Washington - 30 August:
The Americans pride themselves on legalisms. They are always using
the terms "justice", "legality", "morality", "world
order". Well, now they have a few chances to put their actions where there words are.
There is substantial credible evidence now that the British, almost
always working closely with the Americans on such matters, paid dissident groups to try to
assassinate the leader of Libya as recently as 1996. If there is going to be a trial about
the bombing of Pan Am 103 in 1988, what about trials about the U.S. bombing of Libya in
1986 and the British (with probably CIA knowledge if not help) assassination attempt
against Qaddafi in 1996?
And now Sudan. Around the world few believe the Americans; and even
4 of 10 Americans think the Clinton team is at least partially "Waging the Dog".
An impartial international investigation is now imperative. A trial in The Hague probably
should result. And at the least American payment for damages -- actual and consequential
-- probably should result from that.
OK United Nations. Here's your opportunity, not to mention
responsibility. What you going to do about all this? Your own credibility -- what little
is left of it -- is on the line once again. This damning article about the Sudan bombing
is not from the Arab press, or the Islamic Press, or even the Third World Press -- its
from America's top ally, the British Press.
By Hassan Ibrahim,
Martin Bright, Shyam Bhatia
and Ed Vulliamy in The Guardian, Sunday, August 30
American claims to have "irrefutable" proof that the
bombed al-Shifa pharmaceuticals factory in Sudan was producing the deadly VX nerve agent
were seriously shaken this weekend amid mounting evidence of a massive failure of US
An Observer investigation has revealed a catalogue of US
misinformation, glaring ommissions and intelligence errors about the function of the
plant. The US claims are based on soil samples allegedly taken from the bombed factory.
The Observer has now established that the factory was - as the
Sudanese have claimed - originally designed, built and put into operation as a factory
In an interview with The Observer, Henry Jobe, the American chemical
engineer who designed the plant for a Sudanese businessman, Bashir Hassan Bashir, said he
was surprised when he saw the footage of the bombing on TV and the official statements
that followed because he had designed the plant as a pharmaceuticals factory.
Asked whether his design could be used to make chemical weapons, he
said: "No, we didn't intend a dual use for it. We didn't design anything extra in
there. The design we made was for pharmaceuticals. It's possible it could have been
changed. I don't know about it. We never discussed one second about any kind of chemical
Mr Jobe's testimony casts further doubt over US statements made
immediately after the bombing. One senior intelligence source had claimed: "We have
no evidence or have seen no products, commercial products, that are sold out of this
Mr Jobe, 76, who worked as a consultant in Indonesia, Egypt and
Jordan after retiring from the giant American pharmaceuticals corporation, Merck, said he
was surprised by the statements. "That is misinformation, because it was designed for
In the Jordanian capital Amman, an engineer involved in the
construction of al-Shifa also challenged Washington's claims. Ahmad Salem, who supervised
the building of the plant between 1993 and 1997, said: "There is no chance that this
factory could be used to produce chemical weapons, it was designed to produce medicine for
people and animals."
Germany's Ambassador to Sudan also disputes the United States,
according to reports in the German press yesterday. Just hours after US missiles destroyed
the plant, Ambassador Werner Daum sent a letter to superiors in Bonn disputing the
American justification for the attack, the reports said.
"One can't, even if one wants to, describe the Shifa firm as a
chemical factory," Daum wrote in the letter, quoted Saturday by the newsmagazines
Focus and Der Spiegel, and the Welt am Sonntag newspaper.
The only proof provided so far by the Americans to justify their
attack is based on a soil sample allegedly collected from near the plant.
American officials, who have refused to make the sample available to
a wider body of international experts, say traces of a VX precursor called Empta amount to
"irrefutable" evidence that the nerve agent was being manufactured there.
Sudan's Interior Minister raised questions about the source of the
soil sample. He said most of the area around al-Shifa was paved with only a tiny amount of
open land used for the cultivation of rose bushes.
"The American claim is totally unfounded," the Minister
said. "If you look around, you will not see any soil in the immediate vicinity of our
US credibility has been further dented by Western scientists who
have pointed out that the same ingredients are used for chemical weapons and beer, and
that mustard gas is similar in make-up to the anti-clogging agent in biro ink. It has also
been pointed out that the cherry flavouring in sweets is one of the constituent parts of
the gas used in combat. Empta also has commercial uses not linked to chemical weapons.
Last week the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons
revealed that Empta could be used for legitimate commercial purposes, including the
manufacture of fungicides and microbial agents. Experts add that the chemical structure of
Empta also closely resembles Fonofos, an insecticide on sale in Africa.
New questions have emerged as American intelligence sources move to
less and less credible positions. On Friday, a Pentagon official said: "There may
have been better places to go. That doesn't mean it was the wrong place to go"' The
source of the American intelligence also appears dubious. Tales of chemical weapons
manufacture in Sudan have long been current among the opposition National Democratic
Alliance, but they have never been confirmed.
Links between the factory and Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden - who
has been indicted for the bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania - are also
beginning to look increasingly shaky. Earlier this year the factory was sold to a Sudanese
businessman, Salah Idris, who is not known for his Islamist sympathies and has no known
links to bin Laden.