Sunday, March 13, 2005

Bolton's Germy Hands 

"[A]dvanced forms of biological warfare that can target specific genotypes may transform biological warfare from the realm of terror to a politically useful tool."
--Project for a New American Century,
"Rebuilding America's Defenses," p. 60

From the S.F. Chronicle, an op-ed about U.N. Ambassador-to-be John Bolton and his role in spiking the U.N.'s biological weapons convention, in which Robert James Parsons explains "why so many observers of the international scene respond to [Bolton's] appointment with a shudder." We have seen much speculation on the net and elsewhere about the origin of SARS, but the story about the suppressed WHO document is new to us:
As long as the United States refused to guarantee its compliance with the treaty, no other country could be expected to guarantee compliance either.

At the opening of the review conference, Bolton proposed that the protocol be, simply, dumped. In its place, he proposed bilateral treaties between the United States and every other country in the world, treaties that the United States would have the power to enforce, including the right to extradite and try in U.S. courts those suspected of engaging in bioweapons research.

In short, nothing would disturb the United States when it crossed the line into research for offensive bio weapons, but the United States was seeking for itself a system answerable to nobody that would empower it to bring its full force (including military, of course) to bear on any country attempting to compete with it in bio arms research.

The academic experts and nongovernmental organizations monitoring the drafting process and bioweapons research throughout the world were horrified and predicted that this would give rise to a frenzied arms race in biological weapons, probably with China in the lead.

A year later, China discovered SARS and tried to hide it. Three months later, terrified of the possibilities of its spreading throughout China and the world, it notified the World Health Organization, which immediately organized an emergency response on a scale unprecedented for any new illness. The WHO, too, was obviously terrified.

SARS was brought under control, but within the WHO, suppressed by pressure from a certain superpower, was an analysis of the SARS virus showing it to be an artificial creation designed to kill fast and furiously.

The conclusion was that it had somehow escaped from a military lab, which explained why, for three months, the Chinese authorities had hoped to counter the threat, ultimately in vain.

In the end, the Chinese were only too happy to have the analysis suppressed, and the superpower in question averted a major worldwide debate on the need for a bioweapons treaty with an enforcement mechanism.

Now, the bioweapons treaty is essentially a dead letter, the bio arms race is on, and many are quietly asking what the real origin of the bird flu might be.

The world is the poorer for the loss of the bio arms treaty and much less secure, but John Bolton did his work well. Now he can focus on the United Nations.
If you're wondering what sort of suasion China, the number-one purchaser of U.S. debt, might bring to bear on Mr. Parsons's unnamed superpower . . . well, let's just say we've been looking for an excuse to link to our distinguished colleague Avedon Carol's striking essay on the asset-stripping of America, "It Takes a Pillage," and this seems as good an occasion as any.

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