What’s Judith Sanders Up To?

I know I’ve promised a sequel to Crescent Veil and believe me, the concepts are there and the prose is in the making.  But, it has slowed down while I finish a new collaborative project related to the human side of men in war.  Why such a diversion?  I can offer a few simple reasons.  First, I think the cost of war in human life still gnaws at me and I feel that not enough has been done to stop this (especially based on campaign promises).  Second, while our family has yet to experience what so many others have in the loss of a child in these wars, with the current economic hardships in the US our family has seen several of its young men “enlist” in the military and those young men are or will soon be in harm’s way.

I can’t tell you the plot right now, but I know you’ll look at war a little differently and maybe want to do something about it yourself when you read it.  I will tell you that my new style (I’m trying first person perspective) has invoked emotional responses in my test readers (family members) that tell me I’m on the right track.  I will end by saying that my other book, Diamond Island (a story of the struggle of a woman to express her talents in a very liberal and broad adult interpretation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), is ready for agents (putting the final touches on the query letter) and I hope to return to LD50 (the Crescent Veil sequel) soon.  Read On.

Karl Rove, George W. Bush and WMDs

In a NY Times article about Karl Rove’s new book “Courage and Consequences: My Life as a Conservative in the Fight” reporter Peter Baker notes that, according to Rove, former President Bush would not have gone to war in Iraq had there not been weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) there. WOW!

Of course Baker then goes on to show Rove’s speculation that Congress would not have approved (NO KIDDING) and that the administration would have tried “other means” to limit Saddam’s tyranny. REALLY?

For most folks this probably means “case closed”, at best the Bush administration (and the Brits) simply goofed in their intelligence estimates of what was going on in Iraq at the time. BUT, from both sides of the politics there are a couple of chapters remaining to answer a few lingering questions:

“If that was the main reason, what was the rush to war?”

“Who really thought the US could go to war against a biological weapons program that could hide enough force to kill millions of people on the head of a pin or inside the barrel of a pen?”

“How far had Saddam gone with his illegal WMD programs when he threw out the inspectors in 1998 and what happened to those bombs, toxin and bacterial stocks between 1998 and 2003?” Remember that it is a fact that Iraq had admitted a program at the end of the first Gulf War & UN inspectors through at least 1995 had uncovered a rudimentary but significant weapons program.

To see Peter Baker’s NY Times article click here.


Looking for that next event. Any suggestions, let me know.

Rats, human body parts, catapults, blankets, umbrellas and your local restaurant have what in common?

Simply put, they all have been used in dispersing biological weapons.

At the “Battle of Tortona” in Italy in 1155, Barbarossa had human body parts dropped into the wells of his enemy to contaminate their water supplies.

Catapults were used to send dead and infected bodies of plaque victims over castle walls to infect the inhabitants under siege. In 1346-47 the Mongols used this tactic successfully at the city of Kaffa (in Crimea), forcing the Germans to flee.

During the French & Indian Wars in the USA 1763, blankets from patients that carried the smallpox virus were given to American Indians by British troops to infect and kill them.

In 1940 the Japanese took rats that were infested with plaque carrying fleas and set them loose in China causing epidemics.

In 1978 while living in London, a needle on the tip of an umbrella was used as a weapon to assassinate Georgi Markov. The neelde injected a pellet laced with lethal ricin toxin in to the diplomat.

And in 1984 a radical group in Oregon state laced the salad bar of a local restaurant with salmonella in order to make the population sick so they couldn’t vote against their candidates in a local election.

And then there are the anthrax letters of September 2001…..

Bring Back the Cold War

If there ever was a time to long for, the days of the “Red Phone” and Reagan squaring off against Gorbachev, to borrow a slogan from the first Reagan campaign, “the time is now.”

The world has certainly become a more dangerous place since the Soviet walls “came crumbling down” and the Cold War has been replaced by “hot zones.”

While the Soviet Union’s crimes against its own people deserve to be in the past, the Soviet Union offered some glue to the collective of anti-democratic and anti-American sentiment out there. It was a glue that kept some of the Soviet allies in check. As that glue dissolved, it seems that so did the check over countries like Iraq, Korea, and Iran.

There was a macabre but considerable comfort in the guaranteed mutual destruction of the globe that would have come if the EU or US were too aggressive against one of the Soviet allies or vise versa.

The time when our nation could defend its boarders by targeting missiles at command and control centers thousands of miles away in Moscow is a thing of the past. Now terrorist cells have brought destruction to our soil and those missiles and their plans are twirling aimlessly like an unanchored road sign spinning in a wild wind.

We only have to look at the unfolding of the fight against insurgents in Iraq to know that there were no effective plans to defend ourselves or fight an unconventional war. Perhaps there will never be an effective war plan against the resentment we face in Iraq—certainly not one that we can all agree on.

Thus, as we face nations that pose “threats” similar to those posed by Iraq, like Iran, we have to have the courage to admit that we are in uncharted waters in fighting such opposition.

