Type VX nerve gas kills by coming in contact with the skin or by being inhaled. A single drop, if not immediately removed, will result in vomiting, involuntary defecation, convulsions, and a complete paralysis of the central nervous system that ends in death. From contact to death the time elapsed is about ten minutes. Type VX is slightly more sophisticated than the bow and arrow. At the Rocky Mountain Arsenal in 1968, scientists began to wonder just how much more sophisticated it really was.
One of the difficulties for generals and scientists in developing and evaluating the effects of a new type of nerve gas is that both international law and basic human decency forbid its use in war. But international law and human decency are never great barriers for the Pentagon to leap. Thus it was that the Rocky Mountain Arsenal's Research and Development Division received permission from the Pentagon and the Department of Defense to have U.S. Special Forces in Indochina provide them with guinea pigs -- in the form of North Vietnamese troops. At that moment "Project Waterfall" became known as "Project Red Cap" and changed from a research project to a military operation.
The Pentagon required that the target troops be at known enemy bases along the Ho Chi Minh Trail in northeastern Cambodia. If the Pentagon was satisfied that the selection of the troops and area would have little chance of including civilians, it would allow the Air Force to drop Type VX gas canisters on the target troops. It was, to say the least, 'a golden opportunity' to observe how real nerve gas in real combat conditions made real 'enemy' really dead.
A Special Forces Unit operating from a base located in Cambodia and known as 'B57' selected a target on the K2 Front. The target was located about ten miles inside Northeast Cambodia. It was an equipment recovery station operated by the 94th North Vietnamese Army recovery group. In late June or July of 1968 the United States Air Force dropped two fifty-pound canisters of Type VX nerve gas on this outpost. Each canister contained an explosive charge that shattered the casing at a pre-set altitude and released the lethal compound over a wide area.
Shortly after the drop had been made the Military Assistance Command -- Vietnam (MACV) was alerted by the Department of Defense to issue confidential bulletins to high-level military commanders in the field. The bulletins warned the commanders to be alert for an unusually virulent epidemic of 'malaria' on the K2 Front.
How many 'enemy' died from the two canisters of Type VX? It is impossible for the public to find out. Two canisters were dropped. Dr. Gordon Kilgour, the chairman of the Chemistry Department at Portland State University, has said that one canister of Type VX gas is enough to kill two and a half million if properly dispersed. It could then be assumed that everything that walked, flew, crawled or lay within the immediate vicinity of the target area was dead several thousand times over within fifteen minutes after the explosive charges shattered the steel casings and a light mist began to fall across the verdant and bomb-scarred landscape of northeastern Cambodia.
To any decent human being, one might suppose that this previously unreported account of the use of nerve gas to kill Orientals half a world away is as shocking as it is repulsive and outrageous. But in 1972 it is a fact that this nation has, is and will continue to deliver as its major gifts to the world and history an assemblage of weapons, appropriations, political attitudes and nihilistic assumptions about the cheapness of human life that grows increasingly grotesque and deadly.
Regardless of the desires of its citizens, and in most cases in spite of them, the United States today is a Disneyland of Death addicted to immense injections of federal funds into the Military-Industrial Complex (MIC). This addiction to the economy of mass slaughter, like any other kind of addiction, requires constant and ever-increasing amounts of the narcotic (in this case money and its attendant massive profits -- along with minimal jobs) to keep it from presumed recession and civic strife.
The myth that the U.S. would never use CBW first is as full of holes as Pat Nixon's first cloth coat, or, if you prefer, as full of holes as her husband's 1969 announcement that we were reducing our deadly dabbling in microscopic death. Reports persist concerning several incidents during the Korean War of the use of insects to disseminate disease among the North Koreans and the Chinese. The U.S. has used tons of tear gas in Vietnam over the last five to ten years. It has also used crop-destroying agents, some of which have been shown to cause death in the weak and elderly as well as being able to create birth defects when pregnant women are exposed to them. The U.S. has, at least once, 'tested' 'Type VX' nerve gas on a contingent of North Vietnamese troops (see page 26). The nation also holds the dubious position, along with Australia and Portugal, of refusing to sign the only operative agreement prohibiting the use of CBW. The record gives the lie to the myth concerning our 'humane' interest in CBW.
