- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 29, 2009

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

COLORADO SPRINGS

“I sleep like a baby,” says retired Air Force Col. Randall J. Larsen. “Every three hours, I wake up screaming.”

It’s little surprise that Col. Larsen has such trouble getting shut-eye. As executive director of the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism, Col. Larsen spends his days and many nights visualizing mushroom clouds over U.S. cities and emergency rooms clogged with victims of biological attacks. Among his many solutions to America’s WMD challenges, this may be the easiest: Let Americans get immunized against smallpox and anthrax.

“Smallpox and anthrax are our two biggest biological threats,” Col. Larsen tells journalists gathered here on Nov. 16 by the Heritage Foundation. “Smallpox and anthrax are the only biological threats for which we have [Food and Drug Administration]-approved vaccines. We have enough smallpox vaccines for every American, but not enough anthrax vaccines even for 10 percent of our population. Once we increase that supply, we can take these two risks off the table.”

Voluntarily immunizing Americans against these two diseases would deter terrorists from plotting attacks with them. Even vaccinating some Americans would create “herd immunity,” whereby those who stay healthy would impede an epidemic’s progress, much as firebreaks retard advancing infernos.

Col. Larsen’s commission offered this sobering conclusion in December: “Unless the world community acts decisively and with great urgency, it is more likely than not that a weapon of mass destruction will be used in a terrorist attack somewhere in the world by the end of 2013.”

In an Oct. 21 progress report, this bipartisan board cautioned that “a one- to two-kilogram release of anthrax spores from a crop duster plane could kill more Americans than died in World War II,” specifically, 380,000. “Clean-up and other economic costs could exceed $1.8 trillion.” “Dark Winter,” a June 2001 high-level simulation exercise, assumed that a covert smallpox attack would infect 3.3 million Americans, one-third fatally.

A biological attack’s psychological impact would be incalculable, especially if healthy Americans saw their smallpox-infected neighbors as contagious “enemies” to be shunned.

America’s Islamofascist enemies have stayed busy in this sphere.

“I was directly in charge … [of] the Cell for the Production of Biological Weapons, such as anthrax,” Khalid Shaikh Mohammed told a Guantanamo military tribunal on March 10, 2007. Mohammed was Sept. 11’s chief architect and al Qaeda’s self-described “military operational commander.”

The commission’s crop-duster scenario was conceived after Americans discovered two Afghan anthrax laboratories. The 9/11 Commission report says Jemaah Islamiah agent Yazid Sufaat “would spend several months attempting to cultivate anthrax for al Qaeda in a laboratory he helped set up near the Kandahar airport.”

Interestingly enough, Sufaat was captured thanks to information American interrogators gleaned after waterboarding Mohammed. Had America not dampened Mohammed’s nose, U.S. soldiers or civilians already might have had Sufaat’s anthrax up their nostrils.

“Four pounds of anthrax … carried by a fighter through tunnels from Mexico into the US, are guaranteed to kill 330,000 Americans within a single hour,” said Kuwaiti professor and terrorist sympathizer Abdallah Al-Nafisi, laughing, in a speech broadcast Feb. 2 on Al-Jazeera and translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute. “One person, with the courage to carry four pounds of anthrax, will go to the White House lawn, and will spread this ‘confetti’ all over them, and then will do these cries of joy. It will turn into a real ‘celebration.’ ”

Today’s dilatory federal rollout of swine-flu shots offers little confidence that government can deliver smallpox and anthrax inoculations with speed and tranquility, especially after a shocking attack turbocharged public anxiety.

Instead, these vaccines should reach thousands of hospitals, clinics and doctors’ offices now. Americans could request them calmly during routine medical visits rather than overwhelm government agencies amid widespread panic after thousands of people have fallen ill - or worse.

Al Qaeda and other vicious killers surely have a “to do” list of horrors they would love to hurl at us infidels. Let’s deny them at least these two potential murder weapons.

Deroy Murdock is a columnist with Scripps Howard News Service and a media fellow with Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. The Heritage Foundation sponsored his visit to Colorado Springs.

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