A thought for today…

November 25, 2013

I posted this on the Old Faceplace earlier:

“Remember all those times liberals called for Shrub to be shot and killed? Yeah, me neither. But we are exactly like the fringe right supposedly. Sure we wanted him to face the music for his illegal and unjust wars, torture regime and fleecing of the American people (and still do). I am just having a hard time remembering when we said it was totally acceptable, and desirable, to march on D.C., arrest, try and execute the president.

Yes, we also thought, like the right does with Obama, that Shrub was an illegitimate president. What happened in Florida in 2000 was a fucking travesty. And yes we formed grassroots organizations, held protests and attempted to put people in office that shared our views. We also ran into the reality that the establishment only liked us when we got people to vote their party into power. But to me that is where the comparison ends.

But time again I hear that the left and the right are the same. I guess people calling for peace and security, for basic fairness and equality, for universal unity, and for environmental sanity are exactly like the fringe right with their racism, xenophobia, misogyny, cruelty and utter disregard for anyone or anything that doesn’t fit into their American exceptionalist world view.

The sad thing to me is that there are so many issues that really do affect everyone, from the degradation of our environment to our crumbling infrastructure, from our economic servitude to corporations to the alarming amount of money being spent keeping the revolving door between those corporations and Congress greased. We are a people who are slowly and steadily getting less educated while being forced to compete for stagnant, even dwindling, wages as our world dies around us.

I would think that we could all come together and demand things change. But that won’t happen because there are those amongst us that see hate and discrimination as good things, who see violence against the ‘other’ as acceptable and desirable, who see the world as a thing to be profited from and not an ecosystem that we are part of and dependent upon.

We, the people of not just this nation but the world, are in this together. We need each other more than ever. Personally I don’t feel violence is ever the answer. Education, civic, economic and environmental responsibility, equality – these are the things I find most important. Threatening to kill those with whom you disagree with, not so much.”

Then I found this on a conservative friend’s wall. In a sense they are companion pieces. I do not address everything in the conservative’s blog entry with my above post, but I do believe I have addressed much of it in previous posts. Perhaps, time allowing, I will bring the two together.


Thougths On The Shutdown II

October 2, 2013

Maybe we should give the far right what it wants. Let’s sell off all federal land. Let’s get rid of all taxes. Let’s get rid of all regulations. Let’s make this a fundamentalist Taliban, I mean Christian, nation. No right for women, for workers, for minorities. Let’s make voting a privilege reserved only for the rich that vote the ‘rightway’.

Let’s wage wars for profit, because we will have to pay for that military somehow. Let’s all sit in our personal bunkers with our arsenals, at least those of us that can afford guns.

Maybe break the country up into tribal regions, where strongmen rule with iron fists. Hell, let’s re-institute slavery.

Because if you really listen to the far right that is what they seem to be pushing us towards.

Thoughts On The Shutdown

October 2, 2013

A small number of Congress folks, who are serving a small number of citizens thanks to gerrymandering, have shut down our government because of legislation that makes healthcare affordable to many who could not get it otherwise.

This has nothing to do with anything other than politics. The Republican party knows that the success of the ACA is a major political defeat for them. So they would rather throw millions of Americans back into a world where people can’t get coverage, are dropped from coverage when they get sick, and have ‘lifetime’ limits that really mean if you get really sick you will go broke. They want us to be at the mercy of real death panels, aka corporate boardrooms.

People were literally chained to jobs because they couldn’t change jobs if they had a sick kid. The rest of us picked up the bill when the uninsured couldn’t pay their bills. College students couldn’t stay on their parent’s insurance. Corporations could keep as much of the money we spent on insurance as they wanted to.

I wish I could say I am surprised, but I’m not. We live in a country where hate is the norm. We live in a country where people are fearful of their government, and each other, to the point that they need to build up personal arsenals. Yet those same people don’t seem to give two shits about domestic spying, a real issue that actually does infringe on our rights.

People scream for ‘small government’ without taking into consideration how those regulations make their lives better. We have a great, if crumbling, infrastructure, safe food, safe water, etc. Yet some would have us loose all that and any protection against predatory business practices. Never mind the whole ‘no taxes’ meme, which never seems to include how multinational corporations have rigged international tax laws to their benefit.

But hey, let’s just say fuck it. Let’s throw it all down the drain. Let’s return to the days before the Great Depression, when workers had no rights. When food made you sick, when we had no highway system, when women and minorities had no rights. When if and when you got sick you just died in the street. When once you got too old to work you were just trash.

And I am sick and tired of the ‘You have to take care of your own meme’. We are all in this together. Our country, and all of us in it, benefit when our sick are taken care of. We all benefit when children can eat, are healthy, and can get educated.

The government isn’t some other entity separate from everyone else, except when we don’t pay attention and let a small number of people manipulate it to their advantage at the expense of the rest of us.

Something is wrong when corporations don’t pay taxes yet make their money using the infrastructure we all pay for. Something is wrong when we have to cut school budgets yet can buy billions in weapons to fight unnecessary wars. And something is seriously wrong when people work their whole lives only to see their pensions stolen, or are forced into the Wall Street scam that is 401k’s while being told that Social Security is somehow bad even when it works.

There has been a long battle to return to the Gilded Age waged in this country. And too many have fallen for it. So here we are, our government shut down, our economy on the brink after barely surviving a major recession.

Oh but we can turn to churches or charities for help. Because that’s apparently the new American dream, begging.

