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Germ War: The US Record

“As far as chemical and biological weapons are concerned, SaddamHussein is a repeat offender. He has used them against his neighbors andon his own people.” Madeleine Albright, US Secretary of State

By Madeleine Albright’s criteria Saddam has a ways to go to catch upwith the United States, which has deployed its CBW arsenal against the Philippines,Puerto Rico, Vietnam, China, North Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Cuba,Haitian boat people and Canada, plus exposure of hundreds of thousands ofunwitting US citizens to an astonishing array of germ agents and toxic chemicals,killing dozens of people.

The US experimentation with bio-weapons goes back to the distributionof cholera-infect blankets to American Indian tribes in the 1860s. In1900,US Army doctors in the Philippines infected five prisoners with a varietyof plague and 29 prisoners with Beriberi. At least four of the subjectsdied. In 1915, a doctor working with government grants exposed 12 prisonersin Mississippi to pellagra, an incapacitating disease that attacks the centralnervous system.

After World War I, the United States went on a chemical weapons binge,producing millions of barrels of mustard gas and Lewisite. Thousands ofUS troops were exposed to these chemical agents in order to “test theefficacy of gas masks and protective clothing”. The Veterans Administrationrefused to honor disability claims from victims of such experiments. TheArmy also deployed mustard gas against anti-US protesters in Puerto Ricoand the Philippines in the 1920s and 1930s.

In 1931, Dr. Cornelius Rhoads, then under contract with the RockefellerInstitute for Medical Investigations, initiated his horrific Puerto RicoCancer Experiments, infecting dozens of unwitting subjects with cancer cells.At least thirteen of his victims died as a result. Rhoads went on to headof the US Army Biological Weapons division and to serve on the Atomic EnergyCommission, where he oversaw radiation experiments on thousands of US citizens.In memos to the Department of Defense, Rhoads expressed his opinion thatPuerto Rican dissidents could be “eradicated” with the judicioususe of germ bombs.

In 1942, US Army and Navy doctors infected 400 prisoners in Chicago withmalaria in experiments designed to get “a profile of the disease anddevelop a treatment for it.” Most of the inmates were black and nonewas informed of the risks of the experiment. Nazi doctors on trial at Nurembergcited the Chicago malaria experiments as part of their defense.

At the close of World War II, the US Army put on its payroll, Dr. ShiroIshii, the head of the Imperial Army of Japan’s bio-warfare unit. Dr. Ishiihad deployed a wide range of biological and chemical agents against Chineseand Allied troops. He also operated a large research center in Manchuria,where he conducted bio-weapons experiments on Chinese, Russian and Americanprisoners of war. Ishii infected prisoners with tetanus; gave them typhoid-lacedtomatoes; developed plague-infected fleas; infected women with syphilis;performed dissections on live prisoners; and exploded germ bombs over dozensof men tied to stakes. In a deal hatched by Gen. Douglas MacArthur, Ishiiturned over more than 10,000 pages of his “research findings”to the US Army, avoided prosecution for war crimes and was invited to lectureat Ft. Detrick, the US Army bio-weapons center in Frederick, Maryland.

In 1950 the US Navy sprayed large quantities of serratia marcescens,a bacteriological agent, over San Francisco, promoting an outbreak of pneumonia-likeillnesses and causing the death of at least one man, Ed Nevins.

A year later, Chinese Premier Chou En-lai charged that the US militaryand the CIA had used bio-agents against North Korea and China. Chou producedstatements from 25 US prisoners of war backing him his claims that the UShad dropped anthrax contaminated feathers, mosquitoes and fleas carryingYellow Fever and propaganda leaflets spiked with cholera over Manchuriaand North Korea.

From 1950 through 1953, the US Army released chemical clouds over sixUS and Canadian cities. The tests were designed to test dispersal patternsof chemical weapons. Army records noted that the compounds used over Winnipeg,Canada, where there were numerous reports of respiratory illnesses, involvedcadmium, a highly toxic chemical.

