In 2010 Gerald Mandell, a specialist in infectious diseases, gave a presidential address to the American Clinical and Climatological Association. The talk was entitled, “Thinking about the Unthinkable.” By “the unthinkable” Mandell meant a bioweapon attack on the United States. Referring to the conclusion of a U.S. commission that “a serious bioterrorism event in the US by 2013” was likely, Mandell seemed to have no doubts about who would be the perpetrator. The chief danger was from “evil elements in Islam.” “These people,” he said, “want to kill all who don’t follow their fanatical religiosity.” Unlike previous enemies of the U.S., Mandell said, these evil elements in Islam are not rational and thus constitute “a truly diabolical threat.” In addition to the fact that “they have no qualms about killing children, women, and other non-combatants,” they have no fear of death. Indeed, “many of them actually wish to die, as is evidenced by suicide bombers and pilots of planes used as missiles.”
Mandell, writing in 2010, was not the first to speak of a bioweapons attack as “the unthinkable” or to refer to thinking about the unthinkable.
An editorial in The New York Times on October 7, 2001, two days after Robert Stevens’ death, announced that, “[p]anicky citizens have been trying to obtain and hoard Cipro or other drugs to use if the unthinkable happens.”
On October 10, Mohammad Akhter, executive director of the American Public Health Association and former commissioner of public health for the District of Columbia, in an article in the Washington Post entitled, “Bioterrorism: How Unready We Are,” wrote: “Along with nuclear war, a pandemic sparked by an act of terrorism that kills hundreds of thousands of people is the ultimate health crisis. As difficult as it is to think about such a nightmare scenario, we must begin preparing now for the unthinkable.”
On October 14, the Sunday Mercury, a tabloid from Birmingham in the U.K., entitled an article: “Anthrax: Why We Must Now Think the Unthinkable.” In this article we learn that “Chief Medical Officer Dr. Liam Donaldson, who has just returned from a trip to the US, said: ‘The ground rules are still the same, but I think we have to now be prepared over the future to think the unthinkable.’”
An article in USA Today on October 15, 2001, referring to bioweapons (smallpox) attacks, suggested that the possibility “was only a few weeks ago unthinkable.”
The day after the USA Today article appeared (Oct. 16), the St. Petersburg Times began an article: “The unfolding unthinkable of an anthrax outbreak…”
The following day (Oct. 17) CNN reported that, according to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson, “we are taking all the steps necessary to keep America safe in an era when biological and chemical attacks are as possible as they are unthinkable.’”
On October 23 The New York Times had a long multiple-author article with the title, “On Many Fronts, Experts Plan for the Unthinkable: Biowarfare.” Here we learn that Dr. Frank Bia, “an expert on infectious diseases and microbiology at Yale,” believes that “the unthinkable has become thinkable.”
There is a pattern here. The pattern may not signify a grand plan, or, indeed, conscious intent at all—there may be no conspiracy—but, whatever the origins of the “unthinkable” discourse, it deserves investigation and contemplation.
For many years before 2001 “the unthinkable” had been used, among those who studied and participated in American war strategy, to refer to nuclear war. This usage is generally traced to Herman Kahn, who initiated it in his famous 1960 book, On Thermonuclear War, and reinforced it in a second book, Thinking about the Unthinkable (1962). Kahn’s writings gave the term a quasi-technical status, which was accepted by many subsequent writers.
The expression was adopted even by many of those who were strongly critical of the nuclear strategizing of Kahn and others. For example, when Brian Easlea decided in the early 1980s to write a book about the connections between patriarchy and nuclear weapons he entitled it: Fathering the Unthinkable: Masculinity, Scientists and the Nuclear Arms Race.
Many of the references in the October news reports quoted above dealing with bioweapons, especially those that refer to thinking the unthinkable, have clearly been influenced by this decades-old tradition in strategic thinking.
Why does this matter? It matters because “the unthinkable” is an expression that functioned to help launch a new conflict framework, the Global War on Terror. There are two instances of the use of “the unthinkable” in 2001 that are especially useful in clarifying this.
