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Customer Discussions > History forum

Not sure if it is history, but how far is too far?

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Initial post: Nov 6, 2012, 9:30:29 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 6, 2012, 10:24:48 AM PST
As I said, I am not sure if this is history or not.

I have been studying biological warfare recently. It is an incredibly disheartening subject. It is part of a history of very ugly weapons.

I am compelled to ask, what sort of weapons are "too far" and whether some weapons are actually off the table. When I was younger and stupider I would have perhaps said "use whatever you have, win".

I don't subscribe to that point of view anymore. I think the NBC weapons are clearly well merited as being "off the table" as weapons of war.

But upon reflection, I don't why certain weapons are on or off the list.

These weapons seem to fall into two categories with a good deal of cross-over. I think there are the species extinction weapons and absolute mass destruction weapons.

1. I think first, there are the mass destruction weapons like fusion and fission weapons. Although, truth be told bombers with HE can do near as much. I suppose the real discussion is whether indiscriminate destruction of property and people is merited at all. Since WWII, most civilized countries in the west seem to have reached that conclusion. However, one wonders how Hanoi fits into this scheme? Morality seems to be flexible here.

2. Chemical weapons. Why are these weapons off the table? Personally, they make my skin crawl. Using this stuff on soldiers or worse, civilians is so repellant to me that I have difficulty coming to grips with it. But in the beginning at was just seen as a mass area weapon. Mustard was not even thought to be fatal or cause long lasting damage. It was though of as a "humane" weapon. Although one of my grand parents was splashed with liquid mustard at Verdun (the American battle in 1918, not the French one of 1916), he had emphysema for the rest of his life, so I am not sure how "humane" it is. Somehow, these weapons seem horrible, but I can't say why. Although modernly, the long term ecological effects maybe the major cause concern.

And then the one I consider most barbaric of all.

3) Biological weapons. What possible justification? That such weapons could even be conceived of speaks volumes to the the barbarity of the species. Meddling with nature itself to make germs and bacteria more virulent and more deadly, increase their weaponizability, this is truly the the work of Satan. What scientist would consider even working on this stuff? Working on a weapons so dangerously unpredictable and mutatable as a deadly virus borders on insanity. Even an unintentional error has the potential to exterminate every living thing on the planet. The chance of this is incredibly small, but it exists. Worse yet, unlike the other weapons, it can happen ... by accident. Let alone that their are lunatics out there, neo-nazi's, hindu nationalists, muslim fanatics, and others who would actually use these things. It is to the colossal shame of countries like the US, Germany, China, and especially the USSR who embraced it wholeheartedly, and to Japan whose work in this area could well have justified extinction of an entire people. It is one of those areas where morality must trump all other concerns. I believe I would lose a war rather than use these weapons.

I did not intent that the question framing be so long. But there it is.

Perhaps the use and discussion of these weapons is not properly a history question, but where else?

Please keep it civil. The incipient hostility of the internet is getting to me. What are your thoughts? Should there be banned weapons? Are those selected sufficient? Should more be added? Which ones? Too many? What do you people think?

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 6, 2012, 11:53:17 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 6, 2012, 12:27:17 PM PST
L. King says:
I believe you brought this up in a previous thread. Since then I've had time to think about it.

Here's a couple of principles to consider:

1. Extent of collateral damage. Thus a nuclear bomb to take out a facility containing nuclear bombs in a remote mountain area might be considered legitimate. 95% of nuclear weapons, according to Edward Luttwak, targeted other nuclear weapons - he thought the whole approach was rather stupid. He also commented negatively on the idea of using a nuclear bomb on enemy battalions in habitable useful or ecologically sensitive areas - the scenario being Soviet troops who penetrated into Germany's agricultural heartland. On one had this was considered to be a viable deterrent - on the other hand no German government would sanction the destruction of Germany's breadbasket. A neutron bomb without long term radiation might be acceptable.

2. The persistence of danger and effect after the conflict is over. Landmines fall under this category. If landmines could be reliably disabled after the conflict is over then they are less problematic. Chemical warfare, mustard gas, napalm fail the test because unless they kill they cause long standing disfigurement and pain. So do most bioweapons. However the same argument could be made about munitions as they also cause damage such as loss of limbs.

Germ warfare fails the long term effects criteria - it can't be contained to the immediate conflict. Like nerve gas, the wind blows in all directions.

3. Physical pain caused by the weapon - weapons that are designed to maim. Dum cums, anti-personnel missiles containing ball bearings would fit this description. However a passive defense such as barbed wire would not.

