FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Gimme Some Truth Now

by JEFFREY ST. CLAIR

In 1998, some of the vilest secrets of South Africa’s apartheid regime emerged in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings held in Cape Town. It’s a shame that even with the deluge of pixels spilled over the death of Nelson Mandela those chilling stories still have never made much of a commotion in the United States, whose own intelligence agencies have pursued the same macabre path.

During the hearings, a South African agent confessed to drug smuggling on behalf of the Directorate of Covert Collections, an ultra-covert unit within South Africa’s military intelligence apparat.  This agent and his colleagues flew drugs – cannabis, Ecstasy and Mandrax – into England in the nosecone of a plane carrying sports fans to the first Springbox rugby tour of Great Britain after ties were re-established in 1992. As Alexander Cockburn and I reported at the time, the proceeds from the drug sales were then used to buy arms on the international black market.

The Ecstasy and Mandrax consignments were manufactured in labs run by Dr. Wouter Basson, the chieftain of South Africa’s chemical and biological weapons program. Basson was arrested in January 1997 for his crimes after diving into a river in a failed attempt to escape from police. Basson was a cardiologist who counted former President P.W. Botha among his patients. Basson was privy to so many state secrets that Mandela’s government had to re-hire him after he was ushered into retirement by the Botha regime. Documents found in Basson’s house following his arrest were so highly classified that they were kept on a CD-ROM that not even the military could access without clearance from Mandela himself. (Basson was deemed immune from prosecution by a South African judge.)

Basson ran a secret factory called Delta-G Scientific, where he oversaw the manufacture of Mandrax and other infamous materials.  Also part of Basson’s empire was the notorious Roodeplaat Research Laboratories, a military installation near Pretoria. Activities at this ghastly facility included the testing and manufacture of poison gas, which was used in combat at least once in Mozambique, whose government South Africa, in collusion with the United States, was seeking to subvert.

The hearings offered a vivid portrait of what went on inside Roodeplaat Labs, where chemists cooked up lethal poisons designed to leave no traces. Dr. Schalk van Rensburg testified that “the most frequent instruction” from Basson was for development of a compound that would kill but make the cause of death seemingly natural. “That was the chief aim of the Roodeplaat Research Laboratory.”

The Lab manufactured cholera organisms, anthrax to be deposited on the gummed flaps of envelopes and in cigarettes and chocolate, walking sticks firing fatal darts that would feel like bee stings. Tests on baboons involved cancer-spreading drugs. An anti-riot dog weighing 200 pounds was bred from a mix of Alsatian and Russian wolf.

Van Rensburg took his riveted audience painstakingly through what he called “the murder lists” of toxins and “delivery systems.” These included 32 bottles of cholera that, one of the lab’s technicians testified, would be most effectively used in the water supply. There were plans to slip the still imprisoned Nelson Mandela surreptitious doses of the heavy metal poison, thallium, designed to make his brain function become “impaired, progressively.” In one case, lethal toxins went from Roodeplaat to a death squad detailed by the apartheid regime to kill one of its opponents, the Rev. Frank Chikane. The killers planted lethal chemicals in his clothing, expecting him to travel to Namibia, where they reckoned there would be “very little forensic capability.” Instead, Chikane went to the U.S., where doctors identified the toxins and saved his life.

The big dream at Roodeplaat was to develop race-specific biochemical weapons, targeting blacks. Van Rensburg was ordered by Basson to develop a vaccine to make blacks infertile. Van Rensburg told the truth commission that was his major project. There also were plans to distribute infected T-shirts in the black townships to spread disease and infertility.

There were efforts to develop skin pigmentation pills to change white government agents into blacks, the better for infiltration. In a reprise of the smallpox blankets given to American Indians in the 19th century, infected T-shirts were to be distributed in the black townships to spread disease and infertility.

One of the investigators for the Truth Commission, Zhensile Kholsan, alleged that there is a strong suggestion that “drugs were fed into communities that were political centers, to cause socioeconomic chaos.”

Americans need not entertain feelings of moral superiority. In 1960, in one of the CIA’s perennial attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro, the agency planned to put thallium salts in Castro’s shoes before he addressed the United Nations. Years later, the Nicaraguan government reported that a CIA-supplied team tried to assassinate its foreign minister by giving him a bottle of Bénédictine liqueur laced with thallium.

U.S. military researchers of biochemical warfare in the 1950s also conducted race-oriented experiments. In 1980, the U.S. Army admitted that Norfolk Naval Supply Center was contaminated with infectious bacteria in 1951 to test the Navy’s vulnerability to biological warfare attack. The Army disclosed that one of the bacteria types was chosen because blacks were known to be more susceptible to it than whites.

Was the lethal arsenal brewed at Roodeplaat assembled with advice from the CIA and other U.S. agencies? There were certainly intimate contacts over the decades. It was, after all, a CIA tip that led the South African secret police to arrest Nelson Mandela and put him away on Robben Island all those years.

It’s well past time for a truth commission here.

Jeffrey St. Clair is the author of Been Brown So Long It Looked Like Green to Me: the Politics of NatureGrand Theft Pentagon and Born Under a Bad Sky. His latest book is Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion. He can be reached at: sitka@comcast.net

Jeffrey St. Clair is editor of CounterPunch. His new book is Killing Trayvons: an Anthology of American Violence (with JoAnn Wypijewski and Kevin Alexander Gray). He can be reached at: sitka@comcast.net.

More articles by:
July 27, 2016
Richard Moser
The Party’s Over
M. G. Piety
Smoke and Mirrors in Philadelphia
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Humiliation Games: Notes on the Democratic Convention
Arun Gupta
Bernie Sanders’ Political Revolution Splinters Apart
John Eskow
The Loneliness of the American Leftist
Guillermo R. Gil
A Metaphoric Short Circuit: On Michelle Obama’s Speech at the DNC
Norman Pollack
Sanders, Our Tony Blair: A Defamation of Socialism
Claire Rater, Carol Spiegel and Jim Goodman
Consumers Can Stop the Overuse of Antibiotics on Factory Farms
Guy D. Nave
Make America Great Again?
Sam Husseini
Why Sarah Silverman is a Comedienne
Dave Lindorff
No Crooked Sociopaths in the White House
Dan Bacher
The Hired Gun: Jerry Brown Snags Bruce Babbitt as New Point Man For Delta Tunnels
Peter Lee
Trumputin! And the DNC Leak(s)
David Macaray
Interns Are Exploited and Discriminated Against
Ann Garrison
Rwanda, the Clinton Dynasty, and the Case of Dr. Léopold Munyakazi
Brett Warnke
Storm Clouds Over Philly
Chris Zinda
Snakes of Deseret
July 26, 2016
Andrew Levine
Pillory Hillary Now
Kshama Sawant
A Call to Action: Walk Out from the Democratic National Convention!
Russell Mokhiber
The Rabble Rise Together Against Bernie, Barney, Elizabeth and Hillary
Jeffrey St. Clair
Don’t Cry For Me, DNC: Notes From the Democratic Convention
Angie Beeman
Why Doesn’t Middle America Trust Hillary? She Thinks She’s Better Than Us and We Know It
Paul Street
An Update on the Hate…
Fran Shor
Beyond Trump vs Clinton
Ellen Brown
Japan’s “Helicopter Money” Play: Road to Hyperinflation or Cure for Debt Deflation?
Richard W. Behan
The Banana Republic of America: Democracy Be Damned
Binoy Kampmark
Undermining Bernie Sanders: the DNC Campaign, WikiLeaks and Russia
Arun Gupta
Trickledown Revenge: the Racial Politics of Donald Trump
Sen. Bernard Sanders
What This Election is About: Speech to DNC Convention
David Swanson
DNC Now Less Popular Than Atheism
Linn Washington Jr.
‘Clintonville’ Reflects True Horror of Poverty in US
Deepak Tripathi
Britain in the Doldrums After the Brexit Vote
Louisa Willcox
Grizzly Threats: Arbitrary Lines on Political Maps
Robert J. Gould
Proactive Philanthropy: Don’t Wait, Reach Out!
Victor Grossman
Horror and Sorrow in Germany
Nyla Ali Khan
Regionalism, Ethnicity, and Trifurcation: All in the Name of National Integration
Andrew Feinberg
The Good TPP
400 US Academics
Letter to US Government Officials Concerning Recent Events in Turkey
July 25, 2016
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
As the Election Turns: Trump the Anti-Neocon, Hillary the New Darling of the Neocons
Ted Rall
Hillary’s Strategy: Snub Liberal Democrats, Move Right to Nab Anti-Trump Republicans
William K. Black
Doubling Down on Wall Street: Hillary and Tim Kaine
Russell Mokhiber
Bernie Delegates Take on Bernie Sanders
Quincy Saul
Resurgent Mexico
Andy Thayer
Letter to a Bernie Activist
Patrick Cockburn
Erdogan is Strengthened by the Failed Coup, But Turkey is the Loser
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail