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Tuesday, August 05, 2003

Anniston Alabama 2254, Iraq 0
That's the score, in known tons of chemical weapons on hand. I blogged about Anniston a few times last year (go to my 2002 archive page and do a search for "Anniston"). It's a small city in northeastern Alabama in the Appalachian foothills. Very pretty setting, actually. But in addition to having this huge stockpile of chemical weapons, they also had a Monsanto plant there for decades which polluted all of the streams with PCB's and other toxins.

Well, the Army is finally going to incinerate those chemical weapons (don't worry, the US will still have a stockpile of close to 30,000 tons). They're distributing gas masks to area residents, "just in case."

If the Bush administration had really been serious about protecting the American public from a chemical weapons attack, they would have made destroying the 31,000 tons of chemical weapons in this country their number one priority. If they really were interested in learning a lesson from 9/11 (instead of furthering an agenda), I think the lesson would be that everything needed to cause thousands of casualties in America is already here. While one would hope that our own WMD's, and the airspace above them, are well guarded from attack, there are thousands of other vulnerabilities that terrorists could exploit. A couple of years ago there was a train fire in a tunnel under Baltimore which shut down parts of the city for several days. Many toxic chemicals which would be extremely dangerous if they caught on fire, or even were simply released, travel by train and truck all over this country every day.

Frankly, I don't think that chemical weapons produced abroad, in Iraq or anywhere else, pose any significant threat to the United States. Any terrorist group would find it much simpler to use what's already available here. Probably the same for biological weapons--simple, low-tech methods like poisoning water supplies with botulinum or salmonella would probably cause more fatalities than the fancy stuff like anthrax. (The anthrax attacks of 2001 had total casualties in dead and sick approximately equal to a single hour of auto accidents on our highways.)

There's probably some low "background" level of terror attacks that is unavoidable. Occasionally somebody goes nuts and blows something up, even in Finland or Sweden. But to progress to the level where realistic fear of terror attacks is constant, like in Israel, you have to invade and occupy somebody else's land and repress them for a while, or support someone who does.