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PEACE ACTION’S NATIONAL CONGRESS AUSTIN NOVEMBER 9, 10, 1 1 JOIN THE CALL FOR JUSTICE NOT WAR. largest grassroots peace and disarmament organization, with 85,000 members nationwide. Our 14th Annual Congress is being held at the Holiday Inn South in Austin Nov. 9-11. We invite progressive Texans to join us as we forge a national strategy for peacemaking in relation to the current crisis. More info at . SPEAKERS INCLUDE: JIM HIGHTOWER JAMES K. GALBRAITH BOB JENSEN PHYLLIS BENNIS MARTIN SHEEN ALSO INVITED: The only member of Congress to oppose “an open-ended war with neither an exit strategy nor a focused target.” For registration information call or email 512.480.8487 214.562.4258 [email protected] Statesman, for example, referred to College Station’s Lynntech, Inc. and its Texas A&M affiliates. The newspaper reported that they might discover “a single enzyme that will neutralize all toxic agents.” According to a local television news program, UT researchers are “weeks away from solving” the anthrax problem. Meanwhile, in Seattle, Corixa Corporation publicly complained that it isn’t getting enough government money for its anthrax solution. Immediately afterward its stock went up 50 percent. But such “solutions” are pipe dreams. Even if they are somewhat successful, they only open the door to the next killer germ. It is a disservice to the public to suggest that biotechnology will keep them. safe. The professor or Chief Technology Officer around the corner is no more likely to save you from a biological attack than from a tidal wave. The sooner this is broadly understood, the better. Yet, despite this gloomy scenario, there is room for progress. And this is where Germs most clearly fails. The authors discuss the very real difficulties of using inspectors and the U.N. to stop biological weapons, evidenced by the problems of the U.N.’s biological weapons inspection missions in Iraq. Yet most countries in the world, even Iran and China, are ready to submit to a system that would require inspections of biotechnology facilities by the U.N. While no verification system will ever be perfect, U.N. inspectors can get inside places that the United States cannotfor example Libya, or “terrorist training camps.” \(Under rules of the proposed verification agreement, any facility can be physically searched in a procedure called a “challenge inspecOver time and by building on experience, vigilance, other international agreements and national legislation, a political apparatus could be established to substantially reduce the threat of biological weapons. The United States should be the leader rather than a stumbling block in this process. It’s important to remember that there was a time when we could muster credibility to lead a campaign against chemical and biological weapons. In 1969, President Nixon renounced biological weapons and to a great extent dismembered the U.S. bioweapons apparatus. It wasn’t an altruistic move so much as a way to discourage poorer countries from developing offensive biological warfare capabilities that could rival nuclear weapons. \(And the unpredictability of bioweapons made them an impractical choice for the United States, which already had more than enough nuclear and chemical killing With the end of the Cold War, the incineration of old U.S. stocks of chemical weapons begana process that continues today. We ratified the new Chemical Weapons Convention, a 1992 treaty updating and greatly strengthening the Geneva Gas Protocol, that was adopted in response to the horrible chemical weapons used in the First World War. And we were until very recentlyin talks with other nations to develop a U.N. system to verify global compliance with the Biological Weapons Convention. With strong political leadership and renewed commitment to arms control, we could take back our tarnished halo and fold our technical and scientific prowess into inspection and cooperation rather than declaring a Cold War on nature itself. 0 ne final note: Despite its many flaws, Germs is still an important book, and one that I recommend for its chronicle of Clear Vision, Bacchus, the inner workings of Clinton biodefense policy, and the frightening ideas our policymakers once contemplated for Fidel Castro and others. It is also worthwhile for its realistic, if incomplete, assessment of the technical difficulties that need to be overcome in arms control verification. For the history of the U.S. offensive biological weapons program, a better read might be Ed Regis’s Biology of Doom can also visit the heart of the bioweapons control debate on the Internet. This previously obscure field can seem overwhelmingly technical, but don’t be intimidated. The bioweapons threat poses an infinite number of policy questions that require a more active and informed public. We can’t afford to leave the debate to government agencies and biotech companies. Edward Hammond is Director of the Austin office of the Sunshine Project, a small inter. national non-profit organization dedicated to biological weapons control. 28 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 10/26/01′