Self-anointed “fact-checkers” in the U.S. corporate press have spent two weeks mocking as disinformation and a false conspiracy theory the claim that Ukraine has biological weapons labs, either alone or with U.S. support. They never presented any evidence for their ruling — how could they possibly know? and how could they prove the negative? — but nonetheless they invoked their characteristically authoritative, above-it-all tone of self-assurance and self-arrogated right to decree the truth and label such claims false.
Claims that Ukraine currently maintains dangerous biological weapons labs came from Russia as well as China. The Chinese Foreign Ministry this month claimed: “The US has 336 labs in 30 countries under its control, including 26 in Ukraine alone.” The Russian Foreign Ministry asserted that “Russia obtained documents proving that Ukrainian biological laboratories located near Russian borders worked on development of components of biological weapons.” Such assertions deserve the same level of skepticism as U.S. denials: namely, none of it should be believed to be true or false absent evidence. Yet U.S. fact-checkers dutifully and reflexively sided with the U.S. Government to declare such claims “disinformation” and to mock them as QAnon conspiracy theories.
Unfortunately for this propaganda racket masquerading as neutral and high-minded fact-checking, the neocon official long in charge of U.S. policy in Ukraine testified on Monday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and strongly suggested that such claims are, at least in part, true. Yesterday afternoon, Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), hoping to debunk growing claims that there are chemical weapons labs in Ukraine, smugly asked Nuland: “Does Ukraine have chemical or biological weapons?”
Rubio undoubtedly expected a flat denial by Nuland, thus providing further “proof” that such speculation is dastardly Fake News emanating from the Kremlin, the CCP and QAnon. Instead, Nuland did something completely uncharacteristic for her, for neocons, and for senior U.S. foreign policy officials: for some reason, she told a version of the truth. Her answer visibly stunned Rubio, who — as soon as he realized the damage she was doing to the U.S. messaging campaign by telling the truth — interrupted her and demanded that she instead affirm that if a biological attack were to occur, everyone should be “100% sure” that it was Russia who did it. Grateful for the life raft, Nuland told Rubio he was right.
But Rubio’s clean-up act came too late. When asked whether Ukraine possesses “chemical or biological weapons,” Nuland did not deny this: at all. She instead — with palpable pen-twirling discomfort and in halting speech, a glaring contrast to her normally cocky style of speaking in obfuscatory State Department officialese — acknowledged: “uh, Ukraine has, uh, biological research facilities.” Any hope to depict such “facilities” as benign or banal was immediately destroyed by the warning she quickly added: “we are now in fact quite concerned that Russian troops, Russian forces, may be seeking to, uh, gain control of [those labs], so we are working with the Ukrainiahhhns [sic] on how they can prevent any of those research materials from falling into the hands of Russian forces should they approach” — [interruption by Sen. Rubio]:
Nuland’s bizarre admission that “Ukraine has biological research facilities” that are dangerous enough to warrant concern that they could fall into Russian hands ironically constituted more decisive evidence of the existence of such programs in Ukraine than what was offered in that same Senate in 2002 and 2003 to corroborate U.S. allegations about Saddam’s chemical and biological programs in Iraq. An actual against-interest confession from a top U.S. official under oath is clearly more significant than Colin Powell’s holding up some test tube with an unknown substance inside while he points to grainy satellite images that nobody can decipher.
It should go without saying that the existence of a Ukrainian biological “research” program does not justify an invasion by Russia, let alone an attack as comprehensive and devastating as the one unfolding: no more than the existence of a similar biological program under Saddam would have rendered the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq justifiable. But Nuland’s confession does shed critical light on several important issues and raises vital questions that deserve answers.