06.26.11

The bioterror industry pimp (an infrequent series)

Posted in Bioterrorism, Culture of Lickspittle at 4:19 pm by George Smith

In the last edition of the series, I mentioned Bob Graham, the ex-WMD Commission chairman who carved out a niche for himself as top salesman for the bioterror defense industry. Graham’s eternal message has been that apocalyptic bioterrorism is coming, so spend more now on bioterror defense.

His routine is invariant and merciless, so much so that his career can be described thusly:

Ex-famous politician Graham remade himself as a fugleman for increasing spending on bioterror defense, mostly by planting the same opinion pieces over and over in the nation’s press over the last decade.

Graham also fell into the role of professional committee chairman.

If a president has to put together a fig leaf commission to “research” something, Graham is always picked. Because no one wants him for anything meaningful outside selling bioterror defense spending.

So life as a professional Washington chairman soaks up the rest of his time, along with publishing contracts for books no one who isn’t paid to would read.

Then it’s always back to selling the dread of bioterror …

Having dumped that load of well-earned steaming hot superciliousness one other thing needs to be added. In the ten years of the war on terror, Bob Graham has never been right about anything.

Graham’s lesser Siamese twin in this matter is ex-GOP Senator Jim Talent, whose only legislative contribution came during the Clinton administration as part of Newt Gingrich’s Contract On For America and its subsequent Welfare Reform Act.

Jim Talent’s signal contribution, bless his heart, was to make it harder for the poor to get food stamps. This made him a darling of the Heritage Foundation on the subject of entitlement.

Like Graham, Jim Talent is nothing but a shill for the bioterror defense industry. And in that role he recently contributed horrible, what amounts to virtually fraudulent testimony, to Congress.

The important bit of rubbish to see, from it:

Removing bioterrorism from the category of WMD will neither be quick nor easy, but it is vital to both America’s economic and national security. I would remind you that bin Laden had a background in construction. It shouldn’t be surprising that he chose to attack buildings in America, because he understood what damage could be wrought by flying fully-fueled, wide body airplanes into those structures. Al Qaeda’s new leader is just as determined to attack America. His formal training was in medicine and infectious disease—one more reason we worry about bioterrorism. But this is not just about al Qaeda.

If the FBI is correct in its assertion that Dr. Bruce Ivins was the sole perpetrator of the 2001 anthrax letter attacks, then a single individual with no training or experience in weaponizing pathogens, and using equipment readily available for purchase on the Internet, was capable of producing high-quality, dry-powdered anthrax. The only difference between producing enough material for several envelopes and enough material to attack a city is just a matter of a few months production work in a laboratory, rather than the few hours of late night work cited by the FBI investigation.

The bottom line on the feasibility of bioterrorism is quite clear.

This is Jim Talent arguing with distinctly unusual illogic that Bruce Ivins, one of the nation’s foremost experts on anthrax, working in the nation’s foremost laboratory on biodefense, with the best access to gold standard anthrax spores in the world … proves that anyone — those completely without training — could do the same.

Here’s a fellow who has never had a single serious course in microbiology in his entire life, a man who wouldn’t know a Gram stain from a grass stain, as an “expert” on bioterrorism and how one makes diseases into weapons before Congress of the allegedly most advanced country in the world.

It’s flabbergasting in its audacity.

But it’s consistent with the bioterror defense industry lobby. Its people will say anything, twisting facts until they’re totally unrecognizable, just to further the message that more money needs to be sent to its clients.

Talent references his new organization, the private sector WMDCenter, here.

By lobbying standards, it’s a small and relatively insignificant shop. And although it pretends to be bipartisan, it’s not. There’s very little interest in anything it does on the left side of the aisle.

And this, perhaps, explains why one of the country’s bioterror defense firms, Emergent BioSolutions — a maker of anthrax vaccine, partnered with the US Chamber of Commerce, instead.

Compared to the Chamber, and other standard GOP-aligned lobbying groups, like KochPAC or AHIP, WMDCenter is very small beer.

Anyway, the website of the WMD Center is not particularly informative — this from a group allegedly about educating the public on the pressing danger of bioterrorism.

It publicizes only that it’s in the process of preparing a report card on the Obama administration’s progress in buttressing the nation against bioterror.

These report cards are rigged exercises, designed to give the government crappy grades. And they’ve done it before.

Last year, when Graham and Talent were still funded by the US government as part of the old WMD Commission, they gave the president an F on bioterror defense. Just before their funding from the US government ran out.

They were booted, anyway.

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