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Washington should examine the evil of its own actions

The New Straits Times, February 24, 2002

By Dzulkifli Abdul Razak

WE have just celebrated another triumph of good over evil as we acknowledge the message of Aidil Adha yesterday. This symbolic message of korban (or sacrifice) goes beyond the Muslim world since the struggle against evil is universal.

More so because evil is real in every nation and, no one can claim otherwise. This reinforces the point that no one has the right to label others as being evil without first admitting the same.

But US President George W. Bush seems to have no such hesitations. Taking a holier-than-thou stance he called Iraq, Iran and North Korea "an axis of evil" and of "arming to threaten the peace of the world." It is worth noting that this "evil" name-calling seems to be targeted almost exclusively at Asia. Ronald Reagan called the former Soviet Union (part of which was in Central Asia) an evil empire. Today it is North Korea in East Asia, and in the west, Iraq and Iran. Slowly, other Asia nations are being dragged in as the focus of terrorism gradually shifts from Afghanistan to the Philippines. More recently Malaysia has been implicated as the so-called "new epicentre" (www.time.com/time/asia/features/malayterror/cover.html).

All these raise an urgent question: Is Asia such an evil place? More importantly, how about the US itself? To throw some light, let us take a look at the state, use and control of weapons in this region and in the West, the US in particular. Information provided by the California-based Center for Non-proliferation Studies (http://cns.miis.edu), shows the West is no less "evil".

For example, as early as 429 BC, the Spartans used pitch and sulphur to create toxic fumes in the Peloponnesian War, an "invention" that remained in vogue even 2,000 years later. In 1456 the city of Belgrade ignited rags dipped in poison to create a toxic cloud to defeat the invading Turks.

As for biological warfare, although in the mid-1300 the Mongols used to catapult plague-contaminated corpses across enemy lines in the Crimea, the British perfected it. 

In 1767, in a war against North American Indian natives, the British deviously offered blankets, once used to wrap British smallpox victims, to silence the Indian tribes. And in the American Revolutionary War, the British again deliberately spread smallpox during the sieges of Boston and Quebec to the American "terrorists".

During the First World War, the the Germans used chlorine gas as chemical weapons in April 1915 against the French; later, the British did it against the Germans (in September 1915).

By June 1918, the US too had used toxic gases. At the same time, it established the Chemical Warfare Service, a formalised chemical weapons programme. Since then, US history is littered with examples of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons development.

In the case of the latter, in 1942, US began its "offensive biological weapons" research and development programme at Camp Detrick in Maryland.

From September 1950 until February 1951 bio-agents were sprayed over San Francisco, in a so-called test of biological weapon dispersal methods. In mid-1966, the US "conducts a test of vulnerability", by releasing a harmless biological simulant into the New York City subway system.

In some cases, real tests were carried out on live populations, presumably perceived as evil too. These were Asians as well; the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, made the US the first to use the atomic bomb in a war.

As though encouraged by the defeat of the "yellow peril", the US tried another test, on another Asian nation. Millions of gallons of defoliant including the deadly Agent Orange were sprayed over eight years (1962-1970) against the Vietnamese people. The effects are still being felt, maiming and killing millions, even until today. And arising from the recent anthrax attacks, the US army reportedly admitted that it has been making weapons-grade anthrax for nearly four years, according to the New Scientist (December 2001 issue).

These are precisely some of the activities regarded as "evil" by the United States.

And consider how often the US has tried unilaterally to frustrate international treaties which could have become axes of peace; from vetoeing the Biological Weapons Convention in 1972 to boycotting a UN meeting to discuss the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty late last year in New York.

In short, given its own dubious track record, the US has no right to call itself the guardian angel. The Bush administration should be ashamed of accusing others while promoting its own existing axis of evil.

It is time to stop the self-inflicted paranoia, especially when "the case has yet to be made", to quote US Senate Majority and Democrat leader, Tom Daschle (NST, Feb. 13). 

Recommended sites: www.cns.miis.edu/research/cbw/pastuse.htmwww.cns.miis.edu/research/cbw/pastuse.htm 

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