Harper’s Magazine – 2006-06-10 00:02:32
Weapons of Mass Destruction
Instances of Weapons of Mass Destruction
Events Related To Weapons of Mass Destruction 2000
Week of Jul 25 — • Two Japanese terrorists were sentenced to die for releasing nerve gas in the Tokyo subway in 1995.
Week of Aug 1 — • Atmospheric scientists discovered that some 4,000 tons of a new synthetic greenhouse gas have been released into the atmosphere; the gas, which takes 1,000 years to degrade, may be a by-product of weapons production.
Week of Aug 15 — • A National Academy of Sciences report found that most U.S. nuclear bomb-making facilities, including the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, will be contaminated “in perpetuity.” Defense Secretary William S. Cohen delayed making his recommendation to President Clinton concerning the wisdom of building a national missile defense program.
Week of Aug 22 • The Congressional Research Service reported that the U.S. was still the world’s largest arms dealer, having sold $11.8 billion in weapons in 1999.
Week of Sep 19 — • The Palestinian Central Council voted to postpone its declaration of an independent state; in Gaza, members of the Gaza Accountants Association fought with police after several accountants were arrested for firing their weapons in the air.
• New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani was treated for cancer; doctors implanted radioactive seeds in his prostate.
Week of Sep 26 — • A new book claimed that anthropologists working in Venezuela in the 1960s deliberately infected the Yanomami people with measles, killing hundreds, perhaps thousands, in order to test theories about evolution and eugenics; the same anthropologists, who were working in association with the United States atomic energy commission, also injected Americans with radioactive plutonium without their knowledge or permission.
Week of Oct 3 — • Jesús Gutiérrez Rebollo, the former head of Mexico’s National Institute to Combat Drugs, was sentenced to 71 years in prison on drug and weapons charges.
Week of Oct 10 — • Hippies threw smoke bombs at police in Amsterdam outside a conference attended by the president of the World Bank.
Week of Oct 24 — • The U.S. Department of Energy found that it had underestimated the amount of plutonium and other radioactive elements stored in flimsy containers that either are leaking or are in danger of leaking; the actual amount of such waste is ten times higher than previously thought.
Week of Oct 31 — • The United States Congress increased military aid to Israel by $60 million, bringing the total up to $1.9 billion; Israel put a rush on its order for a new German submarine; according to some reports, the submarine will be equipped with nuclear weapons.
Leonard Downey, Jr., the executive editor of the Washington Post, reminded readers that in his tireless quest for objectivity, he does not vote, nor does he allow himself “to decide, even privately, which candidate would make the better president or member of the city council, or what position I would take on any issue.” San Francisco relaxed stringent graduation requirements after it was learned that thirty percent of the senior class would not graduate.
Week of Nov 7 — • A fifteen-year-old boy with a loaded 9mm pistol took a pregnant teacher and eighteen other children hostage in a Dallas school; police saved the day.
Week of Nov 21 — • President Putin called for radically lower numbers of Russian and U.S. nuclear weapons, which was said to be motivated largely by the fact that Russia cannot afford to maintain weapons that are designed never to be used.
Week of Nov 28 — • China promised to stop selling missile technology to companies trying to develop nuclear weapons and also to obey the rule of law.
• Israeli defense forces responded to terrorist attacks with bombs of their own, killing several adults and dismembering at least one child.
Week of Dec 5 — • Several small “bomblets” filled with sarin nerve gas were found at an old bombing range near Denver; the Army will blow them up.
• An ice storm closed the last nuclear reactor at Chernobyl.
Week of Jan 2 — • A big snowstorm hit the American South: “It’s really the equivalent of having a nuclear device go off,” mused the governor of Arkansas, “without the mushroom cloud or radioactivity.” Police officers were shooting ice off limbs near power lines with shotguns.
Week of Jan 9 —
• North Dakota issued a concealed-weapons permit to a blind man.
• Exposure to depleted uranium, which was used in NATO’s bombings of Kosovo, Bosnia, and Serbia, was thought to be responsible.
• A NATO spokesman denied that depleted uranium was a significant hazard, though the U.S. Department of Transportation, which has used the metal to balance aircraft, warns personnel that the material is extremely hazardous if particles are ingested or inhaled, something particularly likely after a bombing, which produces large quantities of depleted-uranium dust.
• United States intelligence officials reported that Russia recently moved nuclear weapons into the Baltic town of Kaliningrad, formerly known as Konigsberg, the home of Immanuel Kant, the author of the Critique of Pure Reason and “Perpetual Peace.” President Vladimir Putin, asked about the reports, responded: “That’s rubbish.”
