Vice President Dick Cheney opposed the signing
ratification of a treaty banning the use chemical weapons, a recently unearthed letter shows.
183 countries pledged never to “develop, produce, otherwise acquire, stockpile or retain chemical weapons, or transfer, directly or indirectly, chemical weapons to anyone” under the Chemical Weapons Convention, put into effect in 1997.
But in a letter dated April 8, 1997, then Halliburton-CEO Cheney told Sen. Jesse Helms, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, that it would be a mistake for America to join the Convention. “Those nations most likely to comply with the Chemical Weapons Convention are not likely to ever constitute a military threat to the United States. The governments we should be concerned about are likely to cheat on the CWC, even if they do participate,” reads the letter, published by the Federation of American Scientists.
The CWC was ratified by the Senate that same month. And since then, Albania, Libya, Russia, the United States, and India have declared over 71,000 metric tons of chemical weapon stockpiles, and destroyed about a third of them. Under the terms of the agreement, the United States and Russia are supposed to eliminate the rest of their supplies of chemical weapons by 2012. But that looks unlikely — the U.S. government figures it will get the job done by 2017.
Later this month, the 183 countries that have signed onto the CWC will meet in the Hague, to discuss how the Conference can be adapted for the future. An Iranian diplomat told Arms Control Today that Iran would like this so-called “review conference” to describe any violation of the 2012 deadline “as a clear case of serious noncompliance,” which could eventually lead to punitive measures.
In Cheney’s 1997 letter, the future Vice President voiced concerns that “the technology to manufacture chemical weapons is simply too ubiquitous, covert chemical warfare programs too easily concealed, and the international community’s record of responding effectively to violations of arms control treaties too unsatisfactory, to permit confidence that such a regime would actually reduce the chemical threat.”
But in a recent interview with Arms Control Today, Ambassador Donald Mahley, acting deputy assistant secretary of state for threat reduction, said the convention has been helpful in “preventing [the] spread of chemical terrorism.” The CWC “continues to work in as efficient and effective manner,” he added; the implementing it is “lean and mean.”
By Noah Shachtman
April 02, 2008 | 7:48:00 AM