How far are we willing to go? (Updated)

August 28, 2013

OK, so there’s this:

There is a chorus of criticism over the pending action from those who argue that it will not resolve the conflict in Syria and fear that any action taken will lead to the kind of protracted on-the-ground involvement that has proved so costly and fruitless in Iraq and Afghanistan. These critiques are misguided. There is no reason why targeted and carefully proscribed, but nonetheless potent, air attacks could not effectively deliver a message to Assad that these abuses must stop. His air defenses can be targeted. His weapons stores can be targeted. Economic assets associated with his closest associates, upon which his regime depends, can be targeted. This last approach — targeting the financial backers and cutting off money stream — is what ultimately proved to tip the scales most effectively in the former Yugoslavia during the 1999 bombings known within NATO as Operation Allied Force. This was an example of successful but limited use of air power without ground support that advanced a specific goal — in that case, the withdrawal of Yugoslav forces from Kosovo. (Ironically, tellingly, the rationale President Bill Clinton’s administration gave for the bombing included the fear that failing to undertake it could be a disaster in Kosovo that could claim some 100,000 lives — the same total lost to date in Syria.)

So to be clear, we can bomb them and then they will know that we can bomb them. Some more. Agreed. That is what they will know. Also, Syria is not Yugoslavia. The Serbians didn’t have a defense system meant to counter the Israeli air force.

What is really breaking my brain right now is reading people I respect make the American Exceptionist case:

If it is true that the regime killed hundreds of civilians with nerve gas in a Damascus suburb last week — and Secretary of State John F. Kerry said Monday that the use of chemical weapons is “undeniable” — then Obama has no choice. Such use cannot be tolerated, and any government or group that employs chemical weapons must be made to suffer real consequences. Obama should uphold this principle by destroying some of Assad’s military assets with cruise missiles.

This is a case in which somebody has to be the world’s policeman.

Says who sir? You?

But, what if in being bombed, that is, they become desperate because, well, we just bombed them, and so in desperation they use that pile of chemical weapons we are told they have. I mean, why the hell not at that point?

How far are we willing to go? Once we drop bombs we are fully committed. As is stated above, anything can be targeted. Never mind that those targets include human beings, that collateral damage thing we occasionally hear about.

Where do we draw the red line on our own actions? If the civil war continues to worsen, we will be expected to escalate our response. We will already ‘be there’.

Once we jump into this we are in. Into a civil war that can more accurately be described as chaos. We would be bombing amongst other things targets that would weaken the capabilities of a regime on the side of Russia, China, Hezbollah and Iran, which would have the effect of allowing a highly fractured, and increasingly radicalized, rebel force to, um, suddenly shit a collective rainbow and get along?

I am starting to have flashbacks. I am pretty sure we went through this fairly recently. Has one person actually came out and said there is conclusive proof of these chemical attacks? Or who perpetuated them?

And let’s say they did happen, and the Assad regime committed these crimes. OK. Now what? We bomb, then maybe bomb again. The regime retreats to the coast, doing what ever it takes to get there. Possibly. Then what? Do we sit by and let more ethnic cleansing happen? You think it won’t?

Never mind the battles between rebel forces already happening, never mind that no one seems to know how to deal with the massive refugee issue that is surely to arise from our actions as they intensify. And they will.

Or that no matter what we do we will still be hated even more in the region. Somehow our actions will be used to recruit more terrorists.

Will Russia, China, Hezbollah, and Iran respond? In what ways? Again, how far are we willing to go? And for that matter what concessions are we willing to make to ensure they don’t?

If we do this, we have to acknowledge the fact that we may very well become bogged down, that we will be on the hook for more support, possibly ground troops regardless of what anyone says right now. We have to accept that we will have to help rebuild, and we haven’t proven successful in that endeavor as of late.

Or we don’t, and end up looking like dicks for blowing up their infrastructure, which anyone will need to rebuild.

So what’s our commitment? Drop a few bombs? Make a point? What point exactly? That we can?

Then what? I highly doubt Assad has any plans to surrender. So we are in this till when exactly? And if other countries decide to back him, what is our game plan? And most importantly, what imminent threat does all this pose to the US?

Well, that’s my peace. I would hope it doesn’t happen but I am tired of being disappointed.

Update – Here is a lot more background on the groups involved in Syria.

A comment on the IRS:

June 11, 2013

Yes we need to pay taxes. You hate doing that? So you also hate roads, schools, police that come when you call, regulators keeping your food safe, shit like that? Cause that’s what they pay for.

What? They pay for shit you don’t like too? Join the club. You think you pay too much? Doesn’t everyone.

Calling for the abolition of the IRS is pretty fucking pointless. Even with something like a flat tax (bad idea) we would still need someone to collect said tax. The IRS by any other name is a bunch of people collecting taxes and, yes, doing audits.

I know, let’s privatize everything! Because no corporation has ever fucked people over to make a profit. Nope. Not once.

But the tax code is too fucking complicated? You can thank yourself and everyone else for that. Politicians have twisted taxes all to hell to get and keep your vote. And yes I know rich people and corporations do it too.

So why all of the IRS hatred? Easy target. Gets voters all riled up. You are told to hate them because they collect your taxes even as you benefit from the things those taxes pay for.

Just a thought…

May 11, 2013

Still waiting for those hearings on the invasion of Iraq. Any day now…oh look, Benghazi, that’s a foreign sounding place. Close enough I guess.

Something I need to get off my chest.

May 11, 2013

The argument has been put forth that we, the citizens of this country, need guns because one day (soon to some) we will need to fight off a, make that our, tyrannical government.

Here’s my problem with this notion.

The reason our government is so jacked up is because of ‘we’ the citizens. That’s right, we either keep voting the same people into office, or we don’t participate at all.

We never hold anyone accountable. We don’t study our own history. We don’t pay attention unless something dramatic, and usually pointless, happens.

