Book Review





Judith Miller, Stephen Engelberg and William Broad


Touchstone Books



Reviewed By:

Frank Fogg

Review Date:

September, 2003


Germs is an interesting and insightful book that depicts the progress of the Iraqi, Soviet and United States germ warfare programs. Each program is covered from its early roots right up to the 21st  century in detail, along with chilling stories of the accomplishments of each program.

Get more information about Germs at amazon.comIn 1975, the Biological and Toxic Weapons Convention was implemented as a method  to forever end the use of and experimentation with biological and chemical weapons. Largely ignored by the Soviet Union, this treaty effectively ended the manufacturing and stockpiling of germ weapons in the United States. Only a limited number  of samples were kept for defensive research purposes.

While the United States researchers continued to study the "oldie moldies,"  biological agents that occur naturally such as Anthrax, Bubonic Plague, and Smallpox, the Soviet scientists began refining their techniques to create superbugs.  Following on the heels of other genetic researchers, they learned the secrets  of gene splicing and put this knowledge to use mixing and matching the most  dangerous genes from various killer germs. These new deadly germ weapons were much more lethal than the Americans suspected, and ultimately had the capability to kill all human life on the planet.

Not only did the United States lag behind in the development of germ weapons,  their ability to create and manufacture vaccines and antibiotics against these hazards fell far behind the Soviet efforts. While the Americans focused on injectable  vaccination against traditional, naturally occuring diseases, the Soviet scientists developed methods using aerosol inhalants to combat a wider variety of diseases. Even the few vaccines that were available to the United States were not capable of being manufactured in large enough quantities to save more than tens of thousands of lives.

As the old Soviet government crumbled and was replaced by independent states,  the scientists involved in these top secret projects often found themselves out of work and began to entertain offers of employment in the Arab world, most  notably from Iraq. Called the "Poor man's A-bomb", biological weapons were a cheap alternative to the development of a nuclear arsenal. The Iraqi government soon acquired and developed technology enabling them to produce cheap  weapons of mass destruction using a variety of chemical and biological agents.

This book is packed with facts about the modern history of germ warfare. It  confirms your worst worries about these types of weapons and goes further to show what the future will bring as science decodes the DNA building blocks of life. It also provides the details of several successful and unsuccessful terror attacks using both biological and chemical weapons. Several other stories are  told that highlight the price paid by civilians when accidents occurred in the course of weapon development. Anybody wanting to get a better idea of what biological weapons do and how they work will find this book enlightening, yet scary in  the extreme.

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