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Biological Warfare in Korea: A Review of the Literature

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The report was ferociously attacked by Western journalists and American officialdom. As the committee did not conduct its own autopsies and lab studies, but instead relied upon the findings of the Chinese medical experts, committee members were disparaged in Congress as naïve dupes, while Needham was additionally denounced as a communist sympathizer. The Chinese scientists who performed the lab cultures and victim autopsies were ridiculed as incompetent, while the airmen were claimed to have been "brainwashed" by a sinister new technique of planting false memories. Celebrities, generals and politicians of authority were trotted before the cameras to categorically deny the charges.

The attack on the ISC report inside the US was withering and decisive which was all that really mattered to American war planners. At the UN, which was officially at war with North Korea, nations in the Western bloc fell in line with the American denial regardless of what their leaders privately thought. But the report had a positive effect. Germ war attacks subsided, and six months later a grudging truce in Korea was finally reached. 2323 It's not clear when the BW attacks ended. Endicott and Hagerman suggest they could have continued well into spring of 1953 when China finally received Soviet MIG fighter jets and could challenge US air superiority that the BW stopped and the US quit stalling the armistice talks. View all notes

The McCarthy period and its aftermath

Criticism of the ISC report continued for some time. Most criticism was non-specific, dismissive, and often racist in tone. One of the few authors who bothered to address the actual findings in the report was John Clews, first in a 1952 article, and again at length in a 1964 book, Communist Propaganda Techniques. 2424 John Clews, Communist Propaganda Techniques, Praeger, New York, 1964. View all notes Clews acknowledges that the Chinese science was good, "the evidence was found as stated." This was a major concession from the denier camp to admit the accuracy of the Chinese lab and pathology reports. Clews recognized the fact that the Chinese medics had been trained in Western science and most had attended universities in Europe, the US, or Japan. It was the first major concession in what has since become a continuing series of rollbacks of denier claims.

Clews' primary objection focuses on what he considers to be discontinuities in the evidence chain. Since most bombing runs associated with BW allegations were made at night, visual eye witnessing of insect bomb disbursements did not occur, he postulates. Instead, infected insects were found clumped in snow banks the following morning; thus, Clews contends, the attribution of the diseased insect hoard to the US plane flyover the previous night was only by inference, regardless of its abnormal seasonal appearance. Clews's logic may be sound in regard to a single incident,2525 Clews proposes the same logical argument against inference as Tibor Mèrey encounters with his six French doctors. (see fn 10). View all notes but inference diminishes with multiple occurrences. After many such correlated incidents of insects and airplanes, the statistical likelihood of Clews' inference claim dwindles to zero.

The most openly repressive action of the US government was the show trial of John W. Powell. Powell was subpoenaed to testify before the Jenner Committee of the US Senate where Alva Carpenter, the secret fixer of the Unit 731 amnesty deal, had ensconced himself as legal counsel. Powell was indicted on multiple charges of sedition in 1955, along with my mother, Sylvia Campbell Powell, and the CWR associate editor, Julian Schuman. Judge Goodman, siding with defense arguments that the prosecution cannot dictate the scope of defense, ordered the US State Dept. to provide defense attorney A.L. Wirin with an unrestricted passport to travel to China and North Korea to collect depositions and evidence. 2626 Stanley I. Kunsler, The American Inquisition: Justice and Injustice in the Cold War, Hill & Wang, New York, 1982, pp. 232234. The core issue of the pre-trial maneuvers was the constitutional right of the defense to call witnesses and produce evidence from North Korea and China to substantiate the BW claims. However, the US did not recognize the CCP as the legitimate government of China, and therefore had no "judicial assistance" agreement with China which would have permitted Chinese citizens to testify in US courts. This became a political football for the US government drop the charges against the Powells, or require the passport office to provide A.L. Wirin with an unrestricted passport to travel to China to collect depositions. See also: Neil L. O'Brien, An American Editor in Early Revolutionary China: John William Powell and the China Weekly/Monthly Review, Routledge, 2003, Chap. 11. View all notes The trial began in January 1959, but ended three days later in a mistrial being called by the outraged Judge Goodman. The Oakland Tribune had run a banner headline declaring, "Judge Says Powells, Aide Guilty of Treason."2727 The prosecutor attempted to submit emotion-laden testimony from a POW which the defense objected was not relevant to the sedition charge. Judge Goodman sustained the objection explaining to the prosecutor that the evidence would sustain a guilty verdict of treason, but not sedition. Kunsler, op. cit., p. 238, and O'Brien, op.cit., pp. 279280. View all notes The case hung in limbo until 1961 when new Attorney General Robert Kennedy, recognizing the government's case was weak and history had moved on, quietly dropped the charges.