So let’s say this fairy tale battle takes place, and we defeat, um, ourselves? I mean who the fuck are we going to be fighting anyways? The military made up of our brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, sons, daughters, etc?

But that’s beside the point. Let us say we ‘win’. Tyranny defeated. Do you really think that somehow everything is just going to shit itself right?

Suddenly everyone is going to put on their magic thinking caps and actually change their ways? Please.

Give it a week and we will vote the same assholes right back into office in our new and improved super-duper America.

Guns don’t protect you from tyranny in a democracy (I know, it’s technically a federal republic but whatever). Paying attention, voting, participating, you know, doing something other than sitting around polishing your guns and waiting for the end of times, those things protect us.

That’s the genius of our system. And its weakness. Because it depends on ‘we’ the citizens, not guns, not war. Us.

Life and Shit

March 20, 2013

Been a while. Didn’t really plan on using this blog anymore but things change, as they are wont to do. Like my marriage. It’s over.

It happens. Shit that is. But going through it can, and does, hurt. This fucking sucks quite frankly. You spend 15 years with someone and then its over, and all you can do is look around and think “What do I do now?” Still looking for an answer to that question. People keep telling me to give it time. I suppose they are right.

So I find myself sitting here alone. Up until she moved out we hadn’t been apart for more than a week, and even then we talked on the phone every day. But now its been almost 3 months. Sure we’ve talked since then, seen each other a few times. But its not the same.

All I can do now is accept that I gave it my best effort. I tried. Tried to be a good husband, a good friend. In the end of course none of that mattered. I would say I wish things didn’t have to go the route they are now heading, but divorces are never fun.

My plan for now is to weather this storm. To write, to live, to move on. More to follow.

Government Sponsorship of Illegal Human Experimentation: Scientific Opportunity or Product of Political Culture?

January 29, 2012


During the Nuremberg Trials held after the defeat of the Axis powers in World War II German scientists were found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity for conducting illegal human experiments and for the use of slave labor. The research presented in this paper shows that the crimes committed by German scientists and doctors concerning illegal human experimentation during the holocaust were not unique events that could only have been perpetuated in Nazi Germany. To the contrary, the Americans, British, Japanese, and Soviets also conducted illegal human experimentation in the twentieth century. After the war the governments of the United States, the Soviet Union, and Great Britain actively sought to exploit the research conducted in Nazi controlled Germany, often employing the scientists and doctors behind it. Many German scientists were shielded from prosecution, smuggled out of Germany and allowed to work on top-secret government research regardless of their complicity in crimes for which their peers were imprisoned or put to death. The war crimes committed by Japanese scientists and the subsequent shielding of their crimes by the U.S. will also be discussed to show that the German case was not unique. In addition, episodes of illegal human experimentation conducted before and after the war by the U.S., Britain, and the Soviet Union will be reviewed to establish its existence outside of Nazi Germany and to show the continuation of these crimes after the development of the Nuremberg Code.

Given the differences in culture and government that existed in the time leading up to, including, and after World War II between the aforementioned nations, the suggestion that Nazism alone enabled certain crimes to be committed which were otherwise impossible outside of its influence can not be true. The Nazi government was a sponsor of illegal human experimentation, but the same can be said of the other governments previously mentioned as well. Presented the opportunity, scientists seem willing to engage in experiments that violate the Nuremberg Code regardless of the political culture of the nation in which they commit them. The heinous nature of the Nazi crimes is not diminished in this realization. Instead an observation is made that the potential for the support of systematic illegal human experimentation is not confined to one form of government. Instead it is the acceptance within any given political culture that the security of the state takes precedence over basic civil rights that allows systematic illegal human experimentation to be perpetuated.

The Nuremberg Code & State Sponsorship

Illegal human experimentation is defined in the Nuremberg Code as any research conducted on a human being without that person’s full consent or when the test subject is not made completely aware of the true objectives and dangers of the experiments. While a consensus did not exist amongst scientists or governments before the end of World War II on what constituted illegal human experimentation, within this research all experiments committed on the unwitting will be classified as illegal in accordance with the guidelines established by the Nuremberg Code.

The Nuremberg Code was created during the Medical Trial to establish ethical human experimentation guidelines, and though the code itself has not necessarily been ratified into law in all countries, the U.S. being a notable example, the ten points contained in the code have been accepted as the international standard by which the legality of human experimentation is measured. The Nuremberg Code was used as the basis for subsequent international and national laws, including the U.S., on human experimentation. During the Nuremberg trials German scientists were charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity, criminal categories directly related to activities conducted during the war. As such German human experimentation during the war and the use of slave labor constituted war crimes and crimes against humanity, while human experimentation committed on the unwitting outside of the theater of war by other nations is hereafter referred to as illegal when it violates the Nuremberg code. Persons who were illegally experimented on are victims and will be referred to as such.

The definitions of war crimes and crimes against humanity used in this research are those stated in the charter for the International Military Tribunal during the Nuremberg Trials. War crimes were defined as: “namely, violations of the laws or customs of war. Such violations shall include, but not be limited to, murder, ill-treatment or deportation to slave labor or for any other purpose of civilian population of or in occupied territory, murder or ill-treatment of prisoners of war or persons on the seas, killing of hostages, plunder of public or private property, wanton destruction of cities, towns, or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity”. Crimes against humanity are: “namely, murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, and other inhumane acts committed against any civilian population, before or during the war, or persecutions on political, racial, or religious grounds in execution of or in connection with any crime within the jurisdiction of the Tribunal, whether or not in violation of domestic law of the country where perpetrated.”