In 1951 the US Army secretly contaminated the Norfolk Naval Supply Centerin Virginia with infectious bacteria. One type was chosen because blackswere believed to be more susceptible than whites. A similar experiment wasundertaken later that year at Washington, DC’s National Airport. The bacteriawas later linked to food and blood poisoning and respiratory problems.

Savannah, Georgia and Avon Park, Florida were the targets of repeatedArmy bio-weapons experiments in 1956 and 1957. Army CBW researchers releasedmillions of mosquitoes on the two towns in order to test the ability ofinsects to carry and deliver yellow fever and dengue fever. Hundreds ofresidents fell ill, suffering from fevers, respiratory distress, stillbirths,encephalitis and typhoid. Army researchers disguised themselves as publichealth workers in order photograph and test the victims. Several deathswere reported.

In 1965 the US Army and the Dow Chemical Company injected dioxin into70 prisoners (most of them black) at the Holmesburg State Prison in Pennsylvania.The prisoners developed severe lesions which went untreated for seven months.A year later, the US Army set about the most ambitious chemical warfareoperation in history.

From 1966 to 1972, the United States dumped more than 12 million gallonsof Agent Orange (a dioxin-powered herbicide) over about 4.5 million acresof South Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. The government of Vietnam estimatethe civilian casualties from Agent Orange at more than 500,000. The legacycontinues with high levels of birth defects in areas that were saturatedwith the chemical. Tens of thousands of US soldiers were also the victimsof Agent Orange.

In a still classified experiment, the US Army sprayed an unknown bacterialagent in the New York Subway system in 1966. It is not known if the testcaused any illnesses.

A year later, the CIA placed a chemical substance in the drinking watersupply of the Food and Drug Administration headquarters in Washington, DC.The test was designed to see if it was possible to poison drinking waterwith LSD or other incapacitating agents.

In 1969, Dr. D.M. McArtor, the deputy director for Research and Technologyfor the Department of Defense, asked Congress to appropriate $10 millionfor the development of a synthetic biological agent that would be resistant”to the immunological and therapeutic processes upon which we dependto maintain our relative freedom from infectious disease”.

In 1971 the first documented cases of swine fever in the western hemisphereshowed up in Cuba. A CIA agent later admitted that he had been instructedto deliver the virus to Cuban exiles in Panama, who carried the virus intoCuba in March of 1991. This astounding admission received scant attentionin the US press.

In 1980, hundreds of Haitian men, who had been locked up in detentioncamps in Miami and Puerto Rico, developed gynecomasia after receiving “hormone”shots from US doctors. Gynecomasia is a condition causing males to developfull-sized female breasts.

In 1981, Fidel Castro blamed an outbreak of dengue fever in Cuba on theCIA. The fever killed 188 people, including 88 children. In 1988, a Cubanexile leader named Eduardo Arocena admitted “bringing some germs”into Cuba in 1980.

Four years later an epidemic of dengue fever struck Managua, Nicaragua.Nearly 50,000 people came down with the fever and dozens died. This wasthe first outbreak of the disease in Nicaragua. It occurred at the heightof the CIA’s war against the Sandinista government and followed a seriesof low-level “reconnaissance” flights over the capital city.

In 1996, the Cuba government again accused the US of engaging in “biologicalaggression”. This time it involved an outbreak of thrips palmi, aninsect that kills potato crops, palm trees and other vegetation. Thripsfirst showed up in Cuba on December 12, 1996, following low-level flightsover the island by US government spray planes. The US has been unable toquash a United Nations investigation of the incident that is now underway.

At the close of the Gulf War, the US Army exploded an Iraqi chemicalweapons depot at Kamashiya. In 1996, the Department of Defense finally admittedthat more than 20,000 US troops were exposed to VX and sarin nerve agentsas a result of the US operation at Kamashiya. This may be one cause of GulfWar Illness, another cause is certainly the experimental vaccines unwittinglygiven to more than 100,000 US troops. CP

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. Alexander Cockburn’s Guillotined! and A Colossal Wreck are available from CounterPunch.

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