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Obama critical of Bush regime's bioterror fearmonger gap

New thinking like old thinking, but more so

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Published through the National Defense University, the paper posited campaigns of terrorism in which attackers would launch rapid biological attacks on US cities, reloading as they went cross country. There was a slight difference: One kilogram of anthrax had gone from being able to kill hundreds of thousands to merely "tens of thousands," an estimate that persists to this day, but one that still makes 9/11 - a singular historical event - look like a walk in the park.

But although the casualty figure had been downgraded, terrorist organizations could still make ten to a hundred kilograms, using them portably, the paper explained. The magnitude of casualties in a single attack had decreased by an order of magnitude but the difference was made up by giving the theoretical terrorist organizations access to an order or two more of their deadly resource.

Four scenarios were presented, two of them mass casualty events with anthrax and smallpox. The reinforcing nature of the catastrophic bioterrorism story is observed in correlating the 2003 book with duplicate work presented by the Homeland Security Council around the same time. While the national planning doomsday scenarios were expanded to cover chemical, nuclear, cyber and biological attack, its bioterrorism attacks were for practical purposes, the same as Danzig's.

The alert reader may have noticed by this point that over the span of a decade, no terrorist attacks have remotely resembled bioterror planning scenarios. And no terrorist organizations have been identified with anything significant in the capabilities and resources needed to achieve them. Yet no one has sacrificed anything, career-wise, for being wrong.

This illustrates a couple of regular features which are now constant within the US security apparatus. First, and most obvious, is the utility of making shit up, specifically to fit preconceived notions on the nature of the enemy and the ease with which it can do bad things.

Biodefense jobs for decent fearmongers

Second, there is no critical brake on the process. If there's a threat, it's a catastrophic one. And all the "experts" consulted for their opinions agree. (For example, did you know Scooter Libby was consulted for his expertise? It's true. While he wasn't yet a convicted felon in the Valerie Plame affair, if you look close he's in the list of consultants interviewed for Danzig's book. The office of the vice-president was apparently considered a reliable source of information on capacities for bioterrorism.)

A third observation is that the list of people who are thought to be serious and smart enough to inform American policy on the face of terror isn't real big. Relatively speaking, its a few hundred regulars, this in a very large country with no shortage of highly specialized academicians. One can view it as a cast of career local yokels, specific to Washington or very familiar with its halls, all on the same page. And once they've come to their conclusions, everyone else follows.

Investing in more bioterror defense "will create new jobs" said Obama. That's certainly always been true, although not precisely in the way intended and not in any trickle-down way in which Joe Sixpack in Peoria will be sought to work at BioDefenseUSA Corp. Before the speech was over, the country was rallied to the Cold War-like cause of triumph over cyber, nuclear and bioterror - the faces of technological evil - with the "brightest scientists, engineers and computer programmers."

"We must never let down our guard, nor suffer another failure of imagination." Indeed. ®

George Smith is a senior fellow at GlobalSecurity.org, a defense affairs think tank and public information group. At Dick Destiny, he blogs his way through chemical, biological, and nuclear terror hysteria, often by way of the contents of neighbourhood hardware stores.

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