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The Emergent Threat of Bio-Terrorism - Essay Example

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The Emergent Threat of Bio-Terrorism

This paper weighs the pros and cons on whether al Qaeda or any other international terrorist group indeed has the motivation and capability to develop and use bio-weapons to carry out their missions of terror against the civilized world. If biological weapons represent the new threat to world peace and security that it is feared to be, we need to examine the desire and capability of authorities to deal with this yet to be experienced challenge to existing health and defense systems.
Together with chemical and nuclear weapons, modern biological weapons are commonly classified as weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and have been used as such on many occasions in the past. Biochemical weapons may appeal to terrorists for three major reasons: 1) they are easier and cheaper to acquire than nuclear devices and cause more casualties; 2) their effects on target population are hard to detect and counter; and 3) the threat of their use causes fear, which element the terrorists love most (Danitz, 1998, p. 3). The use of bio-weapons actually goes back to the siege warfare in Medieval Ages, among which was the recorded attempt to spread disease through dead horses at northern France in 1340. In 1346, cadavers of plague victims were dumped on the defenders at Caffa in Crimea, while human and animal manure was used at Karlstein in Bohemia in 1422. The most successful was said to be the bio-attack at Caffa, where a large number of the defenders came down with the Bubonic plague (Wheelis, 2002, p. 12). On the American frontier, some of the disease outbreaks between the 18th and early 20th centuries might have been deliberately instigated (Fenn, 2000). The best documented of those early bio-attacks took place at Fort Pitt in Pennsylvania at the height of the Pontiac rebellion in 1763, when British troops gifted the Fort Pitt defenders with blankets and handkerchiefs from smallpox patients. The latter-day known incident of that nature happened between 1957 and 1965 when land speculators and corrupt agents of the Brazilian Indian Protective Service introduced smallpox, measles, flu and tuberculosis into the American Indians on the Amazonian basin. For smallpox, fomites were used and for the other diseases the culprits had the sick whites mixed with tribe members (Wheelis, 2002, p. 13).

War records starting from the American Revolutionary War to the Cold War era also reveal the extensive use of bio-weapons. There was the story of how British troops attacked the Continental Army in Boston and Quebec on several occasions with smallpox by driving infected civilians into the enemy fold. In World War I, the Germans waged a covert bio-attack by having secret agents inject anthrax and glanders cultures into farm animals penned for shipment to Allied countries. Japan resorted to the same tactic during World War II mostly against the Chinese. In the 1942 Chekiang campaign, for example, retreating Japanese agents poisoned wells, sprayed the ground behind them with microbial cultures and left infected foodstuff for the ...Show more

Summary

The threat posed by biological disease agents as a terrorist weapon emerged following the anthrax scare in October 2001, when anonymous letters filled with anthrax spores were mailed to US senators and selected media men. Anthrax is one of many biological agents suitable for use as weapon of mass destruction, which fall under five categories: bacteria, viruses, rickettsiae, fungi and toxins…
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The Emergent Threat of Bio-Terrorism essay example
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