The First Unthinkable
We may begin by considering the period from May 1 to December 13, 2001.
In 1972 the United States and the Soviet Union had signed the Antiballistic Missile Treaty. The treaty became one of the pillars of the Cold War strategy of nuclear deterrence. In signing the treaty the superpowers undertook to renounce the attempt to build weapons of defense against nuclear missiles. They agreed, in effect, to leave themselves vulnerable: each would forego military defense on the understanding that the prospect of nuclear retaliation by the enemy was so horrifying that each side would be deterred from attacking the other. This was an unusual agreement in the history of warfare and it arose due to the spectacular destructiveness of nuclear weapons as well as the fact that no technology had been invented that could offer a significant defense against intercontinental ballistic missiles.
On May 1, 2001, George W. Bush, in a major foreign policy speech, gave informal public notice that the United States intended to withdraw unilaterally from the ABM Treaty. The Treaty allowed a signatory to withdraw as long as that signatory gave six months notice and was able to cite “extraordinary events” that have “jeopardized its supreme interests.” Though no such events had taken place at the time of his May 1 speech, the events of the fall of 2001 would allow Bush to give formal notice of intention to withdraw from the treaty on December 13.
Bush’s May 1 speech was delivered at the National Defense University at Fort McNair in Washington, D.C. Attending were those who would be expected to attend an announcement of such strategic significance: Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin Powell, National Security Council Advisor Condoleezza Rice, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Richard Myers, and various military officers of high rank. In giving notice that this major treaty would be abandoned, Bush deployed the rhetoric we would expect, the quasi-mythical rhetoric of the good nation (the U.S.) versus the bad nation (the Soviet Union), of freedom versus tyranny, and so on. He announced that the withdrawal from the treaty was, in most respects, a sign of human progress. The evil Soviet Union existed no more and its successor, Russia, was democratic and was not an enemy of the United States. Therefore, cuts in nuclear arsenals were possible, Cold War thinking could be cast aside, and the possibility of peace could best be seized by leaving behind relics of a previous era such as the ABM Treaty.
Along with his celebration of the end of the Cold War, Bush inserted warnings of new dangers. While nuclear weapons possessed by the superpowers were less dangerous than in previous times, “weapons of mass destruction,” a category that at the time referred mainly to nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, constituted a growing threat in so far as both the weapons and the technology to deliver them by missiles were becoming widely disseminated. Increasingly, weapons of mass destruction (also called “weapons of terror” in this speech) would be available to “some of the world’s least responsible states.” U.S. policy, Bush said, had to change to accommodate these developments. Strategy must now focus on meeting these new threats and finding ways to defend the U.S. from such irresponsible states.
When he spoke of making the shift to what he called a “new framework,” Bush said the U.S. must be willing to “rethink the unthinkable.” Although he was not the first person to speak of rethinking the unthinkable, the expression had not been used on a comparably important occasion. What was indicated here was a conscious shifting of the chief danger to the United States. No longer were the Soviet Union and its massive nuclear arsenal the chief dangers. In their stead stood an assortment of countries, many small and poor, with a rag-tag collection of weapons of widely varying destructiveness. To rethink the unthinkable in this context meant to be aware of new unimaginable horrors: (i) terrorism and (ii) rogue states with “weapons of mass destruction.” These two horrors would be given credibility a few months later as actual lethal operations in the U.S. homeland. The 9/11 attacks were acts of terrorism, while, if the Double Perpetrator hypothesis were to be accepted, the anthrax attacks represented an attack by a rogue state using a weapon of mass destruction.
The May 1 speech was, as mentioned, couched in quasi-mythical language. The actual aim of the new orientation had already been expressed in more straightforward terms in the year 2000 in the famous document, Rebuilding America’s Defenses (RAD), a production of the neoconservative Project for the New American Century (PNAC). There was a great overlap between those participating in PNAC and those who had spent their time trying to find a way to invade and take over Iraq after the failure of the George H. W. Bush administration to do so in 1991.
Rebuilding America’s Defenses was an endorsement of a frankly imperial American destiny. The neoconservative authors of the document had no interest in a global order in which the United States would take its place as a state among states, bound by international law and accountable to international institutions.
A simple word study gives an indication of where the authors of RAD situated themselves.
- “United Nations” and “UN” occur altogether four times in the document: each mention is brief and three of the four references are negative and dismissive.
- Although the term “security” occurs 94 times, the term “Security Council” does not occur.
- The expression “international law” does not occur.
- The terms “treaty” and “treaties” occur altogether 9 times, referring to non-proliferation treaties, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and the Anti-ballistic Missile Treaty: every reference is negative, stressing the inconvenience of treaties for Pax Americana.
Essentially, in RAD the possibility of using, strengthening or developing institutions of global cooperation, whether related to policing, law, culture or anything else, is put aside. The importance of friends and allies is acknowledged, but it is assumed that the U.S. will exert dominance in such relationships.
Given the close connections between PNAC and the George W. Bush administration, it is no surprise that, as Senator Tom Daschle notes in his memoirs, within months of taking office, Bush:
walked away from agreements that had been embraced by many of our closest friends and allies and broadly supported by the international community: The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, efforts to create an international criminal court, the Biological Weapons Protocol, the Kyoto Protocol, and the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.
One of the key recommendations of RAD had to do with the last of these, the ABM Treaty. The document recommends: “Develop and deploy global missile defenses to defend the American homeland and American allies, and to provide a secure basis for U.S. power projection around the world.” In other words: a functional and effective defense capability is needed to enable a policy of aggression or the threat of same, by overcoming the barrier of fear of retaliation. The need for such missile defenses is one of the main themes of RAD. The 1972 ABM Treaty was explicitly targeted in this document as an obstacle to the achievement of this goal. (Note that while the nuclear arms race provided the original context of the ABM Treaty, the text of the Treaty does not speak of nuclear weapons but of “strategic ballistic missiles,” which can be interpreted to include non-nuclear ballistic missiles with any sort of WMD aimed at the U.S. homeland.)
RAD’s authors wanted to see a new framework for American power: they wanted to move beyond Cold War constraints to an era of expanded U.S. global dominance. This could not be achieved while small states were free to brandish their third world variants on weapons of mass destruction.
A careful reading of RAD reveals that its authors were not worried that some country with a tiny arsenal of biological or chemical weapons (or nuclear weapons, for that matter) was going to decide to initiate a suicidal strike on the U.S. homeland. The concern, rather, was that the possession of these weapons might give to such countries the clout to successfully deter the U.S.—either through a threat against the U.S. homeland or a threat against U.S. allies or “expeditionary forces abroad.” In one of its most strikingly honest statements RAD says: “In the post-Cold War era, America and its allies, rather than the Soviet Union, have become the primary objects of deterrence and it is states like Iraq, Iran and North Korea who most want to develop deterrent capabilities.” Obviously, the desire for “deterrent capabilities” came from worries that the U.S. and its allies might have aims inimical to the security or interests of these countries.
The development of missile defense by the U.S. has, in RAD, little to do with “defense” in the sense that most U.S. citizens would understand the term. It has to do with permitting U.S. forces to achieve military dominance—to go where they wish and do what they want without worrying about regional powers that oppose their intervention. Once the ABM Treaty was disposed of, the U.S. could, without inhibitions, develop the technology that would allow all missile threats from small states to be dealt with, thereby leaving those states at the mercy of U.S. forces.
The worry of U.S. neoconservatives in 2001 was, apparently, that the U.S. public would not accept repudiation of treaties, costly new military programs, and the shift to a new global conflict framework—from Cold War to Global War on Terror—unless this public was convinced the changes were necessary for achieving legitimate goals. And presumably these neoconservatives were worried that U.S. dominance of the globe might not be perceived as such.
