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For The Record  

FTR #374 Between Iraq and a Hard Place

MP3 One Seg­ment

This pro­gram exam­ines evolv­ing events in US/Mideast pol­i­tics. In par­tic­u­lar, events in US rela­tions with Sau­di Ara­bia (“The Hard Place”) and Iraq (“Iraq”). In response to the law­suit filed against mem­bers of the Sau­di Roy­al Fam­i­ly and relat­ed ele­ments of the Sau­di petro-finan­cial elite, an appar­ent with­draw­al of Sau­di funds from the U.S. cap­i­tal mar­kets has begun. That law­suit, for a $tril­lion in dam­ages, has been filed by sur­vivors of the vic­tims of the 9/11 attacks. The Sau­di Roy­al Fam­i­ly, relat­ed eco­nom­ic and Wah­habite Islamist ele­ments, the petro­le­um indus­try, inter­na­tion­al fas­cism (the Third Reich, in par­tic­u­lar), and key eco­nom­i­cal and polit­i­cal forces in the Unit­ed States his­tor­i­cal­ly allied with the Bush fam­i­ly are the dom­i­nant forces that have pre­cip­i­tat­ed the events of 9/11. Involved with, and at the core of this struc­tur­al rela­tion­ship, the forces of inter­na­tion­al fas­cism have been able to nur­ture in the Arab world and the Unit­ed States.

1. The pro­gram begins with an appar­ent with­draw­al of sig­nif­i­cant amounts of Sau­di cap­i­tal invest­ed in the Unit­ed States. This with­draw­al is, in part, a reac­tion to the law­suit men­tioned else­where. “Dis­grun­tled Saud­is have pulled tens of bil­lions of dol­lars out of the U.S., sig­nal­ing a grow­ing dis­en­chant­ment with Amer­i­ca. One ana­lyst said the total funds with­drawn by indi­vid­ual investors amount­ed to $200bn. Oth­er bankers put the fig­ure near­er to $100bn. The U.S.-Saudi alliance was put under severe strain after Sep­tem­ber 11, when 15 of the 19 hijack­ers were Sau­di nation­als. Accu­sa­tions that Sau­di Ara­bi­a’s aus­tere brand of Islam breeds ter­ror­ism and its char­i­ties finance Osama bin Laden’s al-Qae­da net­work have been per­ceived in the king­dom as attacks on Sau­di soci­ety and its reli­gion.” (“Saud­is Pull Bil­lions Out of the U.S.” by Roula Kha­laf; Finan­cial Times; 8/21/2002; p. 1)

2. “An ana­lyst from the Rand Cor­po­ra­tion said at a Pen­ta­gon brief­ing this month that Sau­di Ara­bia was the ‘ker­nel of evil’, exac­er­bat­ing con­cerns among the coun­try’s elite that they have become demo­nized in the U.S. and their mon­ey is no longer safe there. As part of the fight against ter­ror­ism, the U.S. and Sau­di author­i­ties have been mon­i­tor­ing the accounts of dozens of Sau­di com­pa­nies and indi­vid­u­als, a move that has alarmed Sau­di com­pa­nies and indi­vid­u­als, a move that has alarmed Sau­di mer­chants. Youssef Ibrahim, a senior fel­low at the Coun­cil on For­eign Rela­tions work­ing on a project re-exam­in­ing U.S.-Saudi rela­tions, said Saud­is had with­drawn at least $200bn from the U.S. in recent months. He said the move had been dri­ven by hawk­ish U.S. com­men­ta­tors’ calls for the freez­ing of Sau­di assets.” (Idem.)

3. “The trend, he added, could be expect­ed to accel­er­ate with last week’s tril­lion-dol­lar law­suit by rel­a­tives of the vic­tims of Sep­tem­ber 11. The law­suit accus­es sev­er­al Sau­di insti­tu­tions and char­i­ties and three mem­bers of the roy­al fam­i­ly, includ­ing the defense min­is­ter, of financ­ing ter­ror­ism.” (Idem.)

