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You arrive home to discover you’ve been burglarized. So you “strike
back”
by randomly spraying machine-gun fire up and down the street, killing
passers-by and destroying a medical clinic. An irresponsible act?
Terrorism,
perhaps? After its bombing raids in Sudan and Afghanistan, the U.S.
stands
roughly in the position of this burglarized homeowner.

Nobody doubts that the U.S. suffered an injustice when its embassies
were
bombed in Africa. But the question being asked around the world is
whether
the U.S. itself is now guilty of terrorism, by definition if not
intention.

The target of U.S. bombs in the capital city of Sudan, dropped
without
Congressional approval or even notification, was a pharmaceutical plant
that
now lies in rubble, suffering $100 million in damage. The Clinton
administration claimed to have physical evidence that the secret and
heavily
guarded plant was linked with the production of chemical weapons.

How close is the link? Here, the Clinton administration, famous for
rhetorical dodges, chose its words carefully. Sandy Berger, the National
Security Adviser and frontman on this issue, said El Shifa
Pharmaceutical
Industries in Khartoum was making a chemical that is a necessary
“precursor”
to nerve gas.

Note that he didn’t say the plant was making weapons. He didn’t even
say it
was making gas for weapons. No, it was making a chemical that could be
used
to make the gas which in turn could be used to make weapons.

“There is no question in my mind,” Berger said, “that the factory was
used
to create a chemical that was used in the manufacture of VX nerve gas.
We
have physical evidence of that fact … but we are not going to release
it.”
In fact, he said, Osama bin Laden, the global bad guy of the moment,
might
have nudged the factory into making it. We were to accept these claims
as
gospel. Doubt was unpatriotic. Nonetheless, doubt arose immediately.

It turns out that El Shifa was not a secret installation. It was a
private,
for-profit plant located in an industrial zone surrounded by residential
districts. It made 30 kinds of human drugs and 23 veterinary medicines,
and
employed 360 people. Owned by Saleh Idriss, a Sudanese entrepreneur, it
was
one of the most important sources for medicines in Africa and the Arab
world.

The Sudanese government invited journalists to examine the bombed
site.
Everyone who did noted that the area was strewn with antibiotics,
anti-malaria pills for children, veterinary medicines of all sorts. But
no
weapons, no gas, and no “precursors” to gas.

The U.S. then began to subtly backpedal, granting that, yes, the
plant did
make regular medicines, but it had a side business in weapons of mass
destruction. Okay, said Sudan, let’s invite the United Nations to
investigate. The U.S. balked, claiming that this would be wholly
unnecessary.

But British engineer Tom Carnaffin, who worked as technical manager
for the
plant between 1992 and 1996, told the Los Angeles Times: “I have
intimate
knowledge of that factory and it just does not lend itself to the
manufacture of chemical weapons.”

It also turns out that El Shifa was on contract to deliver $200,000
in
veterinary pharmaceuticals to Iraq under the UN’s oil-for-food program.
Might the U.S., which has sworn eternal enmity with Iraq, not have
wanted
those medicines to cross the border?

Faced with a growing public-relations disaster, the administration
next
said that the “precursor” chemical was found in the dirt outside the
plant.
It’s name is EMPTA, and it has no other use than to make VX chemical
nerve
gas.

But the group that enforces the chemical weapons treaty said that
EMPTA
could in fact be used “in limited quantities for legitimate commercial
purposes.” What purposes? Fungicides and anti-microbial agents. Mobil
Corp.
and other chemical companies do research with EMPTA.

And there’s another possibility, reported on by the New York Times.
EMPTA
is easily confused in the lab with FONFOS, a common agricultural
insecticide
found all over Africa.

The bottom line is this: no one has provided a shred of evidence to
back up
the administration’s claims about this plant.

Because the plant was destroyed, children all over Africa and the
Arab
world will die, people will go without food, and disease will be more
rampant. Iraq, already reeling from a horrific boycott, will not get its
much-needed medicines. In addition, the strikes killed 21 people,
wounded
50, and left unexploded warheads as far as 300 miles from the intended
targets.

This is “the unfortunate war of the future,” said Madeleine Albright.
This
is why George Washington wanted commerce with all, enmity with none.

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