Exploration of Biological Weapons

Exploration of Biological Weapons

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Exploration of Biological Weapons

We have all heard about biological weapons but I have never been
really sure about what it exactly is, when and how it is used… So in
this essay I am going to mix the science and the impact on society to
find the answers to all my doubts.

Biological weapons may be defined as "micro organisms that infect and
grow in the target host producing a clinical disease that kills or
incapacitates the targeted host". These microbes can be natural or
made by genetic engineering. Biological warfare means the use of
harmful bacteria as a weapon in a war. We also use the term
biochemical weapons: it is a mixture of the two words biological and
chemical. I have read in the article of Leonard A. Cole that
biological weapons should be considered as more dangerous because
chemical weapons are inanimate, but all the pathogens used in
biological weapons are reproductive and contagious. So biological
weapons are the only weapons that can become more and more dangerous
with time because of their multiplication.

The first recorded use of a biological weapon happened in Kaffa, in
1346: an army besieging the seaport catapulted plague infected
cadavers over the city walls. In the 1800s blankets infected with
smallpox were deliberately given to Native Americans, causing
widespread epidemics. In 1925 the Geneva Protocol was done to prohibit
the use of chemical and bacteriological agents in war. In 1972 a
treaty that prohibits the possession or development of biological
weapons was signed; it was called the Biological Weapons Convention.
Most countries applied this convention since, in 1980, the USSR was
the first one accused to violate the treaty. But, according to the
Office of Technology Assessment and at US Senate committee hearing,
the number increased since then and in 1995, 17 countries were
considered as biological weapons suspects. With the scientific
progress in biotechnology, it becomes easier and easier to produce
substances and so there are more chances for biological warfare.

We can say that there are different viewpoints about biological

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weapons: we have on one side the countries that follow all the
international agreements and resolutions about it and are against this
idea of biological weapons; and on the other side the countries that
do not follow these regulations because they think that biological
weapons are useful for them. The arguments for the countries that are
for biological weapons are that biological weapons are very efficient
because they can cause a lot of damage on theirs enemies; it also
affects the psychological strength; moreover they are really easy to
make; and they also defend themselves by saying that sunlight and
ambient temperature destroy certain agents after a short while and
that the use of respiratory masks and clothing would provide an
adequate protection for most people. To that, the countries that are
against biological weapons answer that it is unrealistic to say large
populations will wear those types of clothes for a long period of
time, above all when the weather is warm, and this is a big problem
because large populations cannot be protected against a biological
attack; indeed we cannot know when it is going to happen so we can't
be adequately prepared against it, and even if we identify the
pathogen, we still need to be able to cure it; more than that, it is
very expensive to build a national civil defence system against
biological and chemical weapons, it has been estimated to $ 80

When scientists do research about the pathogens, it can be very
positive in one way because it can lead to the developments of cures
or vaccines. But on the other side, there is the negative aspect,
because all the new information can also be used to produce more and
more efficient biological agents and weapons.

In his article "The Specter of Biological Weapons", written in 1996
(so five years before the terrorist attack of September 11th 2001),
Leonard A. Cole talks a lot about the fact that biological weapons
were considered as a topic taboo, even if since the 18th century this
image started to disappear. Cole says that there is "a moral
repugnance of these weapons" because it is (or at least it was!)
considered as completely inhuman. Cole uses the example of the use of
gases during wars, especially World War I and World War II. But I
think that now the times have changed and that we cannot consider this
as true anymore because it is now considered as almost "normal"; we
have seen during several terrorist attacks that it is now very common
to use weapons that were considered as immoral. We can also see that
the use of biological weapon cannot protect yourself, I mean that if
you start a biological attack, you can also be touched by it; and we
could think that this danger would prevent some biological attacks
because people would be afraid to put their own lives in danger to
create massive damage on a population. But we can also conclude that
this is an old idea because nowadays terrorists are not afraid to die,
as long as they can achieve their goal of terrorist attack.

Nowadays more and more measures are being taken to avoid and try to
eliminate biological weapons used in biological attacks. For example
the American army - Pentagon - is developing a program to be able to
identify the possible biological weapons used.

But prevention stays the most effective safeguard against biological
warfare and terrorism. I think that it is primordial to be able to
control the commands of pathogens, because I read in the article "The
Specter of Biological Weapons" that "no more than a credit card and a
false letterhead" to get the pathogen, in that case the plague

Personally, I think that biological weapons are very bad and wrong
because I simply do not see the point of it. I really do not
understand why people would want to kill entire innocent populations.
Of course I think that research on pathogens needs to be done to
improve medical cares and find more vaccines, to eradicate more
diseases, but the fact that some people use this medical research to
create biological weapons is horrible.

The problem of biological weapons has always been present but it is
now becoming more and more important because of the progress of
biotechnology, and because it has been proved that terrorists were not
afraid to use this kind of weapons anymore. So I think that the
international agreements against biological warfare have a very
important role to play.


Cole, Leonard ; "The Specter of Biological Weapons" ; 1996

Dr. R. R. Hulbert ; Washington State University ; 1999

Grossman, Zoltan ; http://www.ess.uwe.ac.uk/documents/biowpns.htm
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