Just what is CBW in the 1984 enclaves of our 1972 world? How would you like a brief tour of our CBW manufacturing, testing and storage facilities? You will need a "Q" security clearance, testimonials from prominent Senators and Congressmen, permission from the top brass in the Pentagon, an air-tight rubber suit, several decontamination chambers, a knowledge of chemistry and medicine and a cast-iron stomach. Is your suit sealed along with your lips and your imagination? Good. Let us go then, you and I.
Go where? You have a choice. You can go to the Rocky Mountain Arsenal just outside of Denver, Colorado, or perhaps you would prefer Pine Bluff, Arkansas. No? Then try the Edgewood Arsenal in Maryland, or Fort Detrick in the same state. Striking westward you could end up at Umitilla army base in Hermiston, Oregon after passing through Dugway Proving Grounds in Utah, through Fort McClellan, Alabama and a brief stopover in Newport, Indiana. All of the above named plants manufacture, test, and store all or portions of the following inventory of the major known weapons in the Chemical and Biological Arsenal of the United States of America:
ANTHRAX: A disease that would be likely to kill only twenty percent of any group that was exposed to it, provided that massive and adequate medical treatment was available. The symptoms that Anthrax produces are high fever, vomiting, hemorrhage, headaches and bloody diarrhea.
RABBIT FEVER: People usually get this disease from rodents by means of fly bites. Rabbit Fever causes the lymph nodes in the body to swell, with a resultant high fever. Sometimes these swollen lymph nodes transform themselves into ulcers. A bit more unpleasant than the common cold, but you can cure it with certain antibiotics if you happen to have them in your pocket.
BOTULISM A: A few people may recall that this virus killed a couple of folks when it cropped up in some cans of soup in the summer of 1971. Because the ingestion of this virus results in a paralysis of the eyes, throat, chest and the entire respiratory system, it is almost always fatal.
Q FEVER: Kinder than most of the biological weapons, this one won't kill you; it will merely waste you for a long time. The advantage of this bug is that it is highly infectious. You can spread it around very quickly and very easily. All you have to do is to breathe out near someone who is breathing in.
VENEZUELAN EQUINE ENCEPHALOMYELITIS: A deadly disease that inflames the brain and spinal cord. It can be carried and dispersed by migrating birds. If you think this bird idea is pure theory, be informed that the Pentagon has put a number of millions of dollars into finding out just how this could be done.
STAPHYLOCOCCUS ENTEROTOXIN: Another 'humane' germ. It will only make you vomit violently for a number of days. Unless you are weak, old or pregnant it won't kill you.
SHELLFISH POISON: This item won't kill you either. It will merely attack your nervous system and paralyze you. If you don't mind being a vegetable, you'll be all right.
BZ GAS: At times this chemical has been known to produce an extremely dead human being. Most of the time, however, it renders you either catatonic or homicidal, depending on what sort of person you are to begin with.
TYPE GB AND TYPE VX NERVE GAS: Agents that kill within ten minutes of contact with the skin or the interior of the lungs. There are a number of unsavory signs that the person affected is about to die, but, generally speaking, if the convulsions don't get you then the paralysis of the central nervous system will.
MUSTARD GAS: Used extensively by both sides in World War I, mustard gas causes blistering lesions on flesh. If you don't have a gas mask and breathe a mouthful of it, it will do the same thing to the insides of your lungs.
TYPE DM RIOT CONTROL AGENT: A gas that induces violent sneezing and vomiting. Not at all like the effect of a cannabis cigarette.
TYPE CS AND CN TEAR GAS: A number of Vietnamese have had the unwelcome experience of this gas in Vietnam. A number of students and third world people have had the same experience here at home. Here it is used to convince people that they would be more comfortable watching the whole 'demonstration' on television. In Vietnam, the Army proclaims that it is being used just as humanely. It uses CS and CN to drive Vietnamese 'enemy' and civilians alike out of the caves where they have taken shelter so that they can be humanely bombed by B-52s.
WHITE PHOSPHORUS ROCKET WARHEADS: Ostensibly, white phosphorus is only used in Vietnam as a means of tracing the path of bullets and marking targets. The Pentagon calls it 'smoke munitions.' The U.S. Army consistently maintains that phosphorus is not being used as an 'anti-personnel' weapon. Conversely, a large number of Vietnamese (most notably children) are turning up with the kind of burns, wounds, and scars that only white phosphorus can inflict.
