WMD inspections in the US
March 2, 2003 12:11 PM   Subscribe

"Why can't we have independent inspections of the US military's chemical, biological and nuclear weapons stocks?...[W]hy must Americans, and the rest of the world, take the government's word without question?" Why indeed. The group Rooting Out Evil (who need a new name, IMO) recently sent an international delegation of "citizen weapons inspectors" to inspect an Army facility near Baltimore (they were unsurprisingly unsuccessful.) You are invited to become an honorary weapons inspector.
posted by homunculus (38 comments total)

 
Why can't we have independent inspections of the US military's chemical, biological and nuclear weapons stocks?

Because if they allowed that some of the "inspectors" might get information on copying said weapons, or security information that might help them to steal one. Next question?
posted by unreason at 12:40 PM on March 2, 2003


"Why can't we have independent inspections of the US military's chemical, biological and nuclear weapons stocks?

Maybe because the United States is not in violation of United Nations resolutions for having such weapons. Maybe because the United States was not the aggressor who attacked one of it's neighbors and then, when defeated, was forced to sign a cease-fire agreement that had a requirement that they disarm.

The same reason, France or the United Kingdom do not have inspectors watching over their weapons.

These faux inspectors tried to makes a point about the supposed absurdity of weapons inspections, but instead showed their ignorance of the subject.
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 12:46 PM on March 2, 2003


Next question?

The article is not proposing to allow Rooting Out Evil to actually conduct weapons inspections. It is proposing that an independent govenrment inquiry create a report of the US WMD stockpile. As one of the few nations on Earth which could, within the course of a day, destroy all life on the planet, I think that is a reasonable suggestion.

I'm sure Rooting Out Evil never truly expects to be admitted to a weapons facility in the US. Their trips are simply to draw attention to the issue.
posted by 4easypayments at 12:48 PM on March 2, 2003


It is proposing that an independent govenrment inquiry create a report of the US WMD stockpile.

A nice idea, but most organizations of that nature have a poor security track record, so it's still pretty problematic. Also, you can't have it both ways. If your organization keeps it's mouth mostly shut, no one will really know that they're actually doing anything. If they tell what they see, then we're back to having a security risk.
posted by unreason at 12:54 PM on March 2, 2003


Why would they allow inspections of American weapons of mass destruction? We're allowed to have them. We're open about having them. It's not like there's much to inspect.

Unlike certain other countries, we're not trying to hide anything. Except minor things like the exact design, how they're made, and other matters of essential national security.
posted by Mitrovarr at 12:54 PM on March 2, 2003


Maybe because the United States is not in violation of United Nations resolutions for having such weapons.

Apparently, neither is Iraq. And you only assume that the US is not in violation. That's the whole point of having independant inspectors, yes?

Maybe because the United States was not the aggressor who attacked one of it's neighbors and then, when defeated, was forced to sign a cease-fire agreement that had a requirement that they disarm.

Meaningless drivel, Steve. Doesn't apply to the question. Is the US, or France, or China, or North Korea following UN WMD guidelines? How do you know without inspections? You don't, regardless of past histories of aggression.

These faux inspectors tried to makes a point about the supposed absurdity of weapons inspections, but instead showed their ignorance of the subject.


Uhhh, from the article:

As Hammond notes, other nations look at our truculent secrecy regarding our own weapons-of-mass-destruction-related programs and draw conclusions. Conclusions like: The Americans are developing things in secret; probably we should be, too.

There is no point to be made about the absurdity of inspections, but rather whether they should be applied across the International community or just to those nations that the US chooses. The criteria chosen for expections by this group are these:

"According to those criteria, the most dangerous states are those run by leaders who:

1) have massive stockpiles of chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons;


The US does.


3) refuse to sign and honour international treaties;


The US does.

and
4) have come to power through illegitimate means."


Heh, heh, just too obvious...

Notice, those come from your beloved Bush administration. In short, Steve, it would appear that you are the one displaying ignorance about the situation. So I have to ask, what exactly is wrong with independant verification of the US's stockpile and developement of chemical and biological agents of war?

