Less than One Week
I just read an article about bioterrorism accessed via a link on Microsoft® Networkís home page (WP: Gaps in USA Biodefense). The article appears to be a well-written and well-considered discussion of our vulnerabilities and is realistic about our inability to respond to potential emergencies. This time around, however, the potential scapegoats have been identified before the event.
No, I am not talking about people in government. The pre-catastrophe identified scapegoats are the pharmaceutical giants (no profit and no legal protections equal no action) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) (too little effort to modernize). Nowhere did I see the lack of capacity of "for profit" hospitals to meet emergency needs identified as a fault of rampant capitalism. Nowhere did I see government taking serious responsibility for putting us into a situation where bioterrorism is a likely future event. And now, only six days after the election, this subject that was not prominent prior to the election is suddenly prominent.
What we have now is a revisiting of a subject that concerned many of us when we were about to attack Iraq in 2002. That no bioterrorism weapons or capabilities were found in Iraq later seemed to calm our fears, and those of us who took precautions related to food stores and medical supplies were viewed as silly for over-reacting. Now, all of a sudden, bioterrorism is getting attention, and for some rather good reasons.
The article noted that a graduate student in a good university today has the requisite knowledge to produce disease bacteria and viruses. This means that bioterrorism products could rather easily be produced most anywhere in the world. All that is needed beyond the knowledge of the producer is a facility that is easily disguised and continuously available. All of a sudden we are not simply looking into one country (Iraq) as a likely source of bioterrorism weapons. Isnít that just dandy?
Here are a few additional considerations: Our government threw down the glove in deciding to attack Iraq and thus must be considered the primary scapegoat for downstream bioterrorism events. Terrorism capabilities and participants have vastly increased in other parts of the world since we decided to attack Iraq, so we have grown their numbers and galvanized them into action. No one expects to play football without experiencing casualties, so all you ignorant folks who put Bush and company in office in both 2000 and in 2004 need a reality check, for you are a player in the world of bioterrorism, not a spectator, and you very well may become a casualty. Johnny and Jane firing weapons thousands of miles away canít protect you. Isnít that a pity?
Well, I suppose we have nothing to fear, for the God of the right wing evangelistic Christian idiots will A) Make sure we win, or B) Provide lots of room in "Heaven" for our casualties! This sounds more and more like the nutty afterlife teachings of Islam. Thus, if bioterrorism becomes a reality, we can rally around our religions, kill millions, be killed by the millions and proclaim that it was "Godís will." When will the feeble-minded of the world grasp the point that it is men whose will is being done and those men have nothing to offer except death and destruction of the common people, on behalf of maintaining and expanding their own power and wealth?
You might think of this reality with another football analogy. In real life many millions of dollars are made apart from a football game via gambling, and the operators do not lose, nor do they sustain personal injuries. The players of both teams experience the injuries and do not collect even a tiny percentage of the wealth collected by the gambling operators. The spectators think they can gamble and win and experience no injuries. In an environment of bioterrorism the injuries are lethal and the spectators will be the major component of the disaster, while the gambling operators (government) will continue to be safe. Now, go back and reread this paragraph a few times until the analogy finally sinks in and you realize the stupidity of our actions and inactions relative to Iraq and terrorism and bioterrorism.
I now want to proceed to a tangential consideration. Multiple times I have preached that our borders can be easily breached, and that nerve poisons can be brought in where a mere pint of product can poison a reservoir or other water supplies and kill hundreds of thousands of people and livestock. This concern has nothing to do with biological agents like bacteria or viruses. The technology goes all the way back to WWII and the early days of the Cold War with the Soviets. The simplest chemistry lab can be used to produce such poisons in quantity.
If we could lose advanced knowledge of our missile technology and nuclear weapons technology to the Chinese via embedded spies working in our "secure" facilities, is it much of a stretch to assume a similar theft of information from the facilities we have operated for development and production of nerve toxins, e.g., in a military site in Maryland? Could any knowledgeable former employee/researcher be "turned" for financial gain, or captured and brainwashed?
Okay Ö now that the election is over we will start to get more bad news as the months go by, and bioterrorism is only one subject, albeit one of potential disaster within the USA. The whole scenario of war against Iraq, present insurgency there and war against terrorism in the rest of the world is not pleasant to consider. But consider we must, and we must take action to stop this devolution. As our citizens have once again placed their faith in the Bush administration, that is where national attention must be focused. You little guys with little minds have by sheer number selected and elected an unenlightened government that will harm all of us ordinary people. If we do experience bioterrorism you are responsible.
I am unwilling to forecast anything specific about our next four years for lack of specific knowledge of terrorist capabilities or of our governmentís plans to prevail. I hope we are safe and I hope our leaders become enlightened. Unfortunately, my hopes mean nothing. I may as well live in a dream world, for the "die is cast" and the outlook is not pretty, and powerless old farts like myself do not make history Ö we, like everyone else, try to endure and hope for the best.