Week of Jan 16 —
• Officials at Millstone nuclear power plant in Waterford, Connecticut, acknowledged that two uranium fuel rods had been missing for twenty years, a fact that was noticed only two months ago.
Week of Jan 23 — • Swiss researchers found traces of uranium 236, which comes from nuclear fuel and nuclear waste, in samples of American-made depleted uranium found in Kosovo, raising concerns that the weapons debris might contain contaminants that are even more dangerous, such as plutonium and americium.
Week of Jan 30 — • A Jewish settler who beat a ten-year-old Palestinian boy to death (after kicking the little boy to the ground, Nahum Kurman placed his foot on the boy’s neck and repeatedly struck his head with a pistol butt) was sentenced to six months of community service.
Week of Feb 13 — • United States Secretary of State Colin Powell defended President George W. Bush’s plans to deploy the national missile defense system despite its technical and political flaws: “I don’t consider it as being an arrogant position,” he said. “Or one where we are trying to force anything on the rest of the world.” Russian defense minister Igor Sergeyev warned that Russia still had “three mighty programs to asymmetrically counteract U.S. national missile defense forces,” which were developed to defeat President Ronald Reagan’s pie-in-the-sky Star Wars program.
• A British hospital apologized to plastic-surgery patients for selling their surplus skin to the Defense Evaluation and Research Agency for chemical-weapons research.
Week of Feb 27 — • Most of the “smart” bombs dropped on Iraq last week missed their targets, the Pentagon admitted.
• An unknown quantity of a radioactive substance was dumped into the New York City sewer system.
Week of Mar 20 — • Russia said it would again sell arms to Iran, causing some Russians to wonder whether the weapons would end up in the hands of Islamic terrorists within their own borders.
• A man in Beverly, Massachusetts, was arrested for threatening to kill his girlfriend with a homemade bazooka that shoots potatoes.
Week of Mar 27 — • Moscow warned the United States about its new Cold War rhetoric; the Russians were upset over remarks by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who said that “Russia is an active proliferator” of dangerous weapons technology which “seems to be willing to sell anything to anyone for money.” The United States expelled 50 Russian diplomats, four of whom were thought to have been working with Robert Philip Hanssen, the FBI agent recently arrested for spying; Russia in turn said it would expel the 50 diplomats most precious to America.
• Foot-and-mouth disease spread to the Netherlands and Ireland. Britain was planning to destroy over 500,000 cows. American researchers suggested using napalm.
• A new study found that safer and more effective land mines will be available after 2006.
Week of May 22 — • The Bush Administration reportedly was planning not to participate in a new agreement designed to enforce the 1972 treaty banning biological weapons.
Week of May 29 — • An honors student in Fort Myers, Florida, was suspended and banned from her graduation after a school security guard found a kitchen knife in her car; the young woman, who spent the weekend in jail on a felony weapons-possession charge, tried to explain that the knife was left there accidentally after she moved house over the weekend.
Week of Jun 12 — • The EPA decided how much radioactive waste would be allowed to leak from the proposed dump at Yucca Mountain in Nevada.
• Documents revealed that for thirty years, beginning in the 1950s, the United States and Britain imported the cremated bones of Australian babies to test them for strontium 90, an indication that radioactive fallout from atmospheric nuclear tests had penetrated their bones.
Week of Jul 17 — • The air force decided not to retrieve a 7,600 pound nuclear bomb that was dumped off the coast of Georgia in 1958 after a B-47 bomber collided with another plane during training; the air force claims that the bomb is safe.
Week of Jul 31 — The United States decided not to sign a new anti-germ-warfare treaty, bringing to at least five the number of international agreements the U.S. has rejected in recent years, including the Kyoto Protocol, the Landmine Convention, the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
• President George W. Bush and Russian president Vladimir Putin agreed to work toward a disarmament framework that would reduce nuclear weapons while allowing the U.S. its missile-defense scheme; a few days before their discussion, Putin remarked that Bush was “a fairly good-hearted person, nice to talk to, I would even say…even a little bit sentimental.”
• Three Frenchmen, carrying five grams of uranium-235, were arrested for trafficking in nuclear material.
Week of Aug 28 — • The Federal Reserve Board cut interest rates for the seventh time this year, noting that the main threat to the economy is “economic weakness.”
