What does it mean to be a ‘statesman’?

Nunn-Lugar has deactivated 7,601 strategic nuclear warheads in the former Soviet Union – more than the arsenals of France, Britain and China – destroyed 820,000 rounds and 2,247 metric tons of chemical munitions. In the history of nations, it is unprecedented that a rival assist in disarming a bitter foe in peaceful conditions, yet that has occurred among the United States, Russia and other spun off Soviet states.

But it is the WMD, including biological weapons, in the possession of terror groups that former Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates acknowledged on CBS’s 60 Minutes that “Keep me up at night.”

Myers not only has worked to implement Nunn-Lugar around the world, he is also a victim. In October 2001, Myers was in the Hart Senate Office Building when letters containing weaponized anthrax were mailed to U.S. Sens. Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy.

“I was in the building that day,” Myers told IU students at the School for Public and Environmental Affairs. “I was removed by a gentleman in bio-level safety gear, fully masked, pure oxygen. I was taken over, cotton swabbed. I was put on Cipro for five to seven days. I think we’re better prepared today than we were. But let us not forget we’ve already had a WMD attack in this country.”

The 1984 Rajneesh bioterror attack was the food poisoning of more than 750 individuals in The Dalles, Oregon, through the deliberate contamination with salmonella of salad bars at ten local restaurants. They had hoped to incapacitate the voting population of the city so that their own candidates would win the Wasco County elections.

And there are those who want history to repeat. “I don’t know how many of you are familiar with Inspire Magazine,” Myers said. “This is an al-Qaeda magazine to communicate with sympathizers and recruits around the world.” He then quoted the magazine: “For those brothers with degrees in microbiology and chemistry lies the greatest opportunity to build” weapons of mass destruction.

“Of all the WMD threats, perhaps the most underrated is the threat of biological weapons,” Lugar explained. “Deadly viruses exist in nature and are easier to handle than nuclear materials and harder to detect. Deadly agents can be weaponized through such means as an HVAC system or contamination at a salad bar. Self-infected suicidal bioterrorists could carry their deadly cargo anywhere in the world in just days.  Even crude bio-weapons could produce terror and chaos with random outbreaks of deadly diseases.”

Myers sees an evolving or “morphed” threat. As Nunn-Lugar has eliminated nukes in Belarus, Ukraine and Kazakhstan, and tightened security in Russia. “It’s changing because we’ve had success on the nuclear side of the equation. With the development of microbiology and life sciences, it does not take a nation state to develop weapons of mass destruction.”

Myers makes it clear that at this point of Lugar’s career, his ability to open doors around the world is one of the most important missions a member of Congress has. Lugar had many early conversations with Kazakhstan President Nazarbayev. “From that base of cooperation, Kazakhstan emerged as an important player in stopping the spread of weapons of mass destruction,” Lugar said.

Myers explained, “The lines of communications we have established, this really is about personal diplomacy. Every time we’ve called Sen. Lugar to help us, to help us break into a new region, to establish the first step, to establish relations with leaders, he’s always said yes.”

Myers continued. “He did that in Africa. When you are able to walk through a door trailing Sen. Lugar you have an entry that is second to none. Without this kind of leadership, we will not be able to have this kind of luck. I cannot prove a negative to you. I can’t prove to you that without the Nunn-Lugar program, something bad would have happened. But you know what? I’ll tell you one of the reasons this country has not had to deal with a nuclear weapon is because of programs such as this.”

At age 79, is there a successor to Lugar? Myers answered, “That’s a hard question to answer. My first instinct is you simply can’t replace that kind of experience in statesmanship. Quite frankly, I don’t believe there is anyone else who has shown the depth of interest and followed up on it with actions for as long as Sen. Lugar has.”

When faced with a tough problem, “We go to Sen. Lugar because he’s been doing it for a number of years. He has international credibility and is known internationally as a statesman.”

(The columnist publishes at www.howeypolitics.com. Contact him at bhowey2@gmail.com)

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