Tuesday, June 24, 2003

More on "Yellow Rain"

I'm responding to a letter to the editor objecting to the reference to the unproven "yellow rain" allegations in my June 9 column (link not functioning).

East Valley Tribune, Jun. 15, 2003

Bill Laurie of Mesa wrote a letter in last Thursday’s Tribune claiming that the Reagan administration “yellow rain” claims were really true. I’ll never convince grassy knoll types, but “yellow rain” shows how GOP administrations stretch intelligence to fit ideological requirements.

First, while recently declassified CIA documents indicate that the USSR tried to develop mycotoxin weapons, they contained no evidence the Soviets actually used any.

Second, the “yellow rain” theory cannot explain the high levels of pollens in the samples. Pollen isn’t an effective dispersal agent. Citing sample contamination won’t work, because that undermines whether the samples -- not taken under controlled conditions, and lacking a chain of custody -- were valid.

Third, Meselson isn’t the only opponent of Seagrave (whose book, now out of print, was published in 1981) and Hamilton-Merritt. Meselson’s explanation also was supported by Seeley, Sarver, and Porton.

Fourth, the “bee feces” explanation got additional confirmation in June 2002, when a bee swarm in West Bengal province, near Calcutta, India, caused more “yellow rain.” “Bee feces” may sound funny, but it's been documented, multiple times.

Thus, while Meselson and Seeley’s explanation has been duplicated, nobody has found hard evidence of mycotoxins in any Southeast Asia battle zone -- no shell casings, dispersal devices, or residues. The Reagan administration-Seagrave hypothesis also depends on claims about secret evidence still not public, even 20 years later.

Fifth, the interviews with Hmong refugees have been widely discredited. Hamilton-Merritt did wonderful work among the Hmong, but the government’s investigatory interviews were contradictory, selective, and overstated.

Finally, for those confused by the science, recall that The Wall Street Journal editorial page made “yellow rain” a crusade, devoting almost as much ink as to Whitewater. If the “yellow rain” theory were proven, wouldn’t they be trumpeting it, now that the Bush administration cannot justify pre-war assertions that Iraq represented an imminent threat?

The silence simply thunders.

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