The March 28 Style article “Can insects truly be weapons, as on ‘The Americans’?” was mistaken in virtually every statement it made regarding biological weapons.
Cuba was definitely a state party to the Biological and Toxic Weapons Convention in 1996. Cuba signed the treaty on April 12, 1972, and ratified it in April 1976. Cuba brought its complaint against the United States to a meeting of treaty member states itself. Russia did not do it for Cuba. The treaty process is not designed to produce a verdict of confirm or deny, but the result was obvious. Only several fellow Marxist states supported the Cuban charges, while the other states that made interventions during the proceedings dismissed them.
The reason that “no documents ever turned up to support the claim” made by North Korea and China against the United States during the Korean War is that none exist, while both Soviet and Chinese documents that disproved it have been published. In 1989, 13 Soviet Central Committee documents were published by the Cold War International History Project at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars directly declaring the charge to be false. One Soviet Central Committee cable to Beijing read: “For Mao Zedong: ‘The Soviet Government and the Central Committee of the CPSU were misled. The spread in the press of information about the use by the Americans of bacteriological weapons in Korea was based on false information. The accusations against the Americans were fictitious.’ ” And in 2016, several additional Soviet documents as well as new Chinese documents were published by the same program, again proving the charges to be fraudulent.
Molecular genetic analysis demonstrated that the dengue fever outbreak that occurred in Cuba originated with a dengue strain brought back to Cuba by Cuban personnel working in Vietnam after 1975. It was not disseminated using insects by the United States in Cuba. “Small scale biological warfare or entomological warfare methods as a way of defending ourselves,” as discussed in the article, are absolutely forbidden by Article 1 of the biological weapons convention.
The “line between defensive research and offensive production” is not “pretty blurry.” It is patently obvious and easily discernible.
Japan did not use “bombs that unleashed cholera infected flies” in China. In fact, the Japanese did not use flies at all in their biological- warfare program in China.
Milton Leitenberg, Gaithersburg
The writer is a senior research scholar at the University of Maryland School of Public Policy Center for International
and Security Studies.