REALITY CHECK: This article in the American Prospect, titled “Reality Check,” is intended to put to rest all our fears of a chemical or biological attack.
Let’s do a little “reality check” of our own, shall we? I am no expert on chemical or biological weapons, but I think it’s fair to say that, sometimes, the experts are no experts either. For example, remember the woman who died of anthrax inhalation in Rhode Island? As this Washington Post article shows, that surprised the “experts.” The article states that, as a result of the woman’s death, “William Patrick, who led the U.S. Army’s effort to weaponize anthrax until the program was halted in 1969, said he was reconsidering his long-standing presumption that a person could not get pulmonary anthrax from a few spores on the outside of an envelope. ‘I would never have thought that a letter contaminated on the outside would contain sufficient spores to cause inhalational anthrax,’ he said in a telephone interview. ‘It defies everything we ever learned. I’m absolutely flabbergasted.’ “
Look, I hate to say it, folks, but whoever sent the anthrax through the mails (1) hasn’t been caught, (2) didn’t send much, and (3) accomplished a hell of a lot with what little they used. There is plllllllenty more out there, and if terrorists had a decent quantity and got serious about spreading it, it could cause some real problems.
As for smallpox, the American Prospect article says that smallpox “can be contained by quarantining victims and vaccinating others after it appears.” The article also confidently contends that “the disease is only communicable from person to person.”
But what if the strain is, for example, the “Aralsk strain” of smallpox discussed here? The “Aralsk strain” is an “especially deadly strain” of smallpox, named for a Kazakhstan city which suffered an outbreak of it. One scientist says that “it’s possible that strain is also resistant to known vaccines.” Oh — and his research “suggests the Aralsk smallpox strain could be easily spread by missile, in the air across wide areas — something not previously thought possible.”
But why worry about the Aralsk strain now? It came from Russia, right? And our concern right now is Iraq, right? Whew, I feel reassured. . . except that an informant told U.S. intelligence in 2002 that a Russian scientist had transferred this strain to the government of Iraq in the 1990s.
Put that together with today’s revelations concerning the possibility that Iraq could mount a chemical or biological attack on the U.S. mainland with “remote-controlled ‘drone’ planes equipped with GPS tracking maps.” I’ll pause for a second while all of this sinks in.
I am not saying we should all panic. I am saying that we need to remember, “experts” are people and therefore, by definition, often wrong. When an expert says there is nothing to worry about, forgive me if I still worry — a little. That’s my personal “reality check.”