Chemical, biological warfare: The latest threat to Uncle Sam?

By on October 11, 2001

While the Sept. 11 attacks will provide ample trauma to persist for generations, there is still reason to believe that those involved have more terror in store. Could it get any worse? While the alarming “yes” answer deals with biological and chemical warfare, you need not sprint to the nearest army surplus store to purchase a gas mask. There won’t be any left in stock.
Attorney General John Ashcroft has warned the public of the “clear and present danger” of biological and chemical attacks, and this danger will be of a greater magnitude if we take reprisals for the attacks on the World Trade Center. Ashcroft made this clear when he stated, “We as a nation respond to what has happened to us, those risks may in fact go up.” He added, “There is the likelihood of additional terrorist activity.”
As long as we remain alert to these methods of warfare, this `likelihood does not mean that America is damned. Such contaminants as anthrax, smallpox and botulinum toxin are tough to get a hold of, and are harder yet to spread in such a way as to affect a great amount of people. The means by which these deadly agents will be distributed is most likely by crop-dusters, a small type of airplane. We know this much because the terrorists involved in the World Trade Center attack had previously gathered information on this type of aircraft.
“Though crop-dusters were briefly grounded, adapting their sprayers to disperse bioweapons is nearly impossible,” said Newsweek. Therefore, biological and chemical attacks would be difficult for Osama bin Laden’s terrorist network-Al Qaeda to pull off. But we are still feeling his wrath from the World Trade Center, and we cannot underrate his aptitude for devastation. So, are we safe?
Tommy Thompson, the Health and Human Services Secretary, has faith that we are out of harm’s way. He was quoted in the Daily News saying, “We’ve got to make sure that people understand that they’re safe, and that we’re prepared to take care of any contingency, any consequence that develops from any kind of bioterrorism attack.”
We can be reasonably confident that bin Laden has experimented with biological and chemical warfare, as Newsweek reports. The testimony of Ahmed Ressam, the terrorist who intended to bomb the Los Angeles airport on New Year’s 2000, said he spent six months in an Al Qaeda training camp. There he learned that bin Laden was looking into “low-flying aircraft for the distribution of toxic materials.”
Many people are responding with hysterical behavior by rushing out to buy gas masks, the antibiotic Cipro (to defend against anthrax), and are assembling “disaster kits.” While one-piece airtight suits are all the rage right now, especially in yellow with the built-in boots, I do not feel that we need to be purchasing these just yet. Sure, it is better to be safe than sorry, but it just would not be sensible for bin Laden to try to infiltrate American defenses at this point. Our nation is on the watch and is nearly impenetrable right now.
Osama bin Laden is a wily adversary; he will not simply strike again this soon. The potential danger is in the future, when either we retaliate or let our guard down. As we prepare for war to strike back for the attacks we received, we will naturally be on the alert. But from here on in, we will have to be ceaselessly vigilant to safeguard ourselves from these kinds of attacks.


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