Disarmament DiplomacyIssue No. 30, September 1998
Doubts Cast in US Over Alleged Sudan CW-Precursor FactoryOn 17 September, former US Democratic President Jimmy Carter issued a statement calling for an independent investigation into US claims that Sudanese pharmaceutical factory destroyed by US cruise missiles on 20 August was being used to produce a chemical-precursor of VX nerve gas (see last issue for details of the US claim). Carter's statement said that "doubts" over the claim were leading to the "credibility of our nation in international circles...being adversely affected..." The statement continued:
"If the evidence shows that the Sudanese are guilty, they should be condemned for lying and for contributing to terrorist activities. Otherwise, we should admit our error and make amends to those who have suffered loss or injury."
On 18 September, National Security Advisor Sandy Berger responded to Carter's appeal by dismissing it:
"We had overwhelming grounds to strike this facility... For us to have not struck that plant I think would have been irresponsible. ... I have no less certainty about this [factory] - in fact, I have even more certainty about this than I did at the time that we struck it, based upon subsequent information. ...It is part of a military-industrial corporation with which Osama bin Laden is associated. He seeks chemical weapons for the purpose of using them for terrorist actions. I think the case was very strong...
The compassion for the humanitarian instincts of the Sudanese Government here is a little bit disingenuous. This is a Government that is one of the principal State sponsors of terrorism in the world... I'm sure that they're deeply concerned about the penicillin that they may have lost in this plant, but I think you've got to put it in perspective here in terms of the nature of this regime..."
On 22 September, former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark, returning to the US after leading an International Action Center fact-finding mission to the site of the attack in Khartoum, stated his unequivocal conviction that the bombing was not justified:
"This was a pharmaceutical plant. There was no nerve gas. It would have been absolutely maniacal for them to put it there... [The US] merely wanted an excuse to hit Sudan. The way the target was chosen was purely a political decision. ... [The attack] was a crime under international law."
The day before Clark made his remarks, the New York Times reported that a number of senior US officials, in the State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency, had expressed the opinion that there was insufficient evidence to warrant destruction of the facility.
Reports: Carter calls for Sudan bomb probe, Associated Press, 18 September; White House rejects Sudan probe, Associated Press, 18 September; US wanted excuse to bomb Sudan factory - Clark, Reuters, 22 September.
© 1998 The Acronym Institute.