4. Behold the Hard Place, and note the men­tion of “Iraq” at the end of the quot­ed pas­sage. “Peo­ple no longer have any con­fi­dence in the U.S. econ­o­my or in U.S. for­eign pol­i­cy,’ said Bishr Bakheet, a finan­cial con­sul­tant in Riyadh. ‘And if the lat­est law­suit is not thrown out in court, it will mean no more Sau­di mon­ey in the U.S.’ Despite state­ments by both the U.S. and Sau­di gov­ern­ments that ties remain strong, ten­sions are also exac­er­bat­ed by the appar­ent U.S. deter­mi­na­tion to seek regime change in Iraq through pos­si­ble mil­i­tary action, a pol­i­cy opposed by the oil-rich king­dom.” (Idem.)

5. The bulk of the pro­gram focus­es on a hypo­thet­i­cal ele­ment in the dis­cus­sion of pos­si­ble mil­i­tary action against Iraq. The dis­cus­sion explores an aspect of the Iraq debate that has received rel­a­tive­ly lit­tle debate—the foot-and-mouth epi­dem­ic in Britain in the spring of 2001 and the pos­si­bil­i­ty that it may have involved bioter­ror­ism. A recent op-ed col­umn raised the very ques­tion at the heart of recent dis­cus­sion: IS the out­break of foot-and-mouth the result of bio­log­i­cal war­fare? The writer also raised anoth­er aspect of the line of inquiry pre­sent­ed in that pro­gram-the pos­si­bil­i­ty that Iraq may have been involved in the delib­er­ate spread of the dis­ease. “Could the Unit­ed States be at war and not know it? The cur­rent out­break of foot-and-mouth dis­ease in the Unit­ed King­dom makes one won­der. Not about Britain’s plight specif­i­cal­ly; there’s noth­ing to sug­gest that the epi­dem­ic there is an act of war. But con­sid­er how quick­ly and eas­i­ly it has spread. Then con­sid­er a regime such as Iraq’s, which has demon­strat­ed a com­mit­ment to devel­op­ing bio­log­i­cal weapons. Might such a nation find it advan­ta­geous to strike anony­mous­ly and bio­log­i­cal­ly by spread­ing an eco­nom­i­cal­ly dev­as­tat­ing dis­ease or a slow-act­ing tox­in? This is not an abstract ques­tion. The Iraqi regime insists that the eco­nom­ic sanc­tions imposed on it are noth­ing less than a geno­ci­dal attack by the Unit­ed States and the Unit­ed King­dom. The regime has said it is still fight­ing the Per­sian Gulf War, and that it will respond to the plight of the Pales­tini­ans . . . . Among the agents known to have been loaded into war­heads are afla­tox­in, a fun­gal tox­in that can cause liv­er can­cer, and wheat-cov­er smut, which destroys grain crops . . . . And if a slow-devel­op­ing dis­ease can’t be linked to the event that trig­gered it, how can a coun­try pre­vent such attacks? How can it respond? Sci­ence might be able to address part of this prob­lem. Sub­tle dif­fer­ences in vari­eties of bio­log­i­cal agents can be ana­lyzed and traced to cer­tain regions. Oth­er effects might have sig­na­tures that can be observed in vic­tims.” (“If an Ene­my Attacks, Will We Know It?” by Charles Duelfer; San Jose Mer­cury News; 4/24/2001; p. 7B.)

6. A recent U.N. study about the renascent Iraqi devel­op­ment pro­grams for weapons of mass destruc­tion warned of that coun­try’s devel­op­ment of foot-and-mouth virus. (“Mis­siles, Virus­es Still Trou­ble Experts” by the inter­na­tion­al staff, Finan­cial Times; 3/2/2001; p. 5.)

