It looks like the Obama Administration’s proudest achievement in the international arena – the execution of Osama Bin Laden – has caused the death of nine UN health care workers and will continue to take a heavy toll in the health of ordinary Pakistanis and Afghans. According to the Associated Press, nine UN staff members who were administering polio vaccines in northern Pakistan have been killed since Monday by local militias opposed to the vaccination program, causing the UN to indefinitely suspend its operation.
Apparently, many Pakistanis believe that these health care workers are actually U.S. spies. Where would they get that crazy idea? Maybe it was this. While waterboarding and other torture did not contribute to the great victory over terrorism at Abbattabad, a phony vaccination program did. The CIA, in league with an integrity-challenged Pakistani doctor, implemented a bogus polio vaccine program, the real purpose of which was to collect DNA samples to determine the whereabouts of International Public Enemy Number 1. Not only was the entire health project set up under false pretenses, its vaccination of local children was entirely and deliberately ineffective. They were given the first dose of the vaccine but not the necessary followup doses.
True, sometimes a plan is undertaken with the best of intentions, and only later is it revealed that there were unintended and unforeseeable negative consequences. This was not one of those instances. In fact, the damage was quite foreseeable, even foreseen by commentators at the time, including Medecins Sans Frontieres. As Maryn McKenna , a journalist specializing in public health issues, warned 17 months ago:
This is awful. It plays, so precisely that it might have been scripted, into the most paranoid conspiracy theories about vaccines: that they are pointless, poisonous, covert shields for nefarious government agendas meant to do children harm. That is not speculation. The polio campaign has already seen this happen, based on just those kind of suspicions — not in a single poor slum in New Delhi, but across much of sub-Saharan Africa.
And now, nine heroic health care workers are dead, and unknown millions of people will be exposed to this crippling and sometimes deadly disease. The worldwide effort to eradicate polio has been dealt a massive blow. It will be impossible to assess the harm caused by this deranged scheme, just as the number of actual victims of Clinton’s 1998 bombing of the Sudan pharmaceutical plant will never be known.
Of course, the chances of a Congressional investigation of this fiasco are zero, and it is very unlikely that this tragic turn of events receives wide publicity in the US. Even then, it would be dismissed as another example of backward Muslims who are ungrateful for the benefits of Western medicine, harboring delusions that public health initiatives are actually designed to serve the purposes of a foreign superpower that is actively drone-bombing the local population. Perhaps Pam Geller’s next subway poster will feature this entirely predictable backlash as evidence of the medieval and savage mindset of Muslims.
On the bright side, now that we “got” Bin Laden, Americans can rest easier knowing that the risk of terrorism has been rendered remote, with terrorists hopelessly dispirited over the loss of their leader. And it’s not like we are doing anything to expand the pool of potential new terrorists, right?