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No Shelter


“The true hypocrite is the one who ceases to perceive his deception, the one who lies with sincerity.”

– André Gide

Afghanistan president Hamid Karzai said recently that he had had an argument with Gen. John Allen, the top US commander in Afghanistan, about the issue of American drone attacks in Afghanistan, following yet another deadly airstrike that killed a number of civilians. Karzai asked Allen an eminently reasonable question: “Do you do this in the United States?” The Afghan president added: “There is police action every day in the United States in various localities. They don’t call an airplane to bomb the place.”

Karzai’s question to Allen was rhetorical of course, for can it be imagined that American officials would bomb a house in an American city because they suspected that certain bad guys were present there? Well, the answer to that question is that it can be imagined because they’ve already done it.

In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. On May 13, 1985, a bomb dropped by a police helicopter burned down an entire block, some 60 homes destroyed, 11 dead, including several small children. The police, the mayor’s office, and the FBI were all involved in this effort to evict an organization called MOVE from the house they lived in.

The victims were all black of course. So let’s rephrase our question. Can it be imagined that American officials would bomb a house in Beverly Hills or the upper east side of Manhattan? Stay tuned.

And what else can we imagine about a society that’s been super militarized, that’s at war with much of the world, and is convinced that it’s on the side of the angels and history? Well, the Boston transit system, MBTA, recently announced that in conjunction with Homeland Security they plan to release dead bacteria at three stations during off-hours this summer in order to test sensors that detect biological agents, which terrorists could release into subway systems. The bacterium, bacillus subtilis, is not infectious even in its live form, according to the government.

However, this too has a precedent. During five days in June, 1966 the Army conducted a test called “A Study of the Vulnerability of Subway Passengers in New York City to Covert Attack with Biological Agents”. Trillions of bacillus subtilis variant niger were released into the subway system during rush hours, producing aerosol clouds. The report on the test noted that “When the cloud engulfed people, they brushed their clothing, looked up at the grate [at street level] and walked on.”4 The wind of passing trains spread the bacteria along the tracks; in the time it took for two trains to pass, the bacteria were spread from 15th Street to 58th Street.5 It is not known how many people later became ill from being unsuspecting guinea pigs because the United States Army, as far as is known, exhibited no interest in this question.

For the planned Boston test the public has not been informed of the exact days; nor is it known how long the bacteria might linger in the stations or what the possible danger might be to riders whose immune system has been weakened for any reason.

It should be noted that the New York subway experiment was only one of many such experiments. The Army has acknowledged that between 1949 and 1969, 239 populated areas from coast to coast as well as US overseas territories were blanketed with various organisms during tests designed to measure patterns of dissemination in the air, weather effects, dosages, optimum placement of the source, and other factors. Such testing was supposedly suspended after 1969.

Government officials have consistently denied that the biological agents used could be harmful despite an abundance of expert and objective scientific evidence that exposure to heavy concentrations of even apparently innocuous organisms can cause illness, at a minimum to the most vulnerable segments of the population — the elderly, children, and those suffering from a variety of ailments. “There is no such thing as a microorganism that cannot cause trouble,” George Connell, assistant to the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, testified before the Senate in 1977. “If you get the right concentration at the right place, at the right time, and in the right person, something is going to happen.”

The United States has used biological weapons abroad as well, repeatedly, not for testing purposes but for hostile purposes. So what will the land which has the highest (double) standards say when such weapons are used against it? Or when foreign drones hit American cities? Or when American hi-tech equipment is sabotaged by a cyber attack as the US has now admitted doing to Iran? A year ago the Pentagon declared that “computer sabotage coming from another country can constitute an act of war. … If you shut down our power grid, maybe we will put a missile down one of your smokestacks,” said a US military official.

William Blum is the author of Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War IIRogue State: a guide to the World’s Only Super Power and West-Bloc Dissident: a Cold War Political Memoir. He can be reached at:


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