According to a poll released last week, the Bush Administration is out of step with as much as 79 percent of theAmerican public. At least with regard to the Biological Weapons Convention, which is currently under discussion at areview conference in Geneva, the government and its people are in strong disagreement, with the majority of Americanssupporting mandatory inspections of possible bioweapons facilities. The Administration, by contrast, opposes them.
This information was released by the US-based NGO, 20/20 Vision, just days after the Administration scuttled anagreement to strengthen the Biological Weapons Convention at the Geneva conference. The findings were based on apoll that revealed, among other things, that 79% of Americans support mandatory inspections of possible biologicalweapons facilities, rather than making such inspections voluntary as the Administration has proposed. Similarly 75%still prefer requiring inspections even if industry trade secrets could be compromised. Protecting trade secretshas been one of the major objections to inspection procedures by the US government and the pharmaceutical industry.
The landmark Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention was established in 1972 as a multinational disarmament treatybanning the production and use of biological weapons. While it was considered an important step at the time, itlacked effective means to enforce or verify compliance. These enforcement measures were later negotiated over aperiod of 7 years, and they were finally set to be ratified last week at the Geneva conference. At the last minute,however, the Bush Administration pulled out of the agreement, blocking its approval by the 143 nations that had beenwilling to sign. Their excuse? Mandatory inspections are useless because they do not guarantee that certaincountries will not try to cheat.
- Chris Demers, 20/20 Vision, Public Outreach Coordinator.