19.Sep.2002 Transcript from the Senate Armed Services Committee Hearing

The Dean of the Congress --
The West Virginian of the 20th Century

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SENATOR BYRD: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for holding these hearings.

Mr. Secretary,

to your knowledge,

did the United States

help Iraq

to acquire

the building blocks

of biological weapons

during the Iran-Iraq War?

Are we,

in fact,

now facing

the possibility

of reaping

what we have sown?

SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Certainly not to my knowledge.

I have no knowledge of United States companies or government being involved

in assisting Iraq develop chemical, biological or nuclear weapons.


Mr. Secretary,

let me read to you

from the 23.Sep.2002,

Newsweek story.

I read this,

I read excerpts,

because my time is limited.

"Some Reagan officials even saw Saddam as another Anwar Sadat,

capable of making Iraq into a modern secular state,

just as Sadat had tried to lift up Egypt

before his assassination

in 00.000.1981.

But Saddam had to be rescued first.

The war against Iran was going badly by 1982."

"Iran's human-wave attacks threatened to overrun Saddam's armies.

Washington decided to give Iraq a helping hand.

After Rumsfeld's visit to Baghdad

in 00.000.1983,

U.S. intelligence began supplying the Iraqi dictator

with satellite photos

showing Iranian deployments.

"Official documents


that America may also have

secretly arranged for tanks

and other military hardware

to be shipped to Iraq

in a swap deal:

American tanks to Egypt,

Egyptian tanks to Iraq.

"Over the protest of some Pentagon skeptics,

the Reagan administration began allowing the Iraqis to buy

a wide variety of 'dual-use,'

equipment and materials

from American suppliers.

"According to confidential Commerce Department export control documents obtained by Newsweek,

the shopping list included

a computerized database

for Saddam's Interior Ministry,

presumably to help keep track of political opponents,

helicopters to help transport Iraqi officials,

television cameras for video surveillance applications,

chemical analysis equipment

for the Iraq Atomic Energy Commission, IAEC,


most unsettling,


shipments of the




to the IAEC.

"According to former officials

the bacterial cultures could be used to make biological weapons, including anthrax.

The State Department also approved the shipment of 1.5 million atropine injectors

for use against the effects of chemical weapons

but the Pentagon blocked the sale.

"The helicopters,


American officials



were used to spray poison gas on the Kurds.

The United States

almost certainly



its own

satellite imagery





chemical weapons




"When Saddam bombed

Kurdish rebels



with a lethal cocktail

of mustard gas,



and VX

in 1988,

the Reagan administration

first blamed Iran

before acknowledging,

under pressure

from congressional Democrats,

that the culprit were Saddam's own forces.

There was only token official protest at the time.

Saddam's men were unfazed.

An Iraqi audiotape later captured

by the Kurds

records Saddam's cousin,

Ali Hassan al-Majid,

known as Ali Chemical,

talking to his fellow officers

about gassing the Kurds.

'Who is going to say anything?'

he asks,

'the international community?

F-blank them


Now can this possibly be true?

We already knew that

Saddam was dangerous man

at the time.

I realize that you were not in public office at the time,

but you were dispatched to Iraq by President Reagan

to talk about

the need to improve relations between Iraq and the U.S.

Let me ask you again:

To your knowledge

did the United States help Iraq to acquire the building blocks of biological weapons during the Iran-Iraq war?

Are we, in fact,


facing the possibility

of reaping



have sown?

The Washington Post reported

this morning

that the United States

is stepping away

from efforts

to strengthen

the Biological Weapons Convention.

I'll have a question on that later.

Let me ask you again:

Did the United States help Iraq to acquire the building blocks of biological weapons during the Iran-Iraq War?

Are we, in fact,

now facing the possibility

of reaping what we have sown?


I have not read the article.

As you suggest,

I was,

for a period in late '83 and early '84,

asked by President Reagan to serve as Middle East envoy

after the Marines

-- 241 Marines were killed in Beirut.

As part of my responsibilities I did visit Baghdad.

