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[casi] 'the most dangerous crisis since Cuba'

Book review from today's Independent, in which Paul Rogers notes writes that
'a war against Iraq later this year [could] escalate to the most dangerous
crisis since Cuba, 40 years ago this autumn' followed by an AP report in
which Blair 'hints at support for US policy on Iraq.'

voices uk

(Pimlico, 12.50 and Arrow, 8.99)

The Devil's Gardens
A Higher Form of Killing
Are we ready to harvest new killing fields?
Review by Paul Rogers
28 February 2002

The Devil's Gardens: a history of landmines, by Lydia Monin and Andrew

A Higher Form of Killing: the secret history of chemical and biological
warfare, by Robert Harris and Jeremy Paxman

Late last year, prospects for arms control took two severe knocks in a
matter of days. In Geneva, the US pulled out of six years of effort to
strengthen the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, while on the
India/Pakistan border, hundreds of thousands of anti-personnel landmines
were laid as tensions mounted over Kashmir. Both events demonstrate the
problems in trying to control proliferation, despite huge efforts to bring
two particularly nasty kinds of weapons under control.

The Devil's Gardens is a highly readable and thoughtful account of the
determined efforts to call governments to account over the appalling human
cost of landmines. It illustrates the global extent of the threat and the
remarkable way in which a small number of campaigners succeeded in focusing
international attention on it. They were sometimes divided in their methods,
but still created a successful coalition, helped by a handful of states
(especially Canada), that resulted in the landmine treaty.

Too many states have failed to join in, and the problems remain massive:
clearing up minefields from past wars, preventing further use of mines and
extending the campaigning to cluster bombs and other "area-impact" weapons.
Indeed, activists fear that their apparent success will lead to a false
sense of achievement. The Devil's Gardens, with its unflinching descriptions
of mines and their effects, might help to remind us of the limits of
progress so far.

The disaster in Geneva is in many ways more serious. Robert Harris and
Jeremy Paxman first wrote A Higher Form of Killing more than 20 years ago,
when most people were more worried by the nuclear threat. Now, more than a
decade after the end of Cold War, they have produced a useful update, adding
a chapter to their original text  in its day, the most accessible account
of the development of chemical and biological weapons.

The former remain a problem, although there is at least a verifiable
Chemical Weapons Convention and most of the Cold War arsenals are now being
destroyed. This is not the case for biological weapons, where the 1972
convention remains one of the weakest arms-control agreements. That recent
efforts to strengthen it have come to nil is worrying enough, especially as
we are beginning to see the potential for new kinds of weapons made possible
by gene manipulation and biotechnology. But there is also a real prospect of
a new war with Iraq, a state capable of using chemical and biological
weapons if the Saddam regime is threatened with destruction as part of the
Bush "war on terror".

Harris and Paxman point out that Iraq was ready to use biological and
chemical weapons in 1991 if the regime had been threatened with destruction.
Missiles and bombs loaded with anthrax, botulinum and other toxins were
primed for use as a final deterrent against the coalition. Indeed, they
point to the view among some security analysts that this was a key reason
why the US did not press that war to its conclusion; it was all too aware of
Iraqi capabilities, whatever was said in public.

We now have a US administration that has made it clear that the war on
terror will include countries in the "axis of evil", which will not be
allowed to develop weapons of mass destruction. Proliferation will now be
controlled by coercion and, where necessary, the use of force. We should not
be too surprised if a war against Iraq later this year escalates to the most
dangerous crisis since Cuba, 40 years ago this autumn.

The reviewer is professor of peace studies at Bradford University


Blair hints at support for US policy on Iraq
28 February 2002

Prime Minister Tony Blair has singled out Iraq as a threat to world
stability, accusing it of accumulating weapons of mass destruction.

Blair told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. in an television interview
broadcast today that he agreed with the sentiment behind US President George
W. Bush's description of Iraq as belonging to an "axis of evil" with Iran
and North Korea.

In a strongly worded statement on Saddam Hussein's regime, Blair said
Britain was constantly monitoring Iraq but he remained circumspect about any
potential action to be taken against the country.

"Saddam Hussein's regime is a regime that is deeply repressive to its people
and is a real danger to the region," Blair said from London.

"Heavens above, he used chemical weapons against his own people, so it is an
issue and we have got to look at it, but we will look at it in a rational
and calm way, as we have for the other issues.

"The accumulation of weapons of mass destruction by Iraq poses a threat, a
threat not just to the region but to the wider world, and I think George
Bush was absolutely right to raise it."

A British newspaper reported Sunday that the prime minister would fly to
Washington in April to talk with Bush about Iraq and the next phase of the
war of terrorism.

The Observer newspaper said Blair's visit to the United States would signal
British support for a US war against Iraq if Hussein does not agree to
deadlines for destruction of weapons of mass destruction.

Blair's Downing Street office refused to discuss the prime minister's travel
plans, which are kept private for reasons of security, but said Britain
shared US concerns about Iraq's development of weapons of mass destruction.

Blair, who was due to travel to Australia later today for the Commonwealth
Heads of Government Meeting, said Britain would continue to tackle the issue
in a "calm and measured way."

"It is an issue that those who are engaged in spreading weapons of mass
destruction are engaged in an evil trade and it is important that we make
sure that we take action in respect of it," he said.

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