Germs, Gas and Bugs:
Made in USA

Revolutionary Worker #1126, November 11, 2001, posted at

In 1763, Lord Jeffrey Amherst was looking for a new weapon to fight the Native peoples who were resisting British colonial advances into the Ohio Valley. In a letter to Colonel Henry Bouquet, commander of British forces in Pennsylvania, Amherst wrote: "Could it not be contrived to send the smallpox among these disaffected tribes of Indians? We must on this occasion use every stratagem in our power to reduce them."

Bouquet replied, "I will try to inoculate them...with some blankets that may fall into their hands, and take care not to get the disease myself."

Amherst wrote back: "You will do well to try to inoculate the Indians by means of blankets as well as to try every other method that can serve to extirpate this exorable race."

Bouquet ordered one of his officers, Captain Ecuyer, commander of the "Royal Americans," to call the Delaware chiefs to Fort Pitt to negotiate and give them infected presents. On June 24, Captain Ecuyer wrote in his journal, "Out of our regard for them, we gave them two blankets and a handkerchief out of the smallpox hospital. I hope it will have the desired effect."

Shortly afterward, smallpox spread through the Indian peoples of the Ohio River, causing many deaths among the Mingo, Delaware and Shawnee people.


The tradition of biological warfare among the Anglo-American power structure on the North American continent is a long one.

You could even say that biological warfare is as American as cherry pie.

And today, as the U.S. government and media search for "suspects" in the incidents of anthrax, it is important to remember that the U.S. military is the world's leader in the development, production, proliferation, and use--massive use--of chemical and biological weapons.

This brief history offers some highlights:

World War 1

After refusing to sign the international agreements of 1898 and 1907 to ban "projectiles the sole object of which is the diffusion of asphyxiating or deleterious gases," U.S. forces used 1,000 tons of phosgene, mustard gas and chlorine shells against German troops after entering World War 1 in 1917.

All told, the combatants in that first World War fired a total of 124,200 tons of toxic gas shells, resulting in 400,000 casualties. The resulting outcry led to the 1925 Geneva accord, signed by the U.S., outlawing all use of asphyxiating, poisonous or other gases.

World War 2--The Beginning of the
U.S. Biological Weapons Program

Chemical and biological weapons were not used extensively on the battlefields of World War 2, although the Nazis used poison gas in massive quantities in their death camps.

But during the course of World War 2 the U.S. created the Chemical Warfare Service (CWS), later the Army Chemical Corps--budgeting millions of dollars to develop deadly biological weapons. Along with this they enlisted universities and private industry.

According to a historical chronology by the Chemical and Biological Weapons Nonproliferation Project, "In August 1942, George Merck, president of the Merck & Co. pharmaceutical company, accept[ed] the position as head of the newly created War Research Service (WRS), the coordinating agency that joins government and private institution resources to carry out the U.S. biological warfare program. Headed by a small cadre of well-connected individuals, the WRS [began] to conduct research at dozens of American universities."

The U.S efforts were to culminate in the dropping of anthrax bombs on Germany. An article in the LA Times in 1987 reported on the findings of Stanford University historian Prof. Barton J. Bernstein: "British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was advised that 1,000 projectiles, each of 500 pounds and containing 106 four-pound anthrax bombs, could destroy life in a 25-square-mile area. Potential targets included Berlin, Hamburg, Frankfurt, Aachen and Wilhelmshafen. American production of the bombs fell too far behind schedule to make available enough of the anthrax weapons in 1944, Bernstein said, and by 1945 'Germany was near surrender.'"

In 1943 the U.S. secretly sent a cargo ship with 100 tons of 100-pound mustard bombs to the European theater, supposedly for retaliation if the Germans used gas against Allied forces. When the Germans bombed the ship, 83 sailors died and 534 were seriously injured. The truth concerning this incident remained secret until 1959.

China, Korea, and
The Cold War

Following World War 2 the U.S. turned its attention to the Soviet Union, the People's Republic of China and Korea.

