short history of the U.S. role in spreading weapons throughout
Before World War I, arms manufacturers were commonly called
“merchants of death.” As clouds of war gathered over Europe,
the peace movement worked in vain to stop armament companies
from producing explosives, torpedoes, mustard gas, machine
guns, dreadnoughts, subs, destroyers, U-boats, howitzers,
bombers and zeppelins.
Two world wars and countless regional conflicts have since
ravaged the globe. The merchants of death are still in business.
Iraq’s Weapons Declaration underscores a tragic irony: The
United States, the world’s leading arms supplier, is taking
the world to war to stop arms proliferation in the very country
to which it shipped chemicals, biological seed stock and weapons
for more than 10 years.
According to the December declaration, treated with much derision
from the Bush administration, U.S. and Western companies played
a key role in building Hussein’s war machine. The 1,200-page
document contains a list of Western corporations and countries—as
well as individuals—that exported chemical and biological
materials to Iraq in the past two decades.
Embarrassed, no doubt, by revelations of their own complicity
in Mideast arms proliferation, the U.S.-led Security Council
censored the entire dossier, deleting more than 100 names
of companies and groups that profited from Iraq’s crimes and
aggression. The censorship came too late, however. The long
list, including names of large U.S. corporations—Dupont, Hewlett-Packard,
and Honeywell—was leaked to a German daily, Die Tageszeitung.
Despite the Security Council cover-up, the truth came out.
A German company, for example, exported 1,000 ignition systems
for Styx and Scud missiles capable of carrying biological
and nuclear warheads.
Alcolac International, a Maryland company, transported thiodiglycol,
a mustard gas precursor, to Iraq. A Tennessee manufacturer
contributed large amounts of a chemical used to make sarin,
a nerve gas implicated in Gulf War diseases.
Phyllis Bennis, author of Before and After, notes that
“the highest quality seed-stock for anthrax germs (along with
those of botulism, E. coli, and a host of other deadly diseases)
were shipped to Iraq by U.S. companies, legally, under an
official U.S. Department of Commerce license throughout the
1980s.” A Senate Banking subcommittee report in 1994 confirmed
that shipments of biological germ stock continued well into
According to Judith Miller in Germs: Biological Weapons
and America’s Secret War, Iraq purchased its seed stock—its
“starter germs”—from The American Type Culture Collection,
a supply company in a Washington, D.C., suburb.
We tend to forget that the Reagan-Bush administration maintained
cordial relations with Hussein in the ‘80s, promoting Iraq’s
eight-year war against Iran. Twenty-four U.S. firms exported
arms and materials to Baghdad. France also sent Hussein 200
AMX medium tanks, Mirage bombers and Gazelle helicopter gunships.
As Assistant Secretary of Defense Richard Armitage testified
in 1987: “We cannot stand to see Iraq defeated.”
The CIA, the State Department and the central military command
directing Middle East operations were well aware of Iraq’s
biological-weapons efforts. Nevertheless, Iraq’s applications
were seldom denied.
The infamous massacre at Halabja—the gassing of the Kurds—took
place in March 1988. Six months later, on Sept. 19, a Maryland
company sent 11 strains of germs—four types of anthrax—to
Iraq, including a microbe strain called 11966, developed for
germ warfare at Fort Detrick in the 1950s.
The vast, lucrative arms trade in the Middle East created
the groundwork for Hussein’s aggression in Kuwait. Without
high-tech weapons from the West, Iraq’s wars against Iran
and Kuwait never would have taken place.
The inspection process is spawning a host of questions about
U.S. policy. Why aren’t U.S. and European scientists, who
invented and produced lethal materials for Saddam Hussein,
subject to interrogations like their counterparts in Iraq?
Are U.S. companies sending their deadly material to other
dictators? Why are there no congressional hearings on the
U.S. role in arms proliferation? And how many senators (like
the voice of Connecticut’s arms industry, Sen. Joe Lieberman)
are taking contributions from the world’s arms dealers?
The United States exports more weapons than all other countries
combined, and Hussein is only one of many human-rights abusers
who purchased the means of terror from the West.
No despot, no monarchy, no medieval insurgency that can be
exploited, no regime of terror seems to be off-limits to the
sale of arms for profit.
From 1983 to 1988, Siad Barre, the mad dictator of Somalia,
received from the United States 155 howitzers, 20mm Vulcan
air defense guns, light artillery pieces, mortars, anti-tank
rocket launchers, a mass of firearms and ammunition.
