How Bush Scuttled the Bioweapons Protocol

In response to:

Europe vs. America from the February 10, 2005 issue

To the Editors:

I found Tony Judt’s article “Europe vs. America” [NYR, February 10] wholly admirable and on the mark. However, he is incorrect in stating that the US, under the Bush administration, opposed the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC). The US signed the BWC in 1972 and the Senate ratified it in 1975. What the Bush administration opposed and effectively scuttled was a protocol to the BWC that would have given it verification and inspection provisions. The BWC currently has no such provisions; it is therefore considered to be unverifiable and virtually unenforceable. It is worth noting that the US even under the Clinton administration was unenthusiastic about the protocol; even if the US government had signed on, it would have had a hard slog in the Senate. Mr. Judt is correct on the list of countries which joined us in opposing the protocol.

Avis Bohlen

Former Assistant Secretary for Arms Control in the Department of State (1999–2002)

Tony Judt replies:

Ambassador Bohlen is right. What I should have written is not that the US opposes the Biological Weapons Convention but that the Bush administration—along with China, Russia, India, Pakistan, Cuba, and Iran—has blocked any attempt to give it teeth. This seems to me an even more damning indictment. Cynicism may be appropriate for dictatorships, but it is deeply unbecoming in a democracy. I suspect the ambassador would agree.