Three books published in 1968 made the next significant contribution to BW literature. The Silent Weapons: The Realities of Chemical and Biological Warfare,2828 Robin Clarke, The Silent Weapons: The Realities of Chemical and Biological Weapons, David McKay Company, Inc., New York, 1968. View all notes by British science writer Robin Clarke, gave equal space to CW and BW in the weapons of mass destruction (WMD) arsenal, but it is really Clarke's discussion of the moral argument in favor of CW which is most intriguing.

Indeed it was argued that one of the most valuable chemical weapons which could be produced would be a totally reversible one one that left the victim entirely normal after a period of a few hours or perhaps even days. Ultimately it was this idea of a "humane" chemical warfare that led to the unbuttoning of what was previously classified information. 2929 Ibid., p. 53. View all notes

Through the guise of a humane warfare, psychoactive drugs like LSD were studied as potential umbrella incapacitants under which a quick-strike task force could penetrate an enemy nation's defenses and take over. Such strategic warfare would greatly reduce loss of life and property destruction. This potentially humane preservation of life, property, industrial capacity, and infrastructure also bolstered arguments in favor of BW. Clarke labeled such war planning calculations "the mathematics of suffering."

Clarke's investigation of the Korean War BW allegations is brief. He discusses the ISC findings in a general way, then focuses on the American criticisms. Clarke repeats a claim by an unidentified British BW scientist who informs him, "If the US wanted to wage BW on Korea the results would have been much more effective."3030 Robin Clarke, "Biological Warfare," Science Journal, London, November 1966. View all notes This is called "argument from sanctimony." It demands exoneration on the basis of results, and was frequently invoked by the US military which bristled that the apparent lack of effectiveness of the alleged BW campaign would be an aspersion against its competency.

Clark attended the 1968 London Conference on CBW. The conference papers were compiled and edited by Steven Rose in the volume, CBW: Chemical and Biological Warfare. 3131 Steven Rose, ed., CBW: Chemical and Biological Warfare, George G. Harrap & Co. Ltd., London, 1968. View all notes The event took place at the height of US bio-chemical warfare in Viet Nam, and in the midst of global anti-war protest and student uprisings. Many complex moral issues of colonialism and war swirled about the conference. A cautionary note was sounded by the event organizer, Lord Ritchie-Calder.

One knows of distinguished scientists who can be forthright as the rest of us in denouncing nuclear weapons but will avoid the subject of chemical and biological warfare. It is quite irrational.""" It is a psychological inhibition. They simply do not want to believe that their fundamental work can be perverted. 3232 Ibid., Lord Ritchie-Calder, "Introduction," p. 13. View all notes

Questions of civil and moral responsibly were raised in the paper of Elinor Langer. Langer informs us:

Because chemical and biological weapons development is by its nature less costly, comparative expenditures reveal nothing of the scope of the program, the intent of its sponsors, or their degree of commitment to it. 3333 Ibid., Elinor Langer, Chap. 10. "United States," p. 119. View all notes

She continues:

For a variety of reasons the [US] military has found it necessary and desirable to contract out a substantial portion (perhaps as much as half, or more) of its CBW research and development to universities, research corporations and private industry. 3434 Ibid., p. 122. View all notes

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Tom is a founding member of the Bioweapon Truth Commission (BWTC). You should access its Global Online Library (GOL) to learn more about how Western empire conducts "business" at home and abroad ( (more...)
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Biological Warfare in Korea: A Review of the Literature

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