Government sponsorship in this research is defined as a government providing financial and material support to the researchers conducting the experiments, including access to victims. The government, or a segment of it, also determines the general areas of research, for instance telling the researchers to focus on the effects of a particular drug or disease. The last major component of sponsorship is providing protection from scrutiny of the experiments and those conducting them in such a way that the courts, the general public, or even bodies governing specific scientific or medical disciplines, cannot determine the legality of the experiments. This also applies to the inability of the victims or their families to seek redress for suffering or loss caused by the experiments.

The Nuremberg Codes states, “The voluntary consent of the human subject is absolutely essential.” The code also acknowledges the right of an individual to withdraw from their participation in an experiment and the duty of the scientist to stop an experiment if the health of the test subject becomes endangered. Developed at Nuremberg in response to the crimes against humanity committed by German scientists, it set down ten principals to be observed when conducting human experiments. Before it’s creation no universally recognized guidelines existed, a point the Nazi doctors brought up during the trial in their own defense. While the heinous nature of the crimes committed by these doctors should not be overlooked, they did have a point. No internationally recognized law or code expressly condemned their actions. In fact, other countries were performing their own experiments on the unwitting, experiments that caused subjects to suffer and in some cases to die. With no legally established guidelines, issues of right and wrong were left up to scientists to decide.

As with the law no consensus existed between scientists on what constituted humane testing, or even if it was the responsibility of scientists to make such distinctions. The Nazi doctors claimed that under government sponsored research morality and personal responsibility were irrelevant. Hitler’s personal physician, Dr. Karl Brandt stated that what was critical was “whether the experiment is important or unimportant.” This point was raised in a 1992 paper by Professor Lewis Wolpert, former chairman of the Committee for Public Understanding of Science in Britain who said, “It is not for scientists to take moral or ethical decisions on their own: they have neither the right nor any special skills in this area. There is, in fact, a great danger in asking scientists to be more socially responsible.” Given that scientists seem willing to perform human experiments when given the opportunity in violation of the Nuremberg Code, then the responsibility for setting rules falls on society through government. But if the government shields scientists from public scrutiny, then these experiments take on a systematic nature that allows for wide spread abuse.

If the crimes committed by Nazi Germany were so illegal to warrant the Nuremberg trials and death sentences, was it not hypocritical to actively persecute one group of people for the same crimes committed by others regardless of the information they could provide? Is there knowledge so worth having that criminality, including murder, can be ignored? To answer this question one has to understand that similar crimes were already being committed in the United States prior to World War II and that a relationship between government and science had already been established through the Eugenics movement.


The Eugenics movement of the late 1800s to mid 1900s is an episode that bears scrutiny as a precursor to systematic illegal human experimentation. Credit for the term ‘Eugenics’ is given to Sir Francis Galton, cousin of Charles Darwin, who used the term to describe the improvement of the human ‘race’ through selective breeding and forced sterilization. Galton tied intelligence to heredity in his book Hereditary Genius, and went on to push for governmental involvement in deciding who could marry and have children. Eugenics is not a science; the ‘value’ of a person is based upon arbitrary cultural standards usually involving racist or class-based stereotypes. During the early 1900s the science of genetics was still in its infancy, but already there was a wide spread belief amongst the scientific community that all human traits could be linked directly to a certain gene. And since genes are passed from parent to child, it was assumed that those children born of ‘inferior’ parents would themselves be naturally inferior. Those targeted for sterilization in Britain and the U.S. included anyone with a mental defect, diseases such as tuberculosis, or those with epilepsy. But the group also included criminals and the poor.

Eugenics quickly caught on amongst the British and American middle to upper middle classes as a way to improve society. Societies promoting Eugenics were established in both countries and polls showed that the public in general supported the idea of sterilization. In the U.S. biologist Charles B. Davenport established the Eugenics Record Office and numerous states passed laws legalizing the forced sterilization deemed to have ‘inferior’ genes. Germany, under Nazi control, was not the first country to enforce sterilization.

Physician Fritz Lenz argued in 1923 that Germany was actually falling behind the United States when it came to sterilization laws. The Heredity Health Courts that were established after Hitler’s ascension to power to determine who should be sterilized mirrored the U.S. Eugenics Records Office. It should be noted at this point that the shift from sterilization to euthanasia and eventually mass murder did not happen in other countries; regardless, the ideas for genetic inferiority and sterilization sprang from the minds of American and British scientists long before Hitler wrote Mein Kampf, before the Nazis controlled the German nation, and before any crimes were committed in that country. To hold the Nazis alone accountable for their sterilization policies is to ignore the fact that the same was happening elsewhere and that those policies had support amongst the American and British public, with forced sterilization laws on the books on the U.S. up to the 1960s, decades after World War II ended.

The Eugenics movements in the U.S. and Germany were conducted in the open, and had wide spread public support. Eugenics was founded on the idea that it was the responsibility of those who saw themselves as superior to ‘fix’ society, in this case by gradually ridding society of those deemed inferior through forced sterilization with the full backing of the government. While a direct link between Eugenics and illegal human experimentation is not established here, this episode does show that science has the ability to be abused on this scale only with full government sponsorship. Once the idea of forced sterilization became law it was able to take on a systematic nature. Scientists and doctors were able to act without fear of prosecution. And if challenged they could point to the government and claim neutrality in discussions of the legality of their actions. This relationship between government and science would also develop another dimension. Scientists would be given the opportunity to conduct experiments that were hidden from the public and where therefore be able to avoid accountability.