I did meet with Mr. Tariq Aziz.

And I did meet with Saddam Hussein

and spent

some time

visiting with them

about the war they were engaged in with Iran.

At the time our concern,

of course,

was Syria

and Syria's role in Lebanon

and Lebanon's role in the Middle East

and the terrorist acts

that were

taking place.

As a private citizen

I was assisting only for a period of months.

I have never heard anything like what you've read,

I have no knowledge of it whatsoever,

and I doubt it.


You doubt what?


The questions you posed

as to whether

the United States of America

assisted Iraq

with the elements that you listed in your reading of Newsweek

and that we could conceivably now be reaping what we've sown.

I think

--I doubt both.


Are you surprised that this is what I've said?

Are you surprised at this story in Newsweek?


I guess I'm at an age and circumstance in life

where I'm no longer surprised

about what I hear in the newspapers.


That's not the question.

I'm of that age, too.

Somewhat older than you,

but how about that story I've read?


I see stories all the time that are flat wrong.

I just don't know.

All I can say...


How about this story?

This story?

How about this story,



As I say,

I have not read it,

I listened carefully to what you said

and I doubt it.


All right.

Now the Washington Post reported

this morning

that the United States is stepping away from efforts

to strengthen the Biological Weapons Convention.

Are we not sending exactly the wrong signal to the world,

at exactly the wrong time?

Doesn't this damage our credibility in the international community

at the very time that we are seeking their support

to neutralize the threat of Iraq's biological weapons program?

If we supplied,

as the Newsweek article said,

if we supplied the building blocks for germ and chemical warfare

to this madman in the first place,

this psychopath,

how do we look to the world

to be backing away

from this effort

to control it

at this point?



I think it would be a shame

to leave this committee

and the people listening

with the impression

that the United States

assisted Iraq

with chemical or biological weapons

in the 1980s.

I just do not believe that's the case.


Well, are you saying

that the Newsweek article is inaccurate?


I'm saying precisely what I said,

that I didn't read the Newsweek article,

but that I doubt its accurate.


I'll be glad to send you up a copy.


But that I was not in government at that time,

except as a special envoy for a period of months.

So one ought not to rely on me

as the best source

as to what happened

in that mid-'80s period

that you were describing.

I will say one other thing.

On two occasions

I believe when you read that article,

you mentioned the IAEC,

which as I recall is the International Atomic Energy Commission,

and mentioned that if some of the things that you were talking about

were provided to them,

which I found quite confusing

to be honest.

With respect to the Biological Weapons Convention,

I was not aware that the United States government had taken a position with respect to it.

It's not surprising

because it's a matter for the Department of State,

not the Department of Defense.

If in fact they have indicated,

as The Washington Post reports,

that they are not going to move forward

with a

-- I believe it's an enforcement regime,

it's not my place to discuss the administration's position

when I don't know what it is.

But I can tell you,

from a personal standpoint,

my recollection is

that the biological convention

never, never

was anticipated

that there would even be thought of

to have an enforcement regime.

And that an enforcement regime on something like that,

where there are a lot of countries involved

who are on the terrorist list

who were participants in that convention,

that the United States has,

over a period of administrations,

believed that it would not be a good idea,

because the United States would be a net loser

from an enforcement regime.

But that is not the administration's position.

I just don't know what the administration's position is.


We're going to have to leave it there, because you're way over.


This is a very important question.


It is indeed + you're over time.

I agree with you on the importance, but you're way over time, sir.


I know I'm over time,

but are we going to leave this in question out there dangling?


One last question.


I ask unanimous consent that I may have an additional five minutes.


No, I'm afraid you can't do that.

If you could just do one last

--well, wait a minute,

ask unanimous consent,

I can't stop you from doing that.


I object.

SENATOR BYRD: Mr. Chairman?


Just one last question.

Would that be all right so you could wind that up?

Senator Byrd,

if you could just take one additional question.


I've never -- I've been in this Congress 50 years.

I've never objected to another senator having a few additional minutes.

