Thinking the unthinkable in the 21st century

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Thinking the unthinkable in the 21st century

Post  cottontop on Tue Jul 29, 2008 8:13 am

This is a post by monotreme at PFI: For further comments go to: http://www.singtomeohmuse.com/viewtopic.php?t=2736

New blog:

Thinking the unthinkable in the 21st century: Who would use influenza as a biological weapon?
http://tinyurl.com/5rhdue

[links at the blog (lots of them)]


There have been occasional speculations in Flublogia as to whether H5N1 could have been some how manipulated by man. When this has been discussed in Flublogia, the idea has often been dismissed as fear-mongering by conspiracy theorists. However, when the Minister of Health of Indonesia, Siti Fadilah Supari, suggested that the US would use Indonesian samples of H5N1 to create a biological weapon, the response from the public health establishment was muted. Prominent members of this group, such as Dr. Nabarro (UN panflu czar) continue to go to meetings with her. Dr. Supari retains her position as a member of the executive board of the WHO. Given that the charge has been made that H5N1 may be used as biological weapon by a prominent member of the international public health community, and that she is still apparently a member of this community in good standing, it is worth considering whether influenza could be used as a biological weapon and which country is most likely to employ it in this way.

One caveat at the outset: I am not a military strategist, so take all my statements about military thinking with a large grain of salt.

When talking about weapons, it is important to distinguish between tactical and strategic weapons. Tactical weapons are used to win specific battles and are narrowly focused. For example, an air-to-air missile used to destroy another fighter jet is a tactical weapon. Strategic weapons have broader applications, such as to destroy an enemy country's ability and/or willingness to fight. The two atomic bombs dropped on Japan were used as strategic weapons.

Biological agents make poor tactical weapons. They are hard to target to specific people such as enemy combatants and, if they are highly infectious, likely to trigger epidemics in off-target populations which may multiply the number of enemies the user of such a weapon has to deal with. So, imo, influenza is unlikely to be used as a tactical weapon.

The use of biological weapons as strategic weapons is far more likely, imo. For example, there is great concern that anthrax or smallpox might be used as terrorist weapons. Although both of these agents have the potential to kill large numbers of people, anthrax can be treated with antibiotics and there is a vaccine for smallpox. Further, the use of either of these agents would likely provoke a very strong response, possibly including nuclear retaliation. Finally, such an attack would inspire revulsion on the part of most of the world and would likely multiply the number of enemies the user of such agents had to deal with. So, although attacks with anthrax or smallpox by irrational terrorists is possible, it is unlikely that any nation-state with a rational leader would employ such weapons.

Influenza is a naturally occurring pathogen that almost everyone is familiar with. As a result, it might not be obvious that a manipulated form was being used in an attack (Sydney Morning Herald, Madjid et al. 2003). Thus, it could be used surreptitiously, possibly without risk of detection by either the target or the world at large. And as we know only too well, influenza can be extremely deadly and resistant to any treatment. Given that the manipulators of the virus would have detailed knowledge of its antigenic properties, vaccines could be developed which could be tested ahead of time (Krug, 2003). Members of the attacking country's military and the civilians it wanted to survive could be vaccinated before the manipulated strain was unleashed. Some members of the attacking country's population could be left unvaccinated in order to maintain plausible deniability that it played any role in what would be called a natural catastrophe.

Who would have the capability and the motivation to launch an attack with a highly virulent influenza virus? Although terrorists immediately come to mind, I think they are unlikely suspects. First, they lack the technical sophistication necessary to design a flu virus and a vaccine against it. Second, they lack a motive. Although such a virus would accomplish their goal of killing a lot of people and disrupting the world economic system, the countries from which the terrorists come are not self-sufficient in food or medicine and are likely to be depopulated in the event of a high CFR pandemic. Thus, I believe that the most likely source of an influenza biological weapon is an established nation state. Imo, three countries have the necessary technical expertise to use influenza as a biological weapon: the United States, Russia and China. I will consider the evidence and likely motives of each of these countries in turn.

As noted above, the United States has already been accused of acquiring H5N1 samples to use as a biological weapon by the Indonesian Minister of Health. As near as I can tell, she has presented no evidence to support this claim other than the statement by the Director General of the World Health Organisation, Dr. Margaret Chan, that a traitor within the WHO had sent Indonesian samples to the US for use in biological weapons. Dr. Chan has neither confirmed nor denied this statement. Although the US has the technical ability to use influenza as biological weapon, I believe it is unlikely to do so for the following reasons:

1. The US is the world's only hyper-power. If the US wants to conquer a country, it can do so with conventional weapons or, if necessary, nuclear weapons.

2. The American people are natural isolationists and have no stomach for empire, even if a particular administration did. Wars must be sold to the American people on the basis of self-defense. They would never agree to the use of biological weapon as an offensive weapon.

3. Given that the US is a free country, it would be very difficult for the government to hide such a program. Although many Americans will agree to keep secrets that they consider lawful, very few would agree to a program of deliberate genocide. I personally have never known an American scientist who would even consider such a possibility. Given that the scientific community is quite small, it seems unlikely that such a morally offensive program could be kept quiet.