On preview, Mitrovarr, we're only as open as we have to be, so as not to violate national security concerns. You are comfortable that your government tells the truth, and I am not. So I ask, if we don't have anything to hide (we're allowed to have them, remember) what's wrong with independant verification of that?
posted by Wulfgar! at 1:15 PM on March 2, 2003


We can't have inspections because of American exceptionalism: our "do as we say, not as we do" policies.
posted by MarquisDeShad at 1:20 PM on March 2, 2003


But who is independent?
As unreason pointed out, if some organization within the nation does it, then it runs the risks of being a security risk or just as secretive as before.

I won't even get into the problems of having international parties do it.

And plus, unlike Iraq, we have the option of displaying or hiding our capabilities. Until someone forces us to it otherwise, why should we reveal them? Sheesh, what nation would, if given a choice?
posted by Lord Chancellor at 1:24 PM on March 2, 2003


First off, the U.S. has been destroying chemical/biological weapons for a while. I grew up about 80 miles from a chemical weapons destruction plant (near Tooele on the borders of Utah's west desert).

Second, I see the double standard involved, and while they're almost always galling, sometimes, they have a practical basis in reality. The other day I was visiting my parents and my mom asked my dad not to use a metal implement on the teflon pans. My dad noted that she did it sometimes, and my mom simply said that she knew how to use it without damaging the pan. This is possibly true, but it's a sticky position to take. I think the U.S. and some other countries have a strong argument that's similar to this.

But finally, I think both are suspect from time to time. I recall a number of incidents where whistleblowers from the Tooele facility came forward to the public about dangers or improprities they saw while working there. The U.S. intelligence organizations and armed forces have been known to conduct operations with weapons/ in manners that probably aren't in keeping with core values of the nation. It's important to watch anyone you give power to closely.

I don't know that it's time to call for U.S. weapons inspections, but it's definitely (and almost always) time to call people to watch their own public officials and programs as carefully as possible.
posted by namespan at 1:29 PM on March 2, 2003


I don't know that it's time to call for U.S. weapons inspections, but it's definitely (and almost always) time to call people to watch their own public officials and programs as carefully as possible.

Hey, I can agree with that somewhat. If you want that to happen, get the legislature to reflect it.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 1:33 PM on March 2, 2003


whatever
posted by ednopantz at 1:43 PM on March 2, 2003


We're open about having them. It's not like there's much to inspect.

Strange, then, that John Bolton derailed the international chemical and biological disarmament conventions over the issue of inspections. Apparently, he didn't want pesky foreigners checking to see whether the US was telling the truth about its stockpiles. Or 'stealing trade secrets' from those corporations churning out poisons and bacteria for the good ol' US of A.

Second, I see the double standard involved, and while they're almost always galling, sometimes, they have a practical basis in reality.

But as you say, that's asking other countries to be held to a higher standard than the US; and while I'm sure the usual suspects will line up their 'but we are the most moral and good and handsome country in the world, ever' arguments, such shallow, wide-eyed patriotism doesn't really work well on the international stage. I certainly don't trust Britain's work at Porton Down, and the UK has a much longer track record of not using weapons of mass destruction.
posted by riviera at 1:49 PM on March 2, 2003


US national facilities, weapons labs and stockpiles are routinely inspected and monitored by both international agencies and by individual states that we have treaties with. For example, there is virtually a permanent Russian military presence at certain US bases and facilities, and vice-versa.

Sure those citizen inspectors, say that they mean no harm, but "why must Americans, and the rest of the world, take {their} word without question?"

I've just appointed myself Citizen Wallet Inspector for the eastern USA ... so I deamdn that I be allowed to conduct and publish independent audits of the contents of their wallets. So what if I plan to 'test' said contents at the craps tables in Vegas - they'll be turning over those wallets right away, wont' they?
posted by Jos Bleau at 1:51 PM on March 2, 2003


Hey, Britain retaliated with poison gas during WWI so their record of not using WMD only runs for 20 years earlier.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 1:55 PM on March 2, 2003


As Citizen Wallet Inspector, I've established certain criteria for which wallets to inspect.

