Learning the Wrong Lessons
from the Anthrax Attacks
by Richard J. Ochs, 16 August 2002
U.S. bioweapons funding has decreased our security since anthrax letters were mailed last October. Instead of throwing money at U.S. bioweapons labs, the U.S. should support international inspection and verification of all bioweapons labs in the world, which it still opposes. U.S. hypocrisy has come full circle now that the Administration is gearing up for a genocidal war against Iraq for imagined secret weapons development. The U.S. overruled 140 countries to oppose an international inspection treaty that could confirm and confront any such threat.
After a U.S. Army scientist terrorized Capitol Hill and media last fall with anthrax, Congress appropriated $2.2 billion more for biological weapons defense. Some, like former Fort Detrick commander David Franz, suggested the domestic terrorist did us a favor by revealing our vulnerability and triggering a total of $6 billion against biological terrorism.
Others, however, feel that Congress overreacted by starting a bioweapons bureaucracy which may result in even more deliberate or accidental releases of even more dangerous germs into the environment. Dr. Barbara Hatch Rosenberg of the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) wrote, "The proliferation of biological weapons could lead to the escape of deadly genetically engineered germs from laboratories and the permanent establishment of new and uncontrollable diseases in the biosphere." The massive funding "will require up to 190,000 industrial and academic laboratories nationwide to fill out a new form declaring whether they're working on any of 60 infectious agents" according to the San Francisco Chronicle on July 24, 2002.
Ironically, the more diseases are handled at more and more places, the greater the likelihood of some of it getting out into the population. Hence, the billions for bioweapons security may make us less secure. People died when anthrax escaped from a lab in Soviet Sverdlovsk. Millions of trees died after Gypsy Moths escaped from a lab in the U.S. The emergence of HIV/AIDS is a mystery. Can we imagine even more devastating viruses being concocted, some with racial genetic targets, in the name of national defense?
The U.S. anthrax terrorism is the excuse for launching this dangerous military-biological complex. Official or rogue elements within it can be expected to create scares to secure its funding. Protection money for the mob is an accurate analogy. We can all be held hostage to an unnecessary, dangerous and expensive institution. This scary monster will take on a life of its own in perpetuity unless cooler heads stop it before it gets off the ground.
The Dugway Proving Ground claimed in a press release on December 12, 2001, that "the facility is well protected with robust physical and personnel security systems." But short of conducting body cavity searches every day on thousands of workers, which is impossible, there is no way to guarantee containment of lethal agents. Dr. Mary Beth Downs, a former Fort Detrick employee, told Susan Watts of the BBC News on March 14, 2002, that unscheduled persons worked there on anthrax and were "not monitored in what they did, the amount of agent they were growing, or in what they did with the agent, that is, if they put it in their pocket and took it home." The New York Times (7/19/02) reported, "As recently as April of 2002, anthrax spores were found in a hallway and administrative area of Fort Detrick."
Both Dugway and Fort Detrick now claim that all missing anthrax and Ebola specimens have been accounted for after searching for a decade. However, since specimens can be stolen, regrown and replaced, that is little consolation. There is no way to prevent a replay of last year's anthrax attacks of ever more horrendous proportions as long as the U.S. insists on working to weaponize diseases. Rather, the U.S. should obey the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention and submit to the inspection and verification Protocol. The Convention says: "Each State party to the Convention undertakes never in any circumstance to develop, produce, stockpile or otherwise acquire or retain (biological weapons)."
Dr. Barbara hatch Rosenberg of FAS wrote, "Once again, . . . the Bush administration has blocked action by the rest of the world on a vital treaty to monitor the ban on biological weapons . . . Rejection of the biological weapons treaty follows an administration pattern of arrogance . . . [+] The Bush administration, which is a minority government, is intent on using its brief opportunity in impose unilateral security decisions on the rest of the world, and to so in as irreversible a manner as possible . . . We recognize that there is no way to defend populations from such weapons. Therefore, the world cannot afford to turn down any reassurance that would contribute to prevention." [++]
See "Analysis of the Anthrax Attacks" by Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, Federation of American Scientists.
August 16, 2002
© 2002 Richard J. Ochs
Reprinted for Fair Use Only.