Tuskegee Syphilis Study

One such experiment conducted in the U.S. was the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, which began in 1932, in which almost 400 poor and illiterate black men were made to suffer to effects of syphilis without any treatment. Government organizations aware of the study included the Public Health Service, the Center for Disease Control, and local medical societies, along with the Surgeon General of the Unites States and the American Heart Association. The study was conducted in Alabama, in a poor area with high illiteracy rates and little public medical knowledge available. The subjects were told they had ‘bad blood’, a reference to a folk term used to describe numerous medical problems in the rural south. For forty two years a system was set up to deny these men any medical treatment for their disease; clinics were expressly told not to give them medication even though a cure, penicillin, became widely available in the 1940s. Far from being conducted in secrecy, reports on the study were published in medical journals, with a 30th anniversary paper published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

The experiments were finally brought to the public’s attention in 1974 through the work of an investigative reporter. Once the study became known, it was soundly rejected by the same organizations that had conducted it. Victims and their families received cash payments, but no one was ever charged with wrongdoing. Even though the study was started before the existence of the Nuremberg Code, its continuation after 1947 is in direct violation of the code. Yet no medical personnel were held responsible regardless of the fact that the study itself proved that the men experienced more sickness and died earlier because of the untreated disease. And since the men were not told what disease they had, there is the real chance they spread the disease to their sexual partners and even their offspring. However, after the study was made public no effort was made to determine if this had in fact happened.

The U.S. was able to claim the mantle of defender of freedom and liberty after World War II while the Nazi crimes were exposed to the world for the evil that they were. Yet the U.S. had already committed its own crimes, and would continue to, without facing any real consequences for these actions. In the end both governments would share two things in common. It was the government that dictated who the victims were and that scientists were willing to experiment on them. Nazi scientific research was conducted on prisoners in the concentration camps while after the war U.S. scientists experimented on those in mental wards, prisons, children in state care, drug addicts and prostitutes. The fact that the U.S., along with the British and Soviets, would also employ German scientists guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity because of the knowledge gained from the commission of those crimes reinforces the notion that no one political culture is immune from taking on a “security first” dominated mindset.

Illegal Human Experimentation in Germany

After the war the true horrors of the Holocaust became known. Allied troops liberated death and labor camps, discovering one tragedy after another. Millions of people had been worked to death, experimented on or simply killed in a ruthless system never before seen. Those not immediately sent to the gas chambers were often used as slave labor to support the war effort. These slaves worked endless hours with little food, knowing that if they stopped for a minute they would be beaten or shot. Other prisoners were used as human guinea pigs in often-gruesome experiments to study subjects ranging from the effects of pressure on the body to how much salt water a human can ingest before dying. For these crimes many people were punished with life sentences and death. However, those with knowledge deemed important were swept up by the U.S., Russia and Great Britain in an effort to capture the scientific knowledge of Nazi Germany.

This knowledge was considered essential to all three countries. The Nazis had made many technological achievements, and these nations felt that who ever captured it would have the military advantage. How complicit these scientists and doctors were in Nazi war crimes was of less importance than what information and expertise they could provide. The U.S. in particular made great efforts to obtain and protect Nazi scientists. Through projects Overcast and Paperclip hundreds of scientists, doctors and engineers were brought to the U.S. to work on military projects. Some of them would go on to become leaders in their fields and industries.

The most notable example was Hubertus Strunghold, who was brought to the U.S. under Project Paperclip. During the war he headed the Luftwaffe Institute for Aviation Medicine in Berlin and was a Luftwaffe colonel. Strunghold had been well known in the US before the war, and was at the open house for the AAF Aero Medical Center in Heidlberg in 1946. During the war he had been responsible for overseeing medical experiments performed by doctors in Experimental Block #5 in the Dachau Death Camp. When American soldiers liberated this camp they discovered half starved prisoners, human body parts scattered around the labs and other remnants of gruesome experiments.

One set of experiments, conducted by Paperclip scientists Konrad Schaefer and Wilhelm Beiglboeck, involved forcing prisoners to ingest salt water to see how long a downed pilot could survive on seawater. The victims, all Gypsies, were divided into groups. One group received no water at all, while the rest drank either ordinary seawater or partially desalinated water. One observer of the experiments noted that the victims suffered horribly, losing up to two pounds a day. Many of the victims experienced heart seizures and feel into comas. Others had their livers punctured by a long sharp instrument used to drain blood and saltwater. In the end most died. Another experiment, conducted by Siegfried Ruff, Dr. Sigmund Rascher, and Hermann Becker-Freyseng, involved studying high altitude and low pressure effects in which the victims, Poles, Russians, and Jews, were placed in mobile pressure chambers to mimic the affects of parachuting out of a plane without oxygen. The victims experienced terrible agony, starved of oxygen many died of heart seizures while others went insane. Autopsies were performed to study the trauma on the organs. Freezing experiments were performed by forcing victims to stand naked in the open winter air while others were made to lay in tanks of ice water. Dr. Klaus Shilling infected 1200 prisoners with malaria. Once infected the victims were given varying mixtures of strong drugs, from which many overdosed.

While many of these scientists would eventually stand trial, Strunghold would not; instead he was protected from public scrutiny. When first captured Strunghold told his interrogator, US Army Major Alexander, that he had known nothing of the experiments and had only heard of them at the trial. However, during the Medical case the other scientists said he personally received the orders to conduct the experiments, advised on them, reviewed the final reports and even had the power to stop them. Instead of jail Strunghold went on to head the Air Force School of Aviation Medicine then the Department of Space Medicine. He is considered the father of space medicine and has received the Americanism Medal from the Daughters of the American Revolution. The Texas Senate declared June 15 ‘Dr. Hubertus Strughold Day’ and the official U.S. Air Force building in San Antonio named after him.

