DON'T FOOL THE PEOPLE, MR. THOMPSON

BY DAVID H. HACKWORTH

We're into a long war that will be fought on many fronts. And as military targets are taken out in Afghanistan, we must be soldier-alert on the home front. No question that there are many more sleeper agents undercover in our country, ready and raring to strike.

Last week, Floridian Robert Stevens died of pulmonary anthrax, the first such case in 25 years. Only a few days before his death, Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy G. Thompson categorically stated, "It is an isolated case and is not contagious."

But now a co-worker of Stevens is hospitalized, the rest of the staff are being treated with antibiotics, and the building where they all worked is off-limits.

Thompson has also been quick to assure the nation, "We're prepared to take care of any contingency, any consequence that develops from any kind of bioterrorism attack."

Do I believe politician Thompson?

Like I believe Osama bin Laden is the tooth fairy.

Thompson sounded like Gen. William Westmoreland when he told the nation we were prevailing in Vietnam -- just before the communists launched a major offensive that clobbered his Army.

This country is as ready for biological/chemical terrorism as we were prepared to stop the kamikaze bombers that smacked into the World Trade Center towers. And the facts surrounding Stevens' death speak for themselves:

* There have been only 18 human cases of pulmonary anthrax reported in the United States in the 20th century.

* Stevens worked only a few miles from where the suicide pilots lived, learned how to fly, lap-danced and probably experimented with bio/chem weapons. He fished 1 mile from an airport the skyjackers frequented and 40 miles from where they were trying to test-drive the same sort of crop-dusters that are already part of Saddam Hussein's weapons arsenal -- along with enough anthrax to wipe out every human being on planet Earth.

Would it be easy to bring anthrax into the USA? More than 6 million shipping containers enter America each year; only 2 percent are inspected. If we can't stop the narcotics flood, smuggling a few hundred barrels of anthrax -- enough to bring down more warm bodies than bought it during the Dark Ages from the plague -- should be a breeze.

And once it's here, why even bother with planes? A psychopath with a saltshaker spiked with spores could easily sprinkle his way through the specials at your local salad bar. Or the Middle Eastern illegals pulling long hours at your fave mall deli might well spice up those sandwiches finger-lickin' terminal. And if all else fails, there are always air-conditioning and heating conduits -- or a hate letter from hell -- where a little dab'll do you.

But Thompson says the United States is ready for a bio/chem attack.

What he means is that government teams wearing special-issue bio suits and respirators are ready to bag up infected folks and place them in quarantine zones, where the prognosis will probably be just as bad as Stevens'.

The president must tell his Cabinet to be straight with the American people about the dangers we face from all types of terrorist attacks. We need guidelines -- like to stay away from salad bars and to see our docs, who hopefully will be brought up to bio/chem speed, at the first sign of a suspicious sore or sniffle. The medical military reserves must be called up, and all of the responder forces -- fire and police departments and appropriate medical personnel -- trained and equipped right away. Most critical of all, our government should be expediting the development of a safe, comprehensive "vaccine shield" -- yesterday -- rather than hustling a missile defense shield to fend off tomorrow's Chinese or Martian missiles. All precautionary measures possible should be enumerated and implemented immediately, not after we've been whacked again and again.

Louis Pasteur, who knew a bit about bugs and germs, said, "Chance favors the prepared mind."

The American people have the right to know what's coming down and what to watch for. With the nation at war, we can't afford any more lies because the public-opinion polls show that it isn't political to tell the citizens the truth. Our very lives depend upon our leaders doing the right thing and leveling with us.



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(c) 2001 David H. Hackworth
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