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TAMPA, Florida, Mar 25 (IPS) - In early March, the Pentagon's Force Protection Agency released a colourless, odorless gas in Crystal City, Maryland as part of a simulated terror attack intended to track air flows and test an array of chemical sensors.
Officials insisted that the gas dispersed in Operation Urban Shield was "nontoxic", but not everyone is buying that claim.
"The Pentagon does minimise the risks of these tests," Heather Wokusch, an investigative journalist and blogger, tells IPS. "For instance, it described sulfur hexaflouride, the substance released in Crystal City, as posing 'no health or safety hazards to people or the environment'. Yet sulfur hexaflouride is a suspected respiratory toxicant and neurotoxicant."
In her new article "Breaking the Nuremberg Code: The U.S. Military's Human-Testing Programme Returns", Wokusch notes that: "Crystal City is one of the 'urban villages' of Arlington County, Virginia. It features upscale offices and residential areas -- in other words, a lot of civilians. You would think that if the Pentagon is releasing suspected toxicants into such a compressed urban area there would be more warning about potential health risks."
A former jazz singer with a master's degree in clinical psychology, Wokusch is probably best known for her "Progressives' Handbook" series, a detailed analysis of the George W. Bush administration's record on issues from the environment to foreign policy and elections.
Excerpts from an interview with IPS correspondent Mark Weisenmiller follow.
The Pentagon is slated to release a suspected toxicant in Crystal City, Virginia this week, ostensibly to test air sensors.
The operation is just the latest example of the Defense Department’s long history of using service members and civilians as human test subjects, often without their consent or awareness.
Given repercussions over Abu Ghraib, it isn't surprising that Washington recently asked the UN Security Council for another one-year extension on its war crimes exemption for peace-keepers. The prison abuse scandal is just the iceberg's tip of Geneva Convention violations by the United States, and closer inspection could send Bush Jr., Bush Sr., not to mention Bill Clinton, straight to the courtroom docks.
Back in the heady days of 1991's Persian Gulf War, Commander in Chief Bush Sr. was widely praised for the invasion's rapid end, but the true battle had only begun for many on the ground: the United States had dumped 375 tons of depleted uranium (DU) weaponry on Iraq during the war, despite foreknowledge its radioactivity would make food and water in the bombed regions unsafe for consumption on an indefinite basis (DU remains radioactive for 4.5 billion years). And according to the Geneva Conventions, that's a war crime.
D-Day of December 8th quietly approaches - the day Iraq must provide the UN Security Council with a complete accounting of its weapons programs, plus its civilian chemical/biological/nuclear production and research activities. Even though UN weapons inspectors have criticized the December 8th deadline as unrealizable, the consequences for missing it will be catastrophic: Iraq will be in "material breach" of UN resolution 1441, and therefore subject to swift and decisive military action.
"If certain acts and violations of treaties are crimes, they are crimes whether the United States does them or whether Germany does them. We are not prepared to lay down a rule of criminal conduct against others which we would not be willing to have invoked against us." US Supreme Court Judge Robert Jackson, speaking at the Nuremburg War-Crimes Tribunal.