U.S. Not Secure Against Bioterrorist Attacks

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U.S. Not Secure Against Bioterrorist Attacks

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Terrorists will likely attack the United States with a smallpox or anthrax virus within the next five to ten years, warned D.A. Henderson, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Civilian Bio Defense Studies, at a large conference on bioterrorism held in San Diego, California, in early February.

Bioterrorism is a word that has been coined to describe acts of terrorism that utilize deadly bacteria, viruses or products of those agents. The most likely weapons include smallpox, anthrax and the plague. These are considered probable players because they have the potential to spread quickly and cause many deaths.

Much publicity has been given to the mandated anthrax vaccination of all 2.4 million active duty and reserve U.S. troops. Pentagon sources say that forces stationed in South Korea and the Middle East are at the most risk; it is widely believed that Iraq has anthrax agents in its arsenal of biological weapons.

Although a U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee recently called on the Pentagon to suspend its required vaccination program, the military refused. The Department of Defense believes the vaccine is safe and that it provides ample protection. Hundreds of military personnel have refused the inoculation, based on a lack of trust of the Pentagon's assurances of the vaccine's effectiveness and safety.

The House Government Reform national security subcommittee released a sharply worded criticism of those assurances. "Just how much protection is acquired, by whom, for how long…are questions the Defense Department answers with an excess of faith but a paucity of science" ("Pentagon to Keep Anthrax Program," by Robert Burns, AP Military Writer, February 18, 2000, emphasis added).

Some soldiers who have had the requisite series of six shots have complained of side effects of fevers, muscle pain and dizziness. Testimony before the House subcommittee told of low morale over the issue.

Of greater concern, counters the Defense Department, is what anthrax can do to a person. It causes death within a few days of being inhaled. (According to D.A. Henderson, the United States is five years away from having an effective anthrax vaccine available to the public.)

In a November 30, 1999, AP story printed in The Washington Post, "The General Accounting Office [GAO]…criticized the Departments of Health and Human Services and Veterans Affairs, as well as a special Marine Corps unit, for failing to manage their supplies for treating civilian victims of a chemical or biological terrorist attack."

Due to the mismanagement, the GAO concluded that these federal agencies could not assure that required medical supplies would be available in case of such an attack.

The same article reported that a few months earlier, "emergency management and medical officials told a House subcommittee that local public health systems remain ill-prepared for [biological or chemical attacks]."

"Sooner or later there is going to be a biological attack on a major city. Are we prepared to deal with it? Not a chance," says Debora McKenzie in "Bioarmageddon," (New Scientist, September 19, 1998). She describes how a terrorist group can infect a city such as San Francisco, California, with anthrax by spray from a small private plane and kill more than one million people.

Authorities are well aware of the fact that terrorists narrowly missed killing hundreds of times the few that actually died when they released deadly sarin nerve gas in a Tokyo subway in 1995.

Over 300 physicians, scientists, law-enforcement agents and public officials participated in the San Diego conference on bioterrorism. "Bioterrorism: living with the threat of hyper-violence," was on the agenda of the representatives to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, a few days before the San Diego conference.

Clearly, it's a concern taken seriously around the world. The potential horror of biological warfare brings a sober realism to the end of the age plagues spoken of in the prophecies of Revelation.

Sources: "Bioterrorism Preparation Said Poor." by David Ho, AP, November 30, 1999; "Diary-Davos World Economic Forum Jan. 27 to Feb. 1," Reuters, January 27, 1999; "'Bioterrorism-The Medical and Public Health Response' Western Regional Conference," PRNewswire; "US Biological Attack Said Inevitable" by Michelle Willams, AP, February 4, 2000. WNP