Do you remember The Fear? The constant terror alerts, the talk of “dirty bombs” or terrorists attacking shopping malls, even instructions on what to do if there is a nuclear explosion nearby? But that was all before the 2002 election and the following invasion of Iraq. That was then, this is now.
One of the scares used to prepare the public for invading Iraq was that Iraq might strike at us with their stockpiles of smallpox. I searched and found hundreds of articles. Here are just a few examples to remind you:
July 7, 2002, US plans mass smallpox vaccination,
The plan to increase the number of workers vaccinated comes amid talk of an attack on Iraq, which some experts suspect of hiding smallpox stocks.
August, 2002, Israel Preparing for Worst: Begins Smallpox Vaccinations (NewsMax),
Israel is preparing for mass destruction attacks, and has begun the first phase of inoculating its population against a smallpox attack.
Fearing that Saddam Hussein may attack Israel before war breaks out with the U.S., Israel has also begun distributing anti-radiation pills.
November, 2002, Is Attacking Iraq Worth Risking Smallpox?
According a recent administration intelligence review, four countries, including Iraq, possess covert stocks of the deadly smallpox virus. The CIA’s Weapons Intelligence, Nonproliferation, and Arms Center (WINPAC) has “high confidence” that Iraq has the virus. At least one person who has access to the intelligence information offered to “bet my next year’s salary” that Iraq has smallpox.
December 3, 2002, C.I.A. Hunts Iraq Tie to Soviet Smallpox (Judith Miller),
The C.I.A. is investigating an informant’s accusation that Iraq obtained a particularly virulent strain of smallpox from a Russian scientist who worked in a smallpox lab in Moscow during Soviet times, senior American officials and foreign scientists say.
The officials said several American scientists were told in August that Iraq might have obtained the mysterious strain from Nelja N. Maltseva, a virologist who worked for more than 30 years at the Research Institute for Viral Preparations in Moscow before her death two years ago.
The information came to the American government from an informant whose identity has not been disclosed. The C.I.A. considered the information reliable enough that President Bush was briefed about its implications. The attempt to verify the information is continuing.
December 9, 2002, The smallpox scenario,
As the U.N. and member governments seek to uncover whatever illicit weapons programs Iraq might have, few tasks are as urgent as determining whether Baghdad has obtained the smallpox virus.
The only declared reserves of the 120 known strains of smallpox are in two labs, in the U.S. and Russia, but fears that Iraq may possess the virus have lately come to a head.
Why the suspicions? As the New York Times first reported last week, the CIA is investigating the possibility that a Russian scientist, Nelli Maltseva, ferried a nasty strain of smallpox from the Research Institute for Viral Preparations in Moscow to Iraq in 1990. She died two years ago.
December 13, 2002, White House FAQ, Smallpox Response Teams
Does Iraq have smallpox? Do you believe that Iraq may use a smallpox weapon if attacked by the United States?
It is possible, but not confirmed, that Iraq possesses the virus that causes smallpox. By protecting ourselves to respond to any smallpox attack, including through pre-exposure and post-exposure vaccination plans, we also help deter such attacks.
[. . .] If someone receives that vaccine now or before an attack, will they need to be revaccinated if there is an attack?
In a post-attack emergency, to ensure everyone is protected as rapidly as possible, all exposed persons will be vaccinated regardless of smallpox vaccine history.
In an interview Wednesday with CNN’s Larry King, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld revealed his plans to take the smallpox vaccine, which can carry severe side effects, including death.
“I certainly intend to, simply because it’s hard to ask people to do something that you’re not willing to do yourself,” Rumsfeld said, responding to a question posed by King.
President Bush has said he, too, will take the vaccine after ordering vaccinations for some military personnel. The vaccine will be administered to about 500,000 troops deployed in high-risk parts of the world under the first phase of the vaccination plan. The inoculations began this month, according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
The Defense Department said vaccinations will be mandatory except for those who have medical exemptions.
Because about half of U.S. residents have never been vaccinated and those who were vaccinated are believed to have limited, if any, immunity, the country is considered by some to be especially vulnerable to a biological attack. It is feared that Iraq might have smallpox that could be used for weapons.
Shortly after the invasion, Smallpox Vaccinations Moving Slowly
The U.S. government is shrinking by 90 percent the number of people it believes it will vaccinate for smallpox, the Washington Post reports.
Just a few months after President Bush said he wanted 500,000 emergency workers to receive smallpox shots, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now says that 50,000 vaccinations might be a more reasonable target. Only 35,000 people have rolled up their sleeves to date.
Oh yeah, by the way, here is how it turned out: September 19, 2003, No smallpox in Iraq – team,
Top American scientists assigned to the weapons hunt in Iraq found no evidence Saddam Hussein’s regime was making or stockpiling smallpox, according to senior military officers involved in the search.
Smallpox fears were part of the case the Bush administration used to build support for invading Iraq – and they were raised again as recently as last weekend by vice-president Dick Cheney.
But a three-month search by “Team Pox” turned up only signs to the contrary: disabled equipment that had been rendered harmless by United Nations inspectors, Iraqi scientists deemed credible who gave no indication they had worked with smallpox, and a laboratory thought to be back in use that was covered in cobwebs.