Archive for the ‘BIOLOGICAL WARFARE’ Tag



John Chuckman

The title could be the name of a television quiz show, although I doubt the subject matter would attract a large audience, especially in that key market of the United States.

Even on progressive and liberal Internet sites in the United States, one finds ritualized deference to “our brave boys.” Well, this just makes me wonder whose boys aren’t brave? Like most human qualities, I imagine bravery is pretty evenly distributed across the human population. In other words, the expression can only be propaganda or uttered out of fear.

Further, I have to say that professional American soldiers, exceedingly well paid and rewarded by world standards, are in fact doing their jobs.

Lastly, I fail to see even a normal display of bravery in the vast, richly-equipped armed forces of the world’s wealthiest country attacking the smaller, far more poorly-equipped forces of a nation with less than a tenth the population and maybe a hundreth the wealth. If this is bravery, then Italians dive-bombing Abyssinia or Germans using tanks on Polish cavalry were brave.

The dreariest, most uninformed words used over and over are those comparing Hussein to Hitler and diplomacy to appeasement. There is no comparison, except in the minds of those who know little history but insist on repeating phrases like “history repeats itself,” having very little idea as to what they are saying.

Germany, despite severe defeat and reparations from the First World War and a terrible depression, in the 1930s remained a major industrial, intellectual, and military power, potentially a great world power. It was re-arming at a furious pace soon after Hitler’s rise to Chancellor. There was no guess work in knowing this; everybody in Europe understood it. There was even a considerable degree of sympathy with the idea that Germany should recover her place in Europe, although few wanted the re-asserted militarism that Hitler brought.

Germany was surrounded, and thereby posed a threat to the stability of, several other major powers, including France and Italy. Moreover, going clear back to the mid-1920s, Hitler had laid out, for anyone to read, his intention of invading the Slavic states east of Germany. This, too, was no secret, and there was even some sympathy with the idea since few Western statesmen liked the Soviet Union.

Hitler made it clear from about 1919 that he detested Jews, Slavs, and Communists, and that, given the means, he would treat them ruthlessly.

Iraq is a small country, with a population less than Canada’s. While it is fairly advanced by the standards of Arab states, it cannot meaningfully be called an advanced country. Apart from the state of its economy and the general level of its development, Iraq is not even in a geographical position to threaten a major power. Iraq has had two wars, both of them with the connivance or at least encouragement, of the United States.

Hussein is a nasty dictator, but he is no different from dozens of others the U.S. has put into place or formed friendly relations with when it suited them. There is no evidence that he has ever had the same visceral hatreds of whole groups and races that Hitler had. He doesn’t like Israel, but then neither do many other people in the Middle East. He has suppressed the Kurds because they seek independence, not because they are Kurds, and in doing so, he is in the company of countries like Turkey and the United States. He is brutal, just as Mr. Sharon is brutal, but unless you want to use the distorted language carelessly flung around in the United States, he has not committed, nor does he have any interest in committing, genocide.

A fundamental point cannot be made too strongly. Iraq is not, nor has it ever been, any threat to the United States. It posses neither the will nor the ability to attack the United States. Iraq did once have a nuclear-weapons program. That program was not aimed at the United States, but at two rival or enemy states, Israel which already has a nuclear arsenal and Iran which shows significant signs of developing one, Iran being of course a country with whom Iraq fought a vicious war during the 1980s. Every genuine expert, from previous and current weapons inspectors to refugee Iraqi scientists, agrees that Iraq’s nuclear program no longer exists.

An annoyingly-ignorant expression is “weapons of mass destruction” (WMD), something first mouthed by the Pentagon under President Clinton. It cannot be too strongly stated that there is only one genuine weapon of mass destruction, and that is a nuclear (or thermonuclear) weapon. It also cannot be stressed too strongly that only one nation has actually used such a weapon.

Recently I heard an American colonel in a brief interview confirm what is widely understood, that if Hussein were to use poison gas, assuming he has some, it would have very little effect on the battle field. Indeed.

As for biological weapons, we all saw what military-grade anthrax, without the high-tech means for its distribution, can do just a couple of years ago in the United States when one of the country’s many home-grown terrorists started sending samples through the mail to prominent public figures (never caught, by the way, just like a number of others including the weirdo who added poison to Tylenol bottles years ago). It was all very nasty, rather scary, but it killed only a few people. Hardly a strategic threat.

Of course, you have to ask yourself that if, indeed, Hussein has some stockpile of these materials, what will be the effect of America’s horrific bombardment on their release and spread? Is this a more intelligent approach than inspection and proper disposal?

Despite Bush’s incoherent blubbering, Iraq has never had dealings with al Qaeda. There is no evidence for this notion whatsoever. Of course, now that the U.S. has invaded the country, and it is fighting for its life, anything becomes possible. Besides, if relations with al Qaeda were a sound cause for war, there were far better candidates.

Al Qaeda was in good part a creation of Pakistan’s intelligence service wishing to manipulate affairs in Afghanistan. But, no, Pakistan is not expected to be attacked any time soon. Instead, it is America’s ally in fighting terror, having been granted numerous bounties and forgiveness of past behavior.

