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Bush Magic Turns Medicines into Munitions


Six million marched for peace last week, but the Bush Regime and the Blair Regency were unmoved by this outburst from the ignorant rabble. Instead, the righteous leaders of the “Coalition of the Willing” (or COW) declared that no power on earth will halt their holy quest to rid the world of Saddam Hussein and his chemical weapons.

Strange, then, to see one of COW’s biggest bovines–Pentagon warlord Donald “Squinty” Rumsfeld–informing the dazed and docile rubberstamps of Congress of his intention to assault Iraq with, er, chemical weapons.

Rumsfeld told Congress he has asked COW head George W. Bush to sign a special waiver allowing American forces to use biochemical weapons against Iraqi troops and civilians in the upcoming stampede into Iraq, UPI reports. What’s more, the COW chemicals would be launched unilaterally, as part of the standard Rules of Engagement–and not merely in retaliation for an attack with similar weapons by Saddam.

In his extraordinary testimony–entirely ignored by the mainstream American media, natch–Rumsfeld openly complained about the onerous restrictions imposed on American forces by the stupid old Chemical Weapons Convention that the U.S. signed–indeed, initiated–many years ago. Rumsfeld told the Congressfolk of his deep “regret” that the U.S. had “tangled ourselves up so badly” with all that sissy-mary malarkey in the first place. But now, thank God, a real brush-clearin’, pretzel-chompin’ he-man is sitting on top of the COW, so Squinty is sure to get that waiver.

What Squinty wants to do is unleash a barrage of so-called “non-lethal” biochemical weapons against any godless Ayrab stupid enough to resist the incoming herd. This array of incapacitators–or to use the Pentagon’s quaint term, “calmatives”–will include fighting pharmaceuticals developed by the world’s leading drug companies. True, the weaponization of medicine is something of a departure from the Hippocratic Oath–but what’s health and healing when your COW is calling you to war? Anyway, isn’t the Hippocratic Oath–like the CWC, the ABM Treaty, the UN Charter, the Bill of Rights, indeed, the very notion of law itself–outmoded in the new Bush imperium?

Rumsfeld hopes to emulate the glorious success of Russian security forces, who used “non-lethal calmatives” to liberate the Nord-Ost hostages from their captors–and from the bonds of earthly existence as well. But there’s one slight hitch: the Russians’ employment of “calmatives”–however blundering and murderous–was legal under international law, which permits the use of “crowd-control devices” in domestic, law enforcement situations. But the use of any chemical weapon against people in wartime–no matter how supposedly non-lethal it might be–is expressly forbidden by a number of international treaties, all signed by the United States.

Not only that: the very production of such combat weapons is prohibited–which is supposedly why COW is on its high horse about Iraq. Squinty knows this, of course; that’s why he and COW head Bush have quietly shifted funding authority for “calmative” research from Pentagon coffers to John Ashcroft’s Justice Department–it gives “domestic” cover to the military program. Meanwhile, Squinty proudly notes that production of “delivery systems” for the weaponized drugs is rolling right along: the COW invaders will be able to use both an unmanned “loitering vehicle”–which hovers in the air and sprays brain-deadening and gut-wrenching juice over all and sundry–and a good-old fashioned mortar shell loaded with chemical cocktails.

Rumsfeld painted the deployment of field chemical weapons as a “humanitarian gesture,” but here too there’s a slight hitch. “There is no way known to medical science that can put large numbers of people to sleep without killing a sizable percentage of them,” as Harvard biology professor and biochemical weapons expert Matt Meselson told The Nation. This is particularly disturbing in the light of Pentagon documents obtained by The Sunshine Project, a Texas-based group devoted to biochemical warfare issues, detailing the actual plans for the weapons.

The papers, produced by the Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate, stress a concern for “target discrimination.” Like so many Pentagon terms, this phrase actually means the opposite: the weapons do not discriminate among targets–civilian from soldier, for example–they simply knock out (or kill) everyone within range, allowing COW troops to move in afterwards and discriminate the victims into piles of “bad guys” and unlucky innocent bystanders. This is considered particularly effective in urban warfare, although the JNLWD papers do note that “soldiers would probably have to be trained to refrain from killing persons already incapacitated with chemical weapons.” Well, let’s hope so, anyway.

Rumsfeld, of course, knows his way around drugs. He was chairman of two major pharmaceutical firms, including G.D. Searle, which later merged with Monsanto which then merged with Pharmacia & Upjohn and is now merged with Pfizer, creating of the world’s great googily-moogily conglomerations of medical loot. Doubtless, Squinty dumped any remaining shares in these various interlocking combines when he cashed out his $95 million worth of corporate holdings upon taking office in 2001–or rather, many, many months after taking office and overseeing programs like, well, the weaponization of pharmaceuticals (before the program’s hugger-mugger shift to Ashcroft).

He’s also well-acquainted with the use of chemical weapons in combat. Back in 1983, when the UN first revealed that Saddam Hussein was exchanging biochemical unpleasantries with Iran, Rumsfeld himself was kicking back in Baghdad, bringing fraternal greetings to Saddam from the wise and pious leaders of the West: Ronald Reagan–and some guy named George Bush.

CHRIS FLOYD is a columnist for the Moscow Times and a regular contributor to CounterPunch. He can be reached at:


Chris Floyd is a columnist for CounterPunch Magazine. His blog, Empire Burlesque, can be found at

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