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Synthesis/Regeneration 28   (Spring 2002)

The U.S. Government’s Secret Experimentation with Biological and Chemical Warfare

by Mitchel Cohen, NoSpray Coalition,
Brooklyn Greens, Green Party of New York

The mass-spraying of dangerous insecticides on the entire population and environment of New York City for the last two years supposedly brought on by infected mosquitoes, smacks more and more of a military operation than a public health program. Coordinated by the Office of Emergency Management from the now-destroyed “bunker” on the 28th floor of 7 World Trade Center (which also housed the CIA’s office in New York), the spray program sought to integrate federal, state and local emergency management teams—the same teams that were established in response to anti-New World Order protests in Seattle, Boston, Washington, Philadelphia and Los Angeles.

The government has been using those protests as an opportunity to experiment with new weapons and configurations of command. The demonstrations, such as the Seattle anti-WTO demonstrations in Nov. 1999, have served as large “field tests” of purportedly “non-lethal” weapons on protesters, just as the hysteria around the West Nile virus was orchestrated to gain acceptance among large numbers of people for the indiscriminate spraying of Malathion and pyrethroid pesticides over the largest urban population center and ecosystem in the country. Is it a coincidence that dozens of military agencies in Seattle—operating domestically under a new joint command structure for the first time—sprayed mixtures of malathion-like cholinesterase inhibitor pesticides as part of the tear gas? The spraying in New York and the repression of anti-globalization demonstrators used the same materials for completely different purposes. They define a new phase in the systematic development of US biological and chemical warfare techniques and their use on domestic civilian populations.

The covert US biological and chemical warfare program, much of it developed at Fort Detrick, Maryland, has historically tested its weapons on US soldiers, American Indian reservations, ghetto populations, colonies (like Puerto Rico), and prisoners—in other words, controlled and bounded populations. Widescale testing on others is now becoming increasingly frequent and aggressive—albeit shrouded in secrecy and disinformation.

The military’s Psychological Operations manuals describe ways to control large populations and gain compliance, if not acceptance: Create and exaggerate a “threat,” which makes it relatively easy to whip up panic and divert attention from the real culprits onto scapegoats. In a crisis everyone rallies around those in charge, however illegally or illegitimately they have attained or used their position of authority (George Bush and Rudy Giuliani are two recent examples). The orchestrated but controlled hysteria can then be directed against other countries, as well as used in taming domestic opposition.

The spraying in New York and the repression of anti-globalization demonstrators … define a new phase in the systematic development of US biological and chemical warfare techniques…

During the military build-up to the Gulf War in 1990–91, then-President George Bush condemned the threatened use of chemical and biological weapons by Saddam Hussein, who was depicted as “worse than Hitler.” The US military, under the guise of fearing an Iraqi attack with biological and chemical weapons, inoculated hundreds of thousands of US soldiers with experimental anthrax and nerve gas remedies that had never before been tested on people in field conditions. (Hundreds resisted. Many were court-martialed.) It’s not as though Iraq could surprise the US with unknown biological and chemical agents. The United States government knew full well the extent of Iraq’s biological and chemical arsenal, for it was George Bush himself, in his former capacity as head of the CIA (and later as Vice-President and President), who had approved US shipments of material needed to make biological and chemical weapons to Iraq.

Bush approved shipping to Iraq toxic varieties of E.coli and Salmonella bacteria, and organisms causing anthrax, gas gangrene and brucellosis. (1) At the same time, various anthrax antitoxins were sent to Israel, a practice that continued into the Clinton/Gore administration. The US had been experimenting with antitoxins for these diseases and, as in the case of the massive insecticide spraying over New York and in using new weapons against the anti-globalization protesters, these new weapons and counter-weapons had yet to be tested in the field.

And so it was the US, not Iraq, that used new shells and armor made from depleted uranium which aerosolized as it heated, irradiating huge swaths of land and water and dramatically increasing the ecological as well as human catastrophe there. These weapons were used again by Clinton/Gore in Yugoslavia, and still again in Afghanistan along with America’s full complement of cluster bombs—supplemented by releasing various gases—whose only function is to shred living tissue with tiny razor-sharp fragments. Other anti-personnel weapons such as air-fuel explosives were deployed to burn up all oxygen as a means of killing all life in a particular area.

