FORMER DEFENSE CHIEFS TESTIFY AGAINST CHEMICAL WEAPONS PACT
(Schlesinger, Weinberger, Rumsfeld urge a "no" vote)
By David Pitts USIA Staff Writer 08 April 1997
Washington -- Three former defense secretaries have spoken out against
Senate ratification of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC).
Testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee April 8,
James Schlesinger, Donald Rumsfeld, and Caspar Weinberger said the
treaty is not in the national security interest of the United States.
Former Defense Secretary Dick Cheney submitted a letter to the
committee also indicating his opposition. "The Senate is being asked
to ratify the CWC even though it is likely to be ineffective,
unverifiable, and unenforceable," he said.
Committee Chairman Senator Jesse Helms (Republican-North Carolina)
strongly condemned the treaty, despite the fact that he has reached
agreement with Clinton administration officials on some 20 issues in
contention. As far as the remaining topics in disagreement are
concerned, Helms said, the White House is "stonewalling on considering
"This is a dangerous and defective treaty," said Helms. "It is not
global, it is not verifiable, it is not constitutional, and it won't
The treaty would "increase rogue regimes' access to dangerous chemical
weapons," and increase the risk of "industrial espionage," Helms
continued. "It's a bum deal." He stressed that "most of the terrorist
regimes," in the world have not signed it.
Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle meanwhile has indicated that unless
Republican leaders allow the Senate to vote on the CWC, he may block
action on other legislation.
The senior Democrat on the committee, Senator Joe Biden
(Democrat-Delaware), expressed support for the CWC, saying "it is
needed" as a deterrent against rogue states that might use chemical
weapons. The United States would "forfeit our leadership" on this
issue if CWC is not ratified, he added.
Biden said the criticisms of CWC "are incorrect." The problems cited
with regard to verification and other matters "will only get worse"
without CWC, he stressed. He also pointed out that two former defense
secretaries, Harold Brown and William Perry, have expressed support
for the treaty in addition to current Defense Secretary William Cohen.
The chemical industry also "strongly supports" the treaty, not least
because it would be subject to trade sanctions if CWC is not signed,
Biden said. The argument that the treaty is unverifiable is a classic
example of "making the perfect the enemy of the good," he added.
Senator Richard Lugar (Republican-Indiana), an influential senior
Republican on the committee, also expressed support for CWC, saying if
the U.S. does not sign it, "we will have no role on the governing
body" and little influence with potential members who otherwise might
In his prepared statement, Schlesinger detailed the case as he sees it
against the CWC:
-- Shared technologies. Article 10 of the treaty says signatories have
a right to acquire CW defensive technologies from other signatories.
"This may mean that the United States is obliged to share such
technologies with Iran, Cuba, and other such nations that may sign the
-- Lowering guard. CWC will create "the illusion that this convention
will provide protection against chemical weapons," and, as a result,
"reduce our efforts on defensive CW measures."
-- Industrial Espionage. The provisions for onsite inspection "expose
American companies, to a degree, to a type of industrial espionage
never before encountered in this country."
-- Responding to violations. CWC "is a feel good treaty," with
inadequate provisions for responding to violations.
"This treaty will not serve to banish the threat of chemical weapons,"
Rumsfeld reiterated the arguments against the treaty based on
verifiability and membership. "Were there pending before the Senate a
convention that was verifiable and global and which would accomplish
the elimination of chemical weapons in the hands of the nations most
likely to use them, I would be appearing before this committee as a
supporter, asserting that ratification would be in our national
interest," he said. Among the countries that, so far, have not
ratified CWC are Libya, Syria, Iraq, and North Korea, he added.
In expressing his opposition to CWC, Weinberger said "my motive is the
security of the United States." CWC is "badly flawed" and "cannot be
verified or enforced," he stressed. He also questioned the
constitutionality of CWC based on the fact that foreign inspectors
would be allowed "search powers without warrant" that U.S. law
enforcement authorities do not have.
Pointing out that Iran, but not Iraq, is a signatory to CWC,
Weinberger said this will give "an enormous disclosure advantage" to
one of the two countries that were once at war in the Middle East.
Senator Russ Feingold (Democrat-Wisconsin) urged the committee to at
least send CWC to the Senate floor for debate. "There still has been
no Senate debate," on this treaty, he remarked, despite an April 29
deadline for the U.S. to become an initial signatory.
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was scheduled to appear before
the committee later April 8 to make the administration case for Senate