Bush Considers Military Role in Flu Fight


macrumors 601
Original poster
Jul 18, 2002

WASHINGTON - President Bush, stirring debate on the worrisome possibility of a bird flu pandemic, suggested dispatching American troops to enforce quarantines in any areas with outbreaks of the killer virus.

Bush asserted aggressive action could be needed to prevent a potentially crippling U.S. outbreak of a bird flu strain that is sweeping through Asian poultry and causing experts to fear it could become the next deadly pandemic. Citing concern that state and local authorities might be unable to contain and deal with such an outbreak, Bush asked Congress to give him the authority to call in the military.

The president has already indicated he wants to give the armed forces the lead responsibility for conducting search-and-rescue operations and sending in supplies after massive natural disasters and terrorist attacks — a notion that could require a change in law and that even some in the Pentagon have reacted to skeptically. The idea raised the startling-to-some image of soldiers cordoning off communities hit by disease.

"The president ought to have all ... assets on the table to be able to deal with something this significant," Bush said during a 55 minute question-and-answer session with reporters in the sun-splashed Rose Garden.

Dr. Irwin Redlener, associate dean of Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health and director of its National Center for Disaster Preparedness, called the president's suggestion an "extraordinarily draconian measure" that would be unnecessary if the nation had built the capability for rapid vaccine production, ensured a large supply of anti-virals like Tamiflu, and not allowed the degradation of the public health system.

"The translation of this is martial law in the United States," Redlener said.

It was the president's first full-fledged news conference in over four months, as the White House hopes to regain momentum lost amid sky-high gasoline prices, a rising death roll in Iraq, and a flawed response to Hurricane Katrina. Bush has seen a small rise in his approval ratings, but they remain near the lowest of his presidency.

Despite the polls and recent grumbling about his performance from some Republicans, Bush insisted he still had "plenty" of political capital that he would spend getting lawmakers to go along with his proposed budget cuts, Iraq strategy, proposals to add to U.S. oil refining capacity and desire for a reauthorization of the anti-terror Patriot Act.

bush seems hell bent on getting rid of or at least circumventing posse comitatus.

and besides the content above, why is bush fanning the flames of fear right now? is it politically movitated or is it just a clueless accident?


macrumors 65816
Jun 3, 2002
How about using troops as traffic cops. I bet those land mines would be great at slowing down speeders (myself included) :eek:


macrumors 68040
Apr 24, 2003
zimv20 said:
bush seems hell bent on getting rid of or at least circumventing posse comitatus.

and besides the content above, why is bush fanning the flames of fear right now? is it politically movitated or is it just a clueless accident?
In all fairness, this is something Bush should be thinking about. And the issue of quarantine is a VERY touchy one. I would expect a huge amount of trouble if any part of the country ever has to be put under quarantine. I highly doubt the cops could handle it. At a minimum the NG will have to be involved.


macrumors 68040
Apr 24, 2003
zimv20 said:
using the NG is the proper response mechanism, afaic.
Agreed, but I can foresee the problem growing beyond the ability of the guard to respond, particularly if say a state's main Guard facility were to be contained within the quarantine area.

Don't panic

macrumors 603
Jan 30, 2004
having a drink at Milliways
for once i'll have to agree with bush :eek: :eek: :eek:
at least in principle.
if a bird-flu pandemia does come and it follows the predicted forecast most scientists fear, the possibility of using the military to enforce quarantines should be at least DISCUSSED in congress.
the 1918 flu caused 50 million death worldwide. with today's communications the next one, WHEN it comes, may be four times as bad (se a recent national geographic article on the subject, or several articles on Nature). Although of course national health care system should focus on having vaccines ready and/or on its development, prevention and management of population during the outbreak is mandatory to minimize the impact. The best organized structure to do this, in any nation, is the military.

