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The War Next Time Chapter 3

The War Next Time Chapter 3

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Published by delosmagosreyes
what happened in south africa?
what happened in south africa?

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: delosmagosreyes on May 28, 2013
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09/07/2013

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27
CHAPTER 3
The Secret Program:South Africa’s Chemical and Biological Weapons
Stephen Burgess and Helen PurkittFrom the 1960s until the 1990s, apartheid
 
South Africa was anisolated state that felt threatened by growing domestic unrest, as well as bya more powerful state actor, the Soviet Union, which was helping hostileregimes and liberation movements in southern Africa.One response of the apartheid regime to changing threat perceptionsoutside and inside of South Africa was to develop a new and moresophisticated chemical and biological warfare (CBW) program, code-named “Project Coast,” starting in 1981 or earlier, and to accelerate anuclear weapons program. The focus here is on the especiallysophisticated biological aspect of the program and how it developed. TheCBW decision-making process was secretive and controlled by themilitary and enabled a very sophisticated program to be developed withlittle outside scrutiny. Military and police units used chemical and biological agents for counter-insurgency warfare, assassination, andexecution of war prisoners.As the regime felt increasingly threatened by opposition at home, top political leaders approved plans for research and development of exoticmeans to neutralize opponents, large-scale offensive uses of the program,and weaponization. However, the plans were not operationalized. Theend of the external threat led to a decision to unilaterally dismantle the program, prior to a shift to majority rule. Lack of civilian control over military programs made the rollback difficult, rife with corruption, and left proliferation concerns in place.Ultimately, the United States, the United Kingdom, and other countries pressured the South African government to ensure that the CBW program would be dismantled and the former project manager, Dr. Wouter 
 
The Secret Program
28Basson, constrained. However, Basson secretly retained copies of ProjectCoast documents, which helped to perpetuate proliferation concerns.Today, a divide exists between those who believe that South Africadeveloped the “second most sophisticated” CBW program, after the SovietUnion’s, and are concerned about proliferation, and those who believe thatit was “pedestrian.” The former are focused on the proliferation danger,while the latter are focused on the criminality and corruption of the program.Project Coast was not the first CBW program the South Africangovernment had developed. Between 1914-1918 and 1939-1945, SouthAfrican troops fought in the two World Wars and faced the threat of CBW. Although the 1925 Geneva Convention banned the use of chemicaland biological weapons in warfare, Japan and possibly the Soviet Unionemployed such weapons in WW II. As early as the 1930s, widespreadevidence emerged of the efficacy of biological warfare (BW) based onscientific work conducted in the U.S., United Kingdom, and the SovietUnion.
1
The South African scientific and military communities kept pacewith the various developments in CBW.The literature on South Africa’s WW II CBW program wasmaintained.
2
Also, the South African Defense Force (SADF) maintained asmall military program related to CBW research and development. Thegovernment also maintained funding for a modest number of basic research projects located in the Afrikaans universities and other governmentsupported institutions. Much of this research was conducted under theumbrella of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).In the 1940s and 1950s, South Africa’s wartime connections withBritain and the United States continued. South African officers trained inBritain and the United States in chemical and biological warfare strategyand tactics.
3
Also, in the 1950s, the Eisenhower administration initiatedthe United States “Atoms for Peace” program, which proved to be asignificant factor contributing to South Africa’s later ability to producenuclear weapons.
4
 From 1925 to 1963, South Africa was not willing to forswear CBW incombat situations. In 1963, South Africa belatedly became a party to the1925 Geneva Convention, banning the use of chemical and biologicalweapons in warfare. South African accession to the Geneva Conventionand ratification of the 1975 Convention on the Prohibition of the
 
Burgess / Purkitt 
29Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological and ToxinWeapons and on their Destruction (BWC) did not deter apartheid leadersfrom continuing to develop a new and more sophisticated CBW programin the 1980s.South African forces were reportedly involved in using CBW incounter-insurgency operations in southern Africa in the 1960s and 1970s,especially in Rhodesia. In 1978-1979, SADF Special Forces allegedly planted anthrax spores in grain fed to cattle in guerrilla-held areas. Ananthrax epidemic afflicted nearly 10,000 cattle. South Africa hadincreasingly provided financial support and military hardware in the 1970sto the Rhodesian government, and SADF military intelligence was a principal source of funding for the Rhodesian counter-insurgency program, including the elite Selous Scouts. The Rhodesian defense budgetwas very small, and the regime had one rudimentary chemical and biological warfare plant that received outside aid from South Africa. Inassisting Rhodesia, South African researchers continued work on CBWand land mine projects.The collapse of Portuguese colonialism led, from 1974 to 1976, to thetakeover of Angola and Mozambique by revolutionary communist regimes, backed by the Soviet Union and Cuba. Suddenly, South African leadersfound themselves surrounded by communist forces, which were viewed asimplacable and unscrupulous enemies. South African defense experts knewthat the Soviet Union possessed nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC)weapons. In regard to the Soviet BW program, indications of its scale andsophistication had been gained during and after negotiations surrounding the1972 Biological Weapons Convention (BWC).According to former South African leaders and generals, NBC programs were developed with the intention of “countering the communistonslaught.” General (retired) Georg Meiring, former SADF Chief of Staff, commented that SADF sought protection against BW in the 1970s,as biological weapons became known as the “poor man’s atomic bomb,”and as the possibility increased of BW operations by Soviet-trainedguerrillas of the South West African Peoples Organization (SWAPO) andAfrican National Congress/Umkhonto we Sizwe (ANC/MK).
5
 According to Magnus Malan (SADF Chief of Staff, 1975-80 andDefense Minister, 1980-91), the U.S. encouraged the SADF to enter Angolain October 1975, and then abandoned South Africa to face Cuban forces

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