Biological warfare is the deliberate use of infectious agents or biological toxins with the intent to kill or incapacitate people, animals or plants as an act of war. So how does that differ from bioterrorism? Bioterrorism is a similar concept, but the use of violence and intimidation is in the pursuit of an ideological cause, involving the intentional release or dissemination of biological agents. Acts of biological warfare and bioterrorism are unauthorised and do not abide by just law principles. Different biological agents hold different threats, where some are extremely easy to disseminate and cause high morbidity and mortality.
Historically there have been false accusations of bioterrorism where evidence is insufficient, and vague assumptions have been made. For example, the Hittite plague. The Hittite plague was in fact an epidemic of tularemia from the biological agent Francisella tularensis. Journals suggest that the Hittites ‘were the first people to wage bioterrorism’ using animals. Believers say that evidence shows that the spread was no accident. Supporting claims say rams were infected, these rams were found on the road. Donkeys, however, were removed from caravans. But texts do not confirm that rams were actually infected. Why were there no other infected animals about? Why should the rams not be on the road? The symptoms of the disease were also consistent bubonic plague. Ultimately, the evidence is poor.
The Black Death was a real act of bioterrorism; headlines claim it to be ‘The Greatest Catastrophe Ever.’ In the 14th century, millions died as a result of the disastrous mortal disease. What caused the black death? Bubonic plague caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis. The bacterium does not directly interact with us humans, instead they infect rodents, gathering large populations of themselves. The Black Death erupted in central Asia and spread to Europe. The Genoese were in Kaffa, taking control, permitted by the Mongols. Tensions and disagreements arose primarily through differing religions, where the Genoese were Christians and the Mongols were practicing Muslims. This tension led to violence, a fight caused the death of a Muslim. The Mongols threated the Italians with execution so they fled the city. The Mongols followed the Italians back to Kaffa, but were not expecting for the people of Kaffa to not let them in. Consequently, the Mongols laid a siege to Kaffa. All the conditions were right for an epidemic, perfectly dry weather. The Mongols became infected by bubonic plague! The Mongols then decided to catapult the corpses that were infected by plague onto their enemies. The Genoese therefore became infected, and spread the plague whilst travelling back to Italy. The pandemic was huge, doctors were left powerless against the rapidly spreading infectious disease. This was evidence of a clear deliberate attempt of biological warfare. It’s reliability stems from its documentation for support.
There have been various acts of biological warfare since. One such example is the use of biological bombs thrown over Britain in World War I. In 1925 a protocol was designed to prohibit biological warfare. Japan did not sign it, however. They already had intentions to take over east asia…