4. A weapon that justifies the use by the enemy of the above. Thus using germ warfare or nuclear warfare that somehow doesn't violate 1 or 2 sets a precedent that it can be generally used. This leads to advocating a general ban so that we avoid the category of nuclear weapons altogether.

Posted on Nov 6, 2012, 4:56:37 PM PST
L King,

Good points.

Although I do wonder how these lines are really drawn. Do the weapons have to be used first before one backs off in revulsion?

Napalm, is not a residuary weapon. Fire burns it away just as it does gasoline.

As for landmines. They are never going to go away. Unexploded ordinance is deposited all over the place in mass quantities. They are still burning the ranges at Fort Ord 18 years later. So it's not limited to land mines.

This one I don't know that I understand "weapons that are designed to maim." All weapons are. Rather they are designed to kill. Absent killing you they will maim you. I am not sure I understand the distinction. Unless the weapon is designed to maim you and NOT kill you (dum dum's) but, other than that, I don't really follow. And "anti-personnel missiles containing ball bearings would fit this description." I am not sure I understand this. What is different about ball bearing than any other explosive wrapped in a metal casing. These casings shatter and general thousands of sharp little metal fragments in a vast array of sizes and shapes. You could actually argue that ball bearings having rounded surfaces and regular sizes are easier for surgeons to find and identify making them easier to remove and causing less hemorrhaging than razor sharp casing splinters. Good combat surgeons and trauma surgeons will tell you this.

I do wonder where people's heads have to go to justify the use of some of these weapons? I don't understand sometimes. Only by defining your enemy as so sub-human that he is not worthy of common decency can you go that far.

Posted on Nov 7, 2012, 5:44:02 AM PST
B. A. Dilger says:
Let's not forget cluster bombs, last used by Israel against the Hezbollah while they were raining missiles on them, for "conventional" weaponry. Mankind does not have limits when perceived survival is at stake. Worse, did you ever hear about the small biological-weapons lab found in a dingy Marselliese (sp?) neighborhood by French police in the 90's? Terrorists were working with biowarfare materials. Besides the three categories you listed I can add several more: cyber warfare, genetic warfare, and nano warfare. These are the battlegrounds of the future, and all effect military and civilians alike. There are no rear areas in modern self-annihilation.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 7, 2012, 10:25:19 AM PST
L. King says:
I'll start by granting that you know much more about weaponry than I do, so my impressions of what a particular weapon does will be anecdotal and from the POV of a civilian lay person.

With napalm the effects on the human body are residuary and non-repairable, whereas bullets and shrapnel can be removed. It has the nasty property of clinging to the flesh until it's spent. Perhaps what is horrifying is that it is so visual. Death is slow and painful as the person is burned alive - not that other methods can't be slow and painful but with napalm that's the only way. Napalm is not banned, though it seems to have voluntarily fallen into disuse.

Some weapons are designed to destroy buildings, tanks, planes or shielding. The primary target is the enemy's infrastructure. Even though they are also going to harm the operator, the moral justification is that the enemy intends to do the same to you. Ideally though you would like to take out such infrastructure when the enemy isn't in them - which is perhaps morally better than a "fair fight". Fleshettes on the other hand are more likely to maim than bullets. The ball bearing example comes from Hiz b'Allah's firing of missiles at Haifa - the targets were civilians (morally wrong in the first place), not soldiers in the field, and the charge was incapable of destroying infrastructure - the charge spread the ball bearings widely in order to harm as many people as possible - like a suicide bomber inclosing their charge in nails.

Arguably its a matter of degree, with a preference to ban the more egregious cases. Small booms are OK because they target something specific and military. Really big booms such as nuclear weapons - they encompass too much. I understand that there are different types of grenades, for example a concussion grenade is designed to stun, whereas the common grenade sends out metal fragments. I wonder if weapons designers think in terms of more or less humane weaponry, in the same sense that hunters supposedly do.

A different category entirely - child soldiers. There's the long term effect on the psyche of a child, not that an adult's psyche isn't affected by war, but because we are supposed to protect children from things like this.

Dilger brings up cluster bombs. I'd make the case that deployed against ground troops these might be acceptable, and that's how they were used. However they were older munitions near end of life (circa 1980) and so they presented the same problem as land mines after hostilities are over. It also depends on the moral principles applied. If one is applying sportsmanship and arguing that the only ethical weapon is one that gives the enemy the opportunity to surrender, then machine guns would be out - and people did argue when they were introduced that they were unethical. That casts war in the terms of the middle ages - a chivalrous battle with rules of engagement for gentlemen - and that's a twist that brings the discussion into historical terms - the evolution of military ethics.

