Revolutionary Worker #1124, October 28, 2001, posted at http://rwor.org
"Across the country today, Americans are wondering if anthrax could arrive in their own mail. This is a threat that abortion clinics have lived with for many years. Long ago we learned how to handle the mail and what to look for in suspicious packages. The rest of the country is now finding out what has been a reality for a long time for those who serve women by working in health centers that provide abortion."
From a news release by
Feminist Women's Health Center
(Washington state), Oct. 17, 2001
The United States is in the grips of mysterious and unnerving anthrax attacks and threats. The attention of the major media and the government have focused on letters--containing or claiming to contain anthrax bacteria--sent to media organizations and offices of Congress members and other officials. On October 17, the House of Representatives shut down--for the first time in recent memory--in order to have the offices tested for presence of the anthrax bacteria.
As of October 20, actual anthrax spores had been found at the offices of a supermarket tabloid in Boca Raton, Florida; TV news anchormen Dan Rather and Tom Brokaw; U.S. Senator Tom Daschle; the New York Post; and New York Governor Pataki. Eight people, including two postal workers, have been infected with anthrax. The most serious case so far is a man at the Florida offices of the tabloid, Sun, who died of the disease.
It is unclear who is behind the anthrax threats and attacks, and what their motivations are. The media is full of speculation about possible "connections" to the September 11 attacks, but no actual evidence of such connections has so far surfaced. However, it is certainly not out of the question that this country's power structure might use the anthrax issue as a pretext to widen their war against other targets, in the name of "combating terrorism." An October 18 editorial in the Wall Street Journal, for example, accused Iraq of being "by far the likeliest supplier" of anthrax that can be used in biological weapons.
Attacks on Abortion Clinics
While putting the spotlight on the discovery of anthrax at the offices of TV networks, newspapers, and Congress members, the media has almost completely ignored the fact that major targets of the anthrax attacks have been women's health centers and abortion clinics.
In its Oct. 17 news release, the Feminist Women's Health Center reported: "According to the Feminist Majority Foundation in Arlington, Virginia, over 170 abortion clinics and doctors' offices in 14 states and the District of Columbia received threatening letters claiming to contain anthrax. The envelopes had return addresses from the U.S. Secret Service and U.S. Marshall Service with postmarks from Atlanta, GA; Knoxville, TN; Chattanooga, TN; or Columbus, OH. The envelopes were also marked, 'TIME SENSITIVE: Urgent Security Notice Enclosed.' When opened by clinic staff, all letters contained a white powder with a letter stating, 'You have been exposed to anthrax. We are going to kill all of you. Army of God, Virginia DARE Chapter.'"
According to the Los Angeles Times, as of October 16 only two of the letters sent to abortion clinics had been tested--neither tested positive for anthrax.
The Washington Post called the Army of God "a little known group that advocates violence against abortion providers." But as columnist Laura Flanders pointed out on the workingforchange.com web site, "In fact, the Army of God is not so little-known. Over the last two decades, anti-abortion terrorists have committed numerous bombings, arson attacks and assassinations against abortion providers in the group's name." (According to the Feminist Women's Health Center, "Virginia Dare" was supposedly the first child born of the European colonizers in the New World, in 1587.)
One man associated with the Army of God, Clayton Lee Waagner, had escaped from federal custody in February of this year while awaiting sentencing on weapons and stolen vehicles charges. According to Flanders, Waagner "admitted he was heading out to Seattle to kill a doctor when he was stopped by Illinois State Police. In June, he posted a manifesto on the website of the Army of God in which he bragged of his travels, claiming to have stalked clinics, assembled a cache of weapons and compiled dossiers on clinic staff in order 'to kill as many of them as I can.'"
Even before this new wave of threats, abortion clinics have been targets of such anthrax attacks for several years. In 1998 Planned Parenthood clinics received 26 letters threatening anthrax contamination. Another 18 were delivered in 1999. The National Abortion Federation reports that between 1998 and 2000, over 80 clinics in 16 states have been subjected to some kind of anthrax threats. Some of those letters reportedly contained references to the Army of God.
