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Biological Warfare in Korea: A Review of the Literature

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Deadly Cultures contains two essays co-authored by Martin Furmanski. The first with Malcolm Dando is titled "Mid-spectrum Incapacitant Program." The authors claim that in Great Britain, "studies in LSD had commenced by 1956." This seems like a late date because by 1953, LSD had already been used for CIA mind-control experiments by Sid Gottlieb, mentioned earlier in regards to the Frank Olson murder. Gottlieb, in addition to being the CIA liaison officer with Ft. Detrick, was the director of the agency's Technical Support Staff which in 1953 began the covert MKUltra program combining psychoactive drugs with physical torture to interrogate suspected Soviet spies at black sites in Germany.

Furmanski and Dando report that LSD was studied for many years throughout the 1950s and 1960s on human subjects as an incapacitant, as were THC, DMT, DET, mescaline, and another psychotomimetic substance called BZ. The authors conclude that "the effort in the West to find a non-lethal chemical incapacitant during the Cold War was a distinct failure." The word omitted in this claim is "operational," meaning an incapacitant that would work on a massive scale over large terrain. However they exit on the hopeful note that recent revolutionary advances in genome sequencing and brain mapping have opened new doors for highly targeted incapacitating products.

Furmanski's second article co-authored with Mark Wheelis is titled "Allegations of Biological Weapons Use." The authors begin by trying to paint themselves as "neutral observers." This is not a believable proposition. Only the vast and forgotten slumber of American ignorance remains "neutral" and untouched. Individuals can arrive at the subject of BW with an open mind, but the moral quandary of killing people with disease does not permit neutral observation. Even the avoiders must privately acknowledge their fears. Those few informed on this topic have weighed the evidence and made the moral judgment to either believe or deny the North Korean and Chinese allegations, and/or the guilt or innocence of the US generals. Furmanski and Wheelis are bona fide deniers.

As with all previous denials, we see the heavy-handed editing of evidence. The eye-witness testimony of Korean farmers is summarily dismissed, while the tactic of admitting some dirt to cover up the big lie continues. Therefore, the authors admit the preparedness of Ft. Detrick to provide the pathogens and vectors identified in the ISC report. They confirm that while a full-scale BW campaign was not evidenced, combat field testing of BW was certainly possible:

The practical and political barriers that make the alleged full-scale BW campaign impossible do not necessarily apply to limited BW field tests. Sufficient munitions were available, and pilot plant production could have provided sufficient agent. Clandestine operations and plausible deniability could have allowed freedom from policy restrictions that applied to the mainline US BW program. 103103 Martin Furmanski and Mark Wheelis, "Allegations of Biological Weapons Use," in Mark Wheelis, Lajos Rózsa, and Malcolm Dando, eds., Deadly Cultures: Biological Weapons since 1945, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 2006, pp. 256257. View all notes

In essence, this is the argument which has been made by Wallace and Williams, Endicott and Hagerman, and all other researchers who have come to the same conclusion that the US was guilty as charged of Korean War BW. The authors go on to admit the eagerness of US Army generals to start the killing:

On February 8, 1952, Major General E.F. Bullene, chief chemical officer made a "hawkish" speech supporting the military values of CW and BW and this was printed in the Congressional Record, at the request of an influential congressman. Brigadier General Creasy, chief of the Chemical Corps Research Command, gave a speech in Washington on 25 January praising "germs, gas, and radio-active materials" as efficient weapons of war. His comments were reprinted in the US Army newspaper Stars and Stripes."104104 Ibid., p. 256. View all notes

The ability, the opportunity, and the motivation to launch the 1952 BW attack are starkly revealed. The zealousness of the US generals to begin BW depopulation and psychological warfare was palpable. In March 1952, one of the very few (and likely the last) public disclosure of BW casualty figures by official North Korean sources was printed in the China Monthly Review. The "in retreat" BW attack of smallpox laced chicken feathers in November 1950 had caused an outbreak in North Korea that exceeded 3500 cases with a 10 percent mortality rate. 105105 John W. Powell, "Crime Against Humanity," China Monthly Review (CWR), March 1952, p.227, "Yet, between the middle of December 1950 and January 1951, smallpox cases were registered simultaneously in a number of districts from seven to eight days after their liberation from American occupation. The number of cases rapidly mounted and in April 1951 exceeded 3500, of which 10 percent were fatal. In districts not occupied by [US] troops, there were no smallpox cases."View all notes This revelation surely whetted the generals' appetite.

