I've rambled about this over at Eschaton from time to time, but wanted to go into a bit more detail here.
Long before 9/11, I tended to brood about terrorism pretty often. When I lived in New York, I was sometimes a little uneasy taking the subways. When I flew in airplanes, I sometimes reflected on how easy it would be for someone to hijack one and use it as a missile. When 9/11 happened, I was shocked, but not surprised.
The reason these ideas occurred to me so often - besides my naturally morbid disposition - was because I spent most of the nineties working for a business that was involved semi-peripherally in anti-terrorism. As the person who answered most technical inquiries, I was suddenly getting deluged with calls from panicked military people and first responders, begging for help in dealing with the threat of CBW attacks. The reason? Bill Clinton had mandated it. He'd required it, and provided an unprecedented amount of money for it. It was such a novel idea that even though this wasn't our primary business, we made a great deal of money at it. The phone literally rang off the hook for months. Here's how Fire Chief magazine described just part of Clinton's program:
The Department of Health and Human Services will receive an additional $43.4 million for vaccine research and development to defend against biological weapons, almost a 150% increase. The Food and Drug Administration will receive $13.4 million for enhanced regulatory review of vaccines and therapeutics, and the National Institutes of Health will receive $24 million for research on diagnostics, vaccines and antimicrobials, as well as for genomic research.
Also proposed was a 22% increase, to $86 million, in funding for improvements in the public health surveillance system and public health infrastructure. This translates into increased lab capacity, strengthened epidemiological capabilities for state and local health departments, and more resources for communications and information technology. The Centers for Disease Control will create a network of regional labs to provide rapid analysis and identification of select biological agents.
Clinton's obsession with terrorism response didn't win him a lot of acclaim, I'm afraid. Most people I talked to sounded put out or aggrieved; some hinted darkly that it was all for show, or a distraction from one or another scandal. It must've been the mere fact that it was Clinton talking that rendered the information suspect, because in fact, the danger of CBW attacks in that era was obvious. For instance, the FBI had caught a number of white-supremacists with anthrax and plague baccili, and the Aum Shinrikyo cult had recently carried out its sarin attacks in the Tokyo subway.
If you took the slightest interest in CBW issues back then, you knew that Clinton was right, and was doing the right thing. Some of the near-misses I read back then, by virtue of having access to usually unpublicized incident reports, gave me nightmares for years.
The Bushbot party line, needless to say, has been to ridicule the basic concepts involved. Here's the subreptilian Michelle Malkin on Kerry's proposal to increase funding and personnel for first response:
Kerry's big proposal to fight the global war on terrorism (borrowed from Bill and Hillary Clinton) is to add 100,000 "first responders" to the ranks of firefighters and emergency medical personnel in cities and towns across the United States. In other words: Wait until the terrorists strike us again and then do a really, really good job of cleaning up the mess afterward.
Of course, our brave firefighters, cops and emergency personnel need better training and equipment to respond in the event of another attack. But responders, no matter how courageous, prevent nothing. Dialing 911 is not the solution to stopping another 9/11.
Putting aside the fact that Malkin's lying - this is not Kerry's "big proposal" for preventing terrorism - "first response" doesn't mean clean-up. First response means saving lives. It means rescuing victims, clearing the area, identifying and neutralizing CBW agents, administering antidotes...it means doing all this, and much more, without getting yourself killed. By Malkin's logic - and that's far too noble a word to describe what goes on in her shriveled, seething, squirming, evil brain - a firefighter who rushes to the scene of a 4-alarm blaze is there to "clean up." Because after all, "responders, no matter how courageous, prevent nothing."
On the contrary, they prevent people from dying, you insufferable, dead-eyed, slack-jawed whore.
It's amazing that in so dangerous an era as ours, rational adults have to deal with virtual fifth columnists like Malkin, who are willing to deride and scuttle essential public-health measures to score illusory political points. Truly, things have learned to walk that ought to crawl.