The May 1 informal withdrawal announcement and the December 13 formal announcement of withdrawal from the ABM treaty were the result of a top-down decision made by a small number of men engaging in minimal consultation with others inside the U.S. security community. Likewise, although there was rhetoric about consulting allies, including former adversary Russia, this process was rushed and was not permitted to change the decision that had been made. Putin, for example, never agreed with the decision to terminate the ABM treaty. He simply had no choice but to live with it and to extract small concessions in other areas.
Not surprisingly, after the 9/11 attacks Bush used 9/11 to further justify repudiation of the ABM treaty—a treaty he now spoke of openly as antiquated and dangerous. As the violent events of the fall unfolded, opponents of his decision to withdraw from the ABM Treaty within the Democratic Party fell silent.
Although Putin expressed sympathy for the U.S. after the 9/11 events, he did not acknowledge Bush’s logic. Why should non-state terrorists, such as were supposed to have carried out the 9/11 attacks, be treated as if they were states? What, to put it bluntly, did such terrorist groups have to do with discussions and treaties clearly framed for states? Where were the missiles? Where were the nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction? But Putin was not heeded. Although Powell apparently wished to slow down the pace and offer Putin more concessions, he was pushed aside by those, including Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld, who had decided to proceed quickly without Russian approval.
The December 13 speech by Bush was, compared to that of May 1, perfunctory, but if we examine it carefully we will notice a significant problem. Although 9/11 occupies a position of importance, the omission of all reference to the anthrax attacks creates a telling space. Recall that Bush, in pulling the U.S. out of this very important treaty, was obligated to provide a statement of the “extraordinary events” that justified withdrawal. In his speech 9/11 had to serve as the extraordinary event, but it did not accomplish the job. The 9/11 attacks, however horrific, seemed to have little to do with the ABM Treaty, even if the treaty were interpreted broadly. There was no ballistic missile, no nuclear weapons, not even a “weapon of mass destruction” as that expression was customarily used at the time. Putin had already pointed out the difficulty.
Here are two sentences that represent the best Bush was able to do in his December 13 address:
- “I have concluded the ABM Treaty hinders our government’s ability to develop ways to protect our people from future terrorist or rogue-state attacks.”
- “Today, as the events of September the 11th made all too clear, the greatest threats to both our countries come not from each other, or other big powers in the world, but from terrorists who strike without warning, or rogue states who seek weapons of mass destruction.”
Statement 2 is incoherent. What did the events of September the 11th have to do with rogue states seeking weapons of mass destruction? By December 13 the White House had already dropped the claim that al-Qaeda and/ or Iraq were responsible for the anthrax attacks. Since it was now clear that the anthrax attacks were a domestic operation, these attacks could not be drawn on to support Bush’s ABM argument and, in fact, had to be studiously ignored. But if the story of the Double Perpetrator, pushed so hard in October and apparently planned from the outset, had succeeded, Bush could have cogently said: “Today, as the events of September the 11th and the subsequent anthrax attacks made all too clear, the greatest threats…come…from terrorists who strike without warning, and their rogue state sponsors who possess weapons of mass destruction.” Bush would simply have had to add that such rogue states with WMD also had long-range missiles to deliver their WMD. His administration was, in fact, fraudulently claiming this very thing about Iraq at the time. These are the kinds of statement Bush could have been expected to make if the Double Perpetrator frame-up had worked. When it failed it left him exposed. He had no convincing “extraordinary event” such as was required for withdrawal from the Treaty.
The expression, “the unthinkable,” whether part of a plan or not, functioned as part of a transitional discourse, taking citizens from the horrors of the Cold War to the horrors of the new conflict framework, the Global War on Terror. In each case the horrors were supposed to be beyond the imaginative capacity of citizens.
A second curious instance of “the unthinkable” adds weight to the idea that a plan was involved.
