But this display military might was a concerted and active effort, unlike the unintentional incursions of disease, and may have been more easily resisted, at least on an intellectual level, by the Indian and indigenous population had the population not been so decimated and the seeming imperviousness of Europeans to disease not seemed so frightening. Disease was not a willed instrument of terror, initially, because the European populations knew nothing of germs, and had developed a substantial level of toleration of immune resistance to the pervasive bacteria that affected the native populations. But once disease came, it affected political development and political and intellectual views the two groups had of one another.
Noble David Cook makes an interesting analogy between incursions by the political and military bodies of Europe into the soon to be colonized powers, and the bodies of the natives with disease. The native populations were unable to resist the intruding power of germs from the European invaders, and thus were viewed as weak as they fell ill and died. This weakness, because of the ignorance of germs, became a metaphorical testimony in the minds of the Europeans to the weakness of then native population as human beings, morally and as fighters. This attribution of weakness reflected in one of the first quote of the text's first chapters, by Michele de Cueno in 1495. (15)
Of course, a reader might be tempted to say, now that even the developing world lives in recognition of germs, such an unconscious weapon can never be used again. But biological terrorism has been willingly inflicted against populations deemed to be physically alien, such as Saddam Hussein against the Kurdish population of his own nation, even in the present day. ("Kurds," The Columbia Encyclopedia, 2004) In Latin America, the deforestation of the rain forest by the developing world may cause untold environmental destruction, and destruction to the native population's health and well-being and modalities of life, even if its biological terror is not wielded against the human body -- it is still wielded against a fundamental aspect of the native lifestyle.
Also, by withholding medications, an analogous use of biological terrorism may be found in the denial of crucial drugs to the developing world, and even of birth control through relief agencies in some areas, because of religious objections. Individuals without access to proper sanitation and health care, if not outright military impingement, have died in the civil conflicts of Africa. Famine likewise has been used as a tool in warfare since time immemorial. "Malnutrition," Cook points out, increased the sensitivity of the native population to disease, and denials of food can function like denials of medication. (17)
Within our own nation, biological epidemics such as AIDS have caused the eradication of undesirable populations, even though the initial outbreak may not have been inflicted upon the populations of gay men and IV drug users, the lack of concern devoted to these illnesses in these populations certainly can be seen as a political tool. The increasing political polarization regarding health care in our own nation is a powerful testimony to the lack of care and concern about general populations not deemed to be innocent populations, or not deemed to be populations of concern. Once again, the weakness of the human physical body -- a weakness all human bodies are subject to, via old age and death, is culturally 'read' as a manifestation of an entire culture and an entire class and race of people as having no value.
Cook, David Noble. Born to Die. Cambridge University Press, 1998.
"Kurds." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th Edition. New York: Columbia University Press, 2001 -- 04. www.bartleby.com/65/. 8 November 2003.
Lim, Louisa. "Analysis: Disease as a Weapon." BBC News. 2003.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/2634753.stm. 8 November 2004.
Trigger, Bruce. "Early Native North American Responses to Early European Contact: Rationalist vs. Romantic Interpretations." The Journal of…