In December 1951, the U.S. Secretary of Defense had ordered that the "actual readiness be achieved in the earliest practicable time" for offensive use of biological weapons. Within weeks, the chief of staff of the Air Force reported that such capabilities "are rapidly materializing."

Though the U.S. continues to deny it, North Korea reported that they were targets of U.S. biological warfare involving plague agents in 1951.

In 1952, the Chinese and North Korean governments accused the U.S. of dropping germ bombs on North Korea and northeast China. To investigate these charges, the People's Republic of China helped form the "International Scientific Commission for the Investigation of the Facts Concerning Bacterial Warfare in Korea and China." It included scientists from Sweden, France, Italy, Russia, Brazil and England. The Commission concluded: "the peoples of Korea and China did actually serve as targets for bacteriological weapons. These weapons were used by detachments of the armed forces of the USA...including cholera-infected clams, anthrax-infected feathers, plague- and yellow-fever-infected lice, fleas, mosquitoes, rodents, rabbits, and other small animals." The U.S. denied these charges, but later admitted it did have the capability of waging such germ warfare.

According to William Blum, author of Rogue State, the U.S. also dropped "huge amounts of napalm on Korea, an average of 70,000 gallons daily in 1952."

From the end of World War 2 in 1945 until 1991, the Soviet Union was the U.S. imperialists' main target, and various plans were developed to prevail in war against the Soviet Union.

The U.S. developed, tested, and stockpiled a wide array of chemical and biological weapons for use in war against the people of the Soviet Union.

And the U.S. government often secretly tested these weapons systems on people in the Caribbean, Canada, and the U.S. itself.

In 1977 it was revealed during Senate Intelligence Committee hearings that from 1949 to 1969, the U.S. military secretly conducted 239 open-air tests of biological agents--80 of which used live bacteria. The military supposedly thought the bacteria were harmless, but in a number of cases this was not true. In 1994 one professor who studies biological warfare testified that for over 20 years the Army released clouds of "simulant" microbes and chemicals over hundreds of populated areas.

These experiments included:

From the late 1940s to some time in the 1950s, a joint U.S.-Canada-British team sprayed bacteria in the Bahama Islands of the Caribbean. Thousands of animals died as a result of the tests.

In 1950, the Army sprayed the entire city of San Francisco with billions of the Serratia marcescens bacteria from a Navy ship cruising outside the Golden Gate. The bacteria was supposedly harmless, but 11 people were hospitalized for severe urinary and respiratory infections and one person died.

During the 1950s, U.S. army researchers also dispersed serratia bacteria on Panama City and Key West, Florida, and released cancer-causing zinc-cadmium-sulfide particles in Winnipeg, Canada, Minnesota and other Midwestern states to see how far they would disperse.

In 1966, military researchers spread bacillus subtilis variant niger in the subway, where the germs carried for miles.

In 1965, the military released bacillus globigii at Washington's National Airport and Greyhound Bus terminal.

The 1977 hearings also revealed that from 1956 to 1961, the CIA carried out a secret program called MK-ULTRA. These mind-control experiments consisted of agents in cities across the country spiking drinks with mind-altering drugs like LSD and mescaline and then "observing" the actions of the unsuspecting victims. Many hallucinated or became sick and at least two deaths resulted from the experiments.

Between 1944 and 1974, the Defense Department and the Atomic Energy Commission studied the impact of radiation by secretly exposing many thousands to harmful doses of radioactive materials, including injections of plutonium. In 1995 a government committee reported there had been more than 4,000 such experiments in scores of hospitals, universities and military bases--usually conducted without the knowledge or consent of the victims.

From the 1940s to the 1990s, the U.S. used Panama as a testing ground for chemical weapons, including mustard gas, VX, sarin, hydrogen cyanide and other nerve agents. Some of the earlier tests exposed U.S. troops with horrific results for some of the soldiers. The U.S. military also conducted secret tests of Agent Orange and other toxic herbicides in Panama during the 1960s and '70s--spraying jungle areas to simulate battlefield conditions of Southeast Asia. When the U.S. military invaded Panama in 1999, residents of the mountain village of Pacora, near Panama City, reported being bombed with a chemical substance that burned their skin and produced intense stinging and diarrhea. The U.S. forces left behind many sites with chemical weapons residue in Panama, including numerous chemical weapons dropped from planes that failed to detonate.

