THE POLITICS OF
BIOTERRORISM IN AMERICA
HOW DID WE ARRIVE AT OUR CURRENT NATIONAL POSTURE regarding bioterrorism, especially in the context of other challenges our nation faces in the twenty-first century? The fear of bioterrorism has driven our leaders to spend over $40,000,000,000 since 2001 to defend us against it, even amid persistent doubts about the magnitude of the threat it poses.
Although concerns about bioterrorism clearly predate 2001, it is also clear that part of what has driven the near hysteria about bioterrorism since that time is its conflation with a larger “war on terror.” Declaring war on something is a time-honored way in American politics to raise an issue to a level of unquestionable urgency. In some cases, like Nixon’s “War on Cancer,” apotheosis of an idea to a warlike status can summon up the afterglow of America’s performance in World War II and harness America’s energy for a noble purpose. More often, unfortunately, it breeds anxiety and fear. The White House says it has identified over 80,000 potential terror targets in America but for security reasons cannot say what those targets are. Zbigniew Brzezinski has made the point that the war on terror has actually created a climate of fear in America.1
Another part of the terror of bioterrorism is that unlike other weapons of terror and mass destruction—bombs, chemicals,