Reagan administration decisions to step up biologic warfare research at such sites as Utah's Dugway Proving Ground and to produce new chemical weapons - some of which are stored at Utah's Tooele Army Depot - has brought the world closer to accepting and using such hideous weapons.
That's what two Washington think tanks said Friday at a press conference - even though the administration has claimed in its own final report cards this week that it has moved the world further from the brink of chemical and biologic warfare."I would give the administration an `F,' " said Gene R. LaRocque, a retired admiral who is director of the Center for Defense Information. His think tank consists mostly of former military officers who research military spending, policies and weapons systems.
Bob Edgar, a former congressman who directs the Committee for National Security, said, "I'm not as tough of a grader. I would only give the administration a `D' in this area." Edgar's think tank researches how defense policy affects foreign relations.
Of course, the administration disagrees with them.
It has pointed out that the Soviets were unwilling to negotiate a ban on chemical weapons until the United States proceeded with plans to produce new "binary" chemical weapons to replace older, unstable weapons. After that, the Soviets sent a delegation to the Tooele Army Depot last year to see whether it is possible to verify destruction of chemical arms.
The administration also saysthat updating and improving defenses against biologic warfare - including building a controversial Dugway lab to make aerosols out of germs to test defenses - reduces the possibility that such weapons will be used.
But LaRocque said, "We have set the worst possible example for the world. For 18 years, we did not build any chemical weapons. But in December, 1987 we started making them again in Arkansas (and components of them are now stored at Tooele).
"What we did in effect was tell the world that these weapons indeed are quite effective as tools of war, and we're going to keep some more around - but don't you do it. It's great hypocrisy," which he said will only lead to other nations increasing their stockpiles.
LaRocque also complained that the United States did not push in the recent Paris conference on chemical weapons for any restrictions more severe that what most countries already agreed to decades ago in the 1925 Geneva protocol on chemical arms.
"What we're still saying is that it's all right to develop, stock and use chemical arms if someone else uses them against you. What all this does is make the use of these weapons more acceptable," he said.
Edgar said it is ironic that the United States has begun producing chemical arms again, but is complaining about the possibility that Libya may be developing the same ability.
"What we're saying is that it's all right for superpowers to have chemical arms, but not Third World countries."
Edgar said U.S. spending on biologic and chemical arms has quadrupled in the past eight years. Such increases coupled with recent calls by the Soviets to ban or restrict such arms has made the world perceive the Soviets as leaders in chemical and biologic arms reduction.
Of note, Edgar and LaRocque were not much more complimentary of Reagan's handling of other defense matters either. They said his massive spending in defense failed to achieve any real gains in usable weapons or defensive positions, and that his "haste made waste."
The Center for Defense Information gave Reagan an "F" overall in defense, while the Committee for National Security gave him a "C-."