Spore War

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Spore War

Wednesday, October 17, 2001; Page A34

EVEN WITHOUT knowing who's mailing out anthrax, it's already clear that this constitutes a classic act of terrorism: The fear induced is far larger than the physical damage. So far, just one person has died and a handful have been infected. But precisely because nobody knows who is responsible or where they might strike next, everyone is anxious. That anxiety in turn induces a flood of false alarms along with panic buying of antibiotics -- actions that may cause more disruption and public health problems than the attacks themselves.

The right response starts with understanding the terrorists' goals. Whoever mailed anthrax to offices around the country sought to undermine the nation's psychological stability, perhaps in the hope of undoing popular support for the campaign in Afghanistan, perhaps for some other purpose. The attackers must have known that nobody before had resorted to the hideous expedient of germ warfare -- not even Saddam Hussein, who has used chemical weapons, or the crazed Japanese cult Aum Shinrikyo. It was precisely to exploit the primordial horror of a new and insidious weapon that the terrorists selected it.

So the right response begins with refusing to be terrorized. Abroad, that means persevering in the war on terrorism, beginning in Afghanistan but later extending to other countries where terrorists are sheltered. At home, it means continuing to live and work as normally as possible, taking new precautions but taking them in stride. Across the country, companies have turned mailrooms into security operations and circulated e-mails about handling suspicious letters; at The Post yesterday, an employee was evacuated after opening letters and finding suspicious dust. But those same companies have continued to do business. This is the right balance, one we will have to keep on striking for months and years.

So far Americans have passed the terrorism test admirably. The outpouring of generosity and patriotism that followed Sept. 11 has been succeeded by a sober determination to beat the new challenge. You see this in the unprecedented support for President Bush as he promises a long and difficult war against terrorism, in the surprisingly buoyant stock market and even in the polling on the anthrax attacks. A Washington Post-ABC News survey found that two in three Americans were concerned about anthrax, as well they might be, but that 85 percent said they were satisfied with the way the government is handling the situation. Yes, there have been jitters. But the national mood has not been far removed from the splendidly laconic reaction of Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) to Monday's attack on the Senate: "Being from a rural area, we deal with anthrax on a fairly regular basis. I think we've got to guard against overreaction here."


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), October 17, 2001


Hi martin, Just wanted to add my 2 Cents worth here... there is really a lot of reporting on the tv and radio about this anthrax. Today I learned a few things, among them....that Exposure is definately not infection, that the last I heard, the number in Dachel's office had rose to 32 or something like that. Question, Say a lot of people get this cipro and take it now without being tested for exposure...what if they had no exposure but needed it in a month or so? Would it still be effective at that time? Just wondering..

-- Tess (none@thistimes.com), October 17, 2001.

I would suggest the following site for more info.


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), October 17, 2001.

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