By Gerard Noonan (18 November, 2002)
The former chief weapons inspector in Iraq Richard Butler has lashed out at United States "double standards", saying even educated Americans were deaf to arguments about the hypocrisy of their stance on nuclear weapons.
Mr Butler, an Australian, told a seminar at the University of Sydney's Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies that Americans did not appreciate they could not claim a right to possess nuclear weapons but deny it to other nations.
"My attempts to have Americans enter into discussions about double standards have been an abject failure - even with highly educated and engaged people," Mr Butler said. "I sometimes felt I was speaking to them in Martian, so deep is their inability to understand."Mr Butler's comments to the seminar, held on September21, are reported in the university's latest newsletter.
"What America totally fails to understand is that their weapons of mass destruction are just as much a problem as are those of Iraq," he said, adding that Hollywood storylines fuelled such attitudes.
Mr Butler said the horror of September 11 had only entrenched the idea in Americans that there are 'good weapons of mass destruction and bad ones'.
Mr Butler, who headed the United Nations weapons inspection team in Iraq in the early 1990s, is a former Australian ambassador for disarmament.
Earlier, delivering the university's Templeton Lecture, Mr Butler said one of the most difficult times with the Iraqi regime had been dealing with this issue of inconsistency.
"Amongst my toughest moments in Baghdad were when the Iraqis demanded that I explain why they should be hounded for their weapons of mass destruction when, just down the road, Israel was not, even though it was known to possess some 200 nuclear weapons," he said.
"I confess, too, that I flinch when I hear American, British and French fulminations against weapons of mass destruction, ignoring the fact that they are the proud owners of massive quantities of those weapons, unapologetically insisting that they are essential for their national security, and will remain so."
Mr Butler said that manifest unfairness - double standards - produced a situation "that was deeply, inherently unstable".
"This is because human beings will not swallow such unfairness. This principle is as certain as the basic laws of physics itself."
Mr Butler said one problem encountered in Iraq was that materials and technologies employed in making a chemical or biological weapon were identical to those used in a range of benign products for medical, industrial or agricultural use.
The UN Security Council's decision in 1991 to destroy, remove or render harmless Iraq's weapons of mass destruction was unique and far-reaching, far tougher than past attempts to disarm defeated countries like Germany and Japan.