Now Mr. Chairman,

I think that the secretary should have a copy of this report,

this story that

-- from Newsweek

that I've been querying him about.

I think he has a right to look at that.


Could somebody take that out to the secretary?


Now, while that's being given to the Secretary,

Mr. Secretary,

I think

we're put into an

extremely bad position before the world


if we're going to walk away

from an international effort

to strengthen the Biological Weapons Convention against germ warfare,

advising its allies that the U.S. wants to delay further discussions

until 2006.

Especially in the light of the Newsweek story;

I think we bear some responsibility.


I ask for a point of order.


Can we just have this be the last question,

if you would just go along with us please,

Senator Inhofe?


I'll only say though,

in all respect to the Senator from West Virginia,

we have a number of senators here.

We have a limited time of six minutes each,

and we're entitled to have our six minutes.

That should be a short question if it's the last question.


If we could just make that the last question and answer,

I would appreciate it.

The chair would appreciate the cooperation of all senators.

Secretary Rumsfeld,

could you answer that question please?


I'll do my best.


I just in glancing at this,

and I hesitate to do this

because I have not read it carefully.

But it says here that,

``According to confidential Commerce Department export control documents obtained by Newsweek,

the shopping list included.''

It did not say that there were deliveries of these things.

It said that Iran

-- Iraq asked for these things.

It talks about a shopping list.


in listing these things,

it says that they wanted television cameras for video surveillance applications,

chemical analysis equipment for the Iraq Atomic Energy Commission, the IAEC

-- and that may very well be the Iraqi Atomic Energy Commission,

which would be --

mean that my earlier comment would not be correct,

because I thought it was the International Atomic Energy Commission.

But this seems to indicate it's the Iraq Commerce Commission.

SENATOR BYRD: Mr. Chairman,

may I say to my friend from Oklahoma,

I'm amazed that he himself wouldn't yield me time for this important question.

I would do the same for him.

Mr. Chairman,

I would like to ask...


I yield my five minutes, Senator.


I thank the distinguished senator.

Mr. Chairman,

I would like to ask the Secretary

-- and I don't just like to ask him --

I asked him to review Pentagon records

to see if the Newsweek article is true or not.

Will the Secretary do that?


It appears that they're Department of Commerce records,

as opposed to Pentagon.

But I can certainly ask that the Department of Commerce


to the extent that it's relevant,

the Department of State,

look into it and see

if we can't determine

the accuracy or inaccuracy

of some aspects

of this.

Yes, sir.


And we go one step further than that.

I think the request is

that the Defense Department search its records.

Will you do that?


We'll be happy to search ours,

but this refers to the Commerce Department.


We will ask the State Department and the Commerce Department

to do the same thing.


We'd be happy to.


And we will also ask the Intelligence Committee

to stage a briefing for all of us on that issue,

so that Senator Byrd's question...

SENATOR BYRD: Mr. Chairman,

I thank the chairman.


Thank you very much, Senator.


I thank the Secretary.


Thank you.

SENATOR LEVIN: Senator Byrd,

we will ask

Senator Graham and Senator Shelby

to hold a briefing on that subject,

because it is a very important subject.

SENATOR BYRD: I thank the chairman.


Senate Remarks: Reaping What We Have Sown in Iraq?


Mr. President,


at a hearing of the

Senate Armed Services Committee,

I asked a question of the Secretary of Defense.

I referred to a Newsweek article that appeared in the 23.Sep.2002 edition.

That article asserted that the Reagan administration

allowing the Iraqis to buy a wide variety of materials

that could be used

as the foundation

for chemical


biological weapons.

Specifically during yesterday's hearing,

I asked Secretary Rumsfeld:

"Mr. Secretary, to your knowledge,

did the United States help Iraq to acquire the building blocks of biological weapons during the Iran-Iraq War?

Are we, in fact, now facing the possibility of reaping what we have sown?"

The Secretary quickly and flatly denied any knowledge,

but said he would review Pentagon records.

I suggest that the

Administration speed up that review

for today

my concerns have grown.


