Richard Cohen, a columnist for the Washington
Post, revealed earlier this
year that, "soon after" al-Qaeda successfully brought down the Twin
Towers of the World Trade Center, a "high government official" suggested
he get a supply of Cipro,
"the antidote to anthrax."
Sure enough, quoth Cohen:
"In the following days, as the horror started to be airbrushed – no
more bodies plummeting to the sidewalk – the anthrax letters started to come,
some to people I knew. And I thought, No, I'm not going to sit here passively
and wait for it to happen. I wanted to go to 'them,' whoever 'they' were, grab
them by the neck, and get them before they could get us."
Since Cohen had no doubt that "One of 'them' was Saddam Hussein,"
he promptly enlisted in the ranks of the media sycophants, cheerleading
for the invasion and occupation of Iraq that the Cheney Cabal had begun to
Now, one might ask, why did Cohen have no doubt?
Well, oddly enough, Bill Clinton gets part of the credit.
In 1997, President Clinton directed that all U.S. armed forces personnel –
including Reserve and National Guard units – be inoculated with an anthrax
And, on Jan. 22, 1999, as part of his "Initiative
on Biological and Chemical Weapons Preparedness," Clinton proposed
giving anthrax vaccinations to police, fire, public health, and other emergency
officials in cities throughout the country.
Clinton also proposed establishing a commander in chief for the defense of
the continental United States – a step that would go far beyond the civil defense
measures and bomb shelters that marked the Cold War.
Well, it seems Clinton had read a novel, The
Cobra Event by Richard Preston, and he misunderstood what he read.
Clinton told associates that of all the new threats, the one that "keeps
me awake at night" is the possibility of germ attack as described in The
"A chemical attack would be horrible, but it would be finite," Clinton said,
adding that the chemical-caused disease "would not spread. But a biological
attack could spread."
Now, Clinton was right that outbreaks of disease caused by certain biological
agents could spread and could become epidemic or even pandemic.
But not anthrax.
Airborne anthrax spores, when inhaled, are absorbed, cease being spores and
can kill only the individuals who inhale them. The disease caused cannot spread
from one infected individual to another.
So if Clinton continued his highly controversial DoD anthrax vaccination program
because he believed that the exposure of the troops in a small unit to anthrax
could wind up spreading disease throughout the whole Army, he was mistaken.
Why was the program so controversial?
Anthrax is a naturally occurring bacteria. The U.S. Army has had the responsibility
for developing vaccines and antidotes to protect all our armed forces from
viruses, bacteria, and other naturally occurring disease-causing agents which
our armed forces would likely encounter in various foreign climes.
The vaccine that was being used to vaccinate all of our armed forces had been
developed by the Army in the 1950s. The six-shot vaccination schedule (with
annual booster shots) had been approved by the Federal Food and Drug Administration
in 1970. The FDA-approved vaccine had been determined to be effective against
cutaneous exposure to the naturally occurring strains of anthrax infecting
cattle and, rarely, humans.
But President Yeltsin had acknowledged, in 1992, that the Soviet Union had
had a program in which biological warfare agents were developed and that an
accidental release of anthrax spores had occurred from a military facility
near Sverdlovsk (now called Ekaterinburg) on April 2, 1979, which killed 64
The U.S. Army hadn't been working on biological weapons since the Biological
Weapons Convention had been signed in 1972 but had still been required to develop
vaccines and antidotes for such weapons.
In the early 1980s, Assistant Secretary of the Army Jay Sculley had caused
to be established within the National Academies of Science an advisory
board on Army Science and Technology. The board's first task would have
been to help identify likely Soviet biological warfare agents – including agents
possibly genetically engineered – for which vaccines and antidotes would be
But the NAS Grand Pooh-Bahs refused – at the end of a two-day presentation
of the Army's request – to allow the Army Science and Technology Board to provide
such assistance to the Army on the grounds the results were really intended
to advance the Army's "covert" biological warfare program.
Now, the anthrax vaccines developed thus far – including the one Dr. Bruce
Ivins co-developed at Ft. Detrick – have never actually been shown to be effective
against the inhalation by humans of aerosolized anthrax spores.
But in the First Gulf War, since there had been reports that both Iraq and
Iran had used anthrax in some form in the Iran-Iraq War, more than 150,000
U.S. troops were given the six-shot vaccination regime.
The Iraqis did have tons of biological agents – some of it anthrax – at the
time of the First Gulf War. They had actually loaded some into missile warheads
and bombs. However, there is no evidence that Iraq actually used biological
weapons at any time and in any place in the First Gulf War.
The principal reason the Iraqis say they didn't use biological agents on the
battlefield – even as a last resort – is the fear that they would not be effective.
Had the Iraqis used them, they intended to use them against Israeli civilians
as a weapon of terror.
Now, recall that of the so-called "weapons of mass destruction,"
only the terrorist use of nukes can be prevented at the source. That is, no
terrorist can make even a simple nuke unless he can get about a hundred pounds
of very expensive and very difficult to make "fissile" materials.
However, there is literally no way to prevent a terrorist from acquiring and
employing biological agents – especially naturally occurring anthrax.
So in the climate created by President Clinton's Initiative on Biological
and Chemical Preparedness and with the added impetus of Cohen's "second
wave" – deliveries of deadly anthrax spores through the mail – it's little
wonder that the PATRIOT
Act sailed through Congress and Clinton's envisioned Department
of Homeland Security was established.
Of course, Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with either attack, and almost
5,000 of our occupying troops have been killed in Iraq. But Saddam wasn't
a very nice man and that's a small price you and "the high government
official" who advised Richard Cohen to start taking Cipro have paid to
get rid of him.