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International Law - Crimes Against Humanity: WMD Used Against Civilians!

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A Deadly Trail : Who Supplied Iraqs WMD? United States Exports Of Biological Materials To Iraq: Compromising The Credibility Of International Law

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A deadly trail:
Who supplied Iraq’s WMD?

By Hero

09/08/05 "Hero" -- -- IN THE TWO-AND-A-HALF YEARS since the invasion of Iraq, the question of how Iraq acquired the capability to develop Weapons of Mass Destruction – the pretext for the US-led invasion – has not yet been fully answered. 
A final-year student at Sussex University took it on himself to find the answer, and has managed, according to his BA dissertation, to trace Saddam’s toxin all the way back to a cow that died in Oxfordshire just before World War 2. 

Geoffrey Holland, an undergraduate politics student, spent six months unearthing the history of the 14578 strain of anthrax, after an official US report last autumn confirmed that it was the type used in Saddam’s biological weapons programme. 

The ‘Vollum’ anthrax was isolated by scientists at Oxford, who were sent the ear of a cow that had died in Oxfordshire ‘around 1937’. Named after bacteriologist Professor Robert Vollum, the strain was used by Churchill in wartime experiments. A well-known example involves the Scottish island of Gruinard, where the release of anthrax killed thousands of sheep and led to the area being quarantined for 48 years. 

The culture was later exported to the US, and, Holland claims, passed from there to Iraq in the 1980s, despite the US having signed up to the Biological Weapons Convention that came into force in 1975.

Holland tracked the toxin’s history through the catalogues of the American Type Culture Centre, a repository in Virginia. He says that despite mounting evidence, the story of how these toxins came to be held by the Iraq government has been largely neglected.

“Despite the War, the hunt for WMD, the death of David Kelly, the Hutton and Butler Reports and all else that has transpired, it has still not been discussed,” says Holland. “The news media has almost entirely overlooked one of the most important stories of our time: Who supplied Iraq’s WMD?”

He argues that transmission of the anthrax, now understood more fully than ever before, constitutes a breach of international law by the US, and that it is now the British government’s responsibility to report the matter to the United Nations Security Council.

To date, attempts to push the government to do so have been unsuccessful, although a motion in the 2003-4 session of parliament by Austin Mitchell MP attracted the support of 141 MPs.

Questions continue to be asked. In July of this year Mike Hancock MP tabled a question in parliament asking what breaches of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention have occurred since 1980. Minister of State Kim Howells responded that “no complaints of breaches of the obligations of the convention have been submitted to the United Nations,” which, as Holland points out, does not quite answer the question.

The paper forms Holland’s final dissertation of his BA degree in Politics and International Relations. He says that he originally became interested in the story in 2002, when he came across evidence that the US had exported the materials it was then accusing Iraq of developing. “The fact was not being discussed anywhere, and this seemed wrong,” he said.

Asked what advice he would give to other students wanting to research these kind of issues, he says: “Don’t spend too long just wanting to – and share what you find with other people who know more than you do.”

Useful websites 

Geoffrey Holland's BA dissertation, United States Exports of Biological Materials to Iraq: Compromising the Credibility of International Law, is at: 



United States exports of biological materials to Iraq:

Compromising the credibility of international law


Geoffrey Holland

University of Sussex

June 2005 

Biological and Toxin Weapons
Convention and Iraq

A report for Parliament on the British
Government's response to the US supply of
biological materials to Iraq.

Geoffrey Holland
University of Sussex

October 2004

Link to view or download the complete report


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