In addition to the experiments listed above German scientists also infected their victims with diseases. At the Natzweiler concentration camp, for example, prisoners were deliberately infected with typhus to test vaccinations. Others were infected to keep a supply of the disease available. Bullets were dipped in poison and then fired into the bodies of prisoners to study how long it took the poison to kill them. Women at the Ravensbrück camp were infected with gangrene. While the sheer volume of experiments conducted by the Germans dwarfs in scale the Tuskegee experiment, both could only have happened with the active participation of a large number of scientists. And with both the scientists involved that escaped prosecution could only do so because government officials decided their work was more important that justice.

Slave Labor in Germany

Illegal human experiments were not the only crimes of which German scientists that were brought to the U.S. under projects Overcast and Paperclip were guilty of committing. On the night of August 17, 1943, Allied bombers struck the missile factory at Peenemünde near the Baltic Coast. The Germans quickly worked to establish a new production facility in the storage tunnels near the city of Nordhausen in the Harz Mountains. Adolf Hitler had given high priority to the rocket program a few months earlier; in order to comply with his orders to get the program running again thousands of concentration camp prisoners were moved to the site to work day and night to get the factory operating. Many died from dysentery. Others were transported back to the camps for extermination. Once running, Mittlewerk factory was a sight of unrelenting work and abuse. Prisoners were worked until they passed out from exhaustion or died from diseases such as cholera. Those that stopped working were shot, while any prisoner could be beaten for perceived offences by guards and scientists alike. The adjacent camp, Dora, was used to house the prisoners; the American troops who liberated it discovered six thousand bodies scattered outside the caves and the furnaces of Dora left open and smoldering. All the victims were casualties of the brutal conditions inside the factory.

The scientists who ran this factory, and Peenemünde before it, were not merely researchers working to build rockets for the war effort. They were actively involved in the use of slave labor. The chief engineer at Peenemünde, Arthur Rudolph, was already preparing to use Russian prisoners of war in early 1943 when Heinrich Himmler presented him with option of using concentration camp prisoners. Rudolph saw slave labor as both economically practical and advantageous from a secrecy standpoint after witnessing the 4,000 slave laborers at the Heinkel factory north of Berlin in Oranienburg. Once at Mittlewerk Rudolph served as Production Manager, setting the grueling hours prisoners worked and filing sabotage reports with the SS that led directly to prisoners being hanged, often inside the factory itself as a warning to others. Wernher von Braun, who worked for Rudolph, attended meetings where the use of slave labor in rocket production was discussed. Von Braun and Brigadier-General Walter Dornberger, the head of the rocket program, also advocated using slave labor as part of the production calculations. In his role as General Manager Georg Rickhey regularly instigated prisoner hangings inside the plant.

All of these scientists had advocated for and participated in the use of slave labor. Instead of standing trial at Nuremberg all were brought to the United States. Rudolph was stationed in Fort Bliss, Texas after the war where he worked on rockets for the AAF before later becoming Project Director of the Saturn V rocket program. His past almost caught up with him in 1984 when he was found complicit “in the abuse and persecution of concentration camp inmates who were employed by the thousands as slave laborers under his direct supervision” by the U.S. Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations. Rudolph flew back to Hamburg, Germany rather than stand trial. Von Braun had been classified as a potential security threat because of his membership in the NSDAP, the SS, where he was a major, and four other Nazi organizations. He was also sent to Fort Bliss and in 1957 he became the first director of the Marshall Space Flight Center. Another scientist from the rocket program at Fort Bliss, Kurt Debus, had been a member of the SS and SA. Debus once turned a colleague in to the Gestapo for making anti-Hitler remarks. Even though he too had been included in OMGUS Security Reports, in the U.S. he would go on to become the first director of the Kennedy Space Center. Dornberger was shipped to Wright Air Field in Ohio; he would later become a vice-president at Bell Aircraft Company. Rickhey did eventually stand trial on accusations of instituting hangings and a work pace that led to thousands of deaths from exhaustion but he was found not guilty and then the trial was classified. Herbert Axster, who was Dornberger’s chief of staff, also arrived at Fort Bliss but left the U.S. in the early 1950s after accusations were made that he abused slave labor on his estate during the war.

The Japanese Case

The Germans were not the only country in which scientists committed war crimes only to have them covered up by Americans after the war. Imperial Japan established a facility officially named the Anti-Epidemic Water Supply and Purification Bureau, known as Unit 731, in a remote part of the Manchurian Peninsula at Pingfan. The facility was similar in size to the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz, with rail lines, laboratories, barracks and a crematorium. The Japanese doctors performed horrific medical experiments on prisoners, a mixture of Chinese, Mongolians, Russians, Koreans and even western prisoners of war, under the leadership of Dr. Shiro Ishii. In one set of experiments, prisoners were dissected while still alive. In another, limbs were amputated to study blood loss. The doctors removed organs and rerouted others to see the affects on the victim’s body. And in experiments similar to those conducted by German scientists, prisoners were frozen to death and then defrosted so that doctors could study gangrene. Other prisoners had their limbs frozen but were kept alive. The Japanese scientists also locked their victims inside pressure chambers or put them in centrifuges and spun them around until the prisoners died. Prisoners were hung upside down until death in order to determine how long a person could survive in this condition. Gas chambers were set up to study the effects of phosgene gas. The livers of prisoners were exposed to high levels of radiation. The military also used the facility to test weaponry, using the prisoners as live targets to test flame-throwers and grenades or so that soldiers could test how sharp a sword was. Diseases such as cholera, anthrax and the plague were manufactured at the facility as well. Bombs were filled with the diseases and then they were released on whole villages, killing an estimated 400,000 people.