You last point -defining the enemy as subhuman is not what necessarily has to occur. One can regard the enemy as entirely human and still treat them as a threat. Using this POV it's tactically sound to force a surrender and seek to minimize casualties.

Posted on Nov 7, 2012, 11:24:35 AM PST
B. A. Dilger says:
I might recommend a book on the machine gun:

The Social History of the Machine Gun

That had a tremendous impact on warfare. It's a weapon of mass destruction, and can be found in more compact varieties. The AK-47 and it's variants of the Kalishnakov family is the weapon of choice in insurrections.

Posted on Nov 7, 2012, 2:54:19 PM PST

As far as I know, the first modern attempt to address this issue was the St Petersburg convention. The principle that they attempted to establish was the avoidance of "unnecessary suffering". One of their big concerns at the time was exploding bullets. Thus, you have the imposition of a weight limit below which explosive fillings are supposed to be banned. (Ever wonder why 37mm caught on as a common caliber?)

Of course, all of this begs the question of how one in meaningful terms distinquishes between "necessary" and "unnecessary" suffering? It can be argued that it is "necessary" to inflict an injury on an opponent of sufficient severity that it causes him to instantly cease fighting. However, the question of what it will take to accomplish this is highly situational and probably not amenable to a fixed answer.

I think discrimination vs non-discrimination is a valid concern, although, as it has already been noted, the actual mode of employment is also a factor. Employment of a wide area munition in an open space against a military target may be legitimately discriminant while the employment of the very same weapon in an unevacuated civilian urban area would be anything but.

I'm going to differ somewhat from L. King though on the definition of "persistence". My understanding of this issue is that it relates not to the persistence of suffering, since all weapons are capable of producing wounds that result in enduring suffering of one type or another. Rather, I would suggest that a weapon would be unacceptably persistent if there is no way to cordon or turn it off even after the conclusion of hostilities. The weaponization of a contagious disease would be the best example. It continues to kill indiscriminantly even if the issues that prompted its employment are resolved.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 7, 2012, 3:21:35 PM PST
R. Largess says:
I think the other posters are missing the essential points about NBC weapons. First, nuclear weapons are far more destructive than any other weapons ever developed, sufficiently so as to create a two-tier situation of "nuclear war" vs. "conventional war". Thus both the Americans and Russians developed plans for conducting full-scale conventional war against each other in the 70's and 80's while forgoing the MAD nuclear exchange. And while chemical and biological weapons are extremely horrible, their tactical effectiveness is extremely overrated. Biological warfare has yet to accomplish anything significant. And the advantage chemical warfare might give has been generally cancelled out when used by both sides. Possession of chemical weapons served as an effective deterrent to their use everywhere except WWI and Iraq-Iran. I believe that the grouping of these together as "weapons of mass destruction" is very misleading. I think it originates from our decision to drop chemical weapons in the 70's which put us in the position of threatening retaliation with nuclear weapons against enemy use of chemical weapons - as we did publicly against Saddam in Desert Storm.

Posted on Nov 7, 2012, 3:53:00 PM PST
B. A. Dilger says:
The thought behind "incapacitating" weapons is not kill enemy combatants, but inflicting casualties so as to impede fighting capabilities. There is no compassion in this reasoning but is seen as an effective way to overwhelm an enemy's ability to handle the wounded. Thus putting a strain on resources and logistics.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 7, 2012, 3:53:13 PM PST
Considering that the Israeli IDF are currently using biological warfare against the Palestinians by spraying them with sewage water which as we all know contains pathogens that can sicken or even kill.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 7, 2012, 4:00:08 PM PST
Convention on Cluster Munitions
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Convention on Cluster Munitions

Signatories to the Convention (blue) and States Parties (purple)
Type Disarmament
Drafted 19-30 May 2008 in Dublin
Signed 3 December 2008
Location Oslo
Effective 1 August 2010[1]
Condition 6 months after 30 ratifications[2]
Signatories 108[3]
Parties 76[3]
Depositary UN Secretary-General[4]
Languages Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish[5]
Convention on Cluster Munitions at Wikisource
v t e
The Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) is an international treaty that prohibits the use, transfer and stockpile of cluster bombs, a type of explosive weapon which scatters submunitions ("bomblets") over an area. The convention was adopted on 30 May 2008 in Dublin,[6] and was opened for signature on 3 December 2008 in Oslo. It entered into force on 1 August 2010, six months after it was ratified by 30 states.[2] Currently, 76 states have ratified it and another 35 have signed but not ratified it.[3]

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 7, 2012, 4:57:49 PM PST
L. King says:
Nope. They do use a smelly spray occasionally that smells somewhat like skunk for crowd control.

