Thursday, July 22, 2004

Anyone remember anthrax?

Our Forgotten Panic (
My point is that we were panicked. Yet that panic never gets mentioned. Last month the New Republic published a 'special issue' in which a bevy of very good writers wondered whether they had been wrong to support the war in Iraq. Most of them admitted to having erred about this or that detail or in failing to appreciate how badly George Bush would administer the war and the occupation. But none confessed to being seized by the zeitgeist. I read the magazine cover to cover and unless I somehow missed it, the word anthrax never appeared. Imagine! Not once! Not a single one of these writers admitted to panicking over anthrax.

I also remember smallpox. There was a lot of talk about smallpox before we invaded Iraq, and a lot of talk about "Dr. Germ", the evil Iraqi biologists. (Ever wonder where she is now?)

The Bush administration pushed for largescale smallpox immunizations, then scaled back to a smaller group. I thought they were right -- back then I had some trust in GWB. Once the invasion of Iraq began the smallpox threat apparently evaporated. Later we discovered that more Americans are immune to smallpox than we once thought -- so the need for immunization was less than we'd thought. But this was discovered after GWB had lost interest. It's almost as if the immunization program, which did injure some people, had served its true purpose.

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