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Biological Warfare in Korea: A Review of the Literature

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The ideology of doom

Ed Regis's Biology of Doom is the flagship of denial literature as Endicott and Hagerman's is for the prosecution. His literary psychology and stylish writing lift it above others. Regis's denial strategy is the same as Harris's denial strategy in Factories of Death denounce the US for many sordid crimes, finger particularly despicable villains like Shiro Ishii and Sid Gottlieb, who will be discussed later, and give the appearance of a tell-all-tale.

In this way, the big lie remains smoke screened. As a result there are troubling and titillating revelations in Doom. However, it is really Regis's moral philosophy which deserves scrutiny. Early in Doom, Regis tackles the moral issue of killing people with germs. We find ourselves privy to the inner dialogue of Ira Baldwin, the founder and first director who built Ft. Detrick during WWII,7575 Regis, op. cit., pp. 1719, Regis references Norman M. Covert , Cutting Edge: A History of Fort. Detrick, Maryland, 19431993, Public Affairs Office (HSHD-PA), Headquarters US Army Garrison, Fort Detrick, Maryland, pp. 1719. View all notes alone with his daemons.

[H]e now had to wrestle with the considerable moral problem of using microbes to kill people, instead of killing the microbes to save people. This would require a complete shift in moral perspective. 7676 Ed Regis, op. cit., p. 36. View all notes

Baldwin was a professor of bacteriology at the University of Wisconsin when George Merck recruited him in 1943 to build a BW weapon lab for the US government. It was top secret defense work; it would impose enormous responsibilities upon him, demanding upmost competence. It was a tremendous opportunity, and he was patriotic. He just needed to get past the moral qualms.

Would he rather be maimed by high explosives, dismembered, burned to death by fire and flame, ripped open by bayonet, his ruptured guts spilling out in front of him"""or would he rather die of the worst disease he could possibly think of?7777 Ibid, p. 36. View all notes

Baldwin's back story now unfolds and we are told of the two great tragedies which imprinted his life. During WWI, Baldwin had burial duty at Camp Taylor, Kentucky during the great flu pandemic of 1918, and buried some of his buddies. More tragically and recently, Baldwin's teenage daughter was crushed in a freak traffic accident where she had been a pedestrian. Disease versus violence; the moral conflict is set: "So it turned out to be a simple decision in the end"""germs and diseases, bad as they were, were less bad than bullets, flames, or shrapnel"""."7878 Ibid, p. 37. View all notes According to Regis, it took Baldwin all of 24 hours to make this Faustian calculation (illustrating poignantly why we each prefer our familiar circle in hell.) Within days, Baldwin had found the future lab site, a little-used landing field amidst open farmland in rural Maryland, not far from Washington DC. Over the next several months, he directed the design and construction of the Camp Detrick BW lab with its cloud chamber, fermentation vats, safety features, and security needs. Baldwin recruited the core brain trust of research scientists, and oversaw major expansion of the facility into Ft. Detrick, including development and staffing of the Horn Island test site, and the Vigo production plant. 7979 Baldwin remained a civilian during the war. He fell out with his boss, General William Porter, commander of the Army Chemical Corps and a great promoter of BW, over safety issues of the anthrax production factory at Vigo. He returned to Wisconsin in 1944. View all notes

