Friday, June 20, 2008


Since the Habermas readings are dealt with specifically in the discussion board question, I am going to focus mostly on the Preston readings here. I was particularly intrigued by the Preston articles on bioweapons. I read his book, Hot Zone when I was a young teenager and was blown away even then by how fragile the entire system of preventative actions and concentrated responses was. However, that outbreak of Ebola ended up being the result of natural causes emanating from poor practices by certain officials. Mostly, it was a disaster that was bound to happen given the large probability of our modern society coming into contact with a foreign killer by way of our vast systems of interconnected commerce.

Unfortunately, these readings did far more to frighten me than his previous works have. The chapter on the anthrax attack was written largely in the same manner as his other books (fastpaced edge of your seat, but yet factually accurate) but it dealt with the impact (both psychological and physical) that a biological terrorist attack can and would have on society, particularly at the highest levels of government. However, what I found even more frightening is the relative ignorance of our highest officials when it comes to preventing or dealing with a biological attack.

I thought Preston's article about the Bioweaponeers was fascinating because of the human face it puts on such inventions of pure evil. As he says in that article, an early 1970s treaty signed by the U.S. (and a host of other nations) banned the production or research of offensive biological weapons. Yet the Soviets (who also signed the treaty) continued their programs because they assumed the U.S. must have been doing the same. It turns out that for all intents and purposes, the U.S. had all but stopped its programs and began focusing on vaccines, etc. instead. The effect of this was to largely remove many of the high level military personnel in the U.S. armed forces from the arena of biological warfare. This places us in a perilous situation today because as Preston notes, we must be knowledgable of the offensive weapons in order to best determine how to combat them and/or deal with their outcomes should they be used in armed conflict.

The fall of the Soviet Union only enhanced the frightening nature of this dirty process because it left thousands of scientists without jobs and immediately created a high-paying black market for biological research and actual weapons creations for states seeking them. Many of these Soviet scientists, after working against the Americans for so long, were likely more than willing to give their knowledge and support to rogue states who sought and still seek to do us harm. Perhaps most frightening was the lethality of many of these weapons. They are genetically designed to kill large amounts of people and are then loaded onto apparatuses that allow them to spread over vast distances and come into contact with the greatest amount of people. These are nasty viruses with brutal methods of killing people. The fact that they were and are created, and that so many scientists and politicians boast of this fact, is representative of the pure evil which resides in the heart of man.

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