U.S. GAVE GERMS TO IRAQ
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Oct 01, 2002
WASHINGTON - Iraq's bioweapons program, which President Bush wants to
eradicate, got its start with help from the United States two decades ago,
according to government records.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sent samples directly to several
Iraqi sites that U.N. weapons inspectors determined were part of Saddam
Hussein's biological-weapons program, CDC and congressional records from the
early 1990s show. Iraq had ordered the samples, contending it needed them for
legitimate medical research.
The CDC and a biological-sample company, the American Type Culture Collection,
sent strains of all the germs Iraq used to make weapons, including anthrax, the
bacteria that make botulinum toxin and the germs that cause gas gangrene, the
records show. Iraq also got samples of other deadly pathogens, including the
West Nile virus.
The transfers came in the 1980s, when the United States supported Iraq in its
war against Iran. They were detailed in a 1994 Senate Banking Committee report
and a 1995 follow-up letter from the CDC to the Senate.
The exports were legal at the time and approved under a program administered by
the Commerce Department.
"I don't think it would be accurate to say the United States government
deliberately provided seed stocks to the Iraqis' biological-weapons programs,"
said Jonathan Tucker, a former U.N. biological-weapons inspector.
"But they did deliver samples that Iraq said had a legitimate public-health
purpose, which I think was naive to believe, even at the time."
The disclosures put the United States in the uncomfortable position of possibly
having provided the key ingredients of the weapons America is considering
waging war to destroy, said Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va. Byrd entered the
documents into the Congressional Record this month.