You could make a crude case for attacking Saudi Arabia, certainly no cruder than some of the actual arguments we hear from Washington. Fourteen of the 9/11 desperados were Saudis. But, no, while Saudi Arabia has been called some names in Washington and intimidated into changing some of its practices in making charitable donations, it is under no threat.

The best case for invasion based strictly on al Qaeda dealings, of course, could be made against a giant, secretive organization headquartered in Langley, Virginia, but no threats of any kind have been made against the CIA. Indeed, one expects the organization’s feeding trough has been filled to overflowing with Bush’s astronomical increases in military spending. Yet we know for sure that the good gentlemen of 9/11 entered the United States with valid visas, and we know for sure that the CIA had been in the business for years of arranging just such things as part of its secret nasty work in Afghanistan and other places.

So that leaves Iraq – a country whose ruler has personal animosity towards bin Laden at least as great as that displayed by Mr. Bush towards Yassir Arafat – as the place to attack. Does that make sense to you? No, and it doesn’t to anyone else in the world, outside Washington and those dependent on its bounty or afraid of its wrath.

We have had an entire list of false claims and downright lies from an administration desperate to make a case. Bush has claimed, time and time again, intelligence information he simply never had. If, in fact, he ever had anything decisive, he refused to share it with U.N. weapons inspectors. Instead, on several occasions, U.S.-supplied information sent inspectors on pointless expeditions. Would you call that kind of action supporting or deliberately hurting the U.N.?

Colin Powell’s presentation to the U.N. was de facto proof that the U.S. had no case. Had there been proof, there would not even have been such a presentation. The case would have been made in private to the members of the Security Council. That’s how things are normally done in world affairs.

No, what we got was a show-boat performance intended to sway public emotions, not to supply anyone with facts they did not already have. Powell uttered the same assertions and guesses already heard many times. If that, truly, was the best the CIA could do in coming up with facts for such a seemingly-dire matter, they are seriously wasting American taxpayers’ money.

We have the much-repeated assertion that people like Canada or France or Germany should be supporting their friend. No sensible person can make friendship an argument for supporting a war that most people in the world agree is without legitimate purpose. Should I assist my neighbor who decides to beat members of his family or throw rocks at the windows of the house of another neighbor he happens to hate? Anyway, Canada has always supported legitimate international actions, and it has always paid its dues, but the U.N. did not authorize the violence in which America is now engaged.

The American ambassador to Canada, Mr. Cellucci, has been going around making inappropriate public comments about disappointment in not being supported by friends. An ambassador making such statements, directly interfering in the internal affairs of the country to which he is accredited, would normally be asked to leave. But Mr. Cellucci feels safe continuing to act the diplomatic cretin, because he knows that if Canada were to request his departure, it would be viewed as a hostile act in an already-aggrieved Washington.

There has been much bellowing to the south over a couple of foolish remarks made in Canada concerning Mr. Bush’s mental capacity and character. But such personal comments pale compared to the words of an ambassador, speaking with the full force of his government’s approval, interfering in the internal, democratically-determined affairs of a country like Canada.

In a sense, the ambassador’s willingness to do this over such a sensitive issue only proves again how right Canada’s government has been in following the policy it has. Canada always supports UN-mandated action. It cannot support the dangerous, arbitrary whims of an administration whose poor attitudes and lack of civility are reflected directly in Mr. Cellucci’s remarks.

Posted May 27, 2009 by JOHN CHUCKMAN in Uncategorized

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John Chuckman

Wars always have their propaganda, but it is often not very subtle. In the first world war, the Germans bayoneted babies, and nearly a century later, in a rework of the same false story, the Iraqis tore babies from respirators. But if you want to study the techniques of effective propaganda, you could hardly do better than the War on Terror.

For many, the word propaganda raises an image of ham-fisted Soviet commissars insisting that black is white. But effective propaganda is far more subtle than that. And who should understand better the dark art of planting suggestions than the most practiced people on the planet at advertising and marketing?

The most effective propaganda theme during the Afghan phase of the War on Terror was the status of women under the Taliban. Almost as if by magic, when the B-52s were ready to make those Afghan heathens understand what red-blooded Christians really mean by hell, articles and broadcast commentaries sprang up like mushrooms after a humid spell to enlighten us on the plight of women in Afghanistan. The subject seems to have been of rather marginal interest before saddling up the B-52s with their thirty-ton loads of high explosive and shrapnel.

Now, please don’t misunderstand, women were treated hideously under the Taliban. But women were treated horribly anywhere during the fourteenth century, and that is approximately the phase of development in which the average Afghan lives. Women fared little better under some of the thugs in the Northern Alliance when they ruled previously.

And women do not exactly thrive under the absolutism of Saudi Arabia, a country whose important financial support of the Taliban has been more or less expunged from the record by America’s informal-but-effective Ministry of Truth. Women are not treated well in Pakistan either, a vital supporter of the Taliban now redeemed by a cornucopia of bribes.