The scientists at this facility were well aware of the nature of their actions. Dr. Ishii is quoted as saying to his staff, “A doctor’s God-given mission is to block and treat disease, but the work on which we are now to embark is the complete opposite of those principles.” Yet after the war nearly all of the scientists were freed despite that fact that the British and Americans knew what had happened in Unit 731. Evidence was gathered and sent directly to United States President Harry Truman by war crimes prosecutors, but it was never seen again. The reason for this is the same as why many German scientists were shielded from the Nuremberg Trials; the knowledge they possessed was deemed valuable. Immunity from prosecution in the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal was given to the Japanese scientists in exchange for the data their research had developed. As was the case with the Germans, the Americans wanted the data before it fell into Soviet hands. So the crimes were covered up. Dr. Ishii died at home after a long career. And unlike the case in Germany, atonement has yet to be made by the Japanese to the Chinese for these crimes.

American & British Crimes Post WWII

The United States would go on to expand the use of human test subjects after the war. Through CIA funded programs thousands of soldiers were exposed to chemical agents originally developed by the Nazis. An as yet unknown number of civilians would be given concoctions of drugs in secret psycho-chemistry experiments. Others had electrodes implanted on their brains to see how scientists could control their bodies. In addition to these experiments chemical and biological agents were intentionally released on the general public to study dispersion patterns. None of the victims were ever informed before hand, and for those that were able to prove these crimes happened justice often came too late or not at all.

Scientists in Nazi Germany and Japan had conducted experiments on unwitting humans and at least some of the scientists involved had been held accountable for these crimes at the Nuremberg and Tokyo trials. Yet American and British researchers went on to mimic these experiments in their respective countries. The Central Intelligence Agency ran several programs, including Bluebird and MKULTRA, in which soldiers and members of the public were given LSD in order to study its effects on the mind. The military tested other drugs besides LSD on soldiers at Edgewood Arsenal in Maryland while the British did the same at the British Chemical Defense Establishment at Porton Down, Wiltshire.

At Edgewood soldiers were given Sernyl (known as PCP or angel dust) or other incapacitating agents. Many experienced horrific visions, amnesia, and some would later commit suicide trying to forget what they had been through. While many of the soldiers technically volunteered to be part of experiments, none were told of the dangerous nature of the experiments. The Army’s inspector general, in a 1975 review of the experiments, found that despite the guidelines established for human experimentation the policy was quite often ignored. Soldiers were frequently told they were volunteering for experiments that involved equipment testing when in fact they were being poisoned. The British government in 2006 paid victims of drug tests it performed on soldiers in the 1950s. The soldiers were told that they were part of a test to find a cure for colds. In reality scientists working for MI6, the British equivalent to the CIA, had given the soldiers LSD to test its use as a mind control drug.

In another set of experiments victims received doses of radioactive substances and were then studied to determine the effects of radiation on the human body starting in 1945 and continuing until the 1970s. The studies received funding from the Department of Defense, the CIA, and the Department of Energy under programs MKULTRA, the MANHATTAN Project, and the Boston Project. The unwitting test subjects included patients at hospitals, people receiving treatment from University medical departments, and prisoners. In one study 18 patients were injected with plutonium by doctors at the University of California in San Francisco as part of the MANHATTEN Project. Another experiment involved radiating the testicles of prisoners in state prisons in Washington and Oregon. The men involved were paid a fee for receiving a dose of radiation, for each time a testicle was biopsied and for completing the experiment. As a precaution each prisoner was given a vasectomy. Though the men had volunteered and been paid, a lawsuit in 1976 brought out the fact that they men had received 100 times the maximum recommended dose of radiation. In other experiments clouds of radiation were released into the atmosphere to assess dispersal rates, often affecting populated areas. This was the case when the Hanford Nuclear Facility released radioactive iodine-131 in a project code named GREEN RUN over 8000 square miles that included the city of Spokane, Washington.

Under MKULTRA, children were given injections of radioactive or fed radioactive food at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Minnesota, and John Hopkins. Pregnant women were given doses of radiation as part of their prenatal care at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee. Also under MKULTRA in 1961 mentally challenged children were given radioactive iodine at Wrentham State School by researchers from the Boston University of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, and the Massachusetts General Hospital. While the fate of every victim is not known, amongst the pregnant women who received radiation several had children who died. Regardless, none of these people had given consent. This would be the case in other experiments conducted by other nations as well. The British exposed military personnel to the affects of nuclear testing in the 1950s in Australia. The Soviet Union used German, Italian and Spanish prisoners of war for radiation experiments up to 1962 and performed ‘submersion’ experiments, and Amnesty International has classified their treatment of political prisoners in psychiatric hospitals as ‘torture’.

The examples presented thus far of illegal human experimentation and the shielding of war criminals has largely depended on researchers who have reviewed government documents through the Freedom of Information Act. The total number of victims of illegal human experimentation committed after World War II is not known due to the continued classification of documentation related to this subject. However, the fact that such crimes are documented not only proves their existence; it also proves that the environment for scientists to perform these types of experiments can exist in diverse political cultures.

