Did the Reagan Administration Give Saddam Smallpox Samples?
I have a question for the biologically informed. We have all
been scratching our heads for some time as to why exactly the hawks in the
Bush administration have been so desperate to go to war with Iraq.
Opinion polls show that a majority of the American public thinks they have
not made their case.
I don’t personally think control of petroleum sufficiently explains it
all. Petroleum is relatively inexpensive and Saudia remains the swing
producer, able virtually to set prices. It might be nice for the US to
have a base in southern Iraq or to have more assurance about stability in
Gulf affairs, but is the situation dire enough to go to war over?
It cannot possibly be that they are impelled by fears that Iraq has or is
anywhere near to having a nuclear weapon, since a) there is not good
evidence that this is so and b) the Bush administration is treating North
Korea (or for that matter Pakistan and India) completely differently.
The difficulties that the anthrax terrorist had in effectively delivering
his spores to any significant numbers of people also make me skeptical
that anthrax or anything like anthrax is the real worry.
I have begun wondering if smallpox is driving all this to some large
extent. That is, the phrase “weapons of mass destruction” and the talk of
nukes may be euphemisms for smallpox. According to wire reports, “A 1994
investigation by the Senate Banking Committee found that dozens of
biological agents were later shipped to Iraq [in the ’80s] under licence from
the US Commerce Department.” On Dec. 30 the Washington Post leaked
a Reagan-era memo from the early 1980s that showed determination to do
“whatever was necessary” to prevent Iraq from losing its war with Iran.
Presumably this was the context of Donald Rumsfeld’s 1983 visit to Baghad and
the preparations for the restoration of diplomatic ties between the two
In early Nov., 2002, the Washington Post reported a CIA survey that
determined that four other nations have smallpox samples: France, Russia, Iraq
and North Korea. The last known case of smallpox in Iraq was in 1976, and
it seems to me highly unlikely that the Iraqi authorities cultured it at
that time. Since about 1980 the world has been free of it. The US and
the USSR had samples in their labs (we used to think they were the only
ones). So, one question is, where did these other three countries get the
samples from? Apparently France’s stock had not been known before the CIA
Ken Alibek has alleged that the Soviets had a program to weaponize
smallpox. Although there have been shadowy allegations that the Soviets
gave Iraq smallpox, these seem highly unlikely to be true. It is not as
if the two regimes were that close. Why not give it to East Germany
A related question is, did the United States give Saddam smallpox samples
during the Iran-Iraq war as part of its support for Saddam?
Unlike anthrax, smallpox wouldn’t be hard to get started among an enemy
army or even population. It kills thirty percent of its victims. And
since no populations are any longer innoculated for smallpox, it would be
This question leads to another one. Did Khomeini give up the war against
Baghdad in 1988 because the US gave Saddam smallpox samples, and Saddam in
turn credibly threatened behind the scenes to use them against Iran?
Khomeini was a determined individual and why he gave up so suddenly has
always been a mystery. He clearly regretted having to do so. If Iraq had
samples and Iran did not, Iraq could hope to innoculate its population and
troops. Iraq had already demonstrated its ruthlessness by using chemical
weapons on Iranian troops and on the Kurds.
Did Bush senior avoid invading Iraq in the first Gulf War because he knew
Saddam had smallpox and might be tempted to deploy it if it seemed he was
in danger of being conquered?
Has US or Israeli intelligence gotten wind in the past few years of Iraqi
contingency planning for use of smallpox to achieve strategic goals? Is
that what Israel is really worried about and what drives the neocons?
The costs to the US public of mass innoculation against smallpox, which
President Bush says he favors, would be substantial. There will be some
loss of life, especially among children, and some will get sick. The
monetary costs are not insignificant. Is this necessary precisely because
the administration knows the US gave smallpox samples to Iraq 17 years
Did North Korea in turn gets its stock of smallpox from Iraq?
If (and I stress the “if”) Reagan-era officials deliberately packed up and
shipped small pox samples off to Saddam Hussein in the mid-1980s,
shouldn’t the American people know who exactly made that decision? Maybe
some of the same people taking us into war against Iraq now? Is there to
be any accountability?
I stress that all this is mere speculation. But I think someone should
get to the bottom of it.