By 1989, its precious desert water holes demolished, the impoverished
country was in open revolt. When Siad Barre fled, he left
the country in ruins, and he left all his U.S. weapons behind—the
very weapons that enabled warrior clans to bring down U.S.
Black Hawks and kill 70 U.S. and U.N. humanitarian troops.
On the edge of famine, Somalia today is still awash in U.S.
weaponry, as 14-year-old children carry hand-me-down rifles
through the streets of Mogadishu.
Notwithstanding pious talk about curbing arms proliferation,
arms traffic is expanding under the administration of George
W. Bush. The administration recently lifted the embargo on
arms sales to contending nuclear powers—India and Pakistan—where
riots, massacres, religious uprisings and border showdowns
take place routinely.
The arms traffic may be very profitable for General Dynamics
and Lockheed Martin, but the arms traffic is deadly for developing
Arms militarize the Third World, deplete local resources and—despite
low interest rates —generate large debts and inflation. Loans
for genuine capital investment generate increased productivity,
enabling a nation to progress and repay the loan. Military
loans and purchases have no such value. They divert resources
from civilian production and from the growth economy, and
they increase poverty.
Even before Sept. 11, historian Chalmers Johnson warned, in
Blowback: Costs and Consequences of American Empire:
“Arms sales are a major cause of a developing blowback whose
price we have yet to begin to pay.”
a term first used by the CIA, refers to the unintended consequences
of covert policies. “In a sense, blowback is simply another
way of saying that a nation reaps what it sows,” Johnson wrote.
“But so much of what the managers of the American empire have
sown has been kept secret. Although most Americans may be
largely ignorant of what was, and still is, being done in
their names, all are likely to pay a steep price—individually
and collectively—for their nation’s continued efforts to dominate
the global scene.”
Is it moral to view social conflicts, hatred, fear, aggression,
war and violence as a mere marketplace for high-tech business?
And can we continue to treat the mechanisms of terror in terms
of supply and demand?
George Orwell’s brilliant essay on empire and nationalism
applies directly to the mendacity of the Bush administration:
are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according
to who does them. There is almost no kind of outrage—torture,
imprisonment without trial, assassination, the bombing of
civilians—which does not change its moral color when it is
committed by ‘our’ side. . . . The nationalist not only does
not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, he
has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them.”
It is time to measure human rights by one yardstick—to hold
the suppliers, not just the purchasers, of death accountable
for their handiwork.
Rockwell is a writer based in Oakland, Calif.
war has done—and will do again—to Iraqi children
If war could bring peace, the definitive battle would have
been fought millennia ago, on a wide-open field, with sticks
and stones and possibly spit.
Instead, today’s armies fight on with hard drives and software,
with white noise and satellites, with specks on monitors erupting
in flames. And smart weapons create the same images of disfigured
women holding expressionless children—head too small for the
hospital pillow, body too short for the bed.
War has never fit children.
I’ve been reading old newspapers lately, clippings with torn
edges, dates marked in ink at the top. In the 1991 Gulf War,
more than 59,000 tons of bombs were dropped monthly on Iraq.
In Vietnam, 34,000 tons were dropped monthly. Vietnam doesn’t
need a date to define it. Vietnam was the ’60s. Iraq was the
’90s. Everything else fell in between.
Modern weapons create the same heartrending images of heartbroken
men digging through rubble, searching for home, for family.
If Iraq really does have nuclear facilities, why is the U.S.
planning to bomb them? The U.N. has a ban against attacks
on nuclear sites. Cruise missiles, once en route, cannot be
recalled. (In 1991, the U.S. bombed Iraqi reactors, exposing
the civilian population to radioactive iodine.)
During the six-week assault on Iraq, 84,000 tons of bombs
were dropped, the equivalent of five Hiroshimas. I need to
repeat that: 84,000 tons of bombs rained down, the equivalent
of five Hiroshimas—and children were the largest group of
casualties. Many died of hunger and cold. At the Cukurca refugee
camp, 86 died in three days.
In Iraq, U.S. forces introduced ammunition made with depleted
uranium, a radioactive waste. At least 940,000 of those toxic,
armor-piercing rounds were fired. Dr. Eric Hoskins, a medical
doctor with 15 years of experience working in war zones, surveyed
Iraq two years after the war as part of a Harvard Study Team.
He estimates that 50,000 children died in the first eight
months of 1991, many from the effects of spent rounds littering
the ground. UN aid workers saw Iraqi children playing with
empty radioactive shells. In Basra, a child was seen using
them as hand puppets.