According to those criteria, the most dangerous wallets are held by those who:

1) have massive stockpiles of wallets
(I bet these citizen arms inspectors have at least one each)
2) ignore due process at the United Nations;
(Have you seen any UNSC resolutions saying these folks can use or posses wallets?)
3) refuse to sign and honor international treaties;
(Have you seen these folks honor any treaties?)
4) have come to power through illegitimate means."
(They appointed themselves - you don't get much more illegitimate than that)

Surely, other nations will look at the self appointed arms inspectors' truculent secrecy regarding their own wallets and draw conclusions. Conclusions like: They are developing wallets in secret; probably we should be, too.

Won't anyone think of the children?
posted by Jos Bleau at 2:11 PM on March 2, 2003


Excuse me, Jos, not that I don't think your trying to hard for what doesn't apply and all, but when was the last time a wallet was used to kill thousands of people? Now purchases from that wallet may be another story. If you'd like to inspect those, get in line. Ashcroft already has dibs.
posted by Wulfgar! at 2:46 PM on March 2, 2003


>Unlike certain other countries, we're not trying to hide anything.

Hahaha.

But seriously, the US has publically threatened to use nuclear weapons on two non-nuclear powers in as many years, namely Afghanistan and Iraq. Considering its the only country in the world that has used atomic weapons in wartime, their threats should probably be taken seriously. I also think its fairly obvious that if any other nuclear power made these kind of proclamations the international response would have been very different.
posted by skallas at 2:47 PM on March 2, 2003


the US has publically threatened to use nuclear weapons on two non-nuclear powers in as many years, namely Afghanistan and Iraq.

Speaking of which: Fallout seen from White House nuclear policy - Plans for small bombs, resumed tests could prompt other nations to follow.
posted by homunculus at 3:23 PM on March 2, 2003


You can got to FAS and Globalsecurity.org for some of the many examples of international inspections that the US submits to. Many of them are UN conventions - and UN inspectors

For many posters here, the rule seems to be that everything done by America is bad, and everything that people who hate America do is good.

So, accordingly, we can trust UN Inspectors to tell us whether or not the Iraq has disarmed - but not the United States!
posted by Jos Bleau at 3:36 PM on March 2, 2003


"Why can't we have independent inspections of the US military's chemical, biological and nuclear weapons stocks?

Maybe because the United States is not in violation of United Nations resolutions for having such weapons.


Steve, I thought it was uncontroversial that the US (and the USSR, and Iraq) continued to possess and develop biological and chemical weapons in contravention of the Biological and Chemical weapons conventions throughout the '70s and into the '80s. There is evidence that the US continues to do so, and moreover that it's planning to use 'non-lethal' chemical sprays -- in contravention of the CWC (although, to be fair, the US hasn't ratified this treaty) -- in the coming conflict.

The issue of inspections is actually a pertinent one, because, although the BWTC and CWC proscribe the possession and development of biological and chemical weapons, they contain no provisions for inspections. The US's rejection of the amended Biological weapons convention in 2001 -- which would have made inspections compulsory -- was precisely over this issue, again leading to the suspicion that the US has something to hide.
posted by Sonny Jim at 3:36 PM on March 2, 2003


But still, a question is, what does the U.S. Govern't and the citizens there of have to gain from submitting. People usually act in their self-interest (though sometimes in the interests of themselves and others too) and the U.S. Govern't is merely an aggression of U.S. citizens. Why on earth should they? Its not like we're going to get invaded if we don't ratify a treaty.

As harsh as that sounds, and as cocky, why should we submit to other's judgement when we don't have to?

Has any nation done so?
posted by Lord Chancellor at 3:54 PM on March 2, 2003


SOUTH AFRICA
posted by Ptrin at 5:04 PM on March 2, 2003


So, accordingly, we can trust UN Inspectors to tell us whether or not the Iraq has disarmed - but not the United States!

Why would it be otherwise? You don't trust organizations to be honest about themselves. Get a committee of semi-impartial observers together and you'll get alot closer to the truth.
posted by 4easypayments at 6:19 PM on March 2, 2003


the daily grim from washington dc: the US quietly mentions that they WILL be using chemical weapons in iraq [via floating wreckage]. is this administratoin hell bent on "Super-Rogue Nation" status?
posted by specialk420 at 9:21 PM on March 2, 2003


I don't see how you equate cs gas and pepper gas with other chemical weapons. I guess some do though. Seems that if you link those you need to link regular bombs and nuclear bombs since they are both bombs.
posted by Plunge at 9:33 PM on March 2, 2003




Oh, I read the article and that quote. I'm just saying, as my own opinion and as a person who has breathed far too much cs and pepper gas in his lifetime, I have a hard time linking these gases and what I consider "true" chemical weapons.

Anyway...
posted by Plunge at 10:22 PM on March 2, 2003


Just a different take on this but since this is a representative democracy, and since Congress does have oversight powers on many of these programs, don't you have the verification process already?

Now, you can argue that Congress is in on the lie but why not run for Congress and change that? Every citizen has the right to run so instead of forming ad hoc, self appointed groups with no legal authority, why not do something that can actually make a difference? That seems to fit in better within the constructs of the Constitution than begging for foreign powers to come in and act as indpendent auditors.
posted by billman at 11:38 PM on March 2, 2003


Plunge: Gotta agree with you on that one. Ooof. It's nasty stuff but it's a far cry from nerve agents. A little tearing and snot running down your face is a lot better than some gas that binds to the hemoglobin in your blood and suffocates you.

If anything the whole "non-lethal" aspect of it is so you'll be temporarily incapacitated and somebody won't have to kill you. My definition of a chemical or bio weapon is one that seeks to inflict death or long lasting harm.
posted by billman at 11:44 PM on March 2, 2003


If anything the whole "non-lethal" aspect of it is so you'll be temporarily incapacitated and somebody won't have to kill you.

In practice it usually the opposite. Tear gas is launched and the incapacitated get beaten by old fashion batons. "Smoke" out a bunker and shoot the armed masses running out for fresh air.

Theres a good reason why so many people advocate universal restrictions on chemical and biological agents- its just too easy to abuse them. In a wartime situation it would be easy to justify the use of non-lethal chem to lethal conventional warfare. Someone's anti-aircraft missile base keeps planes from invading someone's airspace. Launch your non-lethal chems, let them choke on it for a while, and then go in with the traditional bombing. Give a division of troops, lets say, explosive diarrhea and then rain hellfire on them while they're crapping themselves. Why wait for the enemy to get over it and regroup?

Same ending, different means
posted by skallas at 11:56 PM on March 2, 2003


If the US was to start building and testing the mini-nukes, it would break non-proliferation agreements which other countries such as the UK have stuck to over the past 20 years.
posted by skylar at 1:28 AM on March 3, 2003


Plunge - pepper gas is made out of chemicals and is used as a weapon. what's the problem? It's not a biological weapon.
posted by dabitch at 2:50 AM on March 3, 2003


"Trust but verify" - Saint Raygun

Sounds like a good plan. Even for the US.
posted by nofundy at 5:54 AM on March 3, 2003


dabitch: When I was a kid, firecrackers were legal, m-80s were not. Same kind of thing. Tear gas or CS gas as well as pepper gas is used to break up riots and debilitate. It doesn't kill. Linking the two is a stretch.

I understand what skallas is saying, but I think you run into major problems when you try and make your ban of weapons so broad. What you then have is countries refusing to sign on to such bans or refusing to follow them. When you limit what you ban, it is easier to get nations to sign on.
posted by Plunge at 8:41 AM on March 3, 2003


As the Athenians said to the Spartans:

"We have done nothing extraordinary, nothing contrary to human nature in accepting an empire when it was offered to us and then in refusing to give it up. Three very powerful motives prevent us from doing so - security, honour and self-interest.

And we were not the first to act in this way. Far from it. It has always been a rule that the weak should be subject to the strong, and besides, we consider that we are worthy of power. Up till the present moment you, too, used to think that we were, but now, after calulating your own interest, you are beginning to talk in terms of right and wrong. Considerations of this kind have never yet turned people aside from the opportunities of aggrandisement offered by superior strength.

