Editorials

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Containing new threats to peace

One of the things we can be most grateful for this Thanksgiving week is that the world has once again been able to put down a threat to peace posed by Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. In fact, we should be extremely grateful, considering the extent of that threat. On Wednesday, Defense Secretary William Cohen said Iraq might have enough of the deadly chemical VX to kill every person in the world.

It is not just Hussein who possesses such horrible weapons of mass destruction. More than 25 nations have or may be developing nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. Cohen makes it clear that these same nations are finding ways to deliver these weapons. Their use says, Cohen, is "neither far-fetched nor far off."

Particularly frightening is the development of germs as weapons. Kathleen Bailey, formerly of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, says a biological arsenal could be built with as little as $10,000. Sophisticated equipment is not needed - a gas beer fermenter and masks are essential implements.

Cohen would not specifically name which countries have chemical or biological weapons. But many are known to be in the Middle East, where peace is being held together by a slender thread and where hostilities could rise and rage out of control.

The threat of harm from such weapons does not just come from these nations. Terrorists, too, could use them.

Fortunately, the U.S. is developing an aggressive response to the threat of chemical and biological warfare. The Pentagon and FBI have beefed up intelligence gathering efforts. Cohen notes that the Pentagon has been working with the National Guard to prepare it to respond quickly to domestic attacks from terrorists and has been training local police and fire fighters to help as well.

Americans can be confident that containing the threat of chemical and biological warfare is being pursued with much vigor. …