Russia, in the form of its imperial precursor, the Soviet Union, has a long and extensive background in the development of biological weapons for offensive purposes (Wikipedia). They certainly have the technical expertise to develop influenza as a strategic weapon. Given this country's recent past as the head of a totalitarian empire and some troubling signals of a slow backslide into an authoritarian regime, it is reasonable to ask if the Russian government has any motivation to launch an attack with manipulated influenza. Imo, the answer is no. Russia is a weak country with abundant natural resources (US Library of Congress). Although I don't doubt that Putin dreams of Russian military greatness, disrupting the current ecomomic system will not help him achieve this goal. The petroleum and natural gas reserves he controls are generating large amounts of cash with which he can rebuild the Russian military. So, although Russia may prove a threat in the future, Putin is heavily dependent on the stability of the current world economic system to acheive his long-term goals. A high CFR pandemic flu would leave Russia with no market for its most valuable assets. And, given Russia's own natural resources (and declining population), they have no motive to try to take anyone else's.

Finally, we consider China. At first glance, the Chinese government would seem also to be heavily invested in the current economic system. After all, China has gotten very rich from globalisation. However, there are signs that this system of enrichment may be coming to an end. With rising oil prices, transportation of goods from China to the West is becoming increasingly expensive (Econbrowser). Already, some manufacturers are bringing their factories back to the countries where the goods will be sold (YaleGlobal Online). This trend will only increase in the future. At the same time, rising inflation within China is making basic necessities increasingly expensive to the average citizen (NYT). The head-long rush into industrialisation has resulted in the destruction of much of China's farmland (BBC). China can scarcely afford this as their population continues to expand despite draconian government atttempts at population reduction (Time). Finally, although some Chinese citizens have seen significant improvements in their standard of living, many have not. This has led to peasant revolts in the countryside which are becoming increasingly frightening to Communist Party officials (The Australian, IHT ). Above all things, they fear the fate of the Ceausescus (BBC).

How would the Chinese government benefit from a pandemic that appeared to be natural but which was actually engineered by them? First, they could decide who within their own country would be spared and who would die. Troublesome minorities and peasants could be removed while Han Chinese in urban areas might be spared through vaccine and through stockpiles of food and fuel. On a global level, the West would be on its knees and Africa would be decimated. The depopulation of Africa, in particular, might be considered a desirable outcome given that China desperately needs the resources to be found there (BBC). The Middle East would also likely be depopulated and its resources easy pickings for a resurgent China.

Some would say that no government would consider such an evil course of action. To those I say, remember the past and pay attention to the present. The Chinese government is actively facilitating genocide in Darfur (NYT). They are strong supporters of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe (Zimbabwe Independent). The message is clear for any who wish to read it: the Chinese government wants Africans dead so that they can take their resources. The Chinese military, especially its Navy, is being prepared for Empire building, not an attack on Taiwan (The Atlantic, The Economist). The Chinese people are being indoctrinated with an intolerant, virulent Nationalism with strong racialist components (CFR , The China Expat , NYT). We have seen these signs before. We should know what they mean.

It is one thing to speculate about what China's government is thinking. It is another to prove it. Let's consider the facts. Hypervirulent H5N1 developed in China. It is the most lethal influenza in known history - at least 30 times more lethal than the 1918 flu which nearly destroyed civilisation at that time. H5N1 has infected more species of animals than any other other flu virus has ever done. The Chinese government covered up the initial cases of H5N1 in China (Business Week). They attempted to cover up a large outbreak in Qinghai, which brought H5N1 to Europe and Africa (Shanghia Expat, TIME). Two of the reported cases of H5N1 in China were members of the People's Republic Army. One of them, Shi the soldier, is an especially interesting case. There is evidence that the Chinese government, especially the military, suppressed reports of Shi's deaths for years (NYT). Further, when a paper was submitted to describe this case, someone attempted to fraudulently withdraw it after it had been accepted (NYT). Finally, the sequences of Shi the soldier themselves suggest that he was infected with a reassorted virus and the origin of one of the genes is currently unknown (this will be subject of a future technical report). There have also been unconfirmed reports of large outbreaks of H5N1 in China that were violently suppressed by the PLA under the cover of BioWarfare "training" (Shanghia Expat, Recombinomics). Finally, the Chinese government expended considerable political capital to install their candidate, Dr. Margaret Chan, as Director-General of the WHO, the agency that is charge of the world's response to a pandemic (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, PRC). And, to bring us full circle, Dr. Chan has alleged to have said that

...a "criminal in the WHO" who sent samples or data to the US government's secretive research laboratory at Los Alamos, New Mexico, was "terminated".
The Australian

To this day, she has not denied making this statement. If the Chinese government was concerned that their role in creating a pandemic strain would be revealed, what better way to deflect blame than to use their puppet at the WHO to, behind closed doors, accuse the US of the very crime it had committed. After all, everyone trusts the WHO, right?

