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Anthrax Attacks Remembered

September 28, 2002

As someone who has become intimately involved in bioterror preparations, I disagree with the tenor of Barbara Hatch Rosenberg's "Anthrax Attacks Pushed Open an Ominous Door" (Opinion, Sept. 22). Her assertion that public protection is "largely impossible" is untrue; it depends on the magnitude, location and type of agent. She states that "biological weapons are preeminently anti-population weapons" and that "it would be impossible to provide the entire country with protective suits, masks, detectors, shelters, training and vaccinations." Bioweapons have been used against both military and civilian targets. There is almost universal consensus that well-done preparations can have an important impact. But protective suits and masks have little, if any, role in protecting a civilian population against biological weapons.

She also claims that civil defense is "entirely" concerned with limiting damage rather than "protection" and connects this with throwing money away and involving "biologists lacking in relevant experience." Entering into a new area like this takes not only biologists, but also engineers, public health officials and clinicians, among others, all working together in a new area. This is precisely how new scientific advances are made.

She talks about natural outbreaks of disease being a "far more likely hazard for most people." This might be true, although nobody knows that. She ignores the fact that virtually all granting initiatives have consistently emphasized that there should be a dual preparedness role for both man-made and natural biological events.

She criticizes Ft. Detrick, which I have visited, and the Army for sloppy and, possibly, clandestine work. There is no evidence that we have engaged in any offensive biological weapons work since 1969, but there is abundant evidence that both Russia and Iraq, among others, have. Finally, she criticizes the U.S. for not supporting enforcement of the Biological Weapons Convention. While I am in favor of verifiable bioweapons monitoring, there were so many loopholes in the proposals that it would have been absurd for us to support them. Iraq, a country that was found to have abundant biological weapons and has ignored 16 U.N. resolutions, is a signatory to the convention.

Peter Katona MD

UCLA School of Medicine

*

Rosenberg wrote an interesting review of the anthrax controversy, but her conclusions don't connect. I propose that the likely "sender" was a very strong pro-life religious advocate who used 9/11 as a cover.

Look at who got the "message." The recipients were the tabloid Sun, the New York Post and NBC anchor Tom Brokaw; Democrat Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle and New York Gov. George Pataki's Manhattan office; Claire Fletcher, an assistant to CBS News anchor Dan Rather; Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and then the Supreme Court. All the targets could be seen as pro-choice.

The only Republican was Pataki, who is pro-choice. Leahy controls the Senate Judiciary Committee. He controls the proceedings and makes "choice" an issue in judicial confirmations. The Supreme Court is the home of abortion rights.

Look at who did not get the "message." No pro-life organization, no pro-life politician or conservative newspaper that tended to be pro-life were targets. That included the White House and the Republican leadership in the House and Senate.

By simple deduction and the process of elimination, it "smells" like the sender was a radical pro-life advocate who wanted to send a message to the pro-choice people. Everyone is barking up the wrong tree. The sender had nothing to do with Iraq and had no interest in government spending for biodefense purposes.

Roy A. Fassel

Los Angeles

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