The Second Unthinkable
On October 12, 2001 the news media announced that Erin O’Connor, an assistant to Tom Brokaw at NBC news, had tested positive for cutaneous anthrax. Employees at NBC remembered that a letter had been received at NBC, postmarked in St. Petersburg, Florida on September 20 and addressed to Tom Brokaw. The letter had contained a threat and a quantity of white powder. The enclosed message had announced itself with the words: “the unthinkable.”
In early analyses of the anthrax attacks, this letter played a prominent role. Even when it was discovered that the white powder was harmless and that a letter from New Jersey, postmarked on September 18, had contained the anthrax spores that infected O’Connor, it was assumed by many that the September 20 letter was part of the operation.
The September 20 threat letter was apparently one of a set of three from St. Petersburg, the others arriving at their destinations in October. One went to Howard Troxler at the St. Petersburg Times and one to Judith Miller at her New York Times office. The conclusion that the three were a set was based not only on identical locations of origin and similar dates of postage, but on quite specific peculiarities in the writing.
It would take us too far afield to discuss these threat letters in detail and, in any case, the September 20 letter has not been released to the public. But Don Foster, an English professor who was given access by the FBI to the September 20 letter, says the following about the text:
The letter, postmarked on September 20 in St. Petersburg, Florida, began:
SAMPLE OF HOW IT WILL LOOK
The letter went on to threaten bioterror attacks on various targets. The capital Ns in “THE UNTHINKABEL” were printed backwards, and Foster comments that they “resembled the letter I in Russia’s Cyrillic alphabet.” Foster does not pretend to know why “the unthinkable” was put in quotation marks and spelled wrong, although he comments that it “looked like a deliberate misspelling” and adds that the quotation marks “were done Russian-style.” He says it was possible that through the use of these quotation marks and through the backward Ns someone was attempting “to make his writing look Russian.”
Foster caught a number of interesting features of this document but he also passed over important clues. He noted that a related letter was sent to Judith Miller, but he ought to have mentioned that Russia gets pride of place in her October, 2001 book as the most dangerous source of bioweapons. Iraq comes second and is dangerous, in part, because it was supposedly receiving biological material from the Russians. During this entire period Miller, a participant in Dark Winter and a known deceiver about Iraq’s WMD, was continuing, through her book and her work for The New York Times, to promote the threat from the Russia-Iraq axis.
As for the term “the unthinkable,” Foster did not mention the history of the term (Kahn) or Bush’s May 1 employment of it. He also did not seem to be aware of how commonly the term was mobilized in October of 2001 to announce the anthrax attacks and to indicate that the United States was entering a new era in which a “new framework” would be required.
The relationship of “the unthinkable” in the September 20 letter to the various October speeches and media articles is problematic. The letter cannot be copying the articles in the papers and speeches because it was sent before the proliferation of the term in October. And, on the other hand, the great majority of the articles in the media and speeches cannot be inspired by this letter because, although it was sent on September 20th, its text was apparently not revealed to the public until October 22, after many of these articles and speeches were written.
So sits the St. Petersburg UNTHINKABEL, awkward and unexplained.
Although it may seem obvious that the St. Petersburg letter postmarked on September 20 was part of the anthrax attacks, some investigators, including the FBI, have denied this. But the evidence suggests the September 20 letter was part of the operation. (See Appendix for reasons why the denials are unconvincing.) There is, in this case, no mystery as to why it had to be swept into oblivion. Why would al- Qaeda or Iraq have referred to a biological attack as “the unthinkable?” Misspelling the word and using backward Ns does not help. Implying a Russian connection in this way is equally implausible. The truth is that the employment of “the unthinkable” in this letter, when weight is given both to the meaning of the term in U.S. strategic circles and to the other relevant uses of the term in 2001, points us in the direction of the U.S. military and intelligence communities.
But why would anyone include such an obvious road sign in the first place? We can only speculate. Perhaps those who penned the letter did not see it as an obvious road sign. Perhaps they were right: it appears that “the unthinkable” in this letter has largely avoided scrutiny.
