Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
DOUBLE YOUR DONATION!
We don’t run corporate ads. We don’t shake our readers down for money every month or every quarter like some other sites out there. We provide our site for free to all, but the bandwidth we pay to do so doesn’t come cheap. A generous donor is matching all donations of $100 or more! So please donate now to double your punch!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

They Gassed Us

Australia’s indigenous peoples were not the only ones to be subjected to the scientific depredations of the United Kingdom and Australian governments between 1956 and 1957.  That particularly noxious venture yielded seven atomic tests in the desert sands of Maralinga, South Australia.  The British record on the subject, along with Australian complicity, is a fetid one.  Officials have taken cover behind a wall of inaccessible documents and unwavering secrecy.

A year before the area around Maralinga was euphemistically ‘rehabilitated’ under the UK Ministry of Defence’s Operation Brumby (1967), chemical tests using Agent Orange were supposedly being conducted on rainforest at Gregory Falls, near the North Queensland town of Innisfail.  The area in question was a local water catchment area.  Researcher Jean Williams, who has made a name for herself in matters of veterans’ affairs, stumbled across documents while ferreting around in the Australian War Memorial’s archives. Her discovery has precipitated outraged queries from the residents in the area.

The evidence is scattered, but hard to dismiss out of hand.  Williams claims to have found a report recommending the use of 2,4-D in the context of those trials in the 1960s.  One file notes the following: ‘Considered sensitive because report recommends use of 2,4-D with other agents in spraying trials in Innisfail.’  That same file suggests that chemicals 2,4-D, Diquat, Tordon and dimethyl sulphoxide (DMSO) were used in June 1966 in the area.  Another file detailing a supposedly more extensive project called Operation Desert went missing containing the ominous words, ‘too disturbing to ever be released’.

Additionally to Williams’ labours are a handful of eyewitness accounts from residents in the region.  Former soldier Ted Bosworth, for instance, claims he drove military scientists to a rainforest near Gregory Falls to test an ‘unknown’ herbicide.

Other bits of anecdotal evidence can also be added.  76 people died from cancer in the town of some 12,000 residents in 2005.  President of the local Return Servicemen’s League, president Reg Hamann, has commented on the number of young residents in the area who perish to leukemia and other cancers.  Officials in Queensland Health have only shrugged, denying that such rates were 10 times above the national average.  According to one official, ‘This is the same as the cancer incidence rate for Queensland.’

The Gregory Falls test site has remained barren ever since, effaced of foliage and previously rich vegetation.  A local farmer, Alan Wakeham, whose land shares a border with the site, is puzzled. ‘It’s strange how the jungle comes right up to this site and then just stops.  It won’t grow any further.’

The Federal government, in a state of stringent denial, has argued that a small-scale trial of readily available herbicides was tried at Gregory Falls.  But Agent Orange was not part of the mix.  In the words of a recent Defence Department statement on the subject: ‘The herbicide 2,4-D, a component of Agent Orange, was not tested.’  The local mayor Bill Shannon is livid and wishes to conduct his own investigation.

The use of chemicals and the overall conduct of scientific ‘experiments’ on beguiled citizens, whether purposely or through sheer recklessness, is stacked with precedents.  Governments of all political shades and persuasions have found it tempting to apply scientific know-how to their own citizens.   It is well known that scientific experiments were conducted on subjects without their consent in the United States.  This took the form of radiation testing during the Cold War, to the Tuskegee experiments which denied African-American subjects medical treatment for a study into the pervasive effects of syphilis.

Whether it’s the unsuspecting water drinkers of a North Queensland town, scientific prototypes for a counter-insurgency operation, or the victims of the Tuskegee syphilis study, a secretive government staffed with such morally decrepit characters as Dr. Cornelius Rhoads, founder of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, will always play a nefarious role.  Whether Mayor Shannon finds anything in the soil samples of his sleep town remains to be seen. But he is by the no means the first, nor the last, to have suspected his government of habitual deception in the name of ‘science’.

BINOY KAMPMARK was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, University of Cambridge.  He can be reached at bkampmark@gmail.com

 

Your Ad Here
 

 

 

 

 

More articles by:

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

Weekend Edition
October 19, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jason Hirthler
The Pieties of the Liberal Class
Jeffrey St. Clair
A Day in My Life at CounterPunch
Paul Street
“Male Energy,” Authoritarian Whiteness and Creeping Fascism in the Age of Trump
Nick Pemberton
Reflections on Chomsky’s Voting Strategy: Why The Democratic Party Can’t Be Saved
John Davis
The Last History of the United States
Yigal Bronner
The Road to Khan al-Akhmar
Robert Hunziker
The Negan Syndrome
Andrew Levine
Democrats Ahead: Progressives Beware
Rannie Amiri
There is No “Proxy War” in Yemen
David Rosen
America’s Lost Souls: the 21st Century Lumpen-Proletariat?
Joseph Natoli
The Age of Misrepresentations
Ron Jacobs
History Is Not Kind
John Laforge
White House Radiation: Weakened Regulations Would Save Industry Billions
Ramzy Baroud
The UN ‘Sheriff’: Nikki Haley Elevated Israel, Damaged US Standing
Robert Fantina
Trump, Human Rights and the Middle East
Anthony Pahnke – Jim Goodman
NAFTA 2.0 Will Help Corporations More Than Farmers
Jill Richardson
Identity Crisis: Elizabeth Warren’s Claims Cherokee Heritage
Sam Husseini
The Most Strategic Midterm Race: Elder Challenges Hoyer
Maria Foscarinis – John Tharp
The Criminalization of Homelessness
Robert Fisk
The Story of the Armenian Legion: a Dark Tale of Anger and Revenge
Jacques R. Pauwels
Dinner With Marx in the House of the Swan
Dave Lindorff
US ‘Outrage’ over Slaying of US Residents Depends on the Nation Responsible
Ricardo Vaz
How Many Yemenis is a DC Pundit Worth?
Elliot Sperber
Build More Gardens, Phase out Cars
Chris Gilbert
In the Wake of Nepal’s Incomplete Revolution: Dispatch by a Far-Flung Bolivarian 
Muhammad Othman
Let Us Bray
Gerry Brown
Are Chinese Municipal $6 Trillion (40 Trillion Yuan) Hidden Debts Posing Titanic Risks?
Rev. William Alberts
Judge Kavanaugh’s Defenders Doth Protest Too Much
Ralph Nader
Unmasking Phony Values Campaigns by the Corporatists
Victor Grossman
A Big Rally and a Bavarian Vote
James Bovard
Groped at the Airport: Congress Must End TSA’s Sexual Assaults on Women
Jeff Roby
Florida After Hurricane Michael: the Sad State of the Unheeded Planner
Wim Laven
Intentional or Incompetence—Voter Suppression Where We Live
Bradley Kaye
The Policy of Policing
Wim Laven
The Catholic Church Fails Sexual Abuse Victims
Kevin Cashman
One Year After Hurricane Maria: Employment in Puerto Rico is Down by 26,000
Dr. Hakim Young
Nonviolent Afghans Bring a Breath of Fresh Air
Karl Grossman
Irving Like vs. Big Nuke
Dan Corjescu
The New Politics of Climate Change
John Carter
The Plight of the Pyrenees: the Abandoned Guard Dogs of the West
Ted Rall
Brett Kavanaugh and the Politics of Emotion-Shaming
Graham Peebles
Sharing is Key to a New Economic and Democratic Order
Ed Rampell
The Advocates
Louis Proyect
The Education Business
David Yearsley
Shock-and-Awe Inside Oracle Arena
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail