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

August 15, 2018
Jason Hirthler
Russiagate and the Men with Glass Eyes
Paul Street
Omaorosa’s Book Tour vs. Forty More Murdered Yemeni Children
Charles Pierson
Is Bankruptcy in Your Future?
George Ochenski
The Absolute Futility of ‘Global Dominance’ in the 21st Century
Gary Olson
Are We Governed by Secondary Psychopaths
Fred Guerin
On News, Fake News and Donald Trump
Arshad Khan
A Rip Van Winkle President Sleeps as Proof of Man’s Hand in Climate Change Multiplies and Disasters Strike
P. Sainath
The Unsung Heroism of Hausabai
Georgina Downs
Landmark Glyphosate Cancer Ruling Sets a Precedent for All Those Affected by Crop Poisons
Rev. William Alberts
United We Kneel, Divided We Stand
Chris Gilbert
How to Reactivate Chavismo
Kim C. Domenico
A Coffeehouse Hallucination: The Anti-American Dream Dream
August 14, 2018
Daniel Falcone
On Taking on the Mobilized Capitalist Class in Elections: an Interview With Noam Chomsky
Karl Grossman
Turning Space Into a War Zone
Jonah Raskin
“Fuck Wine Grapes, Fuck Wines”: the Coming Napafication of the World
Manuel García, Jr.
Climate Change Bites Big Business
Alberto Zuppi - Cesar Chelala
Argentina at a Crossroads
Chris Wright
On “Bullshit Jobs”
Rosita A. Sweetman
Dear Jorge: On the Pope’s Visit to Ireland
Binoy Kampmark
Authoritarian Revocations: Australia, Terrorism and Citizenship
Sara Johnson
The Incredible Benefits of Sagebrush and Juniper in the West
Martin Billheimer
White & Red Aunts, Capital Gains and Anarchy
Walter Clemens
Enough Already! Donald J. Trump Resignation Speech
August 13, 2018
Michael Colby
Migrant Injustice: Ben & Jerry’s Farmworker Exploitation
John Davis
California: Waging War on Wildfire
Alex Strauss
Chasing Shadows: Socialism Won’t Go Away Because It is Capitalism’s Antithesis 
Kathy Kelly
U.S. is Complicit in Child Slaughter in Yemen
Fran Shor
The Distemper of White Spite
Chad Hanson
We Know How to Protect Homes From Wildfires. Logging Isn’t the Way to Do It
Faisal Khan
Nawaz Sharif: Has Pakistan’s Houdini Finally Met his End?
Binoy Kampmark
Trump Versus Journalism: the Travails of Fourth Estate
Wim Laven
Honestly Looking at Family Values
Fred Gardner
Exploiting Styron’s Ghost
Dean Baker
Fact-Checking the Fact-Checker on Medicare-for-All
Weekend Edition
August 10, 2018
Friday - Sunday
David Price
Militarizing Space: Starship Troopers, Same As It Ever Was
Andrew Levine
No Attack on Iran, Yet
Melvin Goodman
The CIA’s Double Standard Revisited
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: The Grifter’s Lament
Aidan O'Brien
In Italy, There are 12,000 American Soldiers and 500,000 African Refugees: Connect the Dots 
Robert Fantina
Pity the Democrats and Republicans
Ishmael Reed
Am I More Nordic Than Members of the Alt Right?
Kristine Mattis
Dying of Consumption While Guzzling Snake Oil: a Realist’s Perspective on the Environmental Crisis
James Munson
The Upside of Defeat
Brian Cloughley
Pentagon Spending Funds the Politicians
Pavel Kozhevnikov
Cold War in the Sauna: Notes From a Russian American
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail