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Preventing Biological Warfare: The Failure of American Leadership

By Malcolm R. Dando | Go to book overview

Introduction

In August 1972 President Nixon wrote to the United States Senate transmitting for advice and consent to ratification the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on their Destruction, that is, the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention or BTWC. In his letter President Nixon wrote:

It was about two years ago that this Government renounced, unilaterally and unconditionally, the use of all biological and toxin weapons and affirmed that we would destroy our existing stocks and confine our programs to strictly defined defensive purposes

We accompanied our renunciation of these weapons with support for the principles and objectives of the United Kingdom's 1969 draft convention in this field. On December 6, 1971, the Convention transmitted herewith, which would provide a binding international prohibition on the weapons we have renounced, was overwhelmingly commended by the General Assembly of the United Nations. 1

The President continued, ‘[T]his Convention is the first international agreement since World War II to provide for the actual elimination of an entire class of weapons from the arsenal of nations’. Hopes seemed high for, according to the President's letter, the Pine Bluff biological warfare (production) facility was to be turned into a national centre for the study of chemical contamination of the environment, while the Fort Detrick military biological research facility was to become a centre for cancer research. The Convention entered into force in 1975.

In 1996, however, the director of the United States Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA) stated the belief that: ‘twice as many countries now have or are actively pursuing offensive biological weapons programs as when the Convention went into force in 1975’. 2 This ominous doubling, in a little over two decades, of the number of countries thought to be involved in offensive biological weapons programmes included the startling example of the former Soviet Union which, along with the United States and the United Kingdom, was one of the three Depositary States for the BTWC! 3, 4 Moreover, this was no

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