Could someone else tell Dickerson to shut up and get lost.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 8, 2012, 5:16:53 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 9, 2012, 4:56:52 AM PST
Jeff Marzano says:
IGS says:

[I have been studying biological warfare recently.]

The various methods that people have discovered to annihilate each other is a fascinating subject.

People in this discussion have mentioned things like napalm, machine guns, and cluster bombs. Those are indeed horrific enough but are not considered weapons of mass destruction.

The detonation of a hydrogen bomb is not something the human mind can really even imagine as far as actually experiencing something like that. The fireball from a 3 megaton hydrogen bomb would be three miles in diameter. That's a three mile wide miniature sun that would cause instant and permanent blindness from 30 miles away. Let's not even talk about what happens to the people who are closer.

Blast, heat, and radiation.

The alchemists of old believed that God is an alchemist who created the universe by converting energy into matter. The stars reverse this process as does a hydrogen bomb.

The following book was written by the guy who ran the Soviet Union's bio weapons program during the cold war:

Biohazard: The Chilling True Story of the Largest Covert Biological Weapons Program in the World--Told from Inside by the Man Who Ran It

He defected to the U.S. and informed the Americans that the Russians used germ warfare against the Germans during World War II and later in Afghanistan. The Americans were shocked because they realized that the disease he said was used in Afghanistan had in fact broken out mysteriously and nobody knew why.

They created a bio weapons industry that could produce weaponized anthrax and other pathogens by the truckload. What they did to laboratory animals such as monkeys and rabbits during this process is unspeakable.

The world is fortunate that genetic engineering was frowned upon in Russia for many years. This slowed down the pace of these mad scientists in their quest to create super germs.

However eventually they did use genetic engineering and manipulation to create new forms of ancient diseases like the plague and smallpox. Those agents would cause the immune system to attack the human body and kill the person without leaving any traceable evidence for the cause of death. If something like that had ever been unleashed on the world we're talking Armageddon scenarios for the human race. The human body itself becomes the delivery system for the weapon.

They could have probably engineered something like that to remain dormant inside the body for years and just continue to spread all over the world. Although what the rationale might be for doing something like that I don't know unless only they had the vaccine.

The following book, if you believe it, contains information provided by beings from another planet called Iarga which is 14 light years from Earth:

Ufo...Contact from Planet Iarga

They said that the buildup of nuclear arsenals is something that happens on all of the planets which are like our planet Earth. They don't understand how people can sleep at night with our nuclear arsenals since with the pressing of a few buttons we could witness something that the human mind cannot even begin to imagine.

But interestingly they felt that the most dangerous type of 'weapon' is biological. They say in the book how substances could be created that could contaminate entire bodies of water. I guess that could be biological or chemical.

That book states that there's like a confederacy of advanced races that monitor our planet Earth at all times. They have a policy of non interference since the human race must evolve on its own. But they might intervene if we start approaching something like a nuclear holocaust.

If something like an atomic bomb goes off in for example New York Harbor it's hard to tell what would happen.

There are theories also about what other types of capabilities may be out there which the public doesn't even know about. There's the sinister HAARP device up in Alaska.

There may be ways of creating a tear in the fabric of space and time. This is probably what happened on the doomed continent of Atlantis. I suspect the forces that destroyed Atlantis are not part of our science today, at least not the science that's in the public domain.

Jeff Marzano

Fulcanelli: Master Alchemist: Le Mystere des Cathedrales, Esoteric Intrepretation of the Hermetic Symbols of The Great Work

Haarp: The Ultimate Weapon of the Conspiracy (Mind-Control Conspiracy)

The Hunt for Zero Point: Inside the Classified World of Antigravity Technology

Occult Ether Physics: Tesla's Hidden Space Propulsion System and the Conspiracy to Conceal It (2nd Revised Edition)

Posted on Nov 9, 2012, 12:57:32 AM PST
B. A. Dilger says:
Don't forget the ability of nanobots to target specific genomes to alter or erase their sequences. Certain characteristics could be targeted such as race, blood types and hair color. If red-headed Scotch-Irish men were deemed undesirable than nanobots could be designed to attack their chromosomes in the gene pool. This is in the future, hopefully, but the technology could also target defective genes, eliminating diseases and negative traits. So the technology is a double-edged sword.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 9, 2012, 5:08:45 AM PST
L. King says:
I read recently that the President's security detail wipes all biological traces afterwards - cleans glasses, other items he might have touched, for that reason.

