The Current Crisis

Yellow Bellies and Yellow Rain

Remember how the Wall Street Journal was mocked by peaceniks for reporting on Soviet complicity in chemical and biological weapons research? Well, guess what?

By 2.25.03

Washington -- I think those of us who specialize in observing political movements among the American elites have all noticed a pell-mell stampede towards the peace movement in the last few days. Only this peace movement is not propelled by international solidarity with the workers of the world or the wretched of the earth. That was what propelled the peace movements of the 1970s and 1980s, back when it had such benign figures as Leonid Brezhnev, Yuri Andropov, Mao Tse-tung, and Ho Chi Minh to protect. Today's peace movement is protecting President Saddam Hussein. What has he ever done for the workers of the world or the wretched of the earth? The closest things he has to the wretched of the earth are various ethnic and religious minorities living uncomfortably in Iraq. What he has done for them is pelt them with weapons of mass destruction and torture some of the survivors.

Now the Bush Administration in alliance with a dozen or so European countries wants to protect the world from Saddam's weapons and force him to honor his agreements with the United Nations. For their exertions they are being denounced by peace demonstrators as though they were mindless anti-Communists, as foolhardy and dangerous to world peace as a Ronald Reagan. Out come the old slogans. "Give Peace A Chance." "Make Love Not War (Use Condoms)."

But wait! Do the peace demonstrators really believe that Saddam is, in terms of simple decency, the equal, say, of Brezhnev? And are they even sure that Brezhnev was such a great guy? Is it possible that peace was attained at the end of the 1980s not by marches in the street but by the weight of military pressure against an improvident economic system, Communism? I think so and in a Wall Street Journal column this week, Robert Bartley, the man who edited the Journal during the Cold War, reminds us that the biological and chemical weapons used by Saddam may have their provenance in the laboratories of Papa Brezhnev.

For nearly two decades the Journal reported the growing menace of chemical and biological warfare. Its reports were not greatly appreciated by members of the peace movement. As they perceived the Journal's reporting, it was mere provocation. Yet what was the Journal trying to provoke? That is a good question. Presumably the editors sought world war or at least to sell more newspapers to those who sought world war. Actually the paper was only seeking to inform the public of the dangerous research going on in the Soviet Union and of the danger of entering into chemical and biological arms control agreements with people so obviously disposed to break such agreements.

Bartley in his column this week reminds us of the lengths to which his opponents went to refute the Journal's evidence that the Soviet Union was developing chemical and biological weaponry of the sort that Saddam has right now and that Saddam actually used against his Kurds in 1988 and against Iranians during his spectacular bloodbath in the Iraq-Iran War. Noting that as early as 1975 Hmong tribesman fighting the Communists in Laos reported being sprayed by a deadly "Yellow Rain" from aerial assaults, the Journal amassed evidence that the "rain" contained trichothecene mycotoxins, poisons probably concocted by Russian scientists in violation of the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention.

The advocates of the peace movement and of 1970s arms control agreements settled on an explanation that the yellow rain was honeybee feces. One of their scientific leaders, Harvard's Dr. Matthew Meselson, actually journeyed to Thailand where he found honeybee feces that looked very much like the yellow rain in Laos. That set the world peace movement to laughing it up at the expense of the Journal. There was only one difference between Dr. Meselson's manure and the yellow rain of Laos. His manure had no trichothecene mycotoxins.

The members of the peace movement and their birds of a feather at the United Nations are again demonstrating what such soi-disant moderates have demonstrated so often in times of international danger, to wit, the moral superiority of procrastination. And among the irenic Hollywoodians we see the moral superiority of publicity seeking. Yet in the end it is not the morally superior who vanquish dictators but lesser figures such as Ronald Reagan and those forgotten journalists who explicated the Soviet biological and chemical warfare programs in the 1970s at the Wall Street Journal. Defectors have now emerged from Russia claiming that the programs employed as many as 25,000 people. Many are still around and in need of work.

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About the Author
R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr. is the founder and editor in chief of The American Spectator. He is the author of The Death of Liberalism, published by Thomas Nelson Inc. His previous books include the New York Times bestseller Boy Clinton: the Political Biography; The Impeachment of William Jefferson Clinton; The Liberal Crack-Up; The Conservative Crack-Up; Public Nuisances; The Future that Doesn't Work: Social Democracy's Failure in Britain; Madame Hillary: The Dark Road to the White House; The Clinton Crack-Up; and After the Hangover: The Conservatives' Road to Recovery.