A letter from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention <../../../byrd_newsroom/byrd_cdc1995letter/byrd_cdc1995letter.html>,

which I submit for the Record,

and other documents


that the United States may,

in fact,

be preparing to reap

what it has sown.

The CDC letter,

written in 1995

by former Director David Satcher to Senator Donald W. Riegle, Jr.

, points out that

the United States Government

provided nearly two dozen viral and bacterial samples to Iraqi scientists

in the 1985.

According to the letter from

Doctor Satcher to Senator Donald Riegle,

many of the materials

were hand-carried

by an Iraqi scientist to Iraq

after he had spent three months training

in a C-D-C laboratory.

The Armed Services Committee is requesting information from the Departments of Commerce,

State, and Defense

on the history of the United States

providing the building blocks for weapons of mass destruction to Iraq.

I recommend that the

Department of Health and Human Services

be included in that request as well.

We do not need obfuscation&denial.

The American people need the truth.

The American people need to know

whether the United States is,

in large part,

responsible for the very Iraqi weapons of mass destruction

which the Administration now seeks to destroy.

We may very well have created the monster that we seek to eliminate.

The Senate deserves to know the whole story.

The American people deserve answers.


Senate Remarks:

Providing a Cookbook for Iraqi Biological Weapons


Amidst the wall-to-wall reporting on Iraq that has become daily grist for the nation's news media,

a headline in this morning's

USA Today

leaped out from the front page:

"In Iraq's arsenal, Nature's deadliest poison."

The article describes the horrors of botulinum toxin,

a potential weapon in Iraq's biological warfare arsenal.

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association,

botulinum toxin

is the most poisonous substance known.

We know that Saddam Hussein produced thousands of litres of botulinum toxin

in the run up to the Gulf War.

We also know where some of the toxin came from:

The United States,

which approved shipments of botulinum toxin

from a non-profit scientific specimen repository

to the government of Iraq

in l986 and l988.

I asked Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld

about these shipments

during an Armed Services Committee hearing

a week ago,

and I repeat


what I said to him then:

In the event of a war with Iraq,

might the United States

be facing the possibility

of reaping what it has sown?

The threat

of chemical and biological warfare

is one of the most terrifying prospects

of a war with Iraq,

and one that should give us

serious pause


we embark

on a course of action


might lead to an all-out,

no holds barred,


Earlier that week,

British Prime Minister Tony Blair

released an assessment

of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program

which contained the jolting conclusion

that Iraq could launch chemical or biological warheads

within 45 minutes

of getting the green light

from Saddam Hussein.

The British government assessment,

while putting

Iraq's chemical and biological capabilities

in starker terms than perhaps we have seen before,

closely tracks

with what U.S. officials have been warning for some time:

Saddam Hussein has the means and the know-how

to wage biological and chemical warfare,

and he has demonstrated his willingness

to use such weapons.

By the grace of God,

he apparently has not yet achieved nuclear capability.

On the matter of biological warfare,

General Richard Myers,

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,

testified before the

Senate Armed Services Committee

last week

that many improvements have been made

to the protective gear worn by soldiers

and to the sensors used to detect chemical or biological agents.

But according to the

USA Today article on botulinum toxin,

U.S. troops would be just as vulnerable to botulinum toxin


as they were during the Gulf War.

"There's still no government-approved vaccine,

and the only antitoxin

is made by extracting antibodies

from the blood of vaccinated horses

using decades-old technology,"

the article states.

Last year's

anthrax attack on the United States Senate

gave all of us in this chamber

first-hand experience with biological warfare,

and new insight into the insidious nature of biological weapons.

And that attack involved only about a teaspoon or so of anthrax sealed in an envelope.

The potential consequences of a massive bio-weapons attack against soldiers on the battlefield

boggle the imagination.

My concerns over biological warfare were heightened

last week

when I came across a report in Newsweek

that the United States government had cleared numerous shipments

of viruses, bacteria, fungi + protozoa to the government of Iraq

in the mid-1980s,

at a time

when the U.S. was cultivating

Saddam Hussein as an ally against Iran.