Vietnam--Napalm, Agent Orange
and Nerve Gas

The U.S. unleashed the most vicious and intense air war in world history against the people's war waged by the North Vietnamese and the National Liberation Front of Vietnam.

Seven million tons of bombs were dropped on Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos--three times as many as had been dropped in all of World War 2. Chemical weapons such as napalm, white phosphorus incendiary bombs, Agent Orange, tear gas, and nerve gas were all part of the U.S. arsenal.

In all, an estimated three million Vietnamese people died in the war and millions of acres of crop land and jungle were poisoned.

Napalm. This syrupy jellied gasoline was widely used by the U.S. to burn down forests, villages, and people--and came to symbolize the horror and criminality of the U.S. war. Napalm burns at more than 5,000 degrees--and keeps burning after it sticks, sometimes burning people to the bone. Napalm sucks the oxygen out of the air, asphyxiating anyone nearby.

Nick Ut was the Associated Press photographer who took the now famous picture of a young Vietnamese girl, Kim Phuc, running in terror after being burned by U.S. napalm. He said, "Napalm was everywhere in Vietnam, and I shot a lot of pictures of it. That day, I took a picture of a little boy who died right there in front of my camera. Then a few minutes later, I shot a picture of Kim Phuc."

Defoliants and Agent Orange. The U.S. began destroying the jungles used by Vietnamese liberation fighters and the crops of the Vietnamese farmers as early as 1961 when it began supplying South Vietnamese pilots with massive amounts of Agent Orange--a 50/50 mixture of the defoliants 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T--and other defoliants, including some containing arsenic, and training them in its use.

By 1967, U.S. pilots were flying 18 massive C-123 transports outfitted with special tanks capable of carrying 10,000 pounds of Agent Orange and high-pressure nozzles for spraying; and the U.S. was spending $60 million a year on the operation. A Japanese study that year claimed that U.S. attacks had ruined more than 3.8 million acres of arable land in South Vietnam. One Vietnamese peasant described a three-day chemical attack near Da Nang in February 1966:

"Affected areas covered 120 kilometers east-west and 150 kilometers north-south. Five minutes was all that was needed to wither tapioca, sweet potato...and banana plants. Livestock suffered heavy injuries....Most of the river fish were found lying dead on the surface of mountain streams and brooks. The three days of chemical attack poisoned scores of people, took the lives of about 10 and inflicted a "natus" disease [with symptoms like a severe rash] upon 18,000 inhabitants."

It was also revealed in 1980 that the U.S. had sprayed Agent Orange over 23,607 acres of southern border of the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea.

Tear gases. In 1962 the U.S. began supplying the puppet South Vietnamese army with CN tear gas and CS--or super--tear gas, as well as DM nausea-inducing gas. These were first used to attack anti-government protests and later widely used in military operations--in violation of the 1925 treaty prohibiting such gases in war. Often U.S. helicopters would drop hundreds of tear gas grenades to try and flush Vietnamese liberation fighters out of their tunnels or hide-outs, and then U.S. bombers would saturation bomb the area. In one such attack in May 1966, the U.S. dropped 12 tons of CS gas near the Cambodian border.

Nerve gas. In 1998 CNN and Time magazine reported new revelations of the use of chemical weapons by the U.S. in Vietnam: the U.S. had used nerve gas in combat. During "Operation Tailwind," the U.S. military used sarin nerve gas on a targeted village--which included Indochinese civilians, American military deserters, and fighters of the Vietnamese and Laotian liberation armies. CNN/ Time's report claimed there were at least 20 other instances in which the U.S. used nerve gas during the Vietnam War.

Retired Adm. Thomas Moorer, the Chief of Naval Operations during the Vietnam War and later Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, confirmed that the U.S. had CBU-15 cluster bombs, designed to deliver nerve gas, and he admitted that they had been used repeatedly during the Vietnam War. Under intense pressure from the U.S. imperialist establishment, including the military, CNN later retracted their story and fired those who reported it. A number of the reporters, however, have stuck to their report.


