Chemical Arms Soon

By Flanders, Laura | The Nation, December 22, 1997 | Go to article overview

Chemical Arms Soon


Flanders, Laura, The Nation


Opening domestic doors at short notice to foreign inspectors who are looking for chemical arms? Saddam Hussein doesn't like the idea. Neither, it turns out, does Jesse Helms, and perhaps a good many in the House.

In a barely reported debate in May over the implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee put enough restrictions on U.N. weapons inspections to undermine the intent of the chemical accords. In these days of saber rattling against Iraq, the Chemical Weapons Convention Implementation Act of 1997 (S. 610) makes interesting reading. It preserves for the U.S. President precisely the right that the Iraqi leader has claimed-namely, to thwart international inspections at will.

According to section 307, "the President may deny a request to inspect any facility in the United States in cases where the President determines that the inspection may pose a threat to the national security interests." A section subtitled "Not Subject to Judicial Review" further states that "any objection by the President to an individual serving as an inspector...shall not be reviewable in any court." The act also empowers the F.B.I. to designate a special agent to accompany each inspection team's visit. And' with an ear to industry worries, the Senate insured that members of certain government agencies--the Environmental Protection Agency and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration--are barred from taking part.

Iraq is not a member of the Chemical Weapons Convention, and U.N. inspections there take place under a cease-fire resolution, not an arms control accord. But the United States is a member-and while it postures as the world's protector against poison gas, it also stands in violation of the treaty, which has been ratified by 105 states, including China and Iran.

The President signed the Chemical Weapons Convention with much fanfare in January 1993 but permitted four years and a Democratic Congress to pass before pushing the Senate to ratify it this past spring. …

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