by Binoy Kampmark
October 28, 2014
Dr. Binoy Kampmark
was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.
He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne.
Does demagoguery have an inventive side?
Only if you assume semi-literacy is
virtuous, and that imagination lies in the name of the manipulative.
The combination of both
terrorism are the evil twins of
the same security dilemma.
It is manufactured. It is a confection.
And it is, at the end, worthless in what it actually suggests. The
effects of it are, however, dangerous. They suggest that politicians can be
skimpy with the evidence yet credible in the vote.
Historically, disease and culture share the same bed of
significance. Notions of purity prevail in these considerations.
Bioterrorism has become, rather appropriately, another mutation in
the debate on how foreign fighters arriving in a country might
Individuals such as Jim Carafano,
vice president of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute
for National Security and Foreign Policy at the Heritage
Foundation, continue insisting on the need for presidential
administrations to form a "national bioterrorism watch system".
"While [Ebola] is a dangerous
disease that Washington needs to take seriously," writes David
Inserra of The Daily Signal, "America could face an even greater
medical threat in the future: the threat of bioterrorism."
While the language here seems to draw
distinctions - that those suffering Ebola pose one set of problems,
while the use of a bioterrorist agent is another - the ease of
placing the two side by side is virtually irresistible.
In the wake of the Ebola outbreak, that old horse of potential
bioterrorism has emerged with a convenient vengeance. This is not
surprising, given the spectre of WMD fantasies that captivated
Bush administration in 2003.
It is not sufficient that there are
terrorists with a low probability of waging actual attacks on home
soil, be they returning citizens, or simply foreign fighters wishing
to stir up a good deal of fuss. Throwing in the disease component is
hard to resist.
Rep. Mike Jelly of Pennsylvania decided to direct the
bioterror genie the way of Islamic State fighters, suggesting that
returning jihadists might cause Washington a good deal of headaches,
not merely by their radicalization, but by carrying the virus as a
strategic weapon of infliction.
"Think about the job they could do,
the harm they could inflict on the American people by bringing
this deadly disease into our cities, into schools, into our
towns, and into our homes. Horrible, horrible." 
This exotic lunacy was also appealing to
Republican Rep. Joe Wilson of South Carolina, who even
suggested that Hamas fighters might be daft enough to infect
themselves with Ebola and make a journey to freedom land in order to
engage in acts of infectious mayhem.
Their venue of safe passage would be
from the South, where the evils of an open border with Mexico risk
allowing a dangerous pathogen into the country. Now that, dear
readers, is exactly what such figures think about Mexico.
The moral calculus operating with Wilson is that of irrational,
dangerous death - those who,
"value death more than you value
Those with such a creed are bound to get
up to any old and lethal mischief.
"It would promote their creed. And
all of this could be avoided by sealing the border, thoroughly.
Címon, this is the 21st century." 
As to whether the idea of using such an
agent would be feasible is quite something else.
Weaponizing such a pathogen has proven
to be a formidable challenge. Such groups as
the Aum Shinrikyo cult attempted to
collect the virus while ostensibly on a medical mission in the
Democratic Republic of the Congo was a failure of some magnitude.
As Dina Fine Maron argues, the,
"financial and logistical challenges
of transforming Ebola into a tool of bioterror makes the concern
seem overblown - at least as far as widespread devastation is
Even the FBIís James Corney suggests
that evidence of Islamic Stateís involvement in an Ebola program is
This tends to get away from that old problem that the biggest of
trouble makers in the business of death remain states rather than
non-state ideologues. States have done more than their fair share of
dabbling in the business of rearing microbes of death in the armory.
Be it small pox, botulism, and
tularemia, these have found their way into inventories and
laboratories with disturbing normality.
Much of this has also been allowed to get away because of the
administrationís open confusion on the subject of how to handle the
Ebola problem. The excitement has become feverish (dare one say
pathological?) in the US, suggesting the double bind that the Obama
administration finds itself.
The 'President' did not do himself any favors by on the
one hand denying there was a grave threat, and then proceeding to
appoint an "Ebola Czar" by the name of
This was classic bureaucracy in action -
we create positions of unimportance to supposedly fight the
unimportant, while admitting their gravity in creating such
Certainly, the President found himself railroaded by events with the
unilateral decisions of Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and New Jersey
Gov. Chris Christie (R) to implement mandatory 21-day
quarantines for those returning from Ebola "hot zones".
This has always been the federal, and
one might even say federalist headache: what is done in the White
House and Washington often stays there.
The response by states can
often have a foreign sense to them. The US Centers for Disease and
Control and Prevention has regarded such quarantine measures as
unnecessary, but the CDCís attempt to defuse the situation has not
White House spokesman Josh Earnest had to face the music of
disease on Monday, with a reporter suggesting that, if Klain was
"Ebola response coordinator", it
seemed "that you have a need for some coordinating here."
William Schaffner of Vanderbilt
University, a long time student of infectious diseases, sees this as
a matter of information, in so far as the more one gets, the less
anxious one is bound to feel.
"I would like not to call it
irrational. When people are just learning about something,
something that they regard as a threat, and they havenít
integrated all of this information still into their thought
process, their sense of anxiety obviously increases."
Schaffner is unduly wedded to the rather
unfashionable belief that knowledge somehow enlightens. But it is
not knowledge that is driving this debate, but supposition.
Facts are the enemy, and they continue
to play the roles of silent, some might even say murdered witnesses.