In 1962, a sugar shipment bound for the Soviet Union was contaminated by CIA agents with a chemical agent when the ship was forced to dock in Puerto Rico for repairs. Fearing public outcry and exposure, President Kennedy ordered that the sugar not be put back on board the ship. But a CIA official later revealed that "there was lots of sugar being sent out from Cuba and we were putting a lot of contaminants in it."

That same year, an American military intelligence agent paid $5,000 to a Canadian technician working as an agricultural advisor to the Cuban government to infect Cuban turkeys with a virus that would produce a fatal disease.

In 1971, the CIA turned over a virus which causes African swine fever to Cuban exiles--six weeks later an outbreak of the disease--the first ever recorded in the Western hemisphere--forced the slaughter of 500,000 pigs.

Ten years later, an epidemic of dengue hemorrhagic fever--leading to 300,000 cases of the intense flu-like illness and 158 fatalities--swept Cuba. This was the first reported case of dengue fever in the Americas. It was later revealed that tests done on mosquitoes in the U.S. in the late 1950s included mosquitoes bred to carry dengue fever. And in 1984, a Cuban exile on trial in Miami testified that in late 1980 he had traveled from Florida to Cuba with "a mission to carry some germs to introduce them in Cuba to be used against the Soviets and against the Cuban economy."

In October 1996, a Cuban pilot observed a U.S. crop-duster plane releasing some kind of mist about seven times over Matanzas province. Operated by the U.S. State Department, the plane had obtained permission to fly over Cuba on a trip to Colombia. Two months later, Cuba observed the first signs of a plague of Thrips palmi, a plant-eating insect never before detected in Cuba, which spread rapidly--affecting corn, beans, squash, cucumbers and other crops. In April 1997, Cuba submitted a report to the UN charging the U.S. with "biological aggression."

The Iran-Iraq War

The U.S. imperialists have been on a 10-plus-year rant against the danger of Iraqi "weapons of mass destruction."

However, they never seem to mention several key facts. First, almost all of Iraq's weapons systems have been dismantled by UN inspectors.

Second, the U.S. and its allies supplied Iraq with the capacity to produce chemical and biological weapons. According to a 1994 Senate report, between 1985 and 1989 a "veritable witch's brew of biological materials" were exported to Iraq by private American suppliers "pursuant to application and licensing" by the U.S. Department of Commerce. These materials included anthrax, botulism toxin, and e. coli bacteria. "It was later learned," the committee reported, "that these microorganisms...were identical to those...found and removed from the Iraqi biological warfare program."

Third, when Iraq actually did use these weapons the U.S. barely objected because at the time U.S. leaders considered it in their interests to support the Saddam Hussein regime in its war with Iran.

Iraq used chemical weapons, mainly mustard gas, against Iranian troops in 1984, 1985, and 1986. The U.S. initially criticized Iraq but would not agree to any Security Council action against Iraq. The Security Council only succeeded in denouncing Iraq in 1986, two years after Iraq's initial chemical attack.

In the late 1980s, the Iraqi regime used poison gas on the oppressed Kurdish people with no serious U.S. protest.

The Persian Gulf War

Poison Water. The U.S. government and press won't call it biological warfare, but that's what it is. During "Desert Storm," U.S.-led forces deliberately targeted Iraq's water system and electrical grid, totally destroying 11 of Iraq's 20 power generating stations and damaging another six. As one Iraq relief official explained, "When you destroy the infrastructure of a country, sewage with all its germs will flow into the streets; you stop pure water from reaching the children; you give them malnutrition; you prevent medicines from reaching the country. So it's an excellent environment for death and disease."

Since the war, the U.S. has blocked Iraq from rebuilding its civilian infrastructure with punishing sanctions. The contamination of Iraq's water supply, coupled with shortages of food and medicine, has led to sharp increases in disease, starvation, and death across Iraq.