Today, the United States possesses almost three-quarters of
a million metric tons of depleted uranium—even though a 1996
UN subcommittee defined arms containing it as weapons of mass
The mass destruction of Iraq’s water purification facilities
hastened the spread of cholera and typhoid, and hastened the
deaths of thousands of children. Protocol I of the Fourth
Geneva Convention, Article 54, prohibits the destruction of
objects indispensable to the survival of a civilian population,
including food and drinking water. Near Baghdad, 12 million
gallons of raw sewage spewed into the Tigris River hourly.
Without access to television, radio or newspapers, families
continued to rely on the Tigris for their drinking water.
As many as a quarter of a million Iraqi civilians died as
a result of the Gulf War.
Dr. Hoskins recently returned to Canada after another assessment
mission to Iraq. His team found that 500,000 Iraqi children
are malnourished, and the country has only three months of
medicine left. Now, with war looming once again, the children
are more vulnerable than ever:
it is impossible to predict both the nature of any war and
the number of expected deaths and injuries, casualties among
children will be in the thousands, probably in the tens of
thousands and possibly in the hundreds of thousands. . . .
Iraq’s 13 million children are at grave risk of starvation,
disease, death and psychological trauma.”
In 1991, U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney—then secretary of
defense—directed one of the largest and deadliest military
campaigns in history. The Washington victory parade alone
cost more than $12 million. The attack began late on a clear
moonless night, while children were sleeping. Laser bombs
work best when it’s clear; they become confused in the clouds.
If any soldier can hear me, if any soldier can read this,
in the name of God, realize why you have been called there.
You have been called there to kill the children. What century
are we living in? What have we become?
Dominic is author of The Queen of Peace Room, a personal exploration
of violence in the second half of the 20 th century.
Crime, and Times Union personals ads
a sex scam, and a trail leading back to a telephone
chat-line ad. Blame it on Metroland.
That, apparently, is the thinking of some in the local
media, notably the Times Union, which published
a story on Friday (March 14) headlined “Sex scam linked
to fatal attraction.” The reporter, Mike Goodwin, detailed
the unfortunate demise of Daniel Jamison, who apparently
was lured through a personals ad into a trap set by
would-be robbers in Schenectady who killed him after
he refused to hand over cash. In the second paragraph,
Goodwin wrote that the perpetrators “met their robbery
victims through a Quest Personals telephone chat line
advertised in Metroland.”
What the story did not mention was that if readers had
turned to page 2 of the Sports section of that same
day’s Times Union, they would have found the
same Quest Personals ad. In fact, Quest appears to advertise
in the TU every day.
Both Goodwin and TU editor Rex Smith defended
their paper’s failure to disclose its own connection
with Quest Personals while connecting Metroland
to the sex scam and murder. Goodwin said he heard that
the robbers found the ad in Metroland from three
different law-enforcement sources in Schenectady, though
he later admitted that in two of those cases, he had
named Metroland in his question.
According to Schenectady Police Department spokesman
Lt. Pete Frisoni, Goodwin’s information is not necessarily
accurate anyway. The statement involving Metroland,
he said, “did not come from an official source here.
During this investigation we have never said anything
like that. That was not the official position of this
Whether the offenders made their connection to Quest
Personals from Metroland or the Times Union
(the ads in each paper contain the same information),
it is unlikely that it can be determined conclusively
where the victim saw the ad (and Frisoni noted
that he also has seen it on local television). Still,
Smith said he saw “nothing inappropriate” in the TU’s
singling out Metroland. And both he and Goodwin
didn’t know Quest Personals also advertised in the TU.
What happens when one newspaper is singled out for an
alleged connection to a sex scam that leads to murder?
Several news organizations phoned Metroland Friday
for more information on the story; to a person, the
callers had assumed from the TU story that the
personal chat-line service was actually run by Metroland
(Quest is a private company that merely advertises the
phone number for the service it runs). And the reporters
were surprised to learn that the chat-line ads also
run in the Times Union. Meanwhile, conservative
talk-show host Paul Vandenburgh apparently lambasted
Metroland for running sleazy ads on his morning
show on WROW.
Curiously, Goodwin also defended his story by pointing
out that his wording did not actually state that the
robbers/killers found the Quest ad in Metroland—just
that the chat line is advertised there.
That would seem to undermine his and Smith’s logic as
to why it was appropriate to shine the crime’s lurid
light directly on Metroland, which is effectively
what Goodwin achieved by not mentioning that Quest Personals
advertises its chat line in other local media—notably
in the Times Union, where you can find it every