Furmanski and Wheelis have walked back the denier case into a stark admission of the North Korean and Chinese allegations. However, the authors continue to deny the truth of what they admit with an explanation which is stupifying. They propose that in spite of all the evidence that led Chinese authorities to believe they were being attacked with BW in 1952, the Chinese leadership was deceived by its own threat analysis. In other words, they were simply mistaken. This is an incredulous and patently racist proposition. It presumes the Chinese side was not very smart and succumbed to their own fear projection. It also presumes the US generals, given the wide open opportunity and means to test a deadly new weapon system in combat with little risk, instead acted like choirboys and stayed in their barracks, and finally it presumes that President Truman and Secretary Acheson were incapable of flat out lying to the world. Would anybody believe that today of Donald Trump and Mike Pompeo? Furmanski and Wheelis' understanding of male war psychology is woefully naïve.

Yet, the authors insist that the only evidence which counts must be the scientific findings. Furmanski and Wheelis dismiss the entirety of the ISC evidence on one "scientific" pretext or another. By creating categories of their own device, every incident involving insects is dismissed. Every reported BW incident from Korea is dismissed as tainted by Soviet presence. However, the Chinese scientists were "scrupulously accurate," and the lab work was performed at university laboratories. This evidence must be taken seriously; still, the authors create additional categories to dismiss, finally permitting only four cases of inhalation anthrax to advance through their reductive process. The authors announce that they have acquired 1952 samples of the anthrax spores and through genetic sequencing they have ascertained that the anthrax was a native Chinese strain, and not an American one. Therefore, the anthrax was local and natural and could not have come from US BW.

There are several problems with Furmanski and Wheelis' methodology and their conclusion. First, having claimed to be neutral they are ignorant of their own prejudices which contaminate their findings with unwarranted Western assumptions. Second, they are ignorant of their own racialism which considers the North Korean evidence to be inferior. Third, just how "scientifically neutral" are their category assumptions? Fourth, the authors offer no explanation of how they obtained the 1952 anthrax samples. Were they freely given to them upon request from the Chinese universities? Or were they obtained through some subterfuge? Wouldn't a clandestine acquisition of the anthrax spores make their findings suspect?

Lastly, Furmanski and Wheelis appear to be too clever by insisting that the native Chinese origin of their anthrax samples rules out US BW. The anthrax strain the authors analyzed could just have readily been collected by Japanese Unit 731 scientists in Manchuria. It could have been handed over to Ft. Detrick scientists in 1947. It could have become weaponized at Atsugi Air Base Unit 406 in Yokohama. Since they have not revealed the source of their anthrax samples, they cannot claim any reliable unbroken custody chain. 106106 Jeffery Kaye expresses a cautionary note in the attribution of BW attacks. "I believe we need to be careful in imputing BW attacks, as I am sure that disinformation is put out there to discredit critics. We should remember that the ISC found some samples of supposed germ warfare items that did not pan out. In fact, it is a sign of their professionalism that some samples would be falsified, given the nature of gathering data in general there is always error."""I believe there is also a psychological component to weaponry, especially weapons which terrorize, like BW."""I think that some insects were dropped by the US in Korea and China that deliberately did not have biological agents attached. (I am thinking here primarily of springtails (houseflies) whose presence so flummoxed Needham, and only in one instance actually seemed to carry any bio-agent.) Private correspondence with the author, 26 June, 2019. View all notes

