Bracing for Armageddon? The Science and Politics of Bioterrorism in America

By William R. Clark | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 3
AGENTS OF TERROR

THE BIOLOGICAL WEAPONS AVAILABLE TO WOULD-BE bioterrorists today are by and large those developed during the middle decades of the twentieth century, when most major countries were making offensive weapons for state-sponsored biological warfare. By the end of the 1960s, popular and political opposition to biological and chemical weapons was growing, in the United States and throughout the world. In 1969, the National Security Council undertook a review of domestic programs for these weapons, with input from a broad range of military and civilian authorities, including the scientific community. Similar reviews and discussions were taking place in other countries.

On November 25, 1969, President Richard Nixon announced that the United States would immediately and unilaterally cease production, and foreswear future use of, all offensive biological weapons. This might not have been an entirely altruistic move. The United States enjoyed an overpowering superiority in offensive nuclear weapons, and elimination of biological weapons could be seen as depriving “rogue” states of a potentially important weapon of their own. Moreover, the U.S. military had decided that bioweapons were probably not worth the trouble. In addition to being difficult to produce, they were undependable in the varying environments in which they might have to be used. They could as easily blow back into the faces of the troops having to use them.

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