and chemical agents. Irony wasn't lost on the watchdog group Sunshine Project which observed, "Hans Blix might have an easier time finding illegal weapons if he were inspecting near Baltimore [site of the Army's Edgewood Arsenal facility, where two of the inventors work] instead of Baghdad."
The Pentagon's bid to resume biological weapons research hinges on misleading language: developing deadly biological weapons is illegal, so the grenade and other potential biowarfare devices are labeled "non-lethal."
Similarly misleading language is being used to beef up the nation's nuclear weapons program. The House and Senate recently ditched the ban on researching low-yield nuclear devices, and OK'd funding for the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator, a weapon ten times more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb. The justification? Nuclear weapons will only be researched, not tested or deployed.
Small coincidence that the House and Senate simultaneously called for accelerated resumption of stateside underground nuclear testing. The message is clear; research nuclear weapons today, test and deploy them tomorrow.
The Bush administration's race to get back into the biological and nuclear weapons business is alarming in a world struggling with WMD overload. The secrecy and downright sloppiness of the US weapons program, however, raises red flags.
Case in point: a whopping $6 billion has been earmarked to expand the US biodefense program, and contenders have already begun to abuse public trust to get their hands on the cash. Last February for example, the University of California at Davis (UCD) took a full ten days to inform nearby communities that a rhesus monkey had escaped from its primate-breeding facility. Coincidentally, UCD has been vying for government funds to set up its own "hot zone" biodefense lab, which in the future could use primates for biological weapons testing. What if that monkey had been infected with ebola, or some other virus? Would the public have been informed?
Back in Maryland, home of the biowarfare grenade, the Pentagon recently unearthed over 2,000 tons of hazardous biological waste, much of it undocumented leftovers of an abandoned germ warfare program. Nearby, the FBI is draining a pond for clues into 2001's anthrax attacks which killed five people.
None of this does much to inspire trust in the US biological weapons program; unfortunately, the situation is equally grim with the nation's nukes.
America's most reputable nuclear weapons facility recently announced it had "lost" two vials of plutonium; officials at New Mexico's Los Alamos National Laboratory have said the plutonium was probably mislabeled then accidentally discarded.
The missing plutonium doesn't bode well. According to Peter Stockton, senior investigator with the Project on Government Oversight (POGO), "We have virtually hundreds of tons of plutonium and enriched uranium in the system. This raises questions about the reliability of that system."
Meanwhile, thousands of radioactive materials have been lost or stolen worldwide and the International Atomic Energy Agency estimates over 100 countries have inadequate controls over their radioactive devices.
The bottom line: in such a dubious environment, do we really need to invest in more homegrown WMD?
Apart from the ethical implications of using biological and nuclear weapons on civilian populations abroad, we should consider the stateside risks these weapons programs create. Taxpayer dollars would be better spent cleaning up past bioweapon excesses and tracking loose nukes.
Heather Wokusch is a free-lance writer with a background in clinical psychology. Her work as been featured in publications and websites internationally. Heather can be contacted via her website: http://www.heatherwokusch.com