These are only a few of the many strange and varied doomsday products you would be likely to run across in your tour of the government-maintained plants that manufacture them. The Pine Bluff Arsenal also has a stock of bullets smeared with Botulin A. There is only one practical use for such ammunition -- assassination. It wouldn't be necessary to score a direct hit on a victim; a flesh wound would be sufficient.
In 1969 President Nixon announced that the United States was renouncing the first-use of CBW, shutting down many of the factories that produce the weapons of CBW, and cutting back on the funds available for research and development in this grisly field of modern scientific endeavor. By 1972 the following things have actually been done:
President Nixon in his historic announcement restricting the use and development of CBW agents qualified his statement by adding that the U.S. would continue to research defenses against virulent diseases and gases. Separating defense and offense in CBW is like trying to remove the head of the mule from its neck and still have something that will pull your cart. Say that someone in the Pentagon gets the notion that Russia or China or Monaco is producing a new biological weapon, which we shall call "Hummingbird Venom." Naturally, we must have a defense against this deadly toxin, lest some warped maniac unleash millions of lethal hummingbirds along the Mexican border and shoo them into the U.S. But how does one go about finding a cure for Hummingbird Venom? You guessed it -- it is necessary to invent a venomous hummingbird! Hence, research for defense against CBW is identical to research for offense. Score one for Richard Nixon.
Although the President said that many CBW plants would be shut down, this has yet to happen. What is happening is that many of the plants that make toxins and bacilli are simply 'merging' with other agencies on the land they now occupy. Thus, the Army lets it be known that the Pine Bluff Biological Warfare Center in Arkansas will become the Food and Drug Administration's National Center for Toxicological Research. A month after the announcement, Pine Bluff purchases a million and a half dollars worth of automatic equipment designed to package chemicals. Then advertisements appear in newspapers asking for bids on five items like ammunition and explosives that will be needed at the Pine Bluff Center. This is not the sort of thing that the FDA usually deals in. The Edgewood Arsenal, in a similar leap into the jungles of government letterheads, no longer exists. It's simply a department of the Aberdeen, Maryland proving grounds. It didn't really go anywhere. It just changed its name. Score another few points for the President.
In 1969 the pith of the President's announcement on the reduction of factories and research was that there would also be a cut in funds available for CBW work. After all, if we are going to have less research and fewer factories, and fewer people employed in this business we can expect to spend less money, right? Examining the federal budget for 1971 we find that the Army requested $25.3 million for CBW weapons procurement. This year the Army is requesting $50.8 million -- more than double the amount of the year before. Final score in the CBW Pro-Bowl: President Nixon -- 1000, U.S. Citizens -- 0.
The only effect of Nixon's 'historic' CBW position paper has been to obfuscate the ongoing and ever-heightening investment of the United States into immense stockpiles of lethal germs and toxins. The public is being stroked into submissiveness on the issue of germ warfare by soothing statements from the White House and 'smokescreen' press releases from the Pentagon. The United States has not cut back its CBW programs. If anything it has doubled its efforts in this area. It has also doubled its efforts to hide this fact from the rest of the world.
There is a long history of CBW use in the United States that dates back to before the Revolutionary War. The first practitioner on record was Sir Jeffrey Amherst. Sir Jeffrey was the Commander-in-Chief of the British forces in America during the 1760's. In a move toward the final solution of the Indian problem in 1763, Sir Jeffrey sent several blankets and a handkerchief from a British smallpox hospital to some Indian chiefs as "gifts." Most of the tribes involved were soon dead from smallpox. The chiefs themselves didn't even have time to get off a thank-you note.
During the Civil War it was common practice for both sides to adorn the waterholes and ponds they passed when retreating, with the carcasses of pigs and horses. In a short time this sort of additive made the drinking water highly unpalatable.
