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The Secret of the Anthrax Attacks

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This week marks an anniversary of terrorism which is rarely noted in the mainstream media but is in some ways just as important as the Sept. 11 attacks that had occurred shortly before: the first of the mailings of letters containing deadly anthrax which from September-November 2001 killed five people and infected 17 others. Of all the major events that occurred during the Bush-Cheney tenure in power these attacks were perhaps the strangest and most unexplained. In the aftermath of 9/11 the anthrax mailings increased the general sense of panic and at first, even to objective observers, seemed possibly the second phase of an onslaught by Islamic radicals.

It's no surprise that the administration and their media contingent wasted no time in connecting the mailings with Iraq and Saddam Hussein's alleged bio-weapons program, and it was during this period that the story was put out concerning the supposed meeting in Prague between Mohammed Atta, the ringleader of the 9/11 hijackers, and an 'Iraqi agent'. Along with the general significance this 'link' was purported to have came the assertion that the Iraqi may have given a supply of 'weaponized anthrax' to Atta who then presumably passed it to another of the conspirators for use in the mailings after Atta and his cohorts would go up in flames at the WTC and the Pentagon.

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It was soon determined, of course, that no such meeting in Prague had occurred, though this did not stop Dick Cheney from continuing to repeat the story years later along with other falsehoods intended to establish a 'connection' between 9/11 and Saddam Hussein. As early as mid-October 2001 the authorities began to admit that the anthrax mailings were probably the work of a 'domestic terrorist' rather than al-Qaeda or Iraq. The attacks fortunately tailed off and stopped; 'only' a handful of people had been killed or sickened, and within a short time with all the other things daily happening the entire episode was dropped from the public consciousness.

The investigations were presumably continued, but there was a Keystone Kops atmosphere to them. The scientist Steven Hatfill was named a 'person of interest' in the case, though it was admitted that the FBI had no evidence against him. The fact that a man's career could be ruined in this manner elicited no outrage except from Hatfill himself, who was later successfully to sue the government for millions of dollars. Much later another scientist, Bruce Ivins, was declared the culprit and just before formal charges were to be issued Ivins committed suicide. The case was declared closed (this was in August 2008) and virtually no further public discussion of it has taken place since.

In my opinion we will never have any way of knowing if Ivins was guilty or, if he was guilty but did not act alone, who else was involved and who might have been behind the scenes ordering the attacks. I mention all of this without any attempt to examine the 'evidence' against Ivins because so many bizarre events, with associated deceptions, occurred during the period 2001-2008 that nothing should be surprising any longer. But still, it seems incredible that a major occurrence that convulsed the entire country for a period of two months could be thrown into the memory hole this way even in the age of 24-hour news cycles and the constant displacement of one sensationalistic story by another.

Of course, there has continued to be at least some commentary, mostly by non-mainstream journalists. Some observers have concluded a link does exist between the 9/11 attacks and the anthrax mailings and that this proves the US authorities were responsible for both: click here

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At least to my mind, even with all the ink that has been spilled in cyberspace on the 9/11 and associated conspiracy issues these are matters that will probably end up remaining unresolved forever. As with the assassinations of the 1960's there will continue to be partisans of each view and there will never be 'proof' one way or the other that is satisfactory to a majority of objective people. For every 'expert' on one side an 'expert' will pop up on the other to refute him, and among the conspiracy theorists themselves in all these instances there are violent disagreements as to how the crimes were worked and who was responsible, with each faction of theorists dogmatically asserting they are right and everyone else is wrong.

But even in the absence of a definitive answer to the anthrax murders some observations can be made that have wider implications beyond the case itself and can be a key to understanding much of the mess that was perpetrated as part of the 'Great Terror War' during the Bush-Cheney years.

The most common interpretation in the mainstream media of the anthrax terrorist's motivations was that of an intent to convince the US public, or the government, that bio-warfare was an imminent danger and that measures had to be taken to 'protect' us from a 'real' attack that was likely to occur. This seems a bit like the scenario in a number of 1950's horror films such as I was a Teenage Werewolf in which a mad scientist causes havoc because he thinks that by doing so, by creating a monster, he will end up benefiting mankind.