7. “Iraq’s research into virus­es-includ­ing polio, influen­za, foot-and-mouth dis­ease, the camelpox virus, infec­tious hem­or­rhag­ic con­ju­unc­tivi­tis virus and rotavirus-was also wor­ry­ing.” (Idem.) The pro­gram asks, hypo­thet­i­cal­ly, if pos­si­ble Iraqi author­ship of the British epi­dem­ic may under­lie some of the debate on the poten­tial mil­i­tary action against Sad­dam Hus­sein. There has been some media dis­cus­sion of a pos­si­ble Iraqi attack on the U.S. (unful­filled) based on infor­ma­tion that has not been dis­closed. (Is this part of what has not been pub­licly dis­closed?)

8. Inter­est­ing­ly, and per­haps sig­nif­i­cant­ly, the U.S. and Britain launched air strikes against Iraq short­ly after George W. Bush became pres­i­dent. The pos­si­bil­i­ty that the foot-and-mouth out­break might stem from Iraqi bio­log­i­cal war­fare retal­i­a­tion for Britain’s role in the strikes is not one that should be too read­i­ly cast aside. It is also inter­est­ing to note that, as the Charles Duelfer col­umn excerpt­ed not­ed above points out, genet­ic sig­na­tures of a giv­en con­ta­gion-caus­ing organ­ism might yield clues as to the pos­si­ble ori­gin of the dis­ease. “The strain of foot-and-mouth virus plagu­ing Britain’s farms was first detect­ed in India more than a decade ago. Sci­en­tists have been track­ing it across the world since then, but are no clos­er to deter­min­ing how it got to Eng­land. . . . Experts have iden­ti­fied the virus caus­ing the cur­rent out­beak in Europe as belong­ing to the Pan-Asia type zero strain. The sub­type rav­aging Britain is nor­mal­ly found in the Mid­dle East and South Asia. Note this out­break in rela­tion to Pak­istani sup­port for the Tal­iban, and the long-stand­ing con­flict between that coun­try and India. (“Foot-and-Mouth Trots Around Globe” by Emma Ross; San Jose Mer­cury News; 3/30/2001; p. 5A.)

9. In the con­text of Sad­dam’s hos­til­i­ty to Britain, sev­er­al addi­tion­al facts should be tak­en into account. One is that Iraqi dic­ta­tor Sad­dam Hus­sein was raised by, and heav­i­ly influ­enced by, his pro-Nazi, anti-British uncle. “At ten, he found a men­tor in his mater­nal uncle, Khairal­lah al-Tul­fah, a recent­ly cashiered army offi­cer whose hatred of British colo­nial rule was matched only by his admi­ra­tion for Adolf Hitler and his Nazi ideals. . . .He learned to read by the light of an oil lamp and fed his spir­it on his uncle’s tales of exploits with pro-Ger­man offi­cers in the Iraqi army. Khairal­lah al-Tul­fah had a dream that Arabs would one day be free of for­eign occu­pa­tion and for­eign rule. The Ger­mans, Khairal­lah said, were the only ones who respect­ed the Arabs as equals. The British were just after their oil.” (The Death Lob­by: How the West Armed Iraq; by Ken­neth Tim­mer­man; copy­right 1991 [HC]; by Houghton Mif­flin Com­pa­ny; ISBN 0–395-59305–0; p.1.)

10. Khairal­lah was also deeply involved with the devel­op­ment of the Iraqi bio­log­i­cal weapons pro­gram, which was known as the “Gen­er­al Direc­torate of Vet­eri­nary Ser­vices!” (Anthrax is a dis­ease of cat­tle that “Sad­dam Hus­sein was attract­ed ear­ly on to bac­te­ri­o­log­i­cal weapons. They were cheap, rel­a­tive­ly sim­ple to man­u­fac­ture, and poten­tial­ly dead­ly. . . .On Novem­ber 2, 1974, [Izzat] al-Douri signed a con­tract with the Paris-based Insti­tut Merieux, to set up Iraq’s first bac­te­ri­o­log­i­cal lab­o­ra­to­ry. The Iraqis explained that they need­ed to be able to man­u­fac­ture large quan­ti­ties of vac­cines in order to devel­op agri­cul­tur­al and ani­mal pro­duc­tion. The offi­cial Iraqi pur­chas­ing agency was called the Gen­er­al Direc­torate of Vet­eri­nary Ser­vices.” (Ibid.; p. 20.)