Of course it might have been in an Amazon discussion group, so take it with a grain of salt. At the moment this is still well within the range of science fiction.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 9, 2012, 10:38:55 AM PST
Jeff Marzano says:
There was a famous case where a Russian spy walked up to a guy on the sidewalk and touched him with the tip of his umbrella. The umbrella tip contained a small Ricin particle which was injected into the guy's leg, killing him.

Ricin is a deadly poison but it is derived from the Castor Oil plant. Edgar Cayce felt that castor oil has very powerful healing properties. Cayce told people how to put castor oil on heated pieces of cloth that could be applied to the body. He called those cloths castor oil packs.

Putin was implicated in poisoning a former KGB agent in England with radioactive tea. The British intelligence guys were apparently able to trace the radiation path from the tea pot to the dead guy.

Poison has been used as a murder weapon for many thousands of years throughout history. There have been many famous murder cases going back to the ancient past right up until today where people used poison.

The case of Stacey Castor is interesting. Stacey apparently poisoned both of her ex husbands with antifreeze. She tried to implicate her own daughter by writing a fraudulent note on her computer where the daughter stated that she had poisoned her father and was going to commit suicide. Then Stacey gave the daughter a lethal cocktail of drugs but the girl survived.

Stacey used the term 'anti-free' in the fake note which is the same term she used when talking about antifreeze. This was a red flag for the police when they interviewed her.

When you see someone like that sitting in court showing no emotions or reactions whatsoever when confronted with those types of accusations it appears that they have no soul. That's the cold, blank stare of a truly heartless, ruthless killer.

Former New York City detective Joseph Coffey saw that same darkness in the eyes of Aniello "Mr. Neil" Dellacroce, former underboss of the Gambino crime family. Coffey states that Mr. Neil was the scariest person he has ever spoken to and that includes David Berkowitz.

Poisoning someone is one of the more vicious forms of murder.

One of those crazy doctors who was killing his patients was also poisoning his wife so that she was always sick. The wife finally committed suicide. It may have been Dr. Michael Swango (aka 'Dr. Death').

Jeff Marzano

Posted on Nov 14, 2012, 8:59:04 AM PST
D. Mok says:
> I am compelled to ask, what sort of weapons are "too far" and whether some weapons are actually off the table.

*All* biological weapons are unethical. They can't target military personnel only, they cause disproportionate pain and suffering, they may cause long-term damage (eg. to the offspring of injured personnel) -- all points that L. King has mentioned above. What he didn't mention was the broadest negative -- that the development of organisms that target humans is, essentially, a research into threatening the very existence of humanity as a species. Smallpox was eradicated, yet somehow they felt the need to retain it in a research setting, and now it remains a potential threat. What good does that do for humanity, regardless of nationality or political persuasion?

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 14, 2012, 9:31:27 AM PST

Preaching to the choir on this one. They are Satanic. Purposely creating weapons that have such property to spiral out of control. Possibly making strains so virulent that nothing fixes it. Creating viruses that can remain dormant for decades. I worked with geneticists and molecular biologists for years. I never even hear of one that would be willing to work on this stuff. It really is against everything they would stand for.

And you really have hit it on the head what good do they do for humanity. But then what good does any weapon do for humanity. The psychology behind biological weapons is simply beyond my comprehension.

The moral bankruptcy of maintaining weapons that can kill every living thing on the planet, by accident escapes me. At least with nuclear weapons,they are hard to make and no accident can do so much harm. Much the same can be said of chemical weapons which are likely to be limited in scope. A simple accidental malfunction of a particularly deadly virus/bacteria can kill 100's of millions of people. The Black Plague sticks in my mind. West Nile, Ebola, Marburg, ... add the likely possibility of mutation. Even conceiving of such weapons goes beyond reality.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 14, 2012, 9:41:09 AM PST
Agree. The problem has always been with every type of weapon that if your adversary has it, you want it too as a deterrent.

Posted on Nov 14, 2012, 9:43:41 AM PST
D. Mok says:
> But then what good does any weapon do for humanity.

Humanity isn't all good and bright. Humanity is also violence, bickering, unchanging beliefs that have dubious reasoning in terms of one's own concrete, present well-being (eg. Israel vs. Palestine). Weapons are part of the equation. To ask humanity to abandon weapons is like asking humanity to stop being human. It simply will not happen.