• Potato Head, a gift from their sister city in Rhode Island; the $6,000 present was part of the tourist board’s campaign to position the state as “the birthplace of fun.” The metal tail-fin of a high-speed missile dropped from an F-16 fighter jet into a residential neighborhood in Florida, landing within ten feet of two children playing there.
Week of Sep 4 — • An Israeli death squad using American-made weapons assassinated Mustafa Zubari, also known as Abu Ali Mustafa, the leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
Week of Sep 11 — • Bush Administration officials contradicted previous statements that they would let China build up its nuclear arsenal if Beijing would simply drop its objections to the missile-defense boondoggle. Russia was beginning to approach the subject with a certain irony. “If they have the money to build the most excessive response to the least probable threat situation, that’s okay,” said Vladimir Lukin, deputy speaker of parliament.
• It was revealed that the United States has been engaged in germ-warfare research that violates or comes close to violating the 1972 treaty outlawing biological weapons.
Week of Sep 25 — Bush Administration officials announced that they would lift sanctions against Pakistan, which were imposed after it tested nuclear weapons in 1998.
Week of Oct 2 — The White House retreated from its claim that a threat to Air Force One was received on September 11 after no record was found of such a call.
Weapons-industry stocks did rather well, however.
Week of Oct 9 — America and Britain fired cruise missiles and dropped bombs on targets in Afghanistan.
The director general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which was created by the 1997 treaty that bans such weapons, complained that he didn’t have enough money in his budget to make even basic preparations to respond to chemical attacks by terrorists.
Week of Oct 16 — Homemade bombs made of Drano and foil were thrown at peace supporters at the University of Wisconsin.
Week of Oct 30 — President Bush warned that America was “still under attack.” Experts described the anthrax as “fluffy.” The terrorists “have the keys to the kingdom,” warned Al Zelicoff, a doctor who works on biological weapons. “They can do large-scale dissemination when they wish.” In a press release entitled “Pentagon Seeks Ideas on Combating Terrorism,” the United States Department of Defense announced that it “specifically seeks help in combating terrorism, defeating difficult targets, conducting protracted operations in remote areas, and developing countermeasures to weapons of mass destruction.”
Typhus, botulinum toxin, Venezuelan equine encephalitis, and smallpox were tested elsewhere.
The Federal Aviation Administration opened the skies above American cities to all aircraft but news helicopters, which the agency said posed a unique threat.
Week of Nov 6 — After the CIA’s “threat matrix” showed a “big and credible” threat, Attorney General John Ashcroft warned Americans that a new attack could be imminent.
Northern Alliance soldiers, initially pleased by the spectacular explosions produced by American B-52s, soon began to complain that the big stratofortresses were not very accurate: “The American bombs were the biggest I have seen in my life,” one fighter said. “But they missed the Taliban.” United States forces were suffering from an “intelligence vacuum,” officials said.
Reporters visited the village of Chowkar-Karez in Afghanistan where a man named Mehmood moved his family to keep them safe from the American bombs: “I brought my family here for safety,” he said, “and now there are 19 dead, including my wife, my two children, my brother, sister, sister-in-law, nieces, nephews, my uncle.” United States forces apparently thought the refugees were Taliban soldiers.
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, asked about the massacre, said: “I cannot deal with that particular village.” General Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that United States forces would change the color of the yellow food packets being dropped from the air. “It is unfortunate that the cluster bombs — the unexploded ones — are the same color as the food packets,” he said, but he couldn’t say when the change would take place “because there are many in the pipeline.”
Human Rights Watch called on the Pentagon to stop using cluster bombs, each of which contains 202 soda-sized yellow bomblets, because “they have proven to be a serious and long-lasting threat to civilians, soldiers, peacekeepers, and even clearance experts.”
Week of Nov 20 — Pentagon officials were still trying to decide on a new color for food-aid packages; the current yellow color matches the one used for cluster bombs.
Retreating Al Qaeda terrorists in Afghanistan left behind nuclear designs written in Arabic, German, Urdu, and English; foul-smelling liquids; and a recipe for building a nuclear bomb that included detailed descriptions of how TNT can cause plutonium to begin its deadly chain reaction.
Week of Nov 27 — Several children in Afghanistan were injured and killed when they picked up remnants of American cluster bombs, which did precisely what they were designed to do.
Week of Dec 11 — Moscow police arrested seven men trying to sell more than two pounds of weapons-grade enriched uranium.
Week of Dec 18 — American warplanes were dropping fewer bombs on Afghanistan.
Week of Dec 25 — Pakistan denied involvement in the attack, but a captured member of the group admitted that the Pakistani Army donated the weapons and that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency provided logistical support.