For Immediate Release: June 26, 2012
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congressman Jim McDermott (D-WA) introduced a bipartisan resolution to commemorate efforts to combat polio. The U.S. Senate passed an identical resolution today. McDermott introduced the resolution along with the below statement, which was inserted into the Congressional Record of the U.S. House of Representatives:
“Mr. Speaker, I rise today to commemorate Rotary International and others for their efforts in vaccinating children around the world against polio. I also rise to encourage continued commitment and funding by the U.S. Government to the global effort to eradicate polio. In this regard, I want to thank Senator Dick Durbin for his leadership in bringing this timely resolution to the Senate.
“Polio is a highly infectious disease that primarily affects children and for which there is no known cure. It can leave survivors permanently disabled or paralyzed. Eradication of polio is a high priority for Rotary International, whose membership extends across the country and in more than 170 countries. I am proud to represent the Rotarians of the 7th congressional district of Washington, who have generously given their time and financial support to the global fight against polio.
“The U.S. Government is the leading public sector donor to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. The Centers for Disease Control and the United States Agency for International Development have been at the forefront in the U.S. Government's work to eradicate polio both nationally and internationally. Polio is now endemic only in Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan.
“Over the past week, it has become more difficult for international organizations to distribute polio vaccines to children in Pakistan. There is a critical lesson for the U.S. Government to learn. When humanitarian workers are used for intelligence collecting purposes, as we saw in Dr. Shakil Afridi's case, it erodes trust and undermines legitimate humanitarian work.
“The immediate and long-term consequences of the CIA's ill-conceived project with Dr. Afridi are grave. The immediate consequence of Dr. Afridi's bogus vaccination program run by the CIA was that the Pakistani Taliban in northern Waziristan have since used it as an excuse to ban polio vaccinations to 161,000 children. The long-term impact is that it will be fodder for conspiracy theorists that American espionage is everywhere and that medical programs could have sinister motives.
“The tragic impact of CIA's operation is that thousands of Pakistan's children who could have been vaccinated will suffer or die from polio.
“As we recognize our achievements in eradicating polio, I urge my colleagues to look at countries where polio is still endemic and work to ensure that intelligence agencies are not using medical workers as tools to collect information.”
Follow McDermott on Twitter: @RepJimMcDermott.