The shipments included anthrax and botulinum toxin.


during the same time period,

the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)

was also shipping

deadly toxins to Iraq,

including vials of West Nile fever virus and Dengue fever.

This is not mere speculation.

I have the letters

from the CDC and the American Type Culture Collection

laying out the

dates of shipments,

who they were sent to,

and what they included.

This list is extensive and scary

- anthrax, botulinin toxin + gas gangrene

to name just a few.

There were dozens and dozens of these pathogens

shipped to various ministries within the government of Iraq.

Why does this matter today?

Why do I care about something that happened nearly 20 years ago,

when Saddam Hussein was considered to be a potential ally


Iran's Ayatollah Khomeni was Public Enemy Number One in the United $tate$?

I care because it is relevant to today's debate on Iraq.

This is not yesterday's news.

This is tomorrow's news.

Federal agencies have documents

detailing exactly what biological material was shipped to Iraq from the United States.

We have a paper trail.

We not only know that Iraq has biological weapons,

we know the type,

the strain,

and the batch number of the germs

that may have been used to fashion those weapons.

We know the dates they were shipped,

and the addresses to which they were shipped.

We have in our hands

the equivalent of a

Betty Crocker cookbook of ingredients

that the U.S. allowed Iraq to obtain

and that may well have been used to concoct biological weapons.


last week's

Armed Services Committee hearing,

Secretary Rumsfeld said

he had no knowledge of any such shipments,

and doubted that they ever occurred.

He seemed to be affronted

at the very idea

that the United States

would ever countenance


into such a deal





Secretary Rumsfeld

should not

shy away

from this information.

On the contrary,

he should seek it out.

No one is alleging

that the United States


sneaked biological weapons to Iraq

under the table

during the Iran-Iraq war.

I am confident

that our government

is not



It was simply a matter of business as usual.

We freely exchange information and technology

including scientific research with our friends.

At the time,

Iraq was our friend.

If there is any lesson to be learned from the Iraq experience,

it is that we should choose our friends more carefully,

and exercise tighter controls

on the export of materials

that could be turned




This is not the first time I have advocated stricter controls on exports.

In fact,

I added an amendment to the


Defense Authorization Act

that was specifically designed

to curb the export of dual-use technology

to potential adversaries of the United States.

In the case of the biological materials shipped to Iraq,

the Commerce Department

and the


have lists of the shipments.

The Defense Department

ought to have the same lists

so that the decision makers will know exactly

what types of biological agents

American soldiers may face in the field.

Doesn't that make sense?

Shouldn't the Defense Department know what's out there,

so that the generals can know

what counter-measures they might need to take to protect their troops?

I believe the answer to those questions is yes,

and so I am sending the information I have to Secretary Rumsfeld.

No matter how repugnant he finds the idea

of the U.S. even inadvertently aiding Saddam Hussein

in his quest to obtain biological weapons,

the Secretary should have this information at hand,

and should make sure that his field commanders also have it.

The most deadly of the biological agents that came from the U.S.

were shipped to the government of Iraq

by the American Type Culture Collection (ATCC),

a non-profit organization that provides biological materials

to industry, government + educational institutions around the world.

According to its own records,

the ATCC

sent 11 separate shipments

of biological materials

to the government of Iraq

between 1985 and 1988.

The shipments included

a witches brew of pathogens



botulinum toxin,




the CDC was shipping toxic specimens to Iraq

- including West Nile virus


Dengue fever

- from 00.Jan.1980 until 13,Oct.1993

The nexus between

the U.S.- approved shipments of pathogens


the development of Iraq's biological weapons program

is particularly disturbing.

Consider the following chain of events:

In May of 1986,

the ATCC reported the first shipments of anthrax and botulinum toxin to Iraq.

A second shipment

including anthrax and botulinum toxin

was sent to Iraq

in September of 1988.

