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David Swanson: About That Anthrax

About That Anthrax

By David Swanson

So, the word Anthrax is back in the news, but only because a man contracted it through what is reportedly a freak accident, not because Saddam Hussein's vast stockpiles have been found, not because Bush has apologized for inventing those vast stockpiles, not because Forest Whitaker has agreed to play Colin Powell in "The Sting II: Hustling the United Nations," not because impeachment proceedings have begun, and especially not because the U.S. corporate media has revealed any memory of the fact that somebody mailed anthrax to the U.S. Senate less than five years ago.

For a useful jogging of the memory, plus some historical and legal context, I recommend a short new book by Francis Boyle called "Biowarfare and Terrorism." Boyle drafted the Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989, which implemented the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention, which bans the production of biological weapons except for prophylactic or other peaceful purposes.

Such purposes do not include "defensive" purposes in the sense in which the Department of Defense supposedly serves a defensive purpose by developing new weapons and stockpiling them. Nor do they include offensive purposes, aggressive attacks by the United States' government. Yet planning for such attacks is official policy of the Bush Administration.

For a country that attacked and is still attacking Iraq for possessing nonexistent biological weapons, the United States has a strange history. When Reagan was president, our country manufactured biological agents and shipped them to Iraq for Saddam Hussein to use. When Bush the First was in office, the U.S. military injected 500,000 US soldiers with experimental vaccines, without their consent and in violation of the law, because Reagan's weapons could have been used against Bush's soldiers in Gulf War I.

When Clinton was president all was good in the world and the United States wisely led the international community down the path toward peace. Just kidding! Clinton reactivated massive funding in the Pentagon for dual-use (offensive and "defensive") genetic engineering biowarfare. Of course, Bush Junior is outdoing Clinton.

As Boyle explains, developing biological weapons in order to develop vaccines to counter them is done in exactly the same way, whether it's for defense or offense. In an offensive attack, the vaccines are needed to protect the attacking troops. And the development of these weapons is very difficult and expensive. The most likely source of biological weapons in a terrorist attack is a government lab that developed the stuff for "defense."

Five labs traced the anthrax that was sent to Congress in 2001 to the U.S. government biowarfare lab at Fort Detrick. The Washington Post reported this in December, 2001. The FBI is not investigating, and has destroyed the stock that was crucial evidence in this case. This does not necessarily lead the conclusion that the FBI or the military was behind sending the letters to Senators Daschle and Leahy. It is important to remember that the lab at Fort Detrick is illegal and the work done there illegal, under the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) and under the U.S. law that implements it. So, any investigation that led to one or more individuals working on biological weapons for the U.S. government would reveal criminal activity by the government. That's reason enough for the coverup.

The Bush Administration's September 2002 and December 2002 National Strategy Directives establish a framework to initiate and "win" a war of aggression by means of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons. In May 2004 the Pentagon published a Chemical and Biological Defense Program which says that the mission of the Department of "Defense" with chemical and biological weapons includes "warfighter missions," meaning offensive attacks.

This is the sort of criminal intent with WMDs that, Boyle points out, the Bush Administration is accusing North Korea and Iran of. And it is not secret, and it will not be ignored by other nations. "Certainly," Boyle writes, "other major biotech states understand full well the military implications of this rapidly expanding U.S. biowarfare industry and will proceed to respond accordingly by deploying their own national biowarfare equivalents. The world will soon witness a de facto biological arms race among the major biotech states of the world under the guise of 'defense', and despite the requirements of the BWC."

What can we do? Boyle's answer is that we can and we must, for this reason as well as many others, impeach George Bush.


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