Science & Government

If these crimes can happen in any country regardless of it’s political culture, are there particular aspects that they share that can tell us if the potential for systematic illegal human experimentation exists? From World War II on all of the previously mentioned countries were either in a state of war or perceived that they were. German and Japanese scientists were sponsored in support of the war effort while the Cold War was used to justify experiments conducted by the U.S., Britain, and the Soviet Union. In each of these countries those in government saw the security of the state as being under threat. Once the protection of the state became the primary focus, the experiments that were performed were deemed necessary regardless of their legality. Any concerns for the health and welfare of those that became victims became lost. The state became a sponsor, and scientists were freed to perform experiments without fear of prosecution. At this point these governments shared another aspect. The government decided who the victims would be. The German scientists experimented on concentration camp prisoners. In the U.S. experiments were performed on patients in mental wards and at hospitals, children under state care, prisoners and soldiers. In China the Japanese scientists experimented on prisoners of war and civilians, the Soviets on political prisoners and the British on men in the military. The victims were made such by the government.

It was the government’s sponsorship that created the environment for the systematic nature in which these crimes were committed. But what about the scientists involved? Could the argument be made that they too felt threatened and therefore acted out of a sense of patriotism? Or were their intentions purely academic? Answers to these questions can only come from those involved, and as of today little information is available on the majority of scientists involved. But a few examples do exist of scientists being questioned about how they viewed the nature of their work. The astrophysicist John Simpson, who was part of the MANHATTAN Project cautioned about criticizing the injections of plutonium that were given because without them “radioactive dangers would be greater throughout the world today.” Dr. Karl Brandt, when he was asked about his attitude concerning people dying during human testing replied, “Do you think one can obtain any worthwhile fundamental results without a definite toll of lives?” As for the notion of patriotism Wernher von Braun is quoted as saying he did not care who he worked for as long as they provided the funding. On a more general note insight can be gained from a story told by British physiologist J. B. S. Haldane. His father, also a physiologist, had put the younger Haldane into a coffin to test the effects of certain gases on the boy’s body. In another instance the elder Haldane submerged his son into a freezing lake, an episode in which the boy almost drowned. The fact that his father was willing to risk his life provides an opportune view into the level of risk scientists are willing to take concerning their test subject’s well being.

In order to avoid the risk of condemning all scientists the point must be made that there were those who spoke out against bringing German scientists to the United States. Concerned scientists, military personal and citizens protested the German scientists being allowed to receive citizenship and participate in society. They feared that the Germans would bring the racial hatred of the Nazi doctrine to the U.S. Debates amongst scientists also focused on whether acquiring the knowledge gained from war crimes and crimes against humanity was worth the cost of keeping the Germans out of prison. As for the German scientists who were brought to the U.S., a quote from Dora survivor Jean Michel shows the complexity of their legacy: “…I could not watch the Apollo mission without remembering that that triumphant walk was made possible by our initiation to inconceivable horror.”

As the existence of illegal human experimentation after the war was made public some members of Congress did call for hearings. One case that stemmed from the hearings on American experimentation made it to the Supreme Court. Though the victim, James Stanley, lost the case, in the dissent Justice William Brennan stated, “Having invoked national security to conceal its activities, the Government now argues that the preservation of military discipline requires that Government officials remain free to violate the constitutional rights of soldiers…” At this time no American scientist has ever stood trial for conducting illegal human experimentation under government sponsorship.


The purpose of the research presented here is not to lessen the impact of the crimes committed in Nazi controlled Germany. The horrors of the Holocaust happened on a scale unprecedented in history. But the fact that they have not been repeated in such a large systematic fashion cannot be seen as evidence that they never will again. Nor can it mean that smaller episodes are less significant in terms of their illegality. The number of victims alone is not what should be compared. Consider that the Germans and Japanese committed a larger volume of crimes in a relatively shorter amount of time on people they did not recognize the rights of and that the governments of both countries were open about their disregard for their victims. Their view was that the people experimented on were not citizens and therefore they had no rights. But then what can be said of the U.S. and Britain, countries that experimented on citizens whose rights were never supposed to be in question?

Again the point is not to make one case worse than the other. This research makes no distinction between illegal human experimentation committed during or outside times of war. And war alone cannot be seen as a necessary precondition for their existence, since the Tuskegee Study was not related to war-time activities. The environment in which they are performed is irrelevant. What is important is to recognize that as long as there exists a willingness in any government to put security and military concerns ahead of civil rights, then the environment can exist in which the conducting of these types of experiments is seen as a viable option. Compounding this is that scientists seem all too willing to perform experiments in violation of the Nuremberg Code when they know that the government will shield them from scrutiny.

The total scope of illegal human experimentation is beyond the limitations of this research. Other examples of illegal human experimentation committed by countries not discussed surely exist given that the mindset that sponsors them is one any political culture can assume. Just in the last decade it was revealed that the United States tortured prisoners of the War on Terror. While much of the information about this episode of torture remains today heavily classified, many in academia and the media have asked the question of whether doctors were involved in developing and administering torture techniques.

There is much more on the subject of human experimentation that needs to be studied. The same is true for the post-war rush to acquire German scientists and technology. Just how many scientists have been shielded from prosecution may never be known. But acknowledging the existence and wide spread nature of these crimes does make apparent the necessity for transparency in government and scientific inquiry. For if government is tasked with guiding science, then ultimately it is the responsibility of the citizenry to make sure their government acts in a manner consistent with the law.



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A Must Read (or two)

October 18, 2011

Sums it all up pretty darn well.

Universal suffrage and liberal freedoms empower all citizens in a radically equal manner. But the one-person/one-vote principle does little to prevent oligarchs from exercising the power of money in a manner that is profoundly unequal. Formal juridical equality is essential to human freedom. But full political equality, even in the most liberal democracy, is impossible as long as concentrated wealth places grossly unequal political influence in the hands of a few citizens. Democracy fused with oligarchy is certainly better than no democracy at all. But there should be no illusions that it is anything other than a partial step toward full political equality and representation.

OK, this is a good one too. Glenn Greenwald at his finest.