What options do we have? We could sacrifice more lives while we experiment with tactics against these unconventional opponents, we must consider other options. Or, we could reach out with true global peace initiatives that seek to ensure the sovereignty of each nation. This might mean that a new bloc emerges in the Middle East and we enter a new Cold War. But, there would be new parameters, and while the bloc sorts its internal politics, we would strengthen our defenses at home. Can we cool off the current wave of escalating violence? If we don’t try we won’t know.

If you have trouble sleeping, don’t read this.

In the summer of 1991, after the first Gulf War, the first inspections of Iraqi WMD began. Amazingly, on the first biological weapons inspection, the Iraqi representatives, led by the infamous Dr. Taha, announced that they had, indeed, a program to develop biological weapons. Their rationale at the time was that they did it because they suspected other countries around them, including Israel, had similar weapons. Basically, they said they were in a BW arms race.

They made 2 other statements that were equally amazing:

First, they stated that they did not have a defensive program, meaning that they were not interested in developing vaccines and antidotes to protect their own troop, soldiers, and laboratory workers. Their interest was only in having the weapons and if people in Iraq died because of accidents or an attack from outside, so what.

Secondly, they stated that the allied bombings carried out in January of 1991 destroyed all of their production and testing facilities. We know for a fact that this last statement was a lie as later inspections would find other facilities not bombed and stockpiles of bombs that were filled with BW agents, among them anthrax. Those stockpiles were eliminated but there are 2 things to consider before we state that Iraq is BW “germ free”:

  1. These dangerous germs are invisible to the naked eye and stocks can be stored in containers that fit in your pocket, so how can we be sure the country is free of these stocks?
  2. The main thing that separates offensive BW work form legitimate infectious disease work is the intent of the user, so how do we get in the head of the scientists that remain in Iraq and convince ourselves that their intentions are good?

Our Best Defense May be Incompetence

Once upon a time, small tubes crossed oceans, borders, and customs floors in the pockets, briefcases, and luggage of respected and well intentioned scientists.

What was in these tubes? Whatever dangerous viruses or bacteria the scientists were interested in studying. Worse, at times the tubes contained tissues or blood from animals or humans who died of unknown diseases.

With time came “genetic engineering” and alarms rang out to control the shipping of dangerous organisms and rules were established for legitimate business and scientists to follow. Permits had to be obtained and containers were designed to ensure that we could properly move ‘bugs’ without risk to the environment or the person sitting next to you on that transatlantic flight.

Then news that Iraq had obtained samples of bacterial through these “legitimate” channels, by “mail order” from the ATCC (American Type Culture Collection) and the process and procedures became tighter still. Finally, with the “anthrax letters” we now have a very sophisticated system to monitor and control the legitimate activities around moving microbes.

But, what has been lost is that none of the rules, processes, or even customs inspections will stop that one envelope or vial in the pocket or briefcase of one terrorist who is intent in getting an effective biological weapon across any border, past any customs officer. And just as we cannot predict the face of the next terrorist who will strike, we will not find the virus or bacterial we are struck with until the epidemic has started.

We can, and do, have technology out there, sniffing the air around some of our cities. But the attack will already be in progress by then. At that time we will have to rely on a government that brought us Katrina mis-relief to find a way to quarantine and care for those downwind of the attack.

We know of a few 9/11-associated terrorists who bungled their mission and, thankfully, never caused harm. The bugs we face as potential biological weapons are never going to reveal themselves the way plutonium would. Therefore, to be truly safe from biological weapons attacks, for the foreseeable future, we will have to rely on a similar level of continued incompetence in the ranks of potential BW terrorists as our best defense.

Not much separates legitimate infectious disease and microbiology research from illegal & dangerous biological weapons development.

There are at least five (5) things that help weapons inspectors determine that someone has crossed the line into “black biology”:

1. Secrecy: If you’re doing legitimate research, it should be in the open, published, and open for review. If everything is in secret, you’ve crossed the line.

2. Size: If you need to study how a germ casuses disease you need to keep lethal forms of that germ in your laboratory. However, you don’t need massive quantities. If you are “stockpiling” large quantities, you ‘ve crossed the line.

3. Potency: To understand how these lethal forms of germs cause disease and to find ways to treat and prevent those diseases you must test them in animals. However, you don’t need to be working on ways to improve the lethality of those bugs. If you are, you’ve crossed the line.

4. Aerosol studies: This one is very tricky. If you are trying to defend against a BW attack then you need to be sure your vaccine or drug will work against the disease that is seen after an aerosol exposure (the most common way to attack with BW agent). So, you will need to do aerosol studies on a small scale. BUT, if you are working on ways to spread your germs the way we spread pesticides, you’ve crossed the line.

5. INTENT: This is the most significant and hardest to get at. What is in your mind, what are you trying to accomplish? If you can’t defend your actions under logical and legitimate goals that the scientific and government communities agree are important, you’ve crossed the line.