Overdue sanctions

February 26, 1991

Last year, President Bush vetoed a congressional measure that would have imposed sanctions on countries and companies that developed or used chemical or biological weapons. Bush objected that the bill would not give the president the ability to waive sanctions if he thought that would be in the national interest. The bill would have slapped sanctions on Saddam Hussein and his suppliers, but a year ago the Bush administration was more concerned with cultivating his friendship than curbing his ability to make war.

Now the world is a different place. Iraqi chemical and biological weapons threaten American military forces, as well as civilians in the Mideast. Last week the sanctions measure again sailed through the Senate. This time around the administration, not surprisingly, seems less concerned with preserving presidential authority than preventing the proliferation of these fiendish weapons. Sanctions are not a foolproof way to protect the world from chemical and biological warfare. But they are an essential step -- a step that should have been taken long ago.

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