At approximately the same time

that the first shipment was sent -

in April of 1986 -

Iraq turned from studying literature on biological warfare

to experimenting with actual samples of anthrax and botulinum toxin.

The turning point,

according a report to the

United Nations Security Council

from the UN weapons inspection team,



"bacterial strains were received from overseas"


delivered to an Iraqi biological weapons laboratory.

In April of 1988,

the UN weapons inspectors reported

that Iraq began research on the biological agent

Clostridium perfringens,

more commonly known as

gas gangrene.

Clostridium perfringens cultures

were among the materials shipped to Iraq by the ATCC

in both 1986 and 1988.

These are

only a few examples

of the pathogens

that Iraq is known to have imported

from the United States.

It is not known

how many of these materials were destroyed

following the Persian Gulf War,


how many Iraq continues to possess,

whether they are still viable,

or whether in its pursuit of biological weapons,

Iraq has developed ways

to extend the shelf life of toxic biological agents.

There is much that we do not know about Iraq's biological warfare program.

But there are two important facts in which we can have great confidence:

Iraq has biological weapons,


Iraq obtained biological materials from the United States

in the 1980s.

I asked Secretary Rumsfeld, at

last week's

Armed Services Committee hearing,

whether we might be reaping what we have sown in Iraq,

in terms of biological weapons.

The question was rhetorical,

but the link between

shipments of biological material from the United States


the development of Iraq's biological weapons program


more than

just an historical footnote.

The role

that the U.S.


have played

in helping Iraq

to pursue biological warfare

in the 1980s

should serve as

a strong warning

to the President


policy decisions regarding Iraq


could have far reaching ramifications on the Middle East


on the United States

in the future.

In the 1980s,

the Ayatollah Khomeni was America's sworn enemy,


the U.S. government courted Saddam Hussein

in an effort to undermine the Ayatollah and Iran.


SathaN Hussein is

America's biggest enemy,

and the U.S. is said to be making


to Iran.

The Washington Post reported today that the President

is expected to authorize military training

for at least 1,000 members of the Iraqi opposition

to help overthrow

Saddam Hussein.

The opposition groups include

the Kurds in the north,


the Shiite Muslims in the south.

The decision to provide military training to Iraqi opponents of Saddam Hussein

would mark a major change in U.S. policy,

ending a prohibition on lethal assistance to the Iraqi opposition.

It is not a decision that should be undertaken lightly.


Administration officials

told the Post

that initial plans called for modest steps

that would allow members of the Iraqi opposition

to provide liaison to the local population

and perhaps guard prisoners of war,

the officials did not shut the door

on providing training and equipment

for more lethal activities.

"Nobody is talking about giving them guns yet.

That would be a dramatic step,

but there are many dramatic steps yet to be taken,"

one official was quoted as saying.

Has the Administration

adequately explored

the potential ramifications

of creating ethnic armies of dissidents in Iraq?

Could the U.S. be laying the groundwork for a brutal civil war in Iraq?

Could this proposed policy change precipitate a deadly border conflict

between the Kurds and Turkey?

Could we perhaps be setting the stage for a Shiite-ruled Iraq

that could align itself with Iran

and result in the domination of the Middle East

by hard-line Shiite Muslims

along the lines of the Ayatollah Khomeni?

These are legitimate and troubling questions,

and they should be carefully thought through

before we unleash

an open-ended attack

on Iraq.

There are many outstanding questions

that the United States should consider

before marching in lockstep

down the path

of committing

America's military forces

to affect

the immediate overthrow

of Saddam Hussein.

The peril of biological weapons

is only


of those considerations,

but it is an important one.

The more we know now,

the better off our troops will be

in the future.

Decisions involving war and peace

- the most fundamental of life and death decisions -

should never be rushed or muscled through in haste.

Our founding fathers understood that,

and wisely vested in the Congress,

not the President,

the power to declare war.

Congress has been presented with a presidential request

for authorization to use military force against Iraq.

We now have the responsibility

to consider that request




on our own timetable.

I urge my colleagues

to do just that


avoid the pressure

to rush to judgment

on such an




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