Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Got the Sniffles? Call the Pentagon

President Bush has asked Congress for permission to use the military to enforce quarantines in case of a flu pandemic. The Pentagon apparently is a bit skeptical, but the President believes it is important for him to be able to maintain law and order in case large areas need to be sealed off.

While the objective of preventing the spread of a dangerous virus like the Asian bird flu (should it mutate to become transmittable from person-to-person) is reasonable, the act of declaring martial law is too Orwellian. Instead of planning for a possible pandemic by ensuring enough dosages of antiviral medicines such as Tamiflu are available, preparing our nation's first responders and medical community with funding and training, and encouraging the development of infrastructure for quickly producing flu vaccines, the President simply wants to bring in people with guns to make sure the flu doesn't spread.

Sounds a lot like the Katrina response to me: do too little to prepare beforehand and send in troops to treat victims as if they were insurgents after tragedy strikes. Think they'd bring in troops to keep lawmakers in Washington if the flu should strike Capitol Hill, or will the Army only be used if there is an outbreak in an area where there is a large minority population?

Okay, maybe I'm not being fair with that last statement, but I'm not exactly confident after watching the Katrina fiasco and then seeing Republican "leaders" suggest cutting $25 billion from the CDC's budget to pay for reconstruction. At least someone has a bit of sense in Washington. The Senate recently tacked $3.9 billion for flu preparation onto a Pentagon appropriations bill. Maybe that means some people realized what a ridiculous idea it was to propose cutting spending to the CDC. Now let's just hope that money goes to making some real preparations and not to fund pork projects or line the pockets of Conservative cronies.