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Dear President Obama:
My name is E.coli 0104:H4. I am being detained in a German Laboratory in Baveria, charged with being “a highly virulent strain of bacteria.” Together with many others like me, the police have accused us of causing about 20 deaths and nearly five hundred cases of kidney failure–so far. Massive publicity and panic all around.
You can’t see me, but your scientists can. They are examining me and I know my days are numbered. I hear them calling me a “biological terrorist,” an unusual combination of two different E.coli bacteria cells. One even referred to me as a “conspiracy of mutants”.
It is not my fault, I want you to know. I cannot help but harm innocent humans, and I am very sad about this. I want to redeem myself, so I am sending this life-saving message straight from my Petri dish to you.
This outbreak in Germany has been traced to food–location unknown. What is known to you is that invisible terrorism from bacterium and viruses take massively greater lives than the terrorism you are spending billions of dollars and armaments to stop in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Malaria, caused by infection with one of four species of Plasmodium, a parasite transmitted by Anopheles mosquitoes destroys a million lives a year. Many of the victims are children and pregnant women. Mycobacterium tuberculosis takes nearly three million lives. The human immuno-deficiency virus (HIV) causes over a million deaths. Many other microorganisms in the water, soil, air, and food are daily weapons of mass destruction. Very little in your defense budget goes for operational armed forces against this kind of violence. Your agencies, such as the Center for Disease Control, conduct some research but again nothing compared to the research for your missiles, drones, aircraft and satellites.
Your associates are obsessed with possible bacteriological warfare by your human enemies. Yet you are hardly doing anything on the ongoing silent violence of my indiscriminate brethren.
You and your predecessor George W. Bush made many speeches about fighting terrorism by humans. Have you made a major speech about us?
You speak regularly about crushing the resistance of your enemies. But you splash around so many antibiotics (obviously I don’t like this word and consider it genocidal) in cows, bulls, chickens, pigs and fish that your species is creating massive antibiotic resistance, provoking our mutations, so that we can breed even stronger progeny. You are regarded as the smartest beings on Earth, yet you seem to have too many neurons backfiring.
In the past two days of detention, scientists have subjected me to “enhanced interrogation,” as if I have any will to give up my secrets. It doesn’t work. What they will find out will be from their insights about me under their microscopes. I am lethal, I guess, but I’m not very complicated.
The United States, together with other countries, needs more laboratories where scientists can detain samples of us and subject us to extraordinary rendition to infectious disease research centers. Many infectious disease scientists need to be trained, especially in the southern hemispheres to staff these labs
You are hung up on certain kinds of preventable violence without any risk/benefit analysis. This, you should agree, is utterly irrational. You should not care where the preventable violence comes from except to focus on its range of devastation and its susceptibility to prevention or cure!
Well, here they come to my Petri dish for some more waterboarding. One last item: You may wonder how tiny bacterial me, probably not even harboring a virus, can send you such a letter. My oozing sense is that I’m just a carrier, being used by oodles of scientists taking advantage of a high profile infectious outbreak in Europe to catch your attention.
Whatever the how does it really matter to the need to act Now?
E.coli 0104:H4 (for the time being)
Ralph Nader is the author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us!, a novel.