DOWNTOWN
February 6, 1991

Whither Nuremberg?
By Paul DeRienzo*

President George Bush says that Saddam Hussein's treatment of U.S. war prisoners constitutes a violation of the Geneva Conventions. He wants the Iraqi strongman brought before an international tribunal after the war, as the deposed Nazi leaders were at Nuremberg. But a lawsuit brought by the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen claims that the Bush administration is itself violating the Nuremberg

Principles by testing experimental anti-germ warfare drugs on U.S. service people in Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf without their informed consentEvidence also points to U.S. complicity in the development of the Iraqi biological warfare capability, which the Pentagon's testing program is supposed to defend against.


The Simon Wiesenthal Center, a watchdog group on anti-Semitism and genocide, cites U.S. Department of Commerce records of transactions in which a Maryland-based nonprofit group, the American Type Culture Collection, sent approximately 20 biological agents to Iraqi scientists. The center also cites an NBC News report from April 11, 1990 that the federal Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta sent three shipments of West Nile Fever virus to Iraq's Salman Pak bacteriological' research station on the Tigris River in 1985.


On Nov. 16, 1990, President Bush signed Executive Order 12735, reading: "I, George Bush, President of the United States, find that proliferation of chemical and biological weapons constitutes an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States and hereby declare a national emergency to deal with that threat."


On Dec. 21, 1990, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) responded by issuing an "interim regulation" allowing the FDA commissioner to "make the determination that obtaining, informed consent from military personnel for the use of an investigational drug ... is not feasible in certain battlefield or combat related situations." This regulation allows the Department of Defense to request exemptions from the informed consent requirement on a case by case basis.


Shortly thereafter, the Pentagon undertook a mandatory-testing program of experimental vaccines on troops stationed in the Middle East with Operation Desert Storm, the code name for the war against Iraq. On Jan. 11, Public Citizen announced that it was bringing suit in federal court against the Departments of Defense and Health & Human Services, the FDA's parent department.


Representing a soldier stationed in Saudi Arabia and his wife, the case is a class action suit on behalf of all Operation Desert Storm troops. The soldier and his wife are being named only as John and Mary Doe. Public Citizen is seeking an injunction to stop the testing, which the Pentagon will neither confirm nor deny is actually taking place. Depositions have already begun in federal court.


Public Citizen spokesperson Bob Dreyfuss says that the mandatory testing program violates both Pentagon and FDA and regulations, and the U.S. Constitution. Dreyfuss says that the "due process" clause of the Fifth Amendment secures the right to refuse unwanted medical procedures.


Dreyfuss also says that the program violates the Nuremberg code established by the victorious Allies in the wake of the Nazi atrocities. "Concentration camp victims and prisoners of war were routinely experimented on [in Nazi Germany]. After World War II there was an international understanding that such experiments were absolutely verboten. Human beings should not be used as guinea pigs."


Dreyfuss emphasizes that Public Citizen is not advocating that service people be "barred from receiving potentially lifesaving remedies to biological warfare agents." We're trying to uphold their rights by giving them a piece paper to sign outlining the risks and benefits."


A more critical view of the program is being advanced by the Foundation on Economic Trends (FET), the Washington based lobbying group which closed down the Pentagon's Utah bio-warfare research station, the Dugway Proving Grounds, in a, 1986 lawsuit.


FET’s Andrew Kimbrell says that recombinant DNA technology renders countermeasures against bio-warfare agents completely ineffective. "Genetic engineering can alter viruses in such infinite varieties that any vaccine or interventive technique is absurd."


The vaccine that the Pentagon is using is believed to be a defense against genetically altered anthrax agents, which may be stockpiled by Iraq. Kimbrell says that anthrax vaccines generally take 18 months to provide any immunities, and in' this case "it is uncertain that they will provide any." Like Iraq's altered anthrax viruses, the Pentagon's vaccines are probably based on recombinant DNA -- and Kimbrell maintains that recombinant vaccines can actually increase vulnerability by eroding the body’s immune system.


What, then, is this testing program really about? Kimbrell that a worst case scenario is that it is a hoax. Under the guise of national security they are using young men and women as human Guinea pigs. They are using wartime as an excuse to test medicine on human subjects without their consent."
Kimbrell says that the Nuremberg proscription against such experimenta-tion is so serious that "there is even controversy as to whether scientists today should draw on the Nazi experiments in their research."' But the Nazi experiments were conducted on prisoners of war and concentration camp inmates. "They didn't anticipate that a country would experiment on their own citizens.


Prior to the Operation Desert Storm testing program, the federal government and private concerns have on occasion gone abroad or turned to clandestine operations to test new drugs and medicines. In 1986, Philadelphia's Wistar Institute, a research firm which has received federal funds tested a new genetically altered rabies vaccine on cattle in Azul, Argentina, around 200 miles southwest of Buenos Aires, without the knowledge of the Argentine government.
In 1977, Senate hearings revealed that between 1965 and 1967 the U.S. Army conducted top-secret chemical and biological warfare tests in the San Francisco Bay Area. In one incident, an aerosol borne bacteria was sprayed from a ship in the mouth of the bay, exposing an estimated 800,000 citizens. The Pentagon claimed that the bacteria, known as Serratica, is harmless and that the experiments had only been aimed at tracing its flow through the population. But the release apparently led to an outbreak of rare Serratica-related pneumonia in the Bay Area.

The Senate hearings also revealed that both the Army and the Central Intelligence Agency had conducted bacteriological and chemical tests in the streets and subways of New York City in the late '50s.

The Philadelphia Inquirer recently determined through the Freedom of information Act that from 1964 to 1968 the Army, in a joint program with the University of Pennsylvania, tested new drugs on 320 prisoners in Philadelphia's Holmesburg Prison. These were not defensive drugs, but offensive, aimed at disorienting war prisoners for interrogation. The mostly African American inmates were paid $25 per injection.

At a public address in New York City on Sept. 18, 100, CIA Director William Webster said, "Iraq has a sizeable stockpile of chemical and biological weapons. " Asked by a reporter to provide more details, Webster said that he could "not expand or qualify my statement without getting into classified information."

Kimbrell says it is "the height of hypocrisy to talk about biological warfare development in Iraq without even mentioning the hundreds of millions of dollars we are spending on exactly the same thing." Bio-warfare research in the U.S. today is ostensibly only "defensive," but Kimbrell believes that this is a smokescreen for offensive technology. "In the early stages, the research is identical -- you have to develop the pathogen and the delivery system before you can develop the defense."

New York's WBAI radio has reported hearing from a woman who says her daughter stationed in Saudi Arabia with Operation Desert Storm was scheduled to be tested with the experimental vaccine when she last h from her. She expressed her intent to resist vaccination and has not been in contact with her family since.

*Bill Weinberg

Return to...
Let 'em Talk | NWO.MEDIA