Oh, and one more thing. For those who are tempted to dismiss this post as a fanciful conspiracy theory, ask a flu virologist where the 1977 H1N1 epidemic came from.

Many virologists now believe that it was literally just that: an influenza virus from the 1950's, stored in a laboratory freezer at a research facility in China, somehow got released into the environment in 1977.
The New York Times

There's an old saying: "Where there is smoke, there is fire." This isn't always true. Sometimes, there's just smoke. But sometimes there really is fire. I can't prove that the Chinese government has engineered or plans to engineer a pandemic, but I think this possibility should be considered more seriously than it has been.

There is smoke in China.

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Re: Thinking the unthinkable in the 21st century

Post  cottontop on Tue Jul 29, 2008 9:50 am

Indonesia, China sign minutes of the meeting
http://tinyurl.com/6e8gyd

Indonesian and China`s Health Ministers respectively Siti Fadila Supari and Chen Zhu signed Minutes of the Meeting prior to signing a Memorandum of Understanding about bilateral cooperation in the healthcare sector.

The signing function which was among others attended by Mohamad Oemar, deputy head of Indonesian representative in Beijing, took place at the Chinese Ministry of Health in Beijing on Monday.

"The signing constitutes an initial step of the bilateral healthcare cooperation which will be followed by the signing of an MoU," Minister Supari said, adding that a further step of the cooperation would cover political and economic health affairs.

Before signing the Minutes of the Meeting, the two health ministers who were accompanied by their delegation exchanged views on health problems in the respective country.

"Bird Flu cases apart from the bilateral cooperation become a hot issue during the exchange of views," Supari said.

"We hope the health sector cooperation between Indonesia and China can be stepped up considering that each country has the same problem of diseases like the bird flu," she said.

Meanwhile, China`s Health Minister Chen Zhu said his government hailed Indonesia`s wish to establish health cooperation including exchange of information.

Chen Zhu said further that China had encouraged Indonesia to conduct research and development of the health sector, for instance on bird flu.


And this article just in:

A bit more on the China/Indo cooperation:

The industry of Vaksin RI {Republic of Indonesia} Be Equal China

on Tuesday, on July 22 2008
http://forum.detik.com/showthread.php?t=50510

Image of the Health Ministers CO-OPERATION, Health Minister Siti Fadilah Supari shook hands withHealth Ministers China Chen Zhu after signing Minute of Meeting in Beijing, China, yesterday. This signing as preparations for the health co-operation of the two countries.

Beijing (SINDO) – Health Minister (Menkes) Siti Fadilah Supari said, the Indonesian vaccine industry at this time increasingly advanced. Moreover Menkes considered the domestic vaccine could have been equated and competed with the vaccine that was produced by China. ”Dari the aspect of the progress of the vaccine industry and the product that were produced, of Indonesia has been enough to advance with the similar industry in China. Moreover could be said a little maju,” Menkes Siti Fadilah words after the signing of Minutes of Meeting with Health Minister China Chen Zhu in Beijing yesterday.

[snip]

Health Minister Siti Fadilah gave an example, the Indonesian pharmacy company, Bio Farma, was one of the 500 vaccine companies in the world that was acknowledged by the Organisation of the Health of the World (WHO). Indonesia, he said, be prepared and asked China to carry out the co-operation of vaccination research and development for various illness kinds like bird flu.

In the meantime the BPOM Husniah Rubiana Akib Head when visiting the China Sinovac vaccine factory before this agenda said, Indonesia actually did not lose to the progress of the vaccine industry in China. ”Bahkan we had several superiority like already the Bio Farma entry in the list of the good vaccine company by WHO,” he said.

Manager Business Internasional and Investment Relations Sinovac Helen G Yang said, his company uptil now produced the vaccine for hepatitis of A,hepatitis B, the SARS vaccine, as well as bird flu. ”We received the full support from the China Government to produce various vaccine kinds that were distributed all through the territory in China. We in fact received the fund support from the government,” flat him.

On the other hand, the agreement agreement between the Indonesian Government and China was the step in early before the signing of the text kesepahaman (MoU) concerning the co-operation of the health field. The co-operation that will be developed by the two countries included health politics and health economics.

The co-operation that will be developed by the two countries included health politics and health economics. Health Minister of China Chen Zhu said, the government China welcomed the Indonesian wish to increase more far the health co-operation like the exchange informasi. According to him, China asked carried out health research and development.(ant)

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Re: Thinking the unthinkable in the 21st century

Post  cottontop on Tue Jul 29, 2008 9:53 am

For those of you who do not know about Supari accusing the U.S., please read this:

Yes, Fadilah Supari did say that, and maintains that in the book she wrote last year. Did you know she wrote a book?

“Time for the World to Change: God’s Hand in the Bird Flu Virus” Siti Fadilah Supari, Indonesian Health Minister

Here are some links you might want to checkout to her charges and the U.S. response.

http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2008-03/17/content_7806186.htm

And a link to the Jarkarta Post discussing it.

http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2008/03/16/who-and-us-conspiracy-health-minister.html

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