Dont Hurt Me

macrumors 603
Dec 21, 2002
Yahooville S.C.
A Major Flu outbreak could be devastating to the world and containment is the best way to stop the spread if it happens but old Bush has all the national guard fighting his B.S. war in Iraq. Lets not forget thats this lil thing called the flu has killed millions in years past. kind of hard to fathom isnt it?

I cant help but wonder is this the time period Jesus spoke of ? seems all prophecy has been fulfilled except for gods two witnesses. Just a random thought.


macrumors 68000
Aug 5, 2005
While I agree, this thing is nasty (we actually had a small lecture on it by the deputy head in this morning's assembly :p), is taking complete 100% controll of the military completely necessery? In fact, when you think about it, what good is it really gonna do? Try and shoot the strains? I think Shrub is using the fear surrounding this to get himself yet more powers. He's becoming somewhat of a military dictator. What's next? A Hitler-style "who needs elections" bill?


macrumors 68000
Apr 7, 2003
Hmmm, IJ, care to weigh in on whether this could be construed as the beginnings of a fascist state? Or, am I simply parnoid....

Mr. Anderson

Moderator emeritus
Nov 1, 2001
zimv20 said:
and besides the content above, why is bush fanning the flames of fear right now? is it politically movitated or is it just a clueless accident?
That just makes no sense. Maybe he's trying to let people know he's thinking about how to handle the situation?

Bizarre stuff though - almost as if he somehow knows there's going to be a pandemic....

that's just one for the conspiracy theorists....


Don't panic

macrumors 603
Jan 30, 2004
having a drink at Milliways
greatdevourer said:
Retards. Complete. And. Utter. Fscktards.
let me know what you think when someone in your family is saved by a vaccine derived by their research :rolleyes:

Mr. Anderson said:
Bizarre stuff though - almost as if he somehow knows there's going to be a pandemic....
since that is what the WHO, CDC, DOH, UN and about every virologist in the world are saying, I would suggest that he does know. what they don't know when, not if, but the prevalent feeling is that we are overdue for a pandemia, and many fear that the current avian flu could transform into one, with dire consequences if we don't get ready.


macrumors G4
Jun 29, 2002
Republic of Ukistan
While we're on that general subject, a slightly different article:
Deadly 1918 Epidemic Linked to Bird Flu, Scientists Say

Two teams of federal and university scientists announced today that they had resurrected the 1918 influenza virus, the cause of one of history's most deadly epidemics, and had found that unlike the viruses that caused more recent flu pandemics of 1957 and 1968, the 1918 virus was actually a bird flu that jumped directly to humans.

The work, being published in the journals Nature and Science, involved getting the complete genetic sequence of the 1918 virus, using techniques of molecular biology to synthesize it, and then using it to infect mice and human lung cells in a specially equipped, secure lab at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

The findings, the scientists say, reveal a small number of genetic changes that may explain why the virus was so lethal. The work also confirms the legitimacy of worries about the bird flu viruses that are now emerging in Asia.

The new studies find that today's bird flu viruses share some of the crucial genetic changes that occurred in the 1918 flu. The scientists suspect that with the 1918 flu, changes in just 25 to 30 out of about 4,400 amino acids in the viral proteins turned the virus into a killer. The bird flus, known as H5N1 viruses, have a few, but not all of those changes.

In a joint statement, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said, "The new studies could have an immediate impact by helping scientist focus on detecting changes in the evolving H5N1 virus that might make widespread transmission among humans more likely."

The work also reveals that the 1918 virus is very different from ordinary human flu viruses. It infects cells deep in the lungs of mice, and infects lung cells, like the cells lining air sacs, that normally would be impervious to flu. And while other human flu viruses do not kill mice, this one, like today's bird flus, does.

But Dr. Jeffery Taubenberger, chief of molecular pathology department at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, notes that the bird flus have not yet spread from human to human. He hopes the 1918 virus will reveal what genetic changes can allow that to happen, helping scientists prevent a new pandemic before it starts.

Scientists said the new work was immensely important, leading the way to identifying dangerous viruses before it is too late and to finding ways to disable them.