Wherever economies are poor and backward and wherever religious fundamentalism plays a significant role, women are not treated as full human beings. My goodness, just think of all those old Virginia planters, Thomas Jefferson among them, using their young female slaves for sex.

An interesting sidelight to the Jefferson-Hemmings story, one that gives you a good raw whiff of life under American slavery, is that Sally was the half sister of Jefferson’s dead wife, and she resembled her closely. The existence of half-brothers and sisters by slave women was an ordinary fact of Southern plantation culture, but it was not one discussed at Sunday dinner after church.

The American notion that you can just sweep political players off the board and change the basic patterns of a society has no basis in history. It is wishful thinking at best. Advanced societies evolve over long periods of economic growth in which large numbers of people gain the influence that comes with economic resources. This is the way democracy and modern attitudes towards human values develop. This is the story of civilization since the dawn of the modern era about five hundred years ago.

The record of political revolutions when societies were not ripe for their results is one of utter failure. After the American Civil War – a truer political revolution in many respects than the original American Revolution – blacks were fitted into a new, more sophisticated form of bondage for another century. As late as the 1930s in the American South, lynchings were an occasion for family picnics. Only long-term, solid economic growth bringing an end to rural stagnation made it possible to change the status of America’s blacks.

Now America has just about achieved its limited purpose in Afghanistan. America is not about to try occupying the place as the Russians tried doing, nor does it seem likely that truly generous financial assistance will be given to these very poor people once our dirty work is done. No, that kind of generosity is saved by the State Department for places we need to bribe.

Does anyone believe that the status of Afghan women will change greatly after the first photo-op schools for girls, with a few hundred token students, have been adequately featured in our press? Or that we will ever hear much about anything in Afghanistan once we have destroyed what we came to destroy?

I hope I am wrong, but history doesn’t support optimism here. Afghanistan – like Haiti, following a more elaborate, showboat intervention – will recede from our view and sink back more or less to the same early state of economic and social development that characterized it before.

The point of the propaganda effort on women’s rights was that the subject should be on people’s minds when it counted, when our bombs were blowing the limbs off peasants. Aroused concern in America over those rights blunted potential criticism by middle-class women to the bombing. It made the sensibilities of soccer moms safe for Bush. And, like all the best propaganda, it started with truth.

Another line of propaganda in Afghanistan, less subtle and less truthful, has been that familiar refrain, “weapons of mass destruction.” This phrase, so overused in the case of Iraq, is beginning to sound a bit tinny and hollow, but it proved still serviceable for Afghanistan. Although coming as it does from the only nation that ever totally incinerated two cities full of civilians, it is remarkable that the speakers have not choked on the words.

One cannot help recalling Secretary of Defense Cohen at a pulpit in the Pentagon a few years ago, preaching to us about “weapons of mass destruction” in Iraq. In his best, earnest vacuum-cleaner salesman’s style, he held up a bag of sugar to illustrate how small a quantity of some nasty things could destroy American society.

The truth is that there is only one weapon of mass destruction, and that weapon is a nuclear or thermonuclear device. Biological agents, while all advanced countries have experimented heavily with them, are not effective weapons of mass destruction.

The actions of our own armed forces support this assertion. The Pentagon never saw a weapon it didn’t like, so long as it does a good job of killing people – and that is the very reason it strongly opposes the international treaty against land-mines. But the Pentagon is not uncomfortable with existing international regimes concerning biological warfare.

Sophisticated delivery systems are essential to any success with these weapons – we saw with the anthrax scare that crude distribution methods render biological agents to be anything but weapons of mass destruction. Even with such delivery systems, weather and other factors make using these weapons full of uncertainty.

Saddam Hussein during the Gulf War did not use his supply of biological and chemical weapons. American and Israeli nuclear weapons provided a complete check against his paltry arsenal. The calculation is easy enough to make: inflict some highly uncertain and limited damage on your enemy in exchange for the certainty of being obliterated. Even a man often called mad was unwilling to take those odds.

Now, anyone with a fully-functioning brain knows that a true terrorist would relish having a nuclear weapon. I am sure Timothy McVeigh dreamed dreams of possessing such power. And the boys who were to die slaughtering their fellow students at Columbine High School undoubtedly enjoyed such fantasies. But what has that to do with reality? Reports of pieces of paper with such dreams found in Al Qaida caves are meaningless, except to scare people by combining the words nuclear and bomb and Al Quaida in the same statement.

The only kind of bomb involving nuclear material that an organization like Al Quaida would be remotely capable of making is a conventional bomb wrapped in radioactive material. Such a bomb would leave an area littered with radioactive debris, but it is not a particularly effective weapon. Discussing it in the same breath with a device capable of a nuclear explosion is confusing and dishonest.

Nuclear weapons still represent a massive technological and financial undertaking, far beyond the resources of an Al Quaida, and Washington’s experts know this. Even Iraq, with all its oil wealth and the kind of government that can direct resources without answering to anyone, working very hard to develop a nuclear weapon, remained at least a few years from getting it.