Is the September 20 threat letter compatible with the FBI’s Bruce Ivins hypothesis? It is not. Consider the difficulty of the location from which this letter, and its two companion letters, was sent. The FBI was not even able to show that Ivins had driven secretly from his home in Frederick, Maryland to Princeton, New Jersey to mail the anthrax letters that had been sent from that location. The best the Bureau was able to do was to argue that he could have made it to Princeton and back. How much more difficult it would be to argue that he sneaked away repeatedly to St. Petersburg, Florida during this period! (If he went by car a return trip to Princeton, New Jersey would have taken about 6.5 hours, whereas each return trip to St. Petersburg would have consumed about 30 hours.) At the very least he would have needed an accomplice, and this would signal the end of the lone wolf hypothesis. This was explained by Barbara Rosenberg years ago. It has been pushed aside because it is an embarrassment to the FBI’s hypothesis.
The Meaning and Implications of the Unthinkable
For Herman Kahn, however natural the recoiling of the mind before horrific weapons, this shrinking away from reality must be resisted with “an act of iron will.” One must think about the unthinkable. The neoconservatives who have exerted so much influence in U.S. politics in recent decades appear to have taken Kahn’s admonition to heart for themselves, but there is no sign they have ever wished ordinary citizens to do likewise. Citizens are meant to be afraid, to be anxious—likewise, Congress—and to hand over power to the executive branch, which will protect and save them.
Citizens are exposed to horrors, are victims of horrors, and are told to believe that a new evil that passes all bounds has them in its sights. To use Gerald Mandell’s words, the new danger is “evil elements in Islam.” Although the evil elements in Islam may not possess the firepower of the old enemy, the Soviet Union, the Soviets were rational whereas the new enemy is not. Moreover, although the Soviet Union threatened the U.S. homeland with destruction, it never actually followed through on the threat. Evil elements in Islam, on the other hand, have successfully targeted the homeland to devastating effect.
Citizens need not imagine biowarfare in detail; they need not ponder “the unthinkable.” The executive branch will take care of all that.
While we need not ascribe special profundity to the neoconservative usage of “the unthinkable,” it is clear that one of the tasks of the term within the ideological vocabulary of this group has been to mark off the conceptually forbidden, and to thereby serve particular ways of thinking and the elites associated with such thinking.
And how will the executive, thus given power by the childlike citizenry and the cowed legislative branch, deal with the new threat? How will it respond to terrorist groups and rogue states led by evil elements in Islam? Why, in any way it sees fit, and with whatever force it believes appropriate.
In Chapter 5 Jeff Stein’s comment was noted: “few Americans, in their present angry and anxious mood, can imagine weeping much if Baghdad is nuked while millions here are dying from smallpox.” Although this might have seemed too fantastical a scenario for the public to take seriously, perhaps it was not.
On October 19, 2001, in the midst of the anthrax attacks, Dick Cheney, standing in front of “a huge backdrop of the American flag and a dais full of New York’s top political figures,” told a white-tie gathering at the Waldorf-Astoria: “We must and we will use every means at our disposal to ensure the security and freedom of the American people.”
Journalist Dana Milbank commented:
Some in the Bush administration have supported a more explicit threat to use American nuclear weapons to deter or combat massive biological or chemical attacks on the United States, and though he used no specific language last night, Cheney said that “no punishment for the terrorist seems too harsh.” Promising a fight that will last generations and sometimes employ unsavory tactics, he added: “The struggle can only end with their complete and permanent destruction.”
There was much that was worrisome in Milbank’s article, as well as in Cheney’s speech, and it appears from Gerald Mandell’s address that between 2001 and 2010 not much had changed. Mandell pushed hard in his 2010 address to put the bioweapons of the “evil elements in Islam” on the same level as the nuclear weapons of the U.S. Ever since the first Gulf War of 1991 the “weapons of mass destruction” discourse has been used to accomplish this. If the chemical or biological weapons of a small state, however pathetic their destructive potential, can be listed as WMD and conveniently put in the same category as the U.S. nuclear arsenal, half the battle has already been won. The U.S. population can in this case be made to regard the country in question as an existential threat comparable to the former Soviet Union and can be induced to regard invasion and occupation as necessary “defense.”
