It’s impossible to turn on a television or glance at a newspaper these days without hearing or reading about anthrax and the deadly threat it poses to Americans. From the start of the anthrax scare, nearly all the media and politicians in Washington have agreed that terrorists are responsible. In reality, however, it is those who claim that we are being terrorized by others who are creating terror.
Thus far only a handful of people have died from anthrax. The institutions that are threatened by anthrax mailings have been the media, the postal service, and the government. So unless you are a journalist, mailman, or politician, there is little reason to worry. Nonetheless, there are some Americans who are taking every precaution, like wearing gloves and masks, when checking their mail.
Politicians such as President Bush believe anthrax to be the work of terrorists. The scare will certainly give Bush’s counter-terrorism law—a law that gives the Justice Department power to spy on e-mail and phone conversations, prosecute foreigners, and seize bank records—the support it needs to take away our civil liberties.
Could the anthrax attacks be the work of terrorists? For bin Laden and the al Qaeda terrorist network to be responsible for such an attack, they would first need to have an anthrax source. A possibility that keeps coming up is Iraq, a country that is known to have anti-American sentiment and biological weapons.
It didn’t take very long for war hawks to seize the opportunity and use the anthrax scare as a justification for bombing Iraq. On “Meet the Press,” former Democratic Vice Presidential candidate Senator Joseph Lieberman said that the United States should attack Baghdad, the capital of Iraq. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfled, when asked if the United States would be waging war on another country before the anti-terror campaign was over, said “I have no doubt in my mind.” Iraq is most likely to be that other country because of their biological weapons.
Although the possibility of Iraq being responsible for anthrax shouldn’t be ruled out, it’s highly unlikely. Iraq has been suffering over a million deaths due to sanctions imposed by the United States following the Persian Gulf War, and therefore has a reason to feel hatred towards to U.S. But it would make no political sense for Iraq to be behind an anthrax attack. During the Gulf War, President Bush Sr. warned Saddam Hussein that if he tried to use biological weapons, the U.S. would respond with nuclear weapons. Unless Saddam Hussein is suicidal, he would never attempt such an act. Moreover, evidence that strongly indicates that Iraq was not involved is that the type of anthrax used in U.S. mail attacks, the “Ames strain,” is not the type that Iraq has.
Even Scott Ritter, a former U.N. weapons inspector in Iraq and a strong advocate of military action against Iraq disregards the Iraq link. “Fear that that hidden hand of Saddam Hussein lies behind those attacks are based on rumor and speculation that, under close scrutiny, fail to support the weight of charge,” he commented.
If not bin Laden and his would-be link Iraq, then who? Top FBI and CIA officials think the attacks have been the work of a few domestic right-wing extremists that are not connected to bin Laden or terrorist networks. They could potentially be bioterrorists of white supremacy groups who have been arrested in recent years. Perhaps they, in some demented way, see the September 11th attacks as an opportunity to spread a wave terror and fear with little effort, and sadly, it has worked.