Summary and book reviews of Germs by Judith Miller, et. al.

Germs

Biological Weapons and America's Secret War

by Judith Miller, et. al.

Germs
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  • First Published:
    Sep 2001, 352 pages
    Paperback:
    Oct 2002, 384 pages

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Book Summary

A frightening and unforgettable narrative of cutting-edge science and spycraft.



Deadly germs sprayed in shopping malls, bomblets spewing anthrax spores over battlefields, tiny vials of plague scattered in Times Square -- these are the poor man's hydrogen bombs, hideous weapons of mass destruction that can be made in a simple laboratory.

In this groundbreaking work of investigative journalism, Judith Miller, Stephen Engelberg, and William Broad of The New York Times uncover the truth about biological weapons and show why bio-warfare and bio-terrorism are fast becoming our worst national nightmare.

Among the startling revelations in Germs:

  • How the CIA secretly built and tested a model of a Soviet-designed germ bomb, alarming some officials who felt the work pushed to the limits of what is permitted by the global treaty banning germ arms.
  • How the Pentagon embarked on a secret effort to make a superbug.
  • Details about the Soviet Union's massive hidden program to produce biological weapons, including new charges that germs were tested on humans.
  • How Moscow's scientists made an untraceable germ that instructs the body to destroy itself.
  • The Pentagon's chaotic efforts to improvise defenses against Iraq's biological weapons during the 1991 Persian Gulf War.
  • How a religious cult in Oregon in the 1980s sickened hundreds of Americans in a bio-terrorism attack that the government played down to avoid panic and copycat strikes.
  • Plans by the U.S. military in the 1960s to attack Cuba with germ weapons.

Germs also shows how a small group of scientists and senior officials persuaded President Bill Clinton to launch a controversial multibillion-dollar program to detect a germ attack on U.S. soil and to aid its victims -- a program that, so far, is struggling to provide real protection.

Based on hundreds of interviews with scientists and senior officials, including President Clinton, as well as on recently declassified documents and on-site reporting from the former Soviet Union's sinister bio-weapons labs, Germs shows us bio-warriors past and present at work at their trade. There is the American scientist who devoted his professional life to perfecting biological weapons, and the Nobel laureate who helped pioneer the new biology of genetically modified germs and is now trying to stop its misuse. We meet former Soviet scientists who made enough plague, smallpox, and anthrax to kill everyone on Earth and whose expertise is now in great demand by terrorists, rogue states, and legitimate research labs alike.

A frightening and unforgettable narrative of cutting-edge science and spycraft, Germs shows us why advances in biology and the spread of germ weapons expertise to such countries as Iran, Iraq, and North Korea could make germs the weapon of the twenty-first century.

Table of Contents

Preface
1. The Attack
2. Warrior
3. Revelations
4. Saddam
5. Secrets and Lies
6. The Cult
7. Evil Empire
8. Breakthrough
9. Taking Charge
10. The President
11. Defenders
12. The Future

Conclusions

Notes

Select Bibliography

Acknowledgments

Index


From Chapter Two

Germs and warfare are old allies. More than two millennia ago, Scythian archers dipped arrowheads in manure and rotting corpses to increase the deadliness of their weapons. Tatars in the fourteenth century hurled dead bodies foul with plague over the walls of enemy cities. British soldiers during the French and Indian War gave unfriendly tribes blankets sown with smallpox. The Germans in World War I spread glanders, a disease of horses, among the mounts of rival cavalries. The Japanese in World War II dropped fleas infected with plague on Chinese cities, killing hundreds and perhaps thousands of people.

Despite occasional grim successes, germ weapons have never played ...

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Reviews

Media Reviews

Amazon.com - Harry C. Edwards

Three reporters from The New York Times survey the recent history of biological weapons and sound an alarm about the coming threat of the "poor man's hydrogen bomb." Germs begins ominously enough, recounting the chilling attack by the followers of the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh in 1984 on the Dalles, Oregon--no one died, but nearly 1,000 were infected with a strain of salmonella that the cult had legally obtained, then cultured and distributed..... The authors conclude that while a biological attack against the United States is not necessarily inevitable, the danger of bio-weapons is too real to be ignored. Well-researched and documented, this book will not disappoint readers looking for a reliable and sober resource on the topic.

New York Times Book Review - Gideon Rose

"[Germs] tells the story of biological weapons and the fight against them, using biography and historical narrative to make the issues clear and accessible. The tone is somewhat alarmist, but because of the care with which the authors have assembled their case, not to mention our...sense of what is possible, even skeptical readers may have trouble sleeping easily after they finish it."

Booklist - Gilbert Taylor

Though some of the authors' conclusions are being challenged by other experts, Germs provides chilling context about a nefarious weapon.

Reader Reviews

Roger

Germs is indeed a sobering and well-documented review of historical man generated biological events as they transpired. Of significant note it is important to realize how the burden of Chem & Bioterror and Chem & Bioweapons affected former President ...   Read More

Marcy

This book opens one's eyes to what is really going on when world powers begin to "experiment". The authors do a good job in compilation of interviews of those that would give vital and correct information. Keep it up.

Anonymous

This book is a real page turner. It has certainly kept me up late at night trying to figure out, along with the many heros in the book, how to keep the world safe from Bioterrorism. I have learned about things I never had any particular interest in, ...   Read More

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