June 9th 2002

The failure of the FBI to prosecute the perpetrator of the anthrax letters even though the FBI is believed to know who it is has led several experts to conclude that the perpetrator is untouchable because he has knowledge damaging to the government. That knowledge is believed to be the US violation of the 1972 Convention on Biological Weapons, which states that it is illegal to "develop, produce, stockpile or otherwise acquire" such weapons.

The US is using state-of-the-art genetic splicing to make designer bioweapons. An article by Laura Rozen in Salon (2/8/02) revealed that the "Defense Intelligence Agency hired Battelle to create a genetically enhanced version of anthrax" even though no vaccine was proven to be effective beforehand. A former Clinton administration official, Elisa D. Harris, "was shocked to read in the New York Times" (9/4/01) about bioweapons research "that she herself had not known about, although she had served for eight years in the White House as the point person for weapons of mass destruction nonproliferation issues."

What other secret, illegal and genetically modified bioweapons are in the works? If we are told "none," why should we believe anything they tell us?

Of all the weapons of mass destruction, the genetically engineered biological weapons, many without a known cure or vaccine, are an extreme danger to the continued survival of life on earth. Any perceived military value or deterrence pales in comparison to the great risk these weapons pose just sitting in vials in laboratories.

While a "nuclear winter," resulting from a massive exchange of nuclear weapons, could also kill off most of life on earth and severely compromise the health of future generations, they are easier to control. Biological weapons, on the other hand, can get out of control very easily, as the recent anthrax attacks has demonstrated. There is no way to guarantee the security of these doomsday weapons because very tiny amounts can be stolen or accidentally released and then grow or be grown to horrendous proportions. The Black Death of the Middle Ages would be small in comparison to the potential damage bioweapons could cause.

Abolition of chemical weapons is less of a priority because, while they can also kill millions of people outright, their persistence in the environment would be less than nuclear or biological agents or more localized. Hence, chemical weapons would have a lesser effect on future generations of innocent people and the natural environment. Like the Holocaust, once a localized chemical extermination is over, it is over. With nuclear and biological weapons, the killing will probably never end. Radioactive elements last tens of thousands of years and will keep causing cancers virtually forever.

Potentially worse than that, bio-engineered agents by the hundreds with no known cure could wreck even greater calamity on the human race than could persistent radiation. AIDS and ebola viruses are just a small example of recently emerging plagues with no known cure or vaccine. Can we imagine hundreds of such plagues? HUMAN EXTINCTION IS NOW POSSIBLE.

Ironically, the Bush administration has just changed the U.S. nuclear doctrine to allow nuclear retaliation against threats upon allies by conventional weapons. The past doctrine allowed such use only as a last resort when our nation’s survival was at stake. Will the new policy also allow easier use of US bioweapons? How slippery is this slope?

Against this tendency can be posed a rational alternative policy. To preclude possibilities of human extinction, "patriotism" needs to be redefined to make humanity’s survival primary and absolute. Even if we lose our cherished freedom, our sovereignty, our government or our Constitution, where there is life, there is hope. What good is anything else if humanity is extinguished? This concept should be promoted to the center of national debate..

For example, for sake of argument, suppose the ancient Israelites developed defensive bioweapons of mass destruction when they were enslaved by Egypt. Then suppose these weapons were released by design or accident and wiped everybody out? As bad as slavery is, extinction is worse. Our generation, our century, our epoch needs to take the long view. We truly hold in our hands the precious gift of all future life. Empires may come and go, but who are the honored custodians of life on earth? Temporal politicians? Corporate competitors? Strategic brinksmen? Military gamers? Inflated egos dripping with testosterone?

How can any sane person believe that national sovereignty is more important than survival of the species? Now that extinction is possible, our slogan should be "Where there is life, there is hope." No government, no economic system, no national pride, no religion, no political system can be placed above human survival. The egos of leaders must not blind us. The adrenaline and vengeance of a fight must not blind us. The game is over. If patriotism would extinguish humanity, then patriotism is the highest of all crimes.

There are many people who believe it is their God-given right to do whatever is deemed necessary to secure their homeland, their religion and their birthright. Moslems, Jews, Hindus, ultra-patriots (and fundamentalist Christians who believe that Armageddon is God’s prophesy) all have access to the doomsday vials at Fort Detrick and other labs. Fort Detrick and Dugway employees are US citizens but may also have other loyalties. One or more of them might have sent the anthrax letters to the media and Congress last year. Are we willing to trust our security, NO -- trust human survival to people like this? Human frailty, duplicity, greed, zealotry, insanity, intolerance and ignorance, not to speak of ultra-patriotism, will always be with us. The mere existence of these doomsday weapons is a risk too great for rational people to tolerate.

Unless guards do body crevice searches of lab employees every day, smuggling out a few grams will be a piece of cake. Basically, THERE CAN BE NO SECURITY. Humanity is at great risk as we speak. All biological weapons must be destroyed immediately. All genetic engineering of new diseases must be halted. All bioweapons labs must be dismantled. Fort Detrick and Dugway labs must be decommissioned and torn down. Those who continue this research are potential war criminals of the highest order. Secret bioweapons research must be outlawed.

The US, as the world’s leading creator of doomsday diseases, must lead the way and show the example. The US must not only obey the Convention Against Biological Weapons, which it has been violating, but it must sign the Biological Weapons Inspection Treaty, which it has been opposing. International delegations must be allowed to inspect and oversee the destruction of these labs and inventories. The doctrine of military deterrence must give way to the logic of human survival. Human survival must come before national sovereignty.

Microbiologists and geneticists would do well to sign petitions and approve resolutions to the US and UN to take immediate steps to completely dismantle all bioweapons and labs. Albert Einstein opposed the use of atomic bombs. Norbert Wiener, inventor of guidance cybernetics, opposed guided missiles. Many Nobel laureates signed pledges not to work on star wars and nuclear weapons. It is the moral responsibility of those with scientific knowledge and academic prestige to prevent the misuse of their creations. These are the honored custodians of the precious gift of all future life.

Congress should be asked to hold open hearings on the extent and legality of the U.S. bioweapons program. Concerned people can start gearing up for a campaign to abolish bioweapons. In Maryland, we can start with a movement to tear down Fort Detrick.