The anthrax attacks are part of a violent campaign by Christian fascists which has resulted in the murders of seven abortion providers in the past few years. In March 1999 a bomb exploded outside the Femacare women's clinic in Asheville, North Carolina. No one was injured in this blast because the bomb only partially detonated. But the Associated Press reported at the time, "Femcare was one of several clinics nationwide last month that received packages said to contain the potentially deadly bacterium anthrax."
Anthrax Link to White Supremacists
The mainstream media has also largely ignored the known history of white supremacist groups in the U.S.--in particular, the Aryan Nations--with chemical and biological weapons.
In 1993 Canadian police stopped an Aryan Nations member, Thomas Levy. In his car they found weapons and recipes for chemical weapons. Another case involved James Bell, also of the Aryan Nations. According to the Irish Times, in November 1997 Bell was "found with a concoction of dangerous chemicals and a terrorist manual at his home in Oregon. The plot was openly based on that of Aum Shniri Kyo sect in Tokyo, who tried to use anthrax to mount a horrific terrorist attack on the subway in the Japanese capital."
In 1998 two men were arrested outside of Las Vegas for possessing what the authorities thought was anthrax. The substance was later determined to be an inert animal vaccine against anthrax. One of the men was released. The other man, Larry Wayne Harris, was later jailed on a parole violation. He had earlier been convicted of illegally receiving bubonic plague samples. Harris was a former member of the Aryan Nation and also active in the racist Christian Identity Church.
Harris had also written a book titled Bacteriological Warfare: A Major Threat to North America. According to the Village Voice, "Harris claimed the book was designed to help people survive a biological attack and that he never intended to harm anyone. But, according to Intelligence Report, a nonprofit outfit that tracks far-right activities, 'the scope and depth of information in the book also makes it an effective do-it-yourself manual for mass destruction through biological terrorism.' " The Voice reported that according to the FBI, Harris "boasted that he had enough anthrax to 'wipe out' Las Vegas."
Imperialism's Anthrax Connection
Anthrax is an infectious disease mainly found in animals. When an animal is infected with anthrax, the disease is fatal. Anthrax can be transmitted to humans, but this is very rare, and mainly occurs to people who work with infected animals--farmers, butchers and veterinarians. If caught early in humans, the disease can be effectively treated with antibiotics. However in certain forms, anthrax can be fatal if not caught in time.
Anthrax as a mass threat to humans is a creation of imperialism. During World War 2, the Japanese and German imperialists both had biological-weapons programs. According to Jane's Intelligence Review, Japan "developed an anthrax bomb and built a BW [biological weapons] factory near Harbin in Manchuria. Weapons were tested but did not enter full operational use. They experimented with plague, cholera, typhoid and anthrax. About 2000 POWs were used as guinea pigs and China alleges 11 cities were attacked with plague causing 700 fatalities."
After the defeat of Japan and Germany in World War 2, the U.S. and British imperialists continued the research and development of biological weapons, including anthrax. According to Jane's Intelligence Review, "The U.S. was involved in a BW [biological weapons] programme, having secretly employed Japanese and Nazi germ warfare experts after the Second World War. By the 1950s there was some indication that the U.S. was prepared to use BWs."
In 1951, during the Korean War, North Korea accused the U.S. of carrying out biological warfare using plague agents. North Korea was not the only target, according to Jane's: "The following year Peking claimed anthrax, cholera and plague had been used against north-eastern China. Alleged vectors included flies, fleas, spiders, clams and feathers." The U.S. government claims it stopped its biological weapons program in the early 1970s.
Who is behind the current anthrax attacks is unknown. But a look into the history of anthrax as a weapon reveals the hands of Christian fascists, white supremacists, and heartless imperialists.
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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