A Key British Official Reminds Us of the Forgotten Anthrax Attack

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A Key British Official Reminds Us of the Forgotten Anthrax Attack

Britain is currently engulfed by a probing, controversial investigation into how their Government came to support the invasion of Iraq, replete with evidence that much of what was said at the time by both British and American officials was knowingly false, particularly regarding the unequivocal intention of the Bush administration to attack Iraq for months when they were pretending otherwise.  Yesterday, the British Ambassador to the U.S. in 2002 and 2003, Sir Christopher Meyer (who favored the war), testified before the investigative tribunal and said this:

Meyer said attitudes towards Iraq were influenced to an extent not appreciated by him at the time by the anthrax scare in the US soon after 9/11. US senators and others were sent anthrax spores in the post, a crime that led to the death of five people, prompting policymakers to claim links to Saddam Hussein. . . .

On 9/11 Condoleezza Rice, then the US national security adviser, told Meyer she was in "no doubt: it was an al-Qaida operation" . . . It seemed that Paul Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld's deputy, argued for retaliation to include Iraq, Meyer said. . . .

But the anthrax scare had "steamed up" policy makers in Bush's administration and helped swing attitudes against Saddam, who the administration believed had been the last person to use anthrax.

I've written many times before about how the anthrax attack played at least as large of a role as the 9/11 attack itself, if not larger, in creating the general climate of fear that prevailed for years in the U.S. and specifically how the anthrax episode was exploited by leading media and political figures to gin up intense hostility towards Iraq (a few others have argued the same).  That's why it's so striking how we've collectively flushed this terrorist attack down the memory hole as though it doesn't exist.  When Dana Perino boasted this week on Fox News that "we did not have a terrorist attack on our country during President Bush's term," most of the resulting derision focused on the 9/11 attack while ignoring -- as always -- the anthrax attack.

What makes this particularly significant is that the anthrax attack is unresolved and uninvestigated.  The FBI claimed last year that it had identified the sole perpetrator, Bruce Ivins, but because Ivins is dead, they never had the opportunity -- or the obligation -- to prove their accusations in any meaningful tribunal.  The case against Ivins is so riddled with logical and evidentiary holes that it has generated extreme doubts not merely from typical government skeptics but from the most mainstream, establishment-revering, and ideologically disparate sources.  Just consider some of the outlets and individuals who have stated unequivocally that the FBI's case against Ivinis is unpersausive and requires a meaningful investigation:  The Washington Post Editorial Page; The New York Times Editorial Page; The Wall St. Journal Editorial Page; the science journal Nature; Senators Pat Leahy, Arlen Specter and Charles Grassley; physicist and Congressman Rush Holt, whose New Jersey district was where the anthrax letters were sent; Dr. Alan Pearson, Director of the Biological and Chemical Weapons Control Program at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation; and a vast array of scientific and legal experts in the field.

Here we have one of the most consequential political events of the last decade at least -- a lethal biological terrorist attack aimed at key U.S. Senators and media figures, which even the FBI claims originated from a U.S. military lab.  The then-British Ambassador to the U.S. is now testifying what has long been clear:  that this episode played a huge role in enabling the attack on Iraq.  Even our leading mainstream, establishment-serving media outlets -- and countless bio-weapons experts -- believe that we do not have real answers about who perpetrated this attack and how.  And there is little apparent interest in investigating in order to find out.  Evidently, this is just another one of those things that we'll relegate to "the irrelevant past," and therefore deem it unworthy of attention from our future-gazing, always-distracted minds.

Glenn Greenwald

Glenn Greenwald is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, constitutional lawyer, commentator, author of three New York Times best-selling books on politics and law, and a staff writer and editor at First Look media. His fifth and latest book is, No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State, about the U.S. surveillance state and his experiences reporting on the Snowden documents around the world. Prior to his collaboration with Pierre Omidyar, Glenn’s column was featured at Guardian US and Salon.  His previous books include: With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law Is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the PowerfulGreat American Hypocrites: Toppling the Big Myths of Republican PoliticsA Tragic Legacy: How a Good vs. Evil Mentality Destroyed the Bush Presidency, and How Would a Patriot Act? Defending American Values from a President Run Amok. He is the recipient of the first annual I.F. Stone Award for Independent Journalism, a George Polk Award, and was on The Guardian team that won the Pulitzer Prize for public interest journalism in 2014.

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