Thursday, October 06, 2005

An apple a day keeps the troops away

Feed a cold, starve a fever. If you're feeling fluish, call the military. With all that's going on in the world, our fearless leader is wrangling for Congress to approve the use of U.S. military on U.S. soil in a law enforcement role (i.e. to force people into quarantine) to stop the spread of the avian flu pandemic should it become a problem.

I, for one, am so very pleased that our President is spending valuable time on this. Why waste energy on issues like feeding the homeless, solving the healthcare crisis in this country, ending the quagmire which is our war in Iraq, or finding housing more suitable housing than an astrodome for victims of Hurricaine Katrina? (Or perhaps President Bush shares his mother's sentiment that things are working out very well (see www.editorandpublisher.com/eandp/news/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1001054719, since blogger no longer allows me to do links the normal way) for impoverished evacuees from New Orleans, because they were underprivileged anyway.

But back to the bird flu. As it turns out, the avian flu is not communicable from person to person, only bird to person. This leads me to believe that the military should not be employed quarantining people, but hunting down lawless birds and rerouting them to the Cuban detention facilities where all of the other terrorists are held. Terrorists. That's what the birds are. Even more chilling, they have no need to hijack planes, because they are miniature planes themselves! Even more chilling, if highjacked by a malevolent leprachaun, the sick birds could become flying harbingers of magical disease and then even voodoo (oh, sorry, trickle down) economics won't be able to save us.

Joking aside, I find Bush's idea of repealing the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 a bit disturbing. If my superficial understanding (and the CNN article I read) is correct, it "bans the military from participating in police-type activity on U.S. soil." The Bush proposal comes in the wake of slow response to civil unrest in the wake of Katrina. The thing is (also according to the CNN article and more specifically Gene Healy of the Cato Institue) that the act does not apply to "the military's ability to respond to a crisis".

What disturbs me about overturning such an act are the doors it opens for using the military in other situations. Does this mean they could be employed to break up demonstrations? Does this mean that they could be employed to intern people for purposes other than medical quarantine? Maybe the power wouldn't be used for such things, but it's chilling to think that it could be. It reminds a lot of the stories my family has told about living under fascist and communist regimes, and that is a scary thought.

6 comments:

Chris Date said...

Dear Mari,

I entirely understand your concerns over the use of the military in this way but you do seem to be underestimating the dangers of this avian flu. It can indeed in the first instance only be transmitted from bird to human, not human to human, but that is only the start. According to the World Health Organisation web site, the particular strain of the disease that is able to jump species is one that is potentially lethal to humans. Worse, if a person is infected with both the avian flu and a human kind, those species can swap genes to create a truly horrible new strain, to which we would not have any immunity. There would then be a likelihood of a pandemic which would kill vast numbers of people. That is what happened in 1918-19 when 40-50 million people died in Europe, far more than were killed in the First World War. And in those days there was no jet travel to spread the disease rapidly around the world.

http://www.who.int/csr/disease/avian_influenza/avian_faqs/en/ for the best information.

On the bright side, the WHO is a United Nations agency but nonetheless your administration seems to be listening to them on this point. Can we hope to hear John Bolton congratulating Mohammed El Baradei and the International Atomic Energy Agency on winning the Nobel Peace Prize today?

Huggles,
Chris

Martina said...

While I was perhaps a bit flippant, I really do understand the gravity of a potential spread of the avian flu. It's more the U.S. administration's handling of the potential consequences that concern me. There has to be a better way.

It just strikes me as being similar to The Patriot Act, which was ostensibly passed to protect us from terrorism (like that's even possible!), but has the power to reach into areas that go beyond national security and into personal liberties.

The thing about The Patriot Act is that, for the most part, I really do think that it was passed with good intentions. There was such a climate of fear at that time. Despite it being unreasonable to in a country of this size that any possible attempt at violence could be foiled, people wanted to believe that the government could protect them. Maybe some of our civil servents wanted to believe they could do something too.

In the end, however, this climate created an act that infringes on many of the liberties about which we in this country like to crow. Even if it is well-meaning (is it?), I see the same kind of potential in the proposal regarding the bird flu.

Maybe it's having close relatives that were alive to experience the Nazis and later Communist East Germany, but I think I'm particularly sensitive to the use of military and internment in such a way. It just seems like there have to be other options.

I could go on, but I have to leave for work in a couple minutes, so I'll leave it at that. I do want to add one thing about the Nobel the peace prize. I wasn't home much to see the news the day the the winner was announced, but other than when I visited the Nobel site, I have heard nothing about El Baradei and the IAEA winning. I asked my mom, who watches a lot of news as well, and she says she hasn't really heard much about it either.

Chris Date said...

Oh look, spam! Is that the sign of a successful blog or just a pain in the arse.

Huggles,
Chris

Martina said...

I'm voting for ass pain. It may also be a sign that I need to get one of those verification dealies (I bet you don't like the word "dealie", because it's unsophisticated and very un-British...almost like "blog" :-)) where you have to duplicate blurry letters to show you're human and not a spambot. I really do object to them, though (dealies and spambots, not humans...though on second thought some of them leave a lot to be desired as well!). All of that aside, I'm glad you came to visit. :-)

Chris Date said...

No, it's not a dealie. It's a doobery-firkin.

Martina said...

Oh, a doobery-firkin - so much more elegant and refined than "dealie". I should have known that a technical wizard such as yourself would know the proper term for such a thing.