Although the U.S. dabbled in retaliatory gas attacks against the Germans in World War I, it was the founding of Fort Detrick in Maryland during the 1940's that marked this nation's entry into the modern phase of CBW. Fort Detrick employed about 5,000 people by 1945 and employs many more today. It is undoubtedly the backbone of the American CBW weapons development system. Fort Detrick is reportedly about to go up for sale to someone who needs a well-located, up-to-date plant that is able to produce nerve gas, bubonic plague, and tear gas twenty-four hours a day. It has been in the 'preparatory' stages of going up for sale since around the time of the President's announcement. No buyers have been found and none are solicited. Until such a time as someone can be found to buy it, the Army will continue to use it.
In 1952, the United States was accused by China and North Korea of engaging in biological warfare in both of these countries. The International Scientific Commission was called in to investigate these charges. They reported there were several localized areas of large epidemics. American planes had been seen or heard flying over every area just prior to the outbreak of disease. The ISC also found unusually high concentrations of insects in these locales. These insects were also unusual in that they were either previously unknown in these areas, or appeared there in different seasons. The insects also appeared in the areas quite rapidly, rather than at the pace one might expect if they were just flying in or hatching. Some fleas were found to be carrying bubonic plague. Clams were found that were infected with cholera. The American government and its allies energetically denied all of the charges and the ISC's report was widely criticized as being based on circumstantial evidence and political bias. The affair was forgotten, but with the advent of new charges and reports concerning CBW use in Vietnam the case shows signs of being reopened.
Meanwhile, at Fort Detrick, the Rocky Mountain Arsenal, the Dugway Proving Grounds, and a number of other sites, work in CBW went on much as it had. Every year saw more great leaps forward in the fields of silent slaughter. Recently, five thousand sheep were killed when a targeted drop of nerve gas in a testing area near Dugway went astray in an unpredicted wind. The sheep were forty-five miles from the target area and only the fact that it was raining and snowing during the night prevented the cloud of gas from reaching Interstate 40 a few miles further on. If the wind had been blowing in a slightly different direction the gas could have been carried into Salt Lake City, to the intense dismay of its residents.
Another area of the Dugway Proving Grounds is labeled "Permanently Biocontaminated." The agent of contamination here is the world-renowned Venezuelan equine encephalitis.
The problems with Dugway go back nearly twenty years. A veterinarian in Utah has stated that Anthrax outbreaks occurred often in the area around Dugway in the late 40's and early 50's. Accidents involving nerve gas and disease have occurred with some regularity at all other storage areas and proving grounds. If you have a lot of something that can go wrong in numerous ways, sooner or later something will go wrong.
What can be done about the ongoing research and manufacture of CBW weapons systems? There currently exists in the world an international agreement known as the Geneva Protocol. The Protocol was drafted in 1925. Representatives of the United States helped to draft the document. The agreement essentially outlaws the first use of chemical or biological warfare. To this day the United States has not ratified the agreement. Eighty member states of the United Nations have voted to ratify the Protocol. Three nations voted against the Protocol. They were Australia, Portugal and the United States. One of the reasons the United States refuses to ratify the Protocol is that the agreement outlaws the use of tear gas and defoliants along with the more lethal types of CBW. Since the U.S. is admitting to the use of both tear gas and defoliants in Indochina, it can't very well ratify something it is currently violating. Can it?
Lest it be thought that the United States government is doing nothing to limit CBW, let us look at the record. The U.S. is on the verge (in fact, they are eight months behind schedule) of destroying a lot of mustard gas that was left over from World War I, and can be presumed to have been obsolete as a CBW weapon for over fifty years. Next summer the U.S. is supposed to destroy a small part of its nerve gas inventory, a part that is housed in 'obsolete delivery vehicles.' This small portion of the total amount of nerve gas in our stockpiles comes to 21,107 cluster bombs with gas inside them. These 21,107 bombs contain two trillion lethal doses of nerve gas, or enough of this chemical to kill every man, woman and child on the face of the planet six hundred and sixty-six times. This is only the obsolete portion of the arsenal, mind you.
And, by the way, just how do you get rid of nerve gas once you have gone so far as to make it? You can't just climb into the bunker, pull out the corks, and pour the stuff down the drain into the sewer. How about putting it in big concrete blocks, hauling it by train across the country, stuffing it into ships and taking the ships out to a deep part of the sea and sinking them? Not a bad idea if you can get it across the country with no accidents, load it safely, sink it successfully, and