What would you do if there was a biological attack in your area?
14 Feb 07
Biological warfare (BW), also known as germ warfare, is the use of any pathogen (bacterium, virus or other disease-causing organism) or toxin found in nature as a weapon of war. BW may be intended to kill, incapacitate or seriously impede an adversary. It may also be defined as the material or defense against such employment. The creation and stockpiling of biological weapons ("offensive BW") was outlawed by the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), signed by over 100 countries. The BWC remains in force. The rationale behind the agreement is to avoid the devastating impact of a successful biological attack which could conceivably result in thousands, possibly even millions, of deaths and cause severe disruptions to societies and economies. Oddly enough, the convention prohibits only creation and storage, but not usage, of these weapons. However, the consensus among military analysts is that, except in the context of bioterrorism, BW is of little military use. Many countries pursue "defensive BW" research (defensive or protective applications) which are not prohibited by the BWC. As a tactical weapon, the main military problem with a BW attack is that it would take days to be effective, and therefore, unlike a nuclear or chemical attack, would not immediately stop an opposing force. As a strategic weapon, BW is again militarily problematic, because it is difficult to prevent the attack from spreading, either to allies or to the attacker, and while an attack is taking effect, the opponent can undertake massive retaliation.Biological warfare can also specifically target plants to destroy crops or defoliate vegetation. The United States and Britain discovered plant growth regulators (i.e., herbicides) during the Second World War, and initiated a Herbicidal Warfare program that was eventually used in Malaya and Vietnam in counter insurgency. Though herbicides are chemicals, they are often grouped with biological warfare as bioregulators in a similar manner as biotoxins.Scorched earth tactics or destroying livestock and farmland were carried out in the Vietnam war and Eelam War in Sri Lanka. The United States developed an anti-crop capability during the Cold War that used plant diseases (bioherbicides, or mycoherbicides) for destroying enemy agriculture. It was believed that destruction of enemy agriculture on a strategic scale could thwart Sino-Soviet aggression in a general war. Diseases such as wheat blast and rice blast were weaponized in aerial spray tanks and cluster bombs for delivery to enemy water sheds in agricultural regions to initiate epiphytotics (epidemics among plants). When the United States renounced its offensive biological warfare program in 1969 and 1970, the vast majority of its biological arsenal was composed of these plant diseases. Attacking animals is another area of biological warfare intended to eliminate animal resources for transportation and food. In the First World War German agents were arrested attempting to inoculate draft animals with anthrax, and they were believed to be responsible for outbreaks of glanders in horses and mules. The British tainted small feed cakes with anthrax in the Second World War as a potential means of attacking German cattle for food denial, but never employed the weapon. In the 1950s the United States had a field trial with hog cholera.