Ebola and terrorism are both serious problems. They both require serious solutions. But the only thing they have in common is that they are frightening to Americans.
And yet the idea that terrorist organizations such as ISIS might weaponize Ebola and use it to attack the US is now cropping up everywhere. GOP congressmen Mike Kelly and Joe Wilson are warning of Ebola-infected terrorists committing suicide bombings. Fox News says that a bag of Ebola-infected ISIS vomit could be the "equivalent of a dirty bomb." And now Marc Thiessen, a former Bush administration speechwriter, has written 800 words in the Washington Post darkly imagining terrorists infecting themselves with Ebola and then blowing themselves up in shopping-mall suicide attacks throughout the United States.
These theories have no basis in fact, and the insistence that terrorists are going to weaponize Ebola is nothing more than naked exploitation of Americans' fears. To convey the full absurdity of this all, herewith is an imagined conversation between two terrorist leaders plotting Ebola-based attacks on the United States:
Scene: A safe house in Syria. The walls are covered in posters extolling the virtues of jihad. Near the window is a large to-do list with checkmarks next to "genocide," "war crimes," "forced religious conversions," and "kitten-based viral social media strategy." "Establish caliphate" remains un-checked. TERRORIST 1 and TERRORIST 2 stand in front of a whiteboard, brainstorming ideas.
Terrorist 1: Dude, dude, dude, I have a brilliant idea for doing terrorism. So, like, suicide bombings, right? What if we did those, but with Ebola?
Terrorist 2: OMG, I love it. Ebola is so hot right now.
Terrorist 1: SO hot right now. Here's the plan: we go to Liberia and catch Ebola. Then, once we are infected but not too sick to travel, we fly to America, which is a very easy thing for us to do, as terrorists. Then we do suicide bombings, but they'll be ones with Ebola in them instead of just plain old regular ones.
Terrorist 2: LOVE IT. Except…like, we've never actually done suicide bombings in the US ever, though. And even plain old regular suicide bombings kill people, so do we even really need the Ebola part?
Terrorist 1: UGH, okay. Fine. FINE. Forget the stupid suicide bombings. New plan: we fly to Liberia, get Ebola, fly to America, WHICH, AS I HAVE MENTIONED, WILL BE EASY EVEN THOUGH WE ARE TERRORISTS, and we get a bag of vomit and a fan and —
Terrorist 2: [Rolling his eyes, goes to the whiteboard, where he writes "flu" and "smallpox," adding to a list that already says "celebrity re-branding campaign (Kim K??)" and "snakes on a plane BUT FOR REAL."]
Terrorist 1. WHAT? What is your problem now?
Terrorist 2: It's just that Ebola is actually not that easy to spread? If we're going to go into biological weaponry, which is a thing we have never done before and that is actually pretty hard to get right, why wouldn't we pick a disease that's more infectious, like smallpox or a really deadly strain of flu?
Terrorist 1: It would be a REALLY BIG FAN.
Terrorist 2: Sure, but the outbreak would stop there. Even if we covered literally hundreds of American infidels in Ebola-infected bodily fluids, which would be logistically far more challenging than blowing them up, American hospitals' current track record suggests that most of those people would survive. And then that would basically be it. If there were more cases, they'd be isolated. The virus wouldn't spread.
Terrorist 1: I think that you are jealous of my good ideas. That is what I think is going on here. Okay, how about this: I read in a Washington Post opinion column that we could "collect samples of infected body fluids, and then place them on doorknobs, handrails or airplane tray tables."
Terrorist 2: Your new plan is that we get Ebola, fly to the United States, and lick a bunch of doorknobs?
Terrorist 1: Not just licking, duh. Poop and vomit carry Ebola, too. So we could, like, cover doorknobs in poop, and then people will grab them while they're still wet, and then put their poop-drenched fingers in their mouths, and then — you know what, never mind. Even I can tell this is dumb.
Terrorist 2: I'm sorry. I know this is important to you.
Terrorist 1: So what we'd really need to do is culture Ebola in a lab, and then — WHAT IS YOUR PROBLEM NOW?
Terrorist 2: Since when do we have a lab?
Terrorist 1: Surely there must be one around.
Terrorist 2: Okay, let's say this succeeds, though. If people get Ebola, won't they just think it was the regular spread of disease? We're in the business of making people fear us, not viruses. I mean, the flu kills thousands of Americans every year, but that doesn't do anything for us — 48,000 people died of the flu in 2004, but it's not as if America was all "OMG, we surrender. Time for a caliphate."
Terrorist 1: Maybe if we released a video showing us licking the doorknobs, so they knew it was us?
Terrorist 2: That's not really the dignified martyrdom I had in mind.
Terrorist 1: It's just...I just thought...
Terrorist 2: Stop. Just stop. It's over.