In Mandell’s speech, the attempt to equate these different arsenals reached its peak with a criticism of President Obama for stating that he would not necessarily order the use of nuclear weapons as a response to a bioweapon attack on the U.S. Mandell wanted this changed. If “these people” attack the U.S. homeland with bioweapons, the U.S. president should be ready to reply with the U.S. nuclear arsenal.
Imagine what this bellicose position might lead to in the real world. Picture an attack in the U.S. similar to the anthrax attacks of 2001 but with more casualties. Now imagine well groomed television anchors interviewing “experts” who solemnly tell their audience that, via a Muslim “terrorist group,” the bioweapon has come from Syria or Iran. U.S. leaders, with every show of reluctance but with the determination of outraged patriotism, wheel out small nuclear weapons (“mini-nukes”) for strikes on the state in question. The U.S. population is assured the strikes are carefully targeted at production facilities. The aim, explains the President, is simply to destroy evil technology so that the rogue state will no longer be able to threaten the U.S. with its weapons of mass destruction.
In addition to the devastation visited on Syria or Iran, the “nuclear firebreak”—that crucial division between nuclear weapons and all other sorts of weapons—would in this case be nullified. No one knows where this might lead.
When Mandell gave his address he was a member of the Medical Advisory Board of GIDEON, the Global Infectious Disease and Epidemiology Network. Whatever the merits of this organization, its founder and CEO is a former Commander in the Israel Defense Forces Intelligence Corps. Given how closely Mandell’s words on the dangers of extremist Islam resemble familiar Israeli government discourse, we have a right to be profoundly suspicious of the aims of his speech.
Meanwhile, whatever we think of Mandell’s nuclear advocacy, there is a genuine “unthinkable” hiding in the shadows that is quite different from the one he wishes us to contemplate. What is unthinkable for many, including, it appears, members of the U.S. legislative branch, is that in the fall of 2001 elements in the executive branch of the U.S. government collaborated in the killing of innocent citizens in the U.S. and in the attempt to kill Senators. In this way, they furthered their own aims, which included curtailing the freedoms of the U.S. population and carrying out the supreme international crime of aggression against other nations.
Notes to Chapter 8
- Gerald Mandell, “President’s Address: Thinking about the Unthinkable,” Transactions of the American Clinical and Climatological Association 122 (2011): 1–10.
- Bob Graham and Jim Talent, World at Risk: The Report of the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism, Report from the US Senate and House of Representatives, (2008, 2010 2007).
- “Editorial: Fears of Anthrax and Smallpox,” The New York Times, October 7, 2001.
- Akhter, “Bioterrorism: How Unready We Are.”
- Emma Pinch, “Anthrax: Why We Must Now Think the Unthinkable,” Sunday Mercury, October 14, 2001.
- Laura Parker, Traci Watson, and Kevin Johnson, “Anthrax Incidents Create Growing Sense of Anxiety,” USA TODAY, October 15, 2001.
- “ABC Producer’s Son Tests Positive For Anthrax,” St. Petersburg Times, October 16, 2001, http://www.sptimes.com/News/101601/news_pf/ Worldandnation/ABC_producer_s_son_te.shtml.
- New Anthrax Exposure Cases in Senate,” CNN, October 17, 2001, http:// articles.cnn.com/2001-10-17/health/anthrax_1_anthrax-spores-hart-senate-office-building-anthrax-exposure?_s=PM:HEALTH.
- “On Many Fronts, Experts Plan for the Unthinkable: Biowarfare,” The New York Times, October 23, 2001.
- Herman Kahn, On Thermonuclear War (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1960); Herman Kahn, Thinking about the Unthinkable (New York: Avon Books, 1962).
- Brian Easlea, Fathering the Unthinkable: Masculinity, Scientists and the Nuclear Arms Race (London: Pluto Press, 1983).
