Thanks to Richard Daggett, president of the Polio Survivors Association, for sending this letter:
I realize you are just reporting on a story in the Lancet, but it might be helpful if you did a little editorial critique of this article. Yes, the CIA used a phony hepatitis campaign in an attempt to locate ben Laden. And, yes, it was probably foolish. However, the Lancet’s report is repeating a falsehood.
Long before there was any CIA involvement, the Taliban and other Islamic extremists were killing vaccine teams and other healthcare workers. Several years ago, ten members of an international assistance mission were killed. The team included six Americans, one German, one Briton and four Afghans. The Taliban claimed "credit" for the murders. One Taliban leader said, "We don't want any foreigners here. They are not our friends." This is despite the fact that four of those killed were Afghans, and one of the Americans was an ophthalmologist who had spent thirty-one years in the region, bringing sight to thousands of impoverished villagers.
The latest Islamic diatribe has a prominent spokesman claiming that, “drones cause polio.” He didn’t say that he is objecting to foreign medicine because foreign drones are attacking his people, or that he won’t let vaccination be allowed until the drones stop, he said very emphatically that, “polio is caused by drones.” Is this nuts. Perhaps the Lancet staff will give this foolishness credibility by quoting in their journal.
The Taliban leadership is filled with hate, but they are not completely ignorant. They know that polio immunization drives have no connection to anything other than humanitarian efforts. The awful truth is, they don't care! And it appears that whoever wrote this article doesn’t care either.
I have my reservations about some of Mr. Daggett's sources (especially the site with the "drones cause polio" story). And I think he's too harsh on The Lancet.
But I think he's right to point out that the phony vaccination scheme simply gave the Taliban a new stick to beat the western dog with. It's the association of public health with a secular government that the Taliban really doesn't like.