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Review-a-Day
Esquire
Wednesday, October 3rd, 2001


 

Germs: Biological Weapons and America's Secret War

by Judith Miller

A review by Adrienne Miller

It never ceases to shock, does it, the bloodlust of the human race? Not that germ warfare is exactly a "new" concept people were dipping arrowheads into "manure and rotting corpses" to make their weapons more deadly thousands of years ago. An account of mankind's race to destroy itself with biological and chemical weapons, Germs is such a deeply scary call to arms that one hopes the State Department's counterterrorism office reads it while there's still time.

Not that they don't know this stuff already. Indeed, Germs seems sickeningly prescient: "The World Trade Center attack [in 1993] reflected a new paradigm a holy war, with the United States cast as the enemy. Some of the more violent groups were underwritten by a wealthy Saudi exile, Osama bin Laden, who hoped to spread his radical vision of Islamic rule to Muslims everywhere...." The authors also write that "Osama bin Laden...had tried hard to acquire chemical weapons and 'may have' tried to get germ weapons as well." Let us hope to God that this statement doesn't turn out to be clairvoyant, too.

JFK was fascinated by the idea of biological/chemical weapons. During the Cuban missile crisis, the U.S. was prepared to wipe out 10 percent of Cuba's population with anthrax. The Soviet Union had a secret plan (annual budget: $1 billion) for bringing plague, smallpox and anthrax to the US. Even more disturbing, though, is this knowledge: With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the total number of scientists and technicians working on germ-warfare "products" dwindled from 700 to 180. Where did these disgruntled scientists go? Did they get jobs working for terrorist organizations? Did Osama or Iraq put them on the payroll? Germs also makes a very credible case (one that's been made already, but is worth repeating) that the so-called Gulf War Syndrome might be the result of anthrax vaccinations some ground troops received during the war.

After having read this alarming and tragically important book, one thing becomes even clearer about human beings: As long as they exist, they can be counted on to come up with an infinite number of very brilliant ways to kill themselves.


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