OP-ED: GOP “WMDs” are back. This time in the Ukraine.

This s a photo of Kevin Seraaj, journalist and publisher of the Orlando Advocate
Kevin Seraaj, publisher, Orlando Advocate

by Kevin Seraaj, OrlandoAdvocate.com

They’re back. WMDs. Weapons of Mass Destruction. President Bush and the GOP made a big deal about them back in 2003. They were the reason we sent American soldiers into Iraq to take down Saddam Hussein. Only the WMDs weren’t really there at all. President George W. Bush (along with British Prime Minister Tony Blair) erroneously accused Iraq of possessing weapons of mass destruction and having ties to the terrorist group Al-Qaeda. 

Fast forward to 2022, and the WMDs of Iraq have become the “bioweapons labs” of Ukraine.

Fox News and its community of far-right extremists claim loudly and stridently that there are secret “American biological warfare labs” in Ukraine– and short of touring the actual facilities themselves they cannot be persuaded otherwise.

HuffPost points out that numerous government officials and non-American scientists say that “Ukraine does maintain a network of biological labs dedicated to research into pathogens, and those labs have received funding and research support from the U.S.”   But research labs are a far cry from warfare labs. Government officials insist the labs are not producing bioweapons, but for every American who still believes Trump won the last election, governmental trust is a difficult proposition.

“Can’t believe anything our government says!” these extremists proclaim. “Ukraine has a ton of US govt funded BioWeapons Labs that created deathly pathogens and viruses,” one online post declares. The problem with these assertions is that these extremists have no real knowledge of what’s happening in those Ukrainian labs. They are spouting the rhetoric of the Kremlin, and retweeting Putin’s disinformation ad nauseam. They sound more Russian than American.

Filippa Lentzos, a science and international security lecturer in London, confirms that bio labs do exist in the Ukraine, but said “The labs are not secret,” in a recent email. “They are not being used in relation to bioweapons. This is all disinformation.”

Russia has been accusing the U.S. of sponsoring bioweapons work since as far back as the days of the former Soviet Union. The neo-Republicans have now joined them. The people most wrapped up in the American flag appear to be naked underneath.

Make no mistake about it: bioweapons work is nasty, messy business. Back in 1966, the New York metro system was intentionally contaminated with Bacillus globigii— “a non-infectious bacterium used to simulate the release of anthrax.” Scientists wanted to study how that particular pathogen would spread in a big city. But to his credit President Richard Nixon decided to abandon biological weapons research and signed the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) in 1972. The BTWC prohibits not only the use of chemical or biological weapons, but research on biological weapons, as well. 

The Soviet Union also signed the BTWC, but it wasn’t long before they did an abrupt about-face and created the massive bioweapons resesarch project called Biopreparat, employing more than 50,000 people in various research and production facilities throughout the nation. This was a clear breach of the BTWC, but because the BTWC did not provide any means for verification, Biopreparat went undetected for years.

When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Ukraine was the first of 10 republics to leave the fold. Most of the Biopreparat operations were shut down, but no one knows for sure what bioweapons they created and which ones they held on to from those days. Maybe former Soviet republic Ukraine has a better idea about that than right-wing American Fox News hosts ever could.

Consider this: one of the things you hear frequently from this same right-wing contingent is that they will never give up their guns because “the bad guys have guns.”

Ronald Naso got it right: “The core problem of hypocrisy is that it precludes the accurate appraisal of moral worth, privileging appearance over reality.”

After all, if Russia has bioweapons shouldn’t Ukraine have them, too? I mean, in the spirit of ‘bad guys have guns’ and all?