Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Against Their Will


A new book, Against Their Will: The Secret History of Medical Experimentation on Children in Cold War America, is a thoroughly researched study on a topic that is not really new or even truly secret: the use of human subjects for medical experimentation, against their will and often even unwittingly, by the U.S. government in the mid-20th century. There has already been much documentation on the subject; here is a link, from the excellent website resource,  to a summary of stories that are in the public domain, reported by mainstream sources, about our government, military and intelligence establishments using human beings as unwilling research subjects in gruesome "scientific" medical studies:

The difference this time is the focus on children as the victims of horrible, unethical experimentation by doctors and scientists from America's most prestigious hospitals and universities, with the full support and participation of the CIA and other U.S. government agencies. No exaggeration, no conspiracy theories; it is simply a matter of historical record.

What exactly are we talking about? It is really too sickening to go into detail about it. The blurb from includes this brief description:
They were drafted as "volunteers" to test vaccines, doused with ringworm, subjected to electric shock, and given lobotomies. They were also fed radioactive isotopes and exposed to chemical warfare agents.
And that barely scratches the surface.


The context is important to the understanding of this, and why it is relevant today. This activity is known to have exploded and flourished during the Cold War, especially in the late 1040's - early 1950's, when fear of Communism was used to justify a wave of deeply unethical and criminal activity by our government.

In addition, at that time period in the middle of the 20th century, the concept of "eugenics" was still a powerful force behind a lot of scientific and medical activity. What is eugenics? Let's start with a simple online dictionary definition:
"the study of or belief in the possibility of improving the qualities of the human species or a human population, especially by such means as discouraging reproduction by persons having genetic defects or presumed to have inheritable undesirable traits (negative eugenics) or encouraging reproduction by persons presumed to have inheritable desirable traits (positive eugenics)"
In case you're not getting the point, here's this helpful line from Wikipedia:
Early proponents of eugenics believed that, through selective breeding, the human species should direct its own evolution.  They tended to believe in the genetic superiority of Nordic, Germanic and Anglo-Saxon peoples; supported strict immigration and anti-miscegenation laws; and supported the forcible sterilization of the poor, disabled and "immoral."
Link to the full entry:

The Wiki article is disturbing but essential to begin to understand the scope of the eugenics movement in the it rose to prominence in the early 20th century. Lest you think this was just some small fringe group of radical nutcases, the article makes clear that this movement was populated by a large swath of the scientific community, funded by the biggest corporate foundations like Rockefeller and Carnegie, and codified into law in the form of segregation, immigration restrictions, and the most hideous of all, compulsory sterilization enforced by law in 30 states. Only after Hitler was revealed to have carried eugenics to its most horrifying extreme did the movement fade in the U.S., but it didn't go away. During the Cold War era of the late 40's and 50's, the fear of Communism was hyped up to a level of hysteria that made it possible to revive the blatantly inhuman concept of eugenics, in order to justify the abuse of not just racial and ethnic minorities but also mentally challenged, physically disabled, sick and poor children. Again, just history.

What you have here is a perfect example of the muddy waters of human motivation, where genuine commitment to a mission, perceived as important and virtuous, coexists with a ruthless detachment and a lust for power and control, unrestricted by any sense of ethics or morality. I wrote a blog post on that subject I hope you'll go back and check out, called "True Believers and Manipulators:"

I'm sure many of the players involved in the experimentation on children were motivated by a passionate belief that extreme measures were necessary to save us from the even worse fate of being overrun by a Communist military dictatorship. That belief, and the fear and paranoia it generated, made it easy for them to put their faith in a junk science that assured them it was OK to experiment on these kids because they were genetically inferior. Meanwhile, others were just happy to take government or foundation money for their universities, hospitals and labs.

But all of them were manipulated by those who organized, funded and directed this activity, who themselves held irrational and conflicting motivations. I quote myself here, from my other blog post:
Mark Crispin Miller, in his introduction to a recent reprint of Edward Bernays Propaganda, points to an answer, as he discusses the dual nature of the minds of demagogues such as Hitler, Mussolini, McCarthy and others.  While on the one hand, they appear to be radically committed to their mission, on the other they are detached and manipulative.  Miller proposes that it is actually both - they are "fanatical and cynical at once, neither wholly in control nor wholly ecstatic.  Such agitators work within a certain mental borderland, where one can never clearly see conviction as distinct from calculation.  Indeed, that inner murkiness appears itself to be the very source or basis of the mass manipulator's enigmatic power, and so we cannot comprehend it through schematic dualistic formulas."

Many will often dismiss warnings about the slippery slope we are currently on in the U.S.: warnings like the constant invocations of national security being used to justify endless military actions abroad, increasing militarization of the police at home, increasing government surveillance of the public, increasing operation of government in secret, etc, all promoted by nationalistic propaganda pretending to be news. I have written about this several times now:

So I ask you: is the propaganda, the misinformation, the stirring up of fear and paranoia posing as patriotism any different today than it was then? Are government leaders any less prone to the corrupting influence of money and power? Is one's racial or ethnic identity or economic status any less of a factor in one's being considered an equal member of society? Are scientific and medical institutions any less interested in cashing in on the expansion of government programs driven by fear and paranoia? Are corporations any less ruthless than they were before in their pursuit of economic enrichment at any price? Are the elites in the upper echelons of government and finance any less disdainful of the other 99.99% of humans in this world?

The book Against Their Will provides its own answer to that question by exposing the fact that the experimentation on children never actually stopped, it has just been moved off-shore, away from prying eyes. As one reviewer on Amazon says:
If you thought that at the beginning of the 21st century things like the ones described before stopped, you are wrong.  As the authors point out, American institutions have been replaced by China, India, Tunisia and Nigeria as sites for Phase One drug studies.  Drug firms now travel to "places where regulation is virtually nonexistent, the FDA does not reach, and the mistakes can end up in pauper's graves."
So since the answer to all the above questions is so obviously no, then why shouldn't we be concerned, no, disturbed, no make that outraged, at the direction our society is going?


It is not pleasant to have to look upon the dark side of human nature; much easier to look away, avoid the issue, and live in willful ignorance, especially when the evil is found to be embedded in our most revered cultural institutions: government, science, medicine. But such knowledge is inescapable. Indeed, awareness of the past, and putting current events in the context of history, are necessary steps on the path to a more peaceful and compassionate future. So don't run and hide; look it in the eye. Weep, puke, rage if you have to. It is a rite of passage. Let it propel you forward into doing whatever you can do to shift the balance of power in the "real" world from fear over to love.

I have offered my thoughts on this before, and will continue to do so. Please read my posts, "The Absence of the Light," and "Solutions," for my perspectives on the crucial importance of bringing love, compassion, humility and forgiveness into our lives, as a serious, practical approach to countering the negative influences in the world.

This is where our true power lies, and we must learn to wake up to it, own it, and use it. As I said in Absence of the Light:
And to anyone who finds this naive or can see no practical value in focusing on these concepts, we must thank them and continue on our way.  We have seen countless examples, time after time, how the actions of one person can make a difference to many others.  The simple act of extending humble generosity, compassion and forgiveness to another can have powerfully positive ramifications.
As I also suggested in that blog, it is the children that often end up being the ones who show us the way. We have so much to learn from them. We should sign up for the course.

Links to reviews and commentaries on the book:

Your thoughts and questions are are always welcome. Please leave a comment below. You can comment anonymously as a guest, but if you take a moment to register, you'll be able to exchange comments with TruthDots or others, and be notified when people respond to your comment.

Feel free to share this post using any of the buttons below.

No comments:

Post a Comment