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Posted: 7/25/2001 10:35:54 AM EDT
[url]asia.dailynews.yahoo.com/headlines/world/article.html?s=asia/headlines/010724/world/afp/US_lawmakers_warned_of__dark_winter__in_case_of_bioterrorist_attack.html[/url] Tuesday, July 24 7:11 AM SGT US lawmakers warned of "dark winter" in case of bioterrorist attack WASHINGTON, July 23 (AFP) - A chilling scenario of possible national collapse was presented Monday to US lawmakers by a group of prominent security experts, who warned that a biological terrorist attack on US soil could bring the country to the brink of disintegration. The panel, which included former deputy secretary of defense John Hamre, Oklahoma governor Frank Keating and former senator Sam Nunn, presented their conclusions after holding a two-day exercise code-named "Dark Winter," which featured a computer-simulated bioterrorist attack on three US states. Members of the House Subcommittee on National Security closely listened as participants painted a picture of the world's most powerful nation descending into chaos in a matter of several weeks. The game starts with a brief television report that about two dozen people checked into an Oklahoma City hospital with an unidentified illness. Doctors soon find the patients have smallpox, a highly contagious and deadly disease unseen in the United States since 1949. Similar smallpox cases are reported in Pennsylvania and Georgia. By day six, 300 Americans are dead and 2,000 others are infected. Cases of smallpox are reported in Mexico, Canada and Britain, according to the scenario. Meanwhile the US heath system is overwhelmed, the 12 million doses of smallpox vaccine quickly disappear, schools nationwide are forced to close, and public gatherings are limited due to fear of contagion. Droves of Oklahomans anxious to flee stream toward Texas -- but the Texas governor, eager to protect his own residents, closes the border and deploys the state National Guard. Shots are fired. As the standoff between Texans and Oklahomans deepens, a rift opens between federal and local authorities. Members of the US National Security Council suggest "nationalizing" the national guard, while state governors insist on keeping the local troops under their control. On day 12 of the scenario, when the death toll reaches 1,000, interstate commerce grinds to a halt and stock trading is suspended. Demonstrations demanding more smallpox vaccines turn into riots. The United Nations moves its headquarters from New York to Geneva, Switzerland. [b]Less than two months after the outbreak, when the number of dead reach one million and three million more are infected, the president, played in the exercise by Nunn, gathers his top aide to considers imposing marshal law.[/b]
Link Posted: 7/25/2001 10:37:47 AM EDT
(continued) Dead silence reigned in the hearing room as Hamre and Nunn presented their findings with the help of colorful "emergency newscasts" prepared by the nation's leading television broadcasters, who also took part in the exercise, which took place at Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington, D.C. in June. "I think we felt it would cripple the United States if it occurred," Hamre said. "We though we were really gathering together to talk about the mechanics of government," Hamre said. "What we ended up doing is thinking how we save democracy in America." To Republican Congressman Benjamin Gilman, scenarios like this no longer belong to the realm of science fiction. "Sadly, events of the last few years, with bombings ... in New York, Oklahoma City, have transformed the bioterrorism debate from the question of 'if' to the seeming inevitability of 'when," he said. Nunn, who had sat on the Senate Armed Services Committee for more than two decades, said the exercise raised more questions than answers. If there is only one dose of smallpox vaccine for every 23 Americans, whom do you vaccinate? he asked. "Do you seize hotels and convert them to hospitals? Do you close borders and block all travel? What level of force do you use to keep someone sick with smallpox in isolation?" he asked. No clear answer was offered by those present.
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