But if the anthrax culprits were trying to give the impression the Iraqis or a sophisticated transnational group like al-Qaeda were responsible, they did an incredibly inept job of it. The crude notes, written in bad English, looked more like the work of a paranoid individual working alone than a government-controlled or al-Qaeda-type operation. Why, indeed, would a 'professional' terrorist leave any message at all? And then, why did the US authorities, if they were attempting to use the attacks to whip up anger against Iraq, eventually admit that it was 'domestic', not foreign, terrorism?

At the time I believed this was in order to defuse the massive panic that could have taken place: a home-grown attacker, a sort of anthrax-Unibomber, would seem less threatening than the Iraqi or al-Qaeda militants if the idea was to create hysteria but not to allow it to get totally out of hand. But if, as stated, the attacks were intended to implicate Middle Easterners there is a strange resemblance to another hoax that came to light a year or so later.

During the run-up to the Iraq war documents suddenly surfaced which the administration began using in order to 'prove' that the Iraqis were purchasing uranium yellowcake 'from Africa' (as Bush melodramatically intoned in his State of the Union address). These, as Hans Blix noted, turned out to be 'crude forgeries' which the inspectors had been able to debunk after doing a few google searches. How on earth did the forgers expect to get away with a stunt like this? How, similarly, did the anthrax mailer think his crudely-composed notes would appear the work of a foreign power mounting a sophisticated bioterrorism attack?

The answer, put simply, is that the people doing these things, whoever they are, as well as those who are taking advantage of and using the situations for their own ends, underestimated the intelligence and common-sense of the public at large and of the professional investigators who were still independent of the War Party and its agenda. We do not know if the administration, or elements within it, were actively complicit in these affairs or simply employing them to advance their plans. But what's mostly revealed is the degree to which incompetence, coupled with arrogance, marked the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld gang's actions. This has always been obvious with respect to their handling of the occupation of Iraq but it was evident in virtually every aspect of their 'performance' in office.

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Ineptitude does not seem to accord with the 'Machiavellian' image most of us have of these people, but it was real. And just as they had little regard for the intelligence of third-world people--asserting we would be 'welcomed as liberators' in Iraq while we were bombing their country to Kingdom Come--the administration's respect for the US public was almost nonexistent. This, too, was a sign of their arrogance and incompetence, visible in the way not just Bush but the others comported themselves in interviews and press conferences.

Rumsfeld was perhaps the worst of the triumvirate given the bumbling way he spoke and his ham-fisted comments ranging from insulting the French and Germans as 'old Europe' to deriding the ancient culture of Mesopotamia when the Baghdad museum was looted to the contemptuous way he answered a soldier regarding the lack of armor for military vehicles. ('You can get blown up whether your vehicle is armored or not', etc. etc.) Paul Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld's deputy, when suicide attacks by Iraqi irregular forces began occurring was quoted as saying 'we were unprepared for the extent to which this regime was willing to commit war crimes', though Wolfowitz and his cohorts had repeatedly described Saddam as a latter-day Hitler. Cheney, though smoother and better-spoken was either not intelligent enough to see that repeating the Atta-in-Prague story (among other things) would destroy his own credibility, or assumed the public even in the age of cable news and the Internet was too ignorant and unintelligent to understand the facts. Or most probable of all he was so contemptuous of the public that he did not care what they thought.

In every instance the overriding factor was simply the stupidity with which the administration behaved. That, more than any 'evil' intention, was the hallmark of the Bush gang and their hangers-on and allies, as well as their yes-men and stooges in the media. It was what got us into the 'cakewalk' war which they, the civilian 'leadership', had no idea how to fight and would not have had a clue even if their 'cause' had somehow been justified--in spite of the obvious heroism and competence of our soldiers in the field.

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Allan Arpajian is a computer programmer with an additional background in literature and music. He lives in the Philadelphia area.

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