Texas Contagion: The
Spread of ISIS, Ebola and Indifference


Leonard Zwelling

         There are three threats to the citizens of Texas. Texans
share susceptibility to these threats with the rest of America, but in Texas, two
of these threats have taken particularly nasty turns.

         ISIS is the contagious threat that looms for all Americans
equally. There can be no doubt that the danger posed by this group of jihadists
differs from the past and current threats posed by Al Qaeda.

we saw at the World Trade Center in 1993, the incident on the USS Cole, the
embassy bombings in Africa and finally on 9/11, Al Qaeda wants to destroy
landmarks and symbols of America as a disruptive strategy against the West.
None of these attacks resulted in Al Qaeda securing additional territory that
used to belong to Western nations. From what I can tell, our first pass at killing
Osama was in the hills between Pakistan and Afghanistan during President
Clinton’s watch when UBL was hiding in caves. It’s tough to build a nation from
a cave.

has far higher aspirations. These Sunnis want to acquire territory and
establish a nation-state caliphate governed by Sharia Law. This territory is
being carved out of land that used to belong to other nations, some of which
the US invested in heavily (Iraq). ISIS is also threatening Turkey, a member of
NATO. The goals of ISIS are far larger than the goals of Al Qaeda were and are.
And their barbarism is spreading and damaging the indigenous people in the
areas they attack far more than they are damaging the US. For now.

obvious impotence that the US has displayed with regard to the growing
contagion that is ISIS is in itself damaging to US credibility in the world as
if our last 60 years of unsuccessful military engagements from Korea, to
Vietnam, to Iraq to Afghanistan were not enough. (Remember when we did war
really well? That’s when we stayed out of the civil wars of other nations and
eschewed pre-emptive military action.)

any contagious disease, ISIS must be dealt with either through eradication or
vaccination. I favor the latter, prevention. Stay out. This is not our fight
and we cannot win it under the terms that Mr. Obama is willing to engage. The
solution to the ISIS contagion has to be masks, gowns, gloves and the Atlantic
Ocean for now. No more American military hardware needs to fall into the hands
of these maniacs. But if the US really wants to stop them, I am afraid it will
take a full-scale military incursion that I cannot see our people backing right
now. Whether to get American boots on the ground (what do the advisors wear,
Gucci loafers?) should be resolved by November 2016 as it is likely to be a
major debate point in the next Presidential contest.

is a real contagion. It is now here with us in Texas and obviously the
possibility of spread is real, now more than ever. This is particularly true if
CDC does not wish to impose a quarantine on health care workers treating Ebola
patients and flying to Cleveland. There is no vaccine for the disease yet,
although I am sure the biotech folks are rushing to make the most of the panic
by developing one. Talk about a potential gold mine!

Ebola, too, the best course of action for us is more than what we are doing.
Going to Africa with our know-how and our military in an effort to keep the
disease there just makes good sense. But so does quarantining all people coming
to the US from that part of the world and establishing a data system to prevent
those leaving Africa with stops in Europe from being undetected by the
screening systems. This we have thus far refused to do. I am quite certain
authorities in the US can keep the current and local case numbers low. Let’s
just not let anyone else in until we are sure they are Ebola free.

there is indifference, a far harder bug to squash for unlike ISIS which lives
far away in a population radicalized by jihadist philosophy, or Ebola which
also lives far away in regions of the globe with very primitive public health
systems, indifference lives right here in the hearts of those who no longer
wish to raise their energies or their voices for justice when it is easier to
ignore every thing around you, take the money and go home. This is a disease
that is afflicting Houston right now at the TMC and at MD Anderson.

don’t have any easy solutions for indifference whether it is the insensitivity
to racial and economic differences among Houstonians and their health care
needs, discrimination against those with sexual orientations different from our
own, or a tremendous leadership vacuum in American government, medicine and
academic medicine in particular. Repeatedly, in this blog, I have called out
the MD Anderson faculty to meaningfully raise its voice in unison and let the
administration know of its unhappiness, something I hear about every day. It
really is up to you.

don’t expect any faculty members to take up a gun, fly to Iraq and fight ISIS.
I don’t expect experts in clinical cancer care and research to shift the focus
of their professional activities to that of viral hunters. But I do expect
Divisional, departmental and Faculty Senate leadership to articulate a list of
demands of the administration that would end this long-standing indifference
which is getting worse by the day. But I am a guy who went to DC in 2008 expecting
to see smart people reform health care, so we have already established that I
can be a starry-eyed fool.

can fight indifference for it may well have contributed to the poisoning of
George Blumenschein as everyone around the principals decided the disaster was
not theirs to correct. Yes, it was. And so is the problem with the two faculty
whose tenure was PTC-approved but upended by Dr. DePinho. The AAUP doesn’t even
want to address this as the real question.

bad behavior of the current President of MD Anderson and the lack luster
performance of his leadership team needs careful outside review either by the
Board of Regents (unlikely) or the new chancellor (why the heck not?). 

I have said before: “If you see something, say something” and none of you are

Leonard Zwelling