11. “Al Douri’s suc­cess won him a pro­mo­tion and made him a de fac­to mem­ber of the team, the three-man Strate­gic Plan­ning Com­mit­tee, along with Sad­dam, Khairal­lah, and Adnan Ham­dani.” (Ibid.; pp. 20–21.)

12. One inter­est­ing detail con­cern­ing the out­break of foot-and-mouth dis­ease in Britain con­cerns reports of human infec­tions with the dis­ease. “Gov­ern­ment hopes of per­suad­ing tourists back to the coun­try­side suf­fered a seri­ous set­back yes­ter­day when a slaugh­ter­man in north-west Eng­land was sus­pect­ed of catch­ing foot-and-mouth dis­ease. The Depart­ment of Health said a man involved in the mass cull in Cum­bria was suf­fer­ing blis­ter­ing which indi­cat­ed he had become infect­ed with the dis­ease, although final results from med­ical tests would not be avail­able for a day or two. The news came as the gov­ern­ment faced grow­ing con­cern about the health risks of burn­ing car­cass­es on mass funer­al pyres and seemed cer­tain to under­mine last week’s claim that the epi­dem­ic was now ‘ful­ly under con­trol.’ The gov­ern­ment has always main­tained the risk to humans from foot-and-mouth is min­i­mal and, with many tourist busi­ness­es on the brink of col­lapse, has urged peo­ple to return to rur­al areas . . . . Peter Ainsworth, cul­ture spokesman for the oppo­si­tion con­ser­v­a­tive par­ty, said that if the case was con­firmed it would be a ‘mas­sive set­back to the recov­ery of British tourism’ as some Amer­i­cans and oth­er vis­i­tors who mis­tak­en­ly believe foot-and-mouth is a seri­ous risk to human health would decide to stay away. ‘It’s a fur­ther mas­sive dent to the image of British tourism at a time when we can ill afford it.’ Mr. Ainsworth said . . . . ‘This is incred­i­bly rare.’ Said a Depart­ment of Health spokesman.’ ‘The symp­toms are rel­a­tive­ly mild and it should respond well to treat­ment and clear up quick­ly.’ ” (“Sus­pect­ed Human Foot-and-Mouth Case Hits Gov­ern­ment Cam­paign” by Michael Mann and Cathy New­man; Finan­cial Times; 4/24/2001; p. 9.)

13. More sus­pect­ed human infec­tions were report­ed by the Finan­cial Times the fol­low­ing day. “Two more sus­pect­ed cas­es of foot-and-mouth dis­ease being trans­mit­ted to humans were being inves­ti­gat­ed by the Depart­ment of Health yes­ter­day as the gov­ern­men­t’s han­dling of the cri­sis was strong­ly crit­i­cized by lead­ing inde­pen­dent sci­en­tists. Results from the first sus­pect­ed case, involv­ing a slaugh­ter­man in Cum­bria, North-West Eng­land, are due short­ly. Offi­cials said the cir­cum­stances in which he may have caught the infec­tion were high­ly unusu­al and proved there was no cause for con­cern. The man was mov­ing a decom­pos­ing car­cass when it explod­ed.” (“Live­stock Dis­ease Sus­pect­ed in More Humans” by John Mason Cathy New­man and Michael Mann; Finan­cial Times; 4/25/2001; p. 9.) One pos­si­bil­i­ty is the strain of foot-and-mouth may have been genet­i­cal­ly altered to affect humans.

14. In addi­tion to the obvi­ous dis­trac­tion such a war would induce from Bush’s domes­tic polit­i­cal doings, an Iraqi war might have some­thing to do with the Iraqi bio­log­i­cal war­fare pro­gram and a clan­des­tine appli­ca­tion. The fact that the elder George Bush was involved with the arm­ing of Iraq will not has­ten the pace of any dis­cus­sion on this pos­si­bil­i­ty.


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