How much of this is intentional experimentation and how much is just stupidity and/or callous disregard for human life—that is, business as usual? And does it matter whether the recent spate of chemical and biological weapons use is intentional or not? Either way, the effects are just as deadly.

As a society we have become so steeped in the chemicalization of all aspects of our lives—and the cancers and immune compromising ailments that it brings—that when we learn, for instance, that the military repeatedly sprayed US soldiers in the Gulf with extremely high levels of pesticides, and that the use of these pesticides may be one of the precipitating factors in a person developing Gulf War Syndrome, we don’t even ask: Who gave such an order? We accept it as “collateral damage” regardless of whether or not the sprays were administered experimentally, having never been properly tested for use on human beings.

And, when it turns out that US military Gulf War uniforms had been pre-soaked in permethrin, one of the family of pyrethroid compounds sprayed over New York City in 1999-2001, we may find this shocking but “understandable,” as is each piece isolated from the overall pattern.

The fact is that pesticides and nerve gas are intimately related. Pesticides (like Malathion) were developed from organophosphate nerve gas used in World War II. Gulf War Syndrome, suffered by tens of thousands of US soldiers, is likely the result of pesticide, anthrax vaccine, nerve gas “antidote” and depleted uranium exposure interactions. Contrary to prior government claims that Gulf War Syndrome does not exist, new studies are finding that, in fact, brain scans of veterans who became ill after serving in the Gulf War “show evidence of significant brain cell loss.” (2)

…brain scans of veterans who became ill after serving in the Gulf War “show evidence of significant brain cell loss.”

Using new Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy scanning techniques, which detect changes to the brain at the chemical and molecular levels, some researchers have now succeeded in linking Gulf War soldiers’ exposure to pesticides and nerve gas to debilitating brain damage. (3) Sick Gulf War veterans, when compared with healthy veterans, had 20% fewer brain cells in the brain stem, a structure that links the brain with the rest of the body, allowing normal motor and organ functions. The sick veterans also showed a 12% loss in the right basal ganglia and 5% loss in the left basal ganglia. The basal ganglia are associated with the control of motor functions. (4)


1. Conn Hallinan, “Using CBW at Home and Abroad,” People’s Daily World, April 6, 1989.

2. Cat Lazaroff, “Brain Damage Found in US Gulf War Syndrome Victims,” Environmental News Service, May 25, 2000, http://ens.lycos.com/ens/may2000/2000L 05 25 07.html. When we combine these vectors with the administration of experimental, genetically engineered vaccines and a field of radiation from Uranium 238 weapons, the assault on the immune system is heightened far beyond even the sum of each of those causes taken separately. (This is known as a “synergistic” effect.)

3. Ibid. The study outlined three interrelated but separate causes for brain deterioration found in many Gulf War veterans. Some soldiers in the Gulf War wore flea collars meant for pets, exposing them to toxic levels of pesticides. In 1997, Dr. Robert Haley, UT Southwestern chief of epidemiology and lead author of the study, and his colleagues defined three Gulf War syndromes. Syndrome 1, commonly found in veterans who wore pesticide containing flea collars, is characterized by impaired cognition. Syndrome 2, called confusion ataxia, the most severe and debilitating of the syndromes, is found among veterans who said they were exposed to low-level nerve gas and experienced side effects from anti-nerve gas, or pyridostigmine (PB), tablets. Syndrome 3, characterized by central pain, is found in veterans who wore insect repellent with high concentrations of DEET, a common ingredient in many mosquito and tick repellents. Veterans with Syndrome 3 also experienced severe side effects from PB tablets. Haley RW, Marshall WW, McDonald GG, Daugherty M, Petty F, Fleckenstein JL. Brain abnormalities in Gulf War syndrome: Evaluation by 1H magnetic resonance spectroscopy. Radiology 2000; 215:807-817.

4. Ibid. These brain cell losses are similar to those found in patients with brain diseases like amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease) and multiple sclerosis, as well as dementia and other degenerative neurological disorders, although the brain areas affected are different.

Financial contributions to help Mitchel continue this (and other) work is needed, and greatly appreciated. Mitchel Cohen, 2652 Cropsey Avenue, #7H Brooklyn, NY 11214 (718) 449-0037 mitchelcohen@mindspring.com

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