Turns Out I Was Wrong and the Guardian Was Right

Well, it seems US officials are now not only admitting but defending the fake vaccination program:

“People need to put this into some perspective,” said the official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. “The vaccination campaign was part of the hunt for the world’s top terrorist, and nothing else.  If the United States hadn’t shown this kind of creativity, people would be scratching their heads asking why it hadn’t used all tools at its disposal to find bin Laden.”

This is still not sourced to someone with a name, but this sounds credible. It still baffles me that anyone would admit this or speak to the press about it, and it still makes no sense to me on the face of it. But this is now looking as if it’s more likely to be true than not.

It was an immensely stupid thing to do. Yes, it does put efforts to eradicate polio at risk. Yes, it means Barry Blumberg’s life work--developing a vaccine for Hepatitis B–has been undermined. James Fallows is right:

Around the world this will touch the very deepest sources of mistrust, fear, and hatred of the big, technological United States. We will (in this narrative) lie to people about basic questions of family health; we will prey on parents’ concern for their children to lure them into situations where we can take samples of their tissues and fluids; we will say one thing and do another — under white medical-technician jackets and a humanitarian guise. We will suggest that no aspect of our international presence is immune to penetration by spies.

Of all dumb ways to fight a war, taking one of the West’s greatest and most compelling arguments for itself–its proven ability to combat epidemic disease–and associating it with espionage ranks right up there. And of all dumb ways to combat epidemic disease, this ranks right up there, too. 

If you’re tempted to justify this on the grounds that anything goes when it comes to catching bin Laden, remember your first instinct when you read that story: What a crazy anti-American smear. Your first instinct about it was the right one, even if, unfortunately, the story proved true. Intellectual consistency demands that.  And in this case, we seem to have smeared ourselves. 

If you’re tempted to think, “Well, if people are so dumb that they reject life-saving vaccines because of this, it’s not our problem,” remember that epidemic diseases rise up fast, spread fast, and cross borders. If ever we need to fight a disease that poses a bigger threat than bin Laden–perfectly conceivable–do you want to be dealing with the fallout from this? 

  1. Talleyrand

    If some people ignorantly wish to pass over the successes of Western Medicine, then let them go back to the Middle Ages Muslim doctors and use them instead. (For their time, they were of course greatly advanced). This is just as true as those foolishly opposed to blood transfusion, organ transplants, or anti-vaccination campaigns in the West due to smeared inaccuracies linked to Autism.

    Our enemy in Afghanistan exports huge quantities of heroin with the real damage using their needles at the end of the supply chain. I just don’t care if the USA used some good programs to additionally help identify Osama Bin Laden.

    We will never stop the paranoia of 3rd World despots, nor Noam Chomsky acolytes. We are fighting a war, let’s stop this self indulgent introspection and guilt, best suited to anchorites and Faculty lounges.

     If were up to me, many of Osama’s relatives would have been gifted with a needle full of Tetanus, and not a benign DNA sample procedure

  2. David Williamson
    outstripp: Don’t British newspapers just make up stories? 

    Err, nope – the Guardian was also right about the phone hacking scandal, now making it’s way over to the US (if the News of the World just made up stories they wouldn’t need to hack phones, right?). I hardly ever read the Guardian, it’s a lefty rag, but they don’t just make stuff up.

    The USA will always be the Great Satan, no matter how it defends itself or wages war – even with a Nobel laureate as President – sigh.

  3. Aaron Miller
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    If you’re tempted to justify this on the grounds that anything goes when it comes to catching bin Laden, remember your first instinct when you read that story: What a crazy anti-American smear. Your first instinct about it was the right one, even if, unfortunately, the story proved true.

    Actually, my first instinct was to believe it was true. It might have been short-sighted, but I’m not sure why you believe the idea was far-fetched. You are the one, after all, who has written before about how laughably incompetent our intelligence agencies have become.

    And since when do we expect politicians (who give the intel bureaucrats their marching orders) to prioritize the big picture before political popularity? Your point about encouraging fear of vaccinations in such countries is excellent and well taken. But most voters will only know that we finally got Bin Laden.

  4. Ajax von Kaiserpenguin
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: It still baffles me that anyone would admit this or speak to the press about it…

    They might just as well come out and say, “We can too find our rear ends with both hands!”

  5. Jimmy Carter

    Is this a joke?

    We lie all the time: from allowing malaria instead of DDT to telling people to simply strap on a condom and go to town without negative repercussions.

  6. Ottoman Umpire

    My first instinct was and remains, “Great idea.” It wasn’t a fake program, but a real vaccination program with the side benefit of using the spent needles to see if OBL’s relatives were in the neighborhood.

    I remain unclear how this will dissuade people from getting vaccinated.  Foregoing protection against a deadly disease because of patient privacy concerns?  The only concern, I’d think, would be for people who are related to a notorious terrorist.  

  7. Percival

    Now we have one unnamed source quoted in one news outlet as confirming the allegations of another unnamed source in another news outlet.

    Ottoman Umpire: My first instinct was and remains, “Great idea.” It wasn’t a fake program, but a real vaccination program with the side benefit of using the spent needles to see if OBL’s relatives were in the neighborhood.

    That is what I thought and still think as well.  Since the only difference between doing a real vaccination program and doing a fake one is the cost of the vaccine, and since it is a lot better cover to actually have a real vaccine, why not do some good while you are there?

    Calling up a newspaper to spill this information?  Either stupid, or malicious, or stupidly malicious.

  8. outstripp

    Don’t British newspapers just make up stories?

  9. Aaron Miller
    Percival:

    Calling up a newspaper to spill this information?  Either stupid, or malicious, or stupidly malicious. 

    Exactly. If there was no leak (which, I admit, does sound far-fetched… but only because of how American agencies are operated), then this vaccination plan would have been simply brilliant. It’s the leak which makes the operation suspect.

  10. Okan Altiparmak

    This is akin to sabotaging the USA. As a lover of the United States and its core constitutional principles, I myself is not only disappointed, but also deeply saddened. How am I going to be able to defend America in the face of all the conspiracy theories that run amok?

  11. Sisyphus

    I was originally leaning the other way, but Talleyrand makes a strong point. Even though this program hurt no one, the narrative that Western medical assistance is a CIA plot to gain advantage has been prevalent for decades. If we have given those sympathetic to al-Qaeda and Bin Laden, or even just malevolent toward the US, more reason to avoid immunizations, that leaves more for the innocent.

    But I do hate it when the Guardian is proven right.

  12. Raw Prawn

    Considering that islamists are capable of simultaneously believing moslems were not responsible for 9/11 and Muhammed Atta and his team are martyrs, and the Holocaust never happened and didn’t go far enough, this story will make no difference to anyone but the America hating juveniles at the Guardian.   

    Come to think of it, their capacity for hate is already at maximum so it means nothing to them either.

Want to comment on stories like these? Become a member today!

You'll have access to:

  • All Ricochet articles, posts and podcasts.
  • The conversation amongst our members.
  • The opportunity share your Ricochet experiences.

Join Today!

Already a Member? Sign In