I have been reluctant to write this, although I have discussed it on my syndicated radio program since the first anthrax announcement.
The anthrax frenzy that is gripping the nation is both insignificant and most significant. How can an event be two mutually exclusive things?
Here's how. By now, most Americans know more about anthrax than they ever did or may ever need to know. There are two flavors. The first, cutaneous, is easily treated and can successfully be mitigated with drugs so that the mortality rate is statistically very low. We are daily reminded there have been less than a dozen confirmed cases so far.
Pulmonary anthrax (woolsorters disease), on the other hand, is far more deadly, and still only one death has occurred so far.
We are reminded daily by a gaggle of officials and experts that anthrax is difficult to disperse and that it is not contagious.
However, the psychological impact on the country has been nothing short of epic.
This is my nightmare: We know now that the terrorists who caused the Sept. 11 tragedy were well organized, well financed and well prepared. We know they rehearsed their scenarios. 9-11 was not a knee jerk spontaneous terrorist assault. It had been discussed, planned and coordinated at least since 1995.
Given that the evildoers rehearsed the attacks, it is reasonable to assume that subsequent assaults would likewise be rehearsed.
My overwhelming fear is that these anthrax episodes are a "reconnaissance in force":
"Several factors are cause for concern," explains a release by several organizations studying the disease's threat to homeland security, "the disease has historically been feared as one of the most serious of all pestilential diseases. ..." Here in bullet-points is the what the release said about the disease, verbatim:
According to the scenario, "a smallpox outbreak was confirmed by the CDC [Centers for Disease Control] in Oklahoma City." During the 13-day exercise,
Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson continues to blow smoke up our skirts and tries to reassure us our government has everything well in hand.
Sorry, Tommy, but we don't have everything well in hand.
To thumbnail the "Dark Winter" conclusions:
When I interviewed Col. Gerald Schumacher he referenced one test and said, "something like 25 million people [in this test] were potentially infected in a period of three or four days. I've seen lower numbers where the New York City subway system potentially infected 500,000 people. These numbers are staggering."
Now we see a rare immediate warning in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report that warns doctors nationwide to watch for possible cases of smallpox, food poisoning and deadly viruses like Ebola following the recent mailings of anthrax. The warning urges doctors to be alert for unusual outbreaks among people who have attended the same public event. It said doctors should also watch for unusual age distribution in diseases, such as a chicken pox-like illness in adults. The CDC also asked state health departments to come up with plans to teach health care providers how to recognize unusual diseases.
Then I saw the kicker in the New York Times that really prompted me to share my fears. "Federal health officials are negotiating with four drug companies to buy 300 million doses of smallpox vaccine -- enough for every American -- and are gingerly discussing the possibility that ordinary Americans might someday once again be vaccinated against the disease."
16, 1964, Barry Goldwater (borrowing from Cicero) said, "I would remind
you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And let me remind
you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!" Cicero
was right. Goldwater was right. And those words remain, today, right.