- “Treaty Between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on the Limitation of Anti-Ballistic Missile Systems,” May 26, 1972, http://www.state.gov/t/isn/trty/16332.htm.
- George W. Bush, “Remarks at the National Defense University (Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: GEORGE W. BUSH)” (U.S. Government Printing Office, 2001), http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/PPP-2001-book1/html/PPP-2001-book1-doc-pg470-3.htm.
- From Article XV: “Each Party shall, in exercising its national sovereignty, have the right to withdraw from this Treaty if it decides that extraordinary events related to the subject matter of this Treaty have jeopardized its supreme interests. It shall give notice of its decision to the other Party six months prior to withdrawal from the Treaty. Such notice shall include a statement of the extraordinary events the notifying Party regards as having jeopardized its supreme interests.” “Treaty Between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on the Limitation of Anti-Ballistic Missile Systems.”
- Bush names the dignitaries attending his speech at the beginning of his address. Bush, “Remarks at the National Defense University (Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: GEORGE W. BUSH).”
- An example of an early use of the expression is: Leon Sigal, “Rethinking the Unthinkable,” Foreign Policy No. 34 (1979): 35–51.
- Thomas Donnelly, Donald Kagan, and Gary Schmitt, Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources For a New Century (The Project for the New American Century, September 2000).
- Ibid, pp. iv-v.
- “The administration’s devotion to the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty with the Soviet Union has frustrated development of useful ballistic missile defenses.” Ibid, p. 52.
- Ibid, p. 54.
- My remarks about the withdrawal from the ABM treaty depend heavily on Lynn Rusten, U.S. Withdrawal from the Antiballistic Missile Treaty (Washington, D.C.: Center for the Study of Weapons of Mass Destruction, National Defense University, January 2010).
- “‘This Is a Time of Testing.’”
- “Democrats in Senate Back Down on Missile Shield,” The New York Times, September 22, 2001.
- Mike Allen and Philip P. Pan, “Bush and Putin Edge Closer to Missile Deal,” The Washington Post, October 22, 2001.
- U.S. Withdrawal From the ABM Treaty: President Bush’s Remarks and U.S. Diplomatic Notes, December 13, 2001, http://www.armscontrol. org/act/2002_01-02/docjanfeb02.
- David Barstow, “Anthrax Found in NBC News Aide,” The New York Times, October 13, 2001; Joshua Robin and Rocco Parascandola, “Letter to Brokaw Traced,” Newsday, October 14, 2001.
- The first purported quotations from this letter that I have found occur in an October 22 article: “Anxious About Anthrax: A Few Cases Do Not an Epidemic Make,” Newsweek, October 22, 2001. According to this article, the letter started out: “The unthinkable. See what happens next.”
- Robin and Parascandola, “Letter to Brokaw Traced”; Foster, “The Message in the Anthrax.”
- Foster, “The Message in the Anthrax.”
- “Anxious About Anthrax: A Few Cases Do Not an Epidemic Make.”
- There is not a single reference to the September 20 St. Petersburg letter in the Department of Justice’s Amerithrax report.
- “Amerithrax Investigative Summary (Released Pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act),” pp. 86-87.
- “A photograph of one hoax letter (to St. Petersburg Times) has been published, and descriptions or comparisons of others have been reported. If analysis confirms that the hoax letters were sent by the anthrax perpetrator, their postmarks will indicate his itinerary (or the assistance of an accomplice)…” Barbara Hatch Rosenberg. Various 2002 writings, archived here: http://www.anthraxinvestigation.com/ anthraxreport.htm
- Kahn, On Thermonuclear War.
- Dana Milbank, “Terrorists Will Face Justice, Cheney Vows; Vice President Visits Ground Zero in N.Y.,” The Washington Post, October 19, 2001.
- GIDEON received a positive review in JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) in 2005: http://www.gideononline.com/reviews/ jama2005/. I would recommend, however, that its work related to bioterrorism be approached with caution. CEO Uri Blackman’s credentials can be found here: http://www.gideononline.com/about/team/