Regis understands that Baldwin's logic is the classic false dichotomy of pitting two evils. Baldwin chooses what he prays to be the lesser evil, thus blinding himself to the righteous moral path of rejecting both visions of evil. Professor Regis performs the moral sleight of hand, but it is not sufficiently convincing on its own. There follow captivating revelations of General Ishii's rise in stature, and of his associate, Ryoichi Naito, making an unannounced visit to the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research in New York in 1937 to request samples of yellow fever virus. We learn of CIA operative Sidney Gottlieb, who dosed Frank Olson with LSD leading to his premeditated murder by CIA thugs. 8080 Sidney Gottlieb, a Caltech biochemistry Ph.D., was chief of the CIA's technical services (TTS). He was the CIA staff officer responsible for overseeing the Detrick-CIA connection. Regis confirms that Robert Lashbrook, the man chaperoning Frank Olson in his hotel room on the night of his death was also a CIA agent, and that it was necessary for the agency to hastily concoct an employment record for Lashbrook to satisfy the NYC police and the insurance claim investigators. Olson was clubbed on the head, then thrown through a wood-frame window and over a 3' high parapet to his death 13 stories below. Regis' claims Frank Olson's death was a tragic suicide, but his conclusion has been previously discredited by other investigators, and publicly acknowledged as false by President Ford two and a half decades before Regis resurrects it here. See:" Ford Meets Family of LSD Victim, Apologizes," Washington Post, July 22, 1975. Other researchers, particularly Olson's son, Eric Olson, believe Frank Olson experienced a life changing apotheosis under the influence of LSD, and wanted out of the CIA and his Bioweapon job at Ft. Detrick. His superiors became immediately worried that Olson had suffered a mental breakdown, that he had become emotionally unstable and might publicly reveal his research at Ft. Detrick and expose top-secret information about the BW campaign in Korea. He was murdered by CIA assassins to plug a potential security leak. See: Wormwood, a six-part docudrama directed by Errol Morris, released on Netflix, December 15, 2017. View all notes We are told of scientific breakthroughs at Ft. Detrick, of great brewing vats of toxins, state of the art technology, projects with codenames like "Shady Grove," dangerous field tests at Dugway, unreliable wind conditions, the heroic volunteers of Operation Whitecoat 8181 Regis, op. cit., pp. 168176, Operation Whitecoat involved over 3000 volunteers from the Seventh Day Adventist church who served as human Guinea pigs in pathogen tests by Ft. Detrick scientists. View all notes all recounted with literary flair amidst the bonhomie of men working together with the single-minded devotion of a great cause. Thus are we led into the next Faustian bargain which Professor Regis dubs "green warfare."8282 Ibid., pp. 221222. View all notes

Green Warfare elevates Baldwin's private angst into the political arena. Regis evokes modern conventional warfare, in which cities are bombed to rubble, infrastructure pulverized, people maimed, flesh burned, bodies torn asunder. He argues that death by disease from a BW attack is more natural, less traumatizing and painful to victims generally. Additionally, property and infrastructure are saved, making industrial recovery and repopulation after the war more efficient: "The final goal of warfare, after all, was not to kill, maim, or sicken those were only means to an end. The end of warfare was to force the adversary to surrender and submit."8383 Ibid., p. 222. View all notes In Regis's moral calculus, the vanquished should choose subjugation over death. But Regis's "final goal of warfare" is demonstrably false; many wars throughout human history were intended as genocides and land seizures. The proposition Regis makes here, assumes that war is an inevitable and perhaps a necessary human scourge. It is the Biblical formula of fallen man forever banished from Eden. Given this premise, why not favor weapons that cause less trauma and physical damage? Would this not be more humane? Baldwin's torment is blown into hegemonic proportions. The moral path out of this greater quandary for the reader is discreetly slipped offstage.

Green Warfare is a deeply cynical ideology which abandons humanity to the endless treadmill of war, and nowadays, of total war. It denies us any possibility of escape from our perpetual folly. Regis's real topic is more aptly the philosophy of doom. Germ warfare serves as the Petri dish in which to illustrate this problematic moral thesis.