There is also the question of the evolution of science. Science is not a static, monolithic thing as many people presume it to be when the word is capitalized. Lord Ritchie-Calder's observation of the psychological inhibitions of scientists not wanting to see evil come out of their work is important. We have heard this message from Theodore Rosebury too. Furmanski and Wheelis' genome lab is good for the specialized task that it performs. But today's forensic science is quite distinct from the investigative field work performed by Joseph Needham and his ISC colleagues in 1952 under conditions of a brutal trench war, and while the BW campaign was in full swing. Nobody has ever come forward to challenge as unscientific the ISC methodology as stipulated in its flow chart, nor can it be claimed the committee's conclusions weren't scrupulously derived from that methodology. It was apparent to the ISC members that the evidence was sufficient, obvious and conclusive. As a jury, they had no difficulty reaching a unanimous verdict.

The core problem of the research of Furmanski and Wheelis, and Dando, and Ruth Rogaski, and van Courtland Moon, and Sheldon Harris, and Ed Regis, and the whole, post-1994 denier crowd, is that they have all fallen under the patronage of Milton Leitenberg. These authors are all highly intelligent and articulate researchers, yet every one of them cites Leitenberg's Soviet dossier as convincing proof of China's false accusations of US BW. They have each slavishly accepted Leitenberg's bogus evidence for what he claims it to be, rather than apply their abundant skepticism towards analyzing it. Surely Mr. Furmanski would have to agree that a document which is a typed copy of a handwritten copy of an alleged secret document which nobody in the West can ascertain actually exists, is hardly scientific evidence of the great BW hoax scheme Mr. Leitenberg claims it to be.

As I have previously discussed the content of the twelve Soviet documents, let's focus instead on their authentication by Katherine Weathersby, a Russian language scholar from the University of Florida, Tallahassee. 107107 Stephen Endicott and Edward Hagerman challenge three statements made by Kathryn Weathersby in her analysis of the 12 Soviet documents, and demonstrate each of them to be false: (1) Weathersby claimed that the USSR, China, and North Korea all ceased pressing the claim of US BW following the death of Stalin in April 1953; (2) Weathersby claimed the Chinese government denounced the US for BW use before the laboratory tests were completed; and (3) Weathersby claimed that Mao, after learning his commanders reports were inaccurate, decided to press the charges anyway. With regard to Milton Leitenberg's accompanying article which appeared in the CWIHP Bulletin #11 (Winter, 1998), Endicott and Hagerman state, "This long rambling essay is mainly a repeat of the pamphlet he had published in Stockholm in May 1998. We find ourselves in disagreement with so many matters of fact, scholarship and judgment in this article it is not possible for us to deal with them in this forum." Stephen Endicott and Edward Hagerman, "Twelve Newly Released Soviet-era 'Documents' and Allegations of U.S. Germ Warfare during the Korean War," Asian Perspective, vol.25, No. 1, 2001, 249257. View all notes After describing the unusual circumstances of the documents' acquisition by Yasuo Naito,108108 Katherine Weathersby, "Deceiving the Deceivers: Moscow, Beijing, Pyongyang, and the Allegations of Bacteriological Weapons Use in Korea," Cold War International History Project (CWIHP) Bulletin No. 11 (Winter 1998) Woodrow Wilson Institute, Washington, DC. Weathersby does not reveal how Mr. Naito acquired the 12 documents. Were they given to him by a known associate, or by an unidentified stranger, or perhaps they were placed anonymously in his personal belongings? This crucial piece of document authentication is also missing. View all notes a Moscow correspondent for the Japanese right-wing newspaper, Sankai Shinbum, and their lack of archival identification marks, Weathersby explains her thought process:

Are the contents of the documents persuasive enough to overcome the skepticism raised by their irregular provenance? Their style and form do not raise suspicion. The specifics of persons, dates and events are consistent with evidence available from a wide array of sources. As is apparent from the translations below, their contents are so complex and interwoven that it would be extremely difficult to forge them. In short, the sources are credible. 109109 Weathersby, op. cit., p. 76. 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