The UN estimates that 5,000 Iraqi children die every month as a result.

Radioactive shells. The U.S. military introduced a new weapon in the Persian Gulf War--armor-piercing anti-tank shells made of a radioactive material known as "depleted uranium" (DU). The military claimed these weapons pose no radiation danger, but when DU shells explode, they release highly poisonous dust that can be inhaled or ingested and then trapped in the body--where it can cause lung and bone cancer and kidney disease.

U.S. forces fired off 860,590 rounds of such depleted-uranium munitions during the Gulf War. Hundreds of tons of exploded DU ammunition were left in Iraq and Kuwait, turning the area into a huge toxic waste dump. An August 1995 study submitted by Iraq to the UN reported sharp increases in cancers and various diseases in Iraq's southern region. Iraqi health officials say radioactivity levels in southern Iraq are "150 to 200 times the background level," and that "our cancer incidence has increased 10 times during the past few years."

The Nation reported, "A secret British Atomic Energy Authority report leaked to the London Independent in November 1991 warned that there was enough depleted uranium left behind in the Persian Gulf to account for '500,000 potential deaths' through increased cancer rates."

Another study, by the Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm Association, found that out of 10,051 Gulf war veterans who have reported mysterious illnesses, 82 percent had entered captured enemy vehicles and probably been exposed to DU munitions.

Toxic Clouds over the Gulf and the Gulf War Syndrome. After the Gulf War, tens of thousands of GIs and reservists began experiencing debilitating and sometimes life-threatening medical problems: immune system failure, respiratory problems, severe joint and muscle pain, headaches, nausea, diarrhea, dizziness, fatigue, loss of memory, sores, intestinal and heart problems. Some Gulf vets developed cancers, and many babies born to Gulf war veteran families have birth defects. These illnesses have come to be known as Gulf War Syndrome, and by March 1996 over 80,000 U.S. vets were suffering from it.

Many questions remain about the cause or causes of Gulf War Syndrome, but most researchers are certain that these health problems result from war-time exposure to toxic chemicals and other poisonous substances.

U.S.-led forces bombed chemical, biological and nuclear facilities in Iraq--one Senate investigation found that 18 chemical, 12 biological and 4 nuclear facilities were hit--and debris from the bombings was carried by the wind and spread over a wide area of Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Iran. Some vets and others also say that exposure to chemical and biological poisons occurred as a result of Iraqi missile attacks against U.S. and other Coalition forces.

There is clear evidence that top government and military officials knew the troops were exposed to toxic chemicals--but the military establishment refused to admit there was a problem until 1996--five years after the war ended.

Many vets also believe their illness results from being made guinea pigs for experimental and unapproved vaccine cocktails--supposedly to protect them from Iraqi chemical and biological weapons that the U.S. military forced them to have before the war.

The Balkans War--
Assaulting Yugoslavia's Environment

Scientists warned NATO that bombing the Pancevo's industrial zone would unleash a cancer-causing, environmental nightmare--but NATO planes bombed it nonetheless--more than 20 times in a two and one-half month period. At least 80,000 tons of oil and 3,000 tons of ethylene dichloride, vinyl chloride monomer and mercury burned in one night of bombing--all known toxins and suspected carcinogens. One professor at Belgrade University called the 1999 attack a "chemical war," which released hundreds if not thousands of known toxins and carcinogens into the environment, threatening the region's ecosystem and threatening Yugoslavia's food chain.

U.S. jets also fired 31,000 depleted uranium shells during the Balkans War.

Assaulting Arms Control and Developing More Deadly Biological Weapons of Mass Destruction

Today, the rulers are spreading panic over anthrax and threatening massive military action against any who use chemical or biological weapons against the U.S. But meanwhile, these same hypocritical imperialists are working to further gut existing agreements banning the development and production of biological weapons--which have never been seriously enforced--so that they can build their own biological arsenal.

For the past 10 years, countries around the world have been in negotiations over how to enforce the 1972 Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, signed by 143 nations including the U.S., which bans the development, production and possession of biological weapons. These negotiations are to culminate in an international conference in November. Yet this past summer, the U.S. announced it would refuse on-site inspections and instead argued that the focus should be on punishing those who develop or use biological weapons--after the fact.