In one important revelation from Biology of Doom, Regis confirms that the Japanese Unit 731 data the 8000 slides and the lab research acquired by Ft. Detrick in 1947 was indeed a windfall, and he quotes Detrick scientists to that effect. This contradicts claims by a few deniers that: (1) the Japanese data was not sufficiently rigorous; and (2) Ft. Detrick scientist had already moved beyond it. 8484 Milton Leitenberg makes this claim without any supporting evidence. He is highly dismissive of the Unit 731 Japanese BW research acquired by Ft Detrick in 1947, contrary to the evidence of praise for the research from BW scientists and military officials. See John W. Powell, "Japan's Biological Weapons: 193045, op. cit., pp. 4353. View all notes

Regarding the Chinese and North Korean BW charges, Regis dismisses them categorically. He also rejects the ISC's lengthy enumeration of the physical evidence with a new, unusual, and counter-intuitive argument. The evidence against the US was over-abundant, he claims. It was far too plentiful, and this quality of being too much made it suspect:

The real problem of the alleged evidence, however, was not that it was too weak, but that it was too strong"""if the Korean charges were true, then in 1951 and 1952 a tidal wave of pathogens, insects, plants, and animals had fallen out of the skies of North Korea and China""" littering the countryside with smoking guns. 8585 Ed Regis, op. cit., p. 227. View all notes

Regis finds this scenario incredible, and ridicules it as "everything but the kitchen sink." He inquires, given the strictest top secrecy the US had always imposed upon Ft Detrick and its germ war program, why would the US army suddenly break its vow of secrecy to attack the enemy so openly with BW?Once again Regis misdirects our attention. The US war planners did not expect the BW attack to be found out so quickly, if at all, but it was discovered promptly because the enemy anticipated it following the smallpox chicken feather incident of November 1950. The 1952 BW campaign was ill-conceived and rushed into action in the midst of the Korean winter when the modified 500 lb. leaflet bomb containers dumped moribund insects onto the frozen snow. This winter attack stupidly telegraphed US intentions to the KPA and PVA, allowing them precious time to mobilize the public, set up extermination and quarantine protocols, and rush in vaccines and DDT from the USSR. 8686 The urgency of the Chinese, North Korean and Soviet governments to defend against the US BW attack is made clear in 16 documents of official correspondence between Mao, Zhou Enlai, and Stalin in March and April of 1952 after the US BW attack is discovered. They are attached as addendum to: Milton Leitenberg, "China's False Allegations of the Use of Biological Weapons by the United States during the Korean War," Cold War International History Project, Working Paper #78, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Washington DC, 2016. This correspondence is analyzed in: Thomas Powell, "On the Biological Warfare Hoax Thesis", Socialism and Democracy, Vol 32, No.1, March 2018, pp. 610. View all notes

North Korea and China along with their Soviet allies screamed bloody murder on the international stage, but BW secrecy in the US remained tightly controlled with a compliant press corps reporting official outrage, denials from the White House, and racist public scorn. The ISC evidence was never seriously examined on its own merits. And then there was the political repression of McCarthyism, and the threats of court-martial against the POW airmen. This secret held fast for three decades, and only began to crack in 1980. Ed Regis wants to insinuate that the Chinese scientists produced their own evidence. But both China and the USSR were countries devastated by recent catastrophic wars. How likely was it that either of these two countries had the science and the resources to produce such an exotic menu of pathogens and vectors in 1952?

Regis winds down his book with a sentimental description of a reunion many years later of former Ft. Detrick bio-weaponers at Dugway Proving Grounds, Utah: "[T]he masterminds of Shady Grove, Night Train, Magic Sword, Eager Belle, Autumn Gold, and all the rest, as kindly and gentle a group as you could hope to find anywhere""""8787 Ed Regis, op. cit., p. 234. View all notes It seems the author would like us to forget that these kindly old gents from Ft. Detrick routinely, as their day job, plotted depopulation metrics, that is, the mass murder of hundreds of thousands of human beings. What philosopher Ed Regis wants us to accept as a kindly and gentle activity is the aesthetic transformation of mass murder into problem solving. It is precisely this aesthetic reductionism that philosopher Hanna Arendt described after observing the trial of Adolph Eichmann as the "banality of evil." Biology of Doom is a shocking attempt not just to sanitize mass murder, but to normalize it. Regis concludes his twentieth century history of US BW program on a folksy note, but Doom, like Factories of Death before it, has completely omitted a critical piece of the story whatever happened to the insects, Ed?

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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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