Those who really deserve praise are the people who, while human enough to enjoy power, nevertheless pay more attention to justice than they are compelled to do by their situation. Certainly, we think that if anyone else was in our position, it would soon be evident whether we act with moderation or not.

Yet unreasonably enough, our very consideration for others has us more blame than praise... No one bothers to inquire why this reproach is not made against other imperial powers, who treat their subjects much more harshly than we do: the fact being, of course, that where force can be used there is no need to bring in the law.

Our subjects, on the other hand, are used to being treated as equals; consequently, when they are disappointed in what they think right and suffer even the smallest disadvantage because of a judgement in our courts or because of the power that our empire gives us, they cease to fee grateful to us for all the advantages which we have left to them: indeed, they feel more bitterly over this slight disparity than they would feel if we, from the first, had set the law aside and had openly enriched ourselves at their expense..."


-Thucydides, book I of the History of the Peloponnesian War
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 1:30 PM on March 3, 2003


Tear gas or CS gas as well as pepper gas is used to break up riots and debilitate. It doesn't kill. Linking the two is a stretch.

Plunge, there are really three issues here. The first concerns the 'lethality' of the agents themselves. Teargas and CS gas are toxic, and may be mutagenic -- resulting in miscarriages, stillbirths and cancers -- even when used strictly in a riot or crowd control context. There's also evidence to suggest that incapacitating chemical agents as used by the military can and will be fatal to a percentage of its targets. Indeed, the agents used to end the hostage crisis in Moscow in 2002 killed 16% of the hostages. This fatality rate is actually comparable to that of certain munitions.

The second issue is what happens to the victims once they've been incapacitated. The banning of US military use of teargas in 1975 was apparently in response to tactics developed in Vietnam, where teargas would be used to flush enemy troops out of cover, whereupon they would be routinely shot. Despite being 'non-lethal', teargas here actually increased the kill ratio.

Of course, you could say that the socio-cultural and military context in which American troops operate now is different from that of Vietnam. You'd be right. But there's no guarantee that the tactics used in Vietnam would never be redeployed.

The third issue is the threat of proliferation. If countries aren't willing to make a distinction between 'non-lethal' and other forms of chemical weapons -- and the signage patterns of international conventions shows that many are not -- then US military use of teargas or CS gas might 'bridge the Rubicon', and bring back the possibility of the widespread use of lethal nerve agents (for instance) in warfare.

A lot of effort has been put into marginalizing chemical warfare, and for damned good reasons. Why jeopardize those efforts, particularly when the US has such huge military advantages already?
posted by Sonny Jim at 2:07 PM on March 3, 2003


A lot of effort has been put into marginalizing chemical warfare, and for damned good reasons. Why jeopardize those efforts, particularly when the US has such huge military advantages already?

You are probably right. I was looking at it, especially with the CS and pepper gas, as a way to debilitate without killing. Oh well.
posted by Plunge at 5:06 PM on March 3, 2003


Some of the posts about non-lethal chemical weapons got me to thinking about the motives of disarmament.

Why should the US negotiate bans or treaties on such weapons? Those countries in favor of most bans have little, if any, political or military interests at stake. For instance, if I have no chemical weapons then saying that nobody should have them seems like a legitimate expectation. So, those who wish to see the US divest itself of certain weapons do not really represent a legitimate negotiating partner.

On the flip-side, those who would actually use lethal chemical weapons are the same people who, even if they signed such an agreement, would never honor it. Much in the same way that most of the countries most likely to uphold the Geneva Convention are the ones least likely to be at war with the US. Those most likely to violate the Geneva Convention are exactly the people who are in constant states of war or tension.

Not sure I have any point here other than it does bring up the issue of whether or not we actually disadvantage ourselves against our most likely enemies by agreeing with our allies not to use certain weapons of war.

I know some will knee-jerk into the "but we have to be superior in character, an example" type of argument, and I agree (in part), but what if the most humane way to fight someone like Iraq is with such overwhelming force and technical superiority as to destroy their will and thus force less resistance, a shorter conflict, and less lives lost on both sides.
posted by billman at 5:27 PM on March 3, 2003


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