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The bugs of war

Biological weapons are easy to make, but difficult to deliver. They nevertheless give small, poor states the same clout as nuclear powers. The fear of such weapons may have saved Saddam from annihilation in 1991, says Helga Graham

By Helga Graham   March 1998

The pathogens in biological agents are known as bugs: they multiply geometrically and, like oysters in Alice in Wonderland, are plentiful and cheap. If there is one reason why the US, at the end of the American century, is less mighty than it looks, it is that these genies of biological warfare are half out of the bottle.

Commentators frighten us with dreary “facts” about how Saddam Hussein has enough anthrax or other deadly toxins to wipe out the population of the world six times over. And he is not alone: at least a dozen countries possess offensive biological weapons.…

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