Going Backwards: Isolationist U.S. Goes It Alone Again!
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Source: Common Dreams
Note: The U.S. opposition to the germ (biological) warfare treaty is just the last of a long list of similarly arrogant affronts to the global community. Others include: refusal to apologize for slavery and pay compensation; opposition to the 1972 anti-ballistic missile Treaty; abandonment of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol; opposition to the international criminal court treaty; rejection of the comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty; and opposition to the Ottawa Treaty that aims to rid the world of land mines.
Published on Thursday, July 26, 2001 in the Toronto Globe & Mail
Germ Warfare Treaty Founders
Washington alone rejects agreement on inspections to enforce 1972
by Paul Koring with a report from Jeff Sallot in Ottawa
WASHINGTON -- The United States put a stop yesterday to an international effort, seven
years in the making, to put teeth into the international treaty that bans germ warfare.
Fearing that proposed inspection requirements would expose U.S. commercial and military
secrets to prying eyes, while offering few practical means of detecting covert germ-warfare
programs in rogue states, Washington stood alone in rejecting the pact.
It was the latest in a string of international deals opposed by Washington and, coming on
the heels of the U.S. rejection of the Kyoto Protocol, sparked fresh accusations of U.S.
The United States stands "alone in opposition to agreements that were broadly reached by
just about everyone else," said UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
Senior Bush administration officials flatly rejected the isolationist charge, saying that
Washington remains firmly committed to the 1972 Biological and Toxin Weapons
Convention, which bans germ warfare, but that the 210-page plan to enforce it was
unworkable and risky.
"It's not a case where the administration came in and said, 'Ah, another multilateral
agreement we can trash,' " a senior official said.
He noted that the previous Clinton administration had similar concerns about the
enforcement proposals, which would have forced U.S. biological weapons programs --
including secret work on antidotes to such weapons -- as well as commercial biotechnology
companies to be open to international inspection.
"Those hundreds and thousands of biotech companies out there, that are not making
biological weapons, [would be subject] to the same sort of inspection procedures as the
Iranian Ministry of Health," said the senior official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
"It provides us no upside, but poses substantial downside risk."
The United States fears that so-called rogue states may be secretly working on germ
warfare and is especially concerned that terrorist groups will turn to the use of biological
agents as inexpensive methods of mass destruction.
The problem with verifying a ban on biological weapons is that making a weapon and
making its vaccine or antidote involves the same sorts of materials, research and
laboratories, the official said.
Inspections would not necessarily prove that illegal weapons were being made, but could
expose secrets about defences to such weapons. State Department spokesman Phillip
Reeker said the draft protocol added "nothing new" to current U.S. verification capabilities,
and instead posed "significant risks."
"We believe not having this protocol is better than having one."
Without U.S. support, the protocol is in effect dead.
John Manley, Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister, rejected Washington's fear of having
commercial biotechnology secrets exposed.
"We have a pharmaceutical and chemical industry as well, and the Europeans do as well,
and we feel the protocol meets the requirements of commercial confidentiality," he said in a
conference call from a meeting in Hanoi.
U.S. goes it alone
June 1, 2001: A Geneva meeting to draw up an agenda for a racism conference in South
Africa ends in deadlock over whether nations that benefited from slavery should formally
apologize and pay compensation, proposals the United States opposes.
May 1, 2001: President George W. Bush announces he wants to go beyond constraints of
the 1972 anti-ballistic missile Treaty so Washington can develop a missile-defence system.
March 28, 2001: Mr. Bush announces the U.S. is abandoning the 1997 Kyoto Protocol that
aims to cut emissions of so-called greenhouse gases. Other countries adopted the protocol
this week, without the United States.
Jan. 2, 2001: A Bush spokesman says the new administration will demand changes to a
treaty creating the International Criminal Court before sending it to the U.S. Senate for
Oct. 13, 1999: The Republican-controlled U.S. Senate rejects the comprehensive test ban
treaty that aims to stop all nuclear testing, even though the Clinton administration
negotiated the treaty and signed it.
December 1997: Washington refuses to sign the Ottawa Treaty that aims to rid the world
of land mines, demanding an exception to allow it to use mines to protect its troops in
South Korea. Washington refuses to go along with the accord.
Copyright © 2001 Globe Interactive
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