McCain and the Anthrax Scare

The wife of one of my best friends was working in the Senate Office Buildings in 2001 during the anthrax attacks that killed five people. The event traumatized her and led him to support the invasion of Iraq. What, you may ask, did the anthrax attacks have to do with Iraq? Well, nothing.

Today, after the suicide of the scientist, Bruce Ivins, the FBI has recommended that the Justice Department close the investigation, claiming that it has a “strong circumstantial case” against Ivins. Of course, we should be a little skeptical considering the fact that the FBI was forced settle out of court this June and paid previous number one suspect, Steve Hatfill, over six million dollars. Nevertheless, it appears that the FBI has strong evidence linking the particular strain of anthrax used in the killings to anthrax samples from the lab at Fort Detrick where both Hatfill and Ivins worked.

One thing is clear- there is not now, nor has there ever been, any evidence that Iraq was involved in the anthrax attacks. Why did my friend believe there was a connection? Because the neo-cons in and out of the White House used the fear generated by the attacks to fan the flames of war. As Todd Gitlin reminds us,

The 2001 anthrax attacks were hugely important in stoking up a War-of-the-Worlds panic. The envelopes of white powder inflamed the sense that They’re Everywhere–Lake Worth, FL; Washington; a mailbox in Princeton. Without doubt, the anthrax panic muddled brains, promoted an atmosphere of Bush-knows-best, and was easily convertible to war fever–in Iraq or, goddammit, somewhere.

One of the White House shills was Senator John McCain. He appeared on the David Letterman show on October 11, 2001 to fan the flames for “phase two”, the invasion of Iraq. The video ties McCain back to the march for war and confirms his lack of intellectual rigor in asking the right questions before making the “tough decisions.”

LETTERMAN: How are things going in Afghanistan now?

MCCAIN: I think we’re doing fine . . . I think we’ll do fine. The second phase — if I could just make one, very quickly — the second phase is Iraq. There is some indication, and I don’t have the conclusions, but some of this anthrax may — and I emphasize may — have come from Iraq.

LETTERMAN: Oh is that right?

MCCAIN: If that should be the case, that’s when some tough decisions are gonna have to be made.

UPDATE: Today (Aug. 5th) Glenn Greenwald has a well researched post on the FBI’s handling of the Anthrax case here


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