In the October 25 issue of Counterpunch, the Sunshine Project writes that while currently the Convention bans a whole class of weapons, the U.S. is attempting to "permit a stratification of biological weapons into 'good' and 'bad' ones. This would permit the United States (and other countries) to continue work on a number of biological weapons under development, including anti-crop fungi ("Agent Green"), Pentagon work on so-called "non-lethal weapons" to control (in the U.S. military's words) 'potentially hostile civilians,' and the U.S. Navy's genetically-modified superbugs that consume materials, such as plastics, jet fuel, rubber, and asphalt."

According to the Sunshine Project, the U.S. also wants to "shift the arms control focus away from prevention of biological weapons development" to taking action against violators. And whatever action would be taken under U.S. proposals would be tailored to its own imperialist interests -- that is friends and allies would be allowed to slide, while opponents and targetted regimes would be assaulted.

U.S. opposition to strengthening the Convention comes after stunning new revelations of secret U.S. biological warfare projects. In "U.S. Germ Warfare Research Pushes Treaty Limits," the New York Times, September 4, 2001, reports that "over the past several years, the United States has embarked on a program of secret research on biological weapons that, some officials say, tests the limits of the global treaty banning such weapons."

These U.S. programs, called "Clear Vision" and "Bacchus," were intended to develop biological weapons production facilities in Nevada.

The Times also reports that "Earlier this year, administration officials said, the Pentagon drew up plans to engineer genetically a potentially more potent variant of the bacterium that causes anthrax, a deadly disease ideal for germ warfare." The U.S. is opposed to international inspections because it wants to keep such projects secret.

The U.S. claims these programs, which "mimic the major steps a state or terrorist would take to create a biological arsenal," are all for defensive purposes.

But after the imperialists' long history of unleashing massive biological and chemical horrors on the peoples of many countries, why should anyone in their right mind believe them?


"When U.S. attacked itself--Government tested germs, drugs on unsuspecting citizens," San Francisco Chronicle, October 28, 2001

"Of Microbes and Mock Attacks: Years Ago, the Military Sprayed Germs on U.S. Cities," Wall Street Journal, October 22, 2001.

"Hunting the Longshadows Exposed: U.S. Nerve Gas Crimes in Vietnam War," Revolutionary Worker #962, June 21, 1998

"Military Says Goodbye to Napalm," San Francisco Chronicle, April 4, 2001

"The United States and the Iran-Iraq War," Stephen R. Shalom, online at

"The United States vs. Iraq--a Study in Hypocrisy," by William Blum, February 9, 1998

"Umatilla Residents See Nerve-Gas Facility As Bulls-Eye in the Wake of Terror Attacks," Wall Street Journal, October 23, 2001

"U.S. Seeks Changes in Germ War Pact," New York Times, November 1, 2001

"U.S. Germ Warfare Research Pushes Treat Limits," New York Times, September 4, 2001

"Gulf War's Deadly Legacy," San Francisco Chronicle, March 11, 2001

Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower, William Blum, (Common Courage 2000)

Iran and Iraq At War, Shahram Chubin and Charles Tripp, (Westview 1988)

Chemical & Biological Warfare--America's Hidden Arsenal, Seymour M. Hersh (Anchor Books 1969)

"Eyewitness Report: What the U.S. Bombs Have Done to the People of Iraq," Revolutionary Worker #1120, September 30, 2001

"Gulf War Syndrome: The Cold Cover-up," Revolutionary Worker #884, December 1, 1996

"Eco-Crisis Feared in Yugoslavia--Scientists say NATO air attacks did long-term damage," San Francisco Chronicle, August 11, 2000

"Police Brutality, USA: 'Systematic and Widespread,'" Revolutionary Worker #978, October 18, 1998

"Two Fisted Assault on Germ Weapons Control: Will the Bio-Weapons Convention Be Left Standing?" The Sunshine Project, in Counterpunch, October 25, 2001

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