Wednesday, September 25, 2002


WASHINGTON - American research companies, with the approval of two previous presidential administrations, provided Iraq biological cultures that could be used for biological weapons, according to testimony to a U.S. Senate committee eight years ago.

West Nile Virus, E. coli, anthrax and botulism were among the potentially fatal biological cultures that a U.S. company sent under U.S. Commerce Department licenses after 1985, when Ronald Reagan was president, according to the Senate

The Commerce Department under the first Bush administration also authorized eight shipments of cultures that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention later classified as having "biological warfare significance."

Between 1985 and 1989, the Senate testimony shows, Iraq received at least 72 U.S. shipments of clones, germs and chemicals ranging from substances that could destroy wheat crops, give children and animals the bone-deforming disease rickets, to a nerve gas rated a million times more lethal than Sarin.

Poor Congressman Wilson:

C-SPAN's "Washington Journal" segment started out yesterday morning as typically sedate -- two members of Congress soberly dispensing wisdom about the threat from Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. But then Bob Filner, a five-term Democrat from California, said something that made South Carolina freshman Republican Joe Wilson go nuclear.

Filner, who opposes unilateral U.S. military action, suggested that in the 1980s, when U.S. officials sided with Iraq in its war against Iran, Saddam Hussein obtained biological and chemical weapons technology from the United States. "We gave it to him," Filner asserted.

"That is wrong. That's made up," Wilson fired back. "I can't believe you would say something like that."

When Filner calmly held his ground, advising Wilson to read newspaper reports and other documentation, the Republican erupted: "This hatred of America by some people is just outrageous. And you need to get over that."

As moderator Connie Brod sat by helplessly, Filner challenged: "Hatred of America? . . . Are you accusing me?"

"Yes!" Wilson shouted. For good measure, over the next minute Wilson accused Filner of harboring "hatred of America" four more times, of being "hateful" three times and of being "viscerally anti-American" once. Filner responded, "This is not worth replying to," and Brod finally regained control of the discussion by taking viewer phone calls.