March 6, 1997


I'm hard-pressed to think of a trade group that has done more for national security than the CMA through its work over the years on the CWC. And thank all of you -- business executives, chemical manufacturers, scientists and lawyers -- for taking part in this event. Your involvement is vital. For the Senate's decision on the CWC will profoundly affect America's security and global standing -- even in ways that transcend the treaty itself.

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As you know, the Chemical Weapons Convention outlaws not only the use of chemical weapons, but their production, acquisition, even possession. Existing stockpiles have to be destroyed within 10 years. It prohibits assistance to anyone else's CW programs, and tracks the movement of CW precursors around the world. It restricts trade with non-members in chemicals important for industry and agriculture. And it has the strongest verification regime of any arms control agreement yet, including both routine and challenge on-site inspections.

To date 161 countries have signed, and 70 have ratified -- including all our major allies. China has ratified but says it won't deposit until the United States does. Russia also probably won't join until we do.

The Convention is now in its fourth year of review by the Senate. Last year, after more than a dozen hearings and hundreds of additional written answers for the record, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee favorably reported the treaty to the Senate floor. But it had to be pulled before a mid-September floor vote, for that date proved too close to the presidential election -- and as Senator Lugar said, "the whole process was politicized in a way that would be harmful to our foreign policy."

So we have renewed the ratification effort in the 105th Congress. And now postponement is not an option. For the 65th ratification in late October triggered an inexorable six-month timetable for entry into force on April 29 -- with or without the United States. Failure to ratify by then would cost us heavily, even if we subsequently joined.

Moving anything through the Senate quickly is a challenge, and this particular one is compounded by Senator Helms' tendency to link the CWC to his favorite other causes -- like UN reform, State Department reorganization, or how we deal with other treaties. We are working with Majority Leader Lott and others to address specific CWC concerns in ways that do not undermine or conflict with the treaty. But we will not accept the premise that the CWC is a favor to President Clinton, to be traded for, when in fact it is a security instrument for the American people -- to whom its benefits inalienably belong.

My own firm conviction is that this treaty's prospects will continue to rise along with public awareness of it. So I am especially grateful for your active interest in discussing it today.

Consider briefly some of the arguments for ratification.

Two-thirds of those countries of concern have signed the treaty and likely will ratify. As to them, the CWC provides powerful new tools, including short-notice challenge inspections of suspect sites, public or private. They may be able to conceal small amounts of forbidden chemicals. No one claims 100 percent verification for the CWC. But the likelihood of detection, and the probability of sanctions, rise sharply as quantities grow to military significance -- and are prepared for weaponization, training and use.

At a minimum, we do know these two things: First, as the Intelligence Community has repeatedly testified, the CWC will give us more information than we have now about global chemical weapons dangers -- a threat we need to monitor with or without the treaty. And, second, the treaty will make this information actionable -- through sanctions -- because chemical weapons possession will be illegal, which is not so now.

Think about that. Without the CWC, countries like Iran, Libya and North Korea can legally maintain CW stockpiles. We can know that Libya is building the largest underground chemical weapons complex in the world at Tarhuna, and point to it, but there is no law against it. With the treaty, we will build a web of detection and deterrence that will increase CW acquisition costs, raise the risks of discovery, and so make it less likely that chemical weapons will ever be used against American troops or civilians.

Over time I believe nearly all countries will join -- for the same reasons that the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty now has 185 members, only five short of universality. But I am even more certain of something else -- that hold-out rogue states need never join if we remain outside -- keeping them company, and giving them cover.

In light of the arguments for the treaty, Admiral Zumwalt has described opposition in some quarters as "astonishing." But there is a segment of opinion in America -- a sliver, really -- that just doesn't like arms control. Among the public, according to a recent poll by Wirthlin Worldwide and the Mellman Group, 13 percent would oppose a treaty to ban chemical weapons. 84 percent of the public -- interestingly, broken down 84 percent of Democrats, and 84 percent of Republicans -- supports it. But those 13 percent still have loud voices in Washington.

But they have a problem. It's very hard to answer the baseline argument that compared to letting chemical weapons run free, the CWC, while no silver bullet, nonetheless will help -that it does give us more tools against real dangers. So why not grasp them?

Undeterred, arms controls opponents counter by asserting that the CWC must be defeated not only because it does not do enough, but because it will actually damage our interests. To make that implausible case, they have contrived four main arguments. Let us test them.

First, they claim the CWC forces violation of our Constitutional protections against unreasonable searches and seizures and self-incrimination. Well, as the lawyers among you know, it can't. The Constitution cannot be overridden by a treaty or any other law; the only possible issue is whether the Constitution requires us to be in violation of the treaty. Well, it doesn't. The Convention explicitly provides that inspections will be conducted according to each nation's constitutional process. Ours will. No inspections without either consent or a warrant.