The problem with biological weapons is that it's basically a large-scale suicide bomb. Any side that develops it is contributing to its own extinction. And that is strategically absurd.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 14, 2012, 9:49:41 AM PST
No infectious disease no matter how virulent has caused human extinction. There are always some members of the population with innate immunity. So I don't believe the use of biological weapons would cause the extinction of humanity. I don't agree with their production or use, however.

Posted on Nov 14, 2012, 10:26:53 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 14, 2012, 10:28:39 AM PST
D. Mok says:
> No infectious disease no matter how virulent has caused human extinction. There are always some members of the population with innate immunity.

Oh really? Nobody thought planes would be used as weapons, either, on September 10, 2001. Nobody thought rats could threaten an entire society, and then they found out about bubonic plague. And no one has immunity to necrotizing fasciitis or hemorrhagic smallpox, which are untreatable.

Now think about what happens when two or three human-enhanced diseases hit at once.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 14, 2012, 1:09:40 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 14, 2012, 1:12:47 PM PST
Bubba says:
That's interesting, I just found out that necrotizing fasciitis is caused by Streptococcus pyogenes, which is the bacteria that also causes strep throat. Necrotizing fasciitis is fatal in 30-40% of cases if treated and up to 73% if left untreated. How is S pyogenes weaponized to produce necrotizing fasciitis in populations?

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 14, 2012, 1:22:10 PM PST

I am with D. Mok on this one. When I was an undergrad, I worked in bio labs at UCSD. You simply have no idea. You aren't to be faulted. Not many do. The transmission vectors modernly destroy all of the historical firebreaks. Then you breed stains for resistance. The virus and bacteriophage and bacteria are so much more adaptable than any group of humans. There is stuff out there now that is untreatable. And when I say untreatable, I mean it, the big stuff vancomycin, clindomycin, the other IV anti-biotics don't even put a dent in the stuff. The whole family of hemhorragic fevers make the bubonic plague look like the common cold. Moreover, biological agent warfare doesn't stop there. It is designed to make this stuff worse, more contagious, shorter incubation times, harder to treat, more virulent. Mok, it's pretty hard to get necrotizing fasciitis. But there is so much more to chose from septicemic plague, Marberg virus, MRSA, HFRS, the whole family of hemorrhagic bacteria Arenaviridae, Filoviridae, Bunyaviridae, Flaviviridae, and Rhabdoviridae, there is a lot of fun out there and ... the list is long.

Arpard, imagine what killing 2 billion people would be like.

Posted on Nov 14, 2012, 1:23:09 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 14, 2012, 1:50:12 PM PST
D. Mok says:
> I just found out that necrotizing fasciitis is caused by Streptococcus pyogenes, which is the bacteria that also causes strep throat.

Necrotizing fasciitis can be caused by a multitude of bacteria. Though I'm no medical expert, I'd venture a guess and say it's like sepsis -- a very dangerous complication of bacterial infection which is not the specific property of any one bacterium.

It's probably not possible to engineer the specific result of necrotizing fasciitis, but that wasn't the point. The point is that relying on natural, random immunity as a defense against biological attacks is absurd. First of all, humans don't have immunity to many, many natural dangers, such as rhinovirus (common cold) or jellyfish nematocysts. And the idea that one disease/toxin can't wipe out a population? It doesn't even have to. All it has to do is disrupt a society to a sufficient extent, and other factors will finish the job.

And yes, IGS is right. One of the most dangerous aspects of biological warfare is that organisms change, and in unpredictable manners. Imagine if smallpox were to resurface, in a population-dense place like Mumbai, and you suddenly find out that this strain of smallpox bypasses current vaccines. It doesn't even have to infect every person (and remember, smallpox is very, very transmissible) to cause social meltdown. Just forcing people to stay at home, or preventing necessary supplies and services from operating, or forcing society to get its hands full taking care of the sick, would be enough to decimate a city. Don't forget, one disease also causes another. What happens when 50,000 people in a densely populated city become immunocompromised, because of a disease that can be transmitted? Just look at the AIDS epidemic in Africa. Now apply that idea to a disease with airborne or touch transmission.

> Mok, it's pretty hard to get necrotizing fasciitis.

Yes, I know, and correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think it's transmissible (the condition isn't -- the underlying infection can be, but from what I understand, a bacterium doesn't necessarily cause the same complications in one person as in another). I used it as a caution point for people who don't realize just how fragile humans are in the grand scheme of pandemics.
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