Remember Those 2001 Anthrax Attacks?

In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, Americans were gripped by hysteria, unsure of where and when the next attack might come. Nothing contributed to this climate of fear as did the anthrax attacks that began exactly one week after the Twin Towers fell. Five were killed, seventeen others were infected, and letters containing the bacteria were sent to news stations and Senators, causing a general upset.

It was assumed by most at the time that the source of the anthrax was similar to that of the 9/11 attacks—Muslim extremists bent on killing and terrorizing Americans on their own soil. Some commentators assumed it was the mark of Saddam Hussein. Some thought the source was Afghanistan. The fear was stark—Americans in October were frightened that the toxin would be found in Halloween candy, and institutions were especially cautious about opening the mail.

It’s been years since anyone has even cared about anthrax. Nowadays, we go to the airport and take off our shoes, because one guy a decade ago almost hurt some people with a shoe bomb on a plane. We have to put our lotions and toothpaste in plastic bags, and are limited to 3 oz for such gels and liquids, because of a single incident in 2006 that probably posed no real threat to anyone. They irradiate and pat us down at the airports, just in case any of us is planning to reenact the failed attempt of the Christmas 2009 “Underwear Bomber”—even though the TSA’s new methods might not even have caught him. And yet, no one seems the least bit afraid of anthrax.

Had the likely suspect of the anthrax attacks been a Middle Easterner, upset about US foreign policy—or “who hated us for our freedoms,” as the War Party puts it—you can probably bet that we would still be forced to endure absurd impositions to protect us from this cattle disease. But the man everybody now says did it was, in fact, an American—a scientist for the Army who was working on a vaccine for anthrax and allegedly wanted Americans to recognize how important his work for a cure was by showing us the danger of the disease. Now the media tell us that this guy had shown multiple signs of severe mental issues and should never have been allowed near anything as dangerous as anthrax in the lab.

This raises a few questions:

(1) Why are we not supposed to fear the influence of the US military and its record of fomenting terrorism? We are told to fear radical mosques and travelers from certain countries and other supposed hotbeds of pro-terrorist extremism. But from the Gulf War veteran Timothy McVeigh’s mass murder at Oklahoma City in 1995 to the Army psychiatrist who killed thirteen at Fort Hood, as well as this Army scientist supposedly behind the anthrax attacks, one conclusion we are never supposed to reach is that there is something about the military that encourages violence against the innocent—as though it should be hard to draw such a connection based on what the US military regularly does. A few abortive attempts to cause mayhem on planes have led to policies that make it harder for civilians to board planes. Have the repeated violent acts by unstable military personnel inspired the government to make it any harder for people to join the military? Certainly not the last time I checked.

(2) How can we trust the US Army to protect us if it cannot even keep people as disturbed as Dr. Bruce Ivins away from government supplies of biological weapons? This is the military that Bush sent into Iraq to find WMD that did not exist. But has anyone actually checked out all the people who have control over America’s unparalleled stockpile of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons?

(3) At the risk of sounding a bit conspiratorial, is it not a bit suspicious that Ivans killed himself in 2008 and is now said to have acted alone in the anthrax attacks? The new evidence seems mostly circumstantial—that the guy was mentally troubled. But this doesn’t necessarily provide any more proof than we already had. Ivans’s colleagues had questioned the official story, saying the timeline when he supposedly weaponized the anthrax didn’t add up, and asking for more evidence from the FBI’s investigation. That investigation ended last year, but a panel has called into question the confidence behind its findings. Some will find it beyond the pale to question the government like this, but when we consider that the official story is a mentally ill Army scientist was behind the attacks all by himself, perhaps it is fair to raise our eyebrows when we’re then told, “That’s all there is to it; nothing more to see here; move right along.”

(4) When will the American people become less willing to sacrifice significant amounts of what remains of their liberty in the name of fighting terrorism, when according to the government’s official line on the most significant terrorist attack on American soil since 9/11, the culprit was an agent of the government trying to scare the American people into accepting the importance of his government work?

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