The aim of this book is to bring historical context to present concerns about biological weapons and the potential for bioterrorism. The history of state-sponsored biological weapons programs is much deeper than most people are aware. During the twentieth century, major state powers (France, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the Soviet Union) developed biological warfare programs in such great secrecy that many documents remain unavailable. By 1972, with the signing of the Biological Weapons Convention, the state programs were ended, or from that point they became cloaked in even greater secrecy. With a single exception, the state programs never led to the use of biological weapons in war. From 1939 to 1945, the Japanese Imperial Army surreptitiously spread plague and cholera in China, under the guise of natural outbreaks. Even so, the world has never witnessed any battlefield exchanges or aerial bombings with germ weapons. After 1945, nuclear weapons overshadowed the threat of biological weapons, until the Cold War ended. Then the untested potential of biological weapons emerged as a new order of threat, appearing more technically accessible than either nuclear or chemical weapons.
The lack of use of biological weapons in war was not for want of great effort and enormous funding invested in state programs. Advocates for using biology to create a new class of weapons initially envisioned delivery systems for pathogenic aerosols that mimicked those for chemical weapons, which were mainly bombs that generated aerosols intended to kill or disable troops in a local area. This vision was quickly replaced by the concept of creating huge clouds of germs that would drift with the wind and infect people over
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Publication information: Book title: Biological Weapons: From the Invention of State-Sponsored Programs to Contemporary Bioterrorism. Contributors: Jeanne Guillemin - Author. Publisher: Columbia University Press. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 2005. Page number: vii.
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