Second, opponents claim the CWC will lull us into a false sense of security, and we'll neglect our defenses. You may recognize this as the standard formula against any arms control agreement. Examined more closely, it really comes down to an argument that we should expose our troops and our people to avoidable dangers, just so we'll have an incentive to keep our guard up. This, in turn, suggests an unspoken agenda, that more arms is a greater good than more security. That, I submit, simply does not reflect either good sense or the priorities of the American people. I think most Americans support diplomacy to avert threats, even as they support military preparedness against the threats that nevertheless arise.

Third, opponents claim that the CWC hurts business. Last year they tried to gin up opposition by portraying hordes of UN inspectors, led by Iranians, descending on dry-cleaning establishments, soap manufacturers and breweries -- presumably in black helicopters -- bent on industrial espionage.

But such scare tactics only work at the last minute, when there's too little time to check the facts. Let's briefly do that.

Roughly 2,000 facilities nationwide -- not the 8,000 to 10,000 imagined by opponents -- will be affected by the CWC. Less than 200 of those will bear real burdens of detailed declarations and routine inspections. But those are the chemical manufacturers, represented by the CMA and others, who strongly support the treaty.

The other 1,800 will be smaller firms -- manufacturers of discrete organic chemicals above certain thresholds -- but their basic task will be to check boxes on a form something like this, once a year.

With those facts on the table, the National Federation of Independent Business, which last year expressed concerns about the treaty, has chided the opponents for mischaracterizing its views, and says its members "will not be affected."

So now, having first posed as the champions of business, some treaty opponents have now turned on it -- claiming manufacturers only support the treaty because it will let them sell chemicals to places now proscribed, like Cuba and Iran. Of course it won't, as I'll explain in a moment -- and given the industry's hard work and public-spirited approach to this issue, and care over the years in avoiding any association with chemical weapons, it's a reckless and reprehensible charge.

Fourth, opponents assert that the treaty will actually foster -- not-combat -- chemical weapons proliferation, by requiring that we get rid of chemical export controls as to all members.

This "poisons for peace" claim veers beyond the contrived to the bizarre. The treaty generally does encourage chemical trade, but that general provision is explicitly subject to the fundamental ban in Article I on assisting anyone -- whether or not they have joined the Convention -- in acquiring chemical weapons. This fundamental ban plainly defeats any claim that a treaty member is entitled to trade in dangerous chemicals. Far from undercutting export controls, the CWC will be a basis for stronger ones, with more countries enforcing them than now.

If you doubt this, consider that the treaties banning nuclear and biological weapons also encourage trade -- yet export controls in those areas, as with chemicals, have kept growing tougher and gaining more countries over the years.

Ironically, what the Convention's U.S. opponents are doing is parroting a reading of nonproliferation treaties that is Iran's hobby horse -- and has no real credibility elsewhere. I'm sure the Ayatollah will be grateful for their support. But it won't change the effect of the treaty.

In sum, the opponents' arguments that the CWC will actually harm us are creative, to be sure, but without the slightest merit.


Let me conclude with a broader point. The CWC is a priority for President Clinton not only for its own considerable value, but because failure to ratify would be a grave, self-inflicted wound for our country.

For the United States is the world's leader -- its indispensable country -- in building global coalitions, in enforcing strong export controls, in fashioning international regimes against all weapons of mass destruction.

Indeed, the United States led in negotiating the CWC. We led in the test ban. We're leading now in strengthening safeguards against nuclear weapons, applying what we learned from Saddam Hussein's clandestine program. We're leading the effort to strengthen the global ban on biological weapons.

With the end of the Cold War, all these dangers have grown. No one disputes that. Technology is more widely available. Cold War restraints are gone.

There could not be a worse time to weaken America's hand. I can't imagine a worse time to tell the world, we're less interested in fighting proliferation than in fighting among ourselves.

I say this on behalf of people who deal with these problems routinely -- not as a genteel intellectual exercise, an ideological or political outing, but in the trenches -- where shipments are made or stopped, where other countries listen or turn a deaf ear, where negotiations succeed or fail. When we make our case for another country to halt a dangerous export, I don't want to hear, "Why should we listen to you? You pushed the world to embrace the CWC, then turned your own backs on it."

It is from this intensely practical perspective, among others, that we need the Convention. For it is unavoidable that if you want results in our global efforts against proliferation and terrorism, you'll get less if this treaty fails -- both because we won't have the tools in the CWC, and because our leadership and effectiveness will be depleted across the board.

So the campaign against the CWC is effectively a far broader assault: against our ability to follow through at home on what we have urged abroad -- against our claim to global leadership against all weapons of mass destruction and terror.

For all these reasons, we must return to the fundamental truths about deadly chemical agents designed for war: To make them is a waste; to keep them an affliction; to use them an abomination. To champion their destruction makes us at once more exemplary, more civilized and more secure.

We should get on with the task.

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