Sunday, November 07, 2004

But At Least the Iraqi People Are Free!

From tomorrow's WPost:
The United States remains woefully unprepared to protect the public against terrorists wielding biological agents despite dramatic increases in biodefense spending by the Bush administration and considerable progress on many fronts, according to government officials and specialists in bioterrorism and public health.

Although administration officials have spoken at times about bioterrorism's dangers, they are more alarmed than they have signaled publicly, U.S. officials said.
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Biological and nuclear attacks rank as officials' most feared types of terrorist attacks. Because of the technical difficulties in creating such weapons, they reckon the chances of a devastating attack are currently small. But the consequences of a big biological strike could be epically catastrophic, and rapid advances in science are placing the creation of these weapons within the reach of even graduate students, they said.
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Administration officials say most gaps in U.S. biological defenses result from the sheer vastness of the task ahead -- radically transforming entire sectors of society to mount defenses. They cite the need to induce an intensely skeptical drug industry to invest in biowarfare research, and the challenge of redirecting cash-starved hospitals and local health agencies into the unfamiliar field of mass casualty response.
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Because of "explosive growth" in biotechnology, the skills needed to make microbes resistant to antibiotics and vaccines are widely available, the CIA report said. Unlike nuclear weapons research, which is more detectable and can generally be conducted only by large government labs, bioweapons can be made by individuals in secret.
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"The single biggest problem is the non-performance of state and local public health agencies" in drawing up plans that U.S. officials have requested on how they would respond rapidly to a biological attack, he said. The plans would detail how officials expect to deliver medicine to people after the drugs are flown to airports. "From tarmac to bloodstream, their time frames are way too lackadaisical," he said.
The whole article is worth reading (although you'll probably need to up your anti-anxiety meds when you're done.) The horrifying part - putting aside any judgement on this government's actions after 9/11 - is how much money a figurative handful of our enemies have forced us to spend to try and protect ourselves.

We are literally being held hostage to our worst fears. This is not to say that an attack like this isn't possible - it certainly is - but to a large extent, by forcing us to spend so much time and money trying to protect ourselves against the unthinkable, they would seem to have us right where they want us.

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