"This is huge, huge, huge," said John Oxford, a professor of virology at St. Bartholmew's and the Royal London Hospital, who was not part of the research team. "It's a huge breakthrough to be able to put a searchlight on a virus that killed 50 million people. I can't think of anything bigger that's happened in virology for many years."

The 1918 flu showed how terrible that disease could be. It had been "like a dark angel hovering over us," Dr. Oxford said. The virus spread and killed with terrifying speed, preferentially striking the young and the healthy. Alfred C. Crosby, author of "America's Forgotten Pandemic: The Influenza of 1918," wrote that it "killed more humans than any other disease in a similar duration in the history of the world."

But the research, and its publication, also raised concerns about whether scientists should publish the genetic sequence of the 1918 virus. And should they actually resurrect a killer that vanished from the earth nearly a century ago?

"It is something we take seriously," said Dr. Fauci of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which helped pay for the work. The work was extensively reviewed, he added, and the National Scientific Advisory Board for Biosecurity was asked to decide whether the results should be made public. The board "voted unanimously that the benefits outweighed the risk that it would be used in a nefarious manner," Dr. Fauci said.

Richard H. Ebright, a molecular biologist at Rutgers University, deplored the publication of the viral gene sequence and the reconstruction of the virus. "There is a risk verging on inevitability of accidental release of the virus and a risk verging on inevitability of deliberate release," he said. And the 1918 flu virus, Dr. Ebright added, "is perhaps the most effective bioweapons agent ever known."​


macrumors 6502a
Jul 19, 2003
high-rise in beautiful bethesda
Flu's the big scare story now - I watched fifteen minutes on the flu on Dobby and then changed the channel when Andersen Cooper started talking about it too. I'm not too worried, Asia's got 3.8B people and the flu only killed 60 of them. Using the same proportions it would kill 6 people here, which would mean I have a 1 in 50m chance of dying from it. Of course, it could get a lot worse, but that's where it is now. Also, I don't hang around birds very often, and so far there's also been no incidence of human-to-human transmission.



macrumors 603
Jun 25, 2002
LaLaLand, CA
Mr. Anderson said:
That just makes no sense.
There aren't a lot of things politicians do that make sense to me.

Maybe he's trying to let people know he's thinking about how to handle the situation?

Bizarre stuff though - almost as if he somehow knows there's going to be a pandemic....
He probably just doesn't want to be caught by surprise again. That's the last thing any of us need. People would just accuse him of dropping the ball again. Which I still think he will, but I'm hoping this time he won't.


macrumors 68000
Jul 4, 2004
I just wonder who the military will quarantine, whether it will be a quarantine designed to isolate the infected areas, or whether it will be a quarantine that is designed to protect a few areas from the overall problem.

/on a side note, I am curious about the origins of the word Quarantine.


n. Any forced stoppage of travel or communication on account of malignant, contagious disease, on land or by sea.
From the French quarante (=forty). Adding the suffix –aine to French numbers gives a degree of roughness to the figure (like –ish in English), so quarantaine means about forty. Originally when a ship arriving in port was suspected of being infected with a malignant, contagious disease, its cargo and crew were obliged to forego all contact with the shore for a period of around forty days. This term came to be known as period of quarantine."

Not curious anymore. Those still curious about how you would enforce something like this on a large scale.


macrumors 68000
May 22, 2003
San Francisco
I know, why don't we spend some money on detecting the outbreaks, building up our supply of vaccines, and upgrading our public health infrastructure? Wait, that just what Tom Harkin's bill in the Senate will do, but of course the GOP is threatening to stop it dead in its tracks. Why any sane person would try to stop such common sense measures, while promoting military quarantines is beyond me. Perhaps Bush wants to use the military to invade other countries under the cover of quarantines. I know, I know, I'm being paranoid, but these nuts in the Bush administration keep pushing me to think very paranoid thoughts. Do tin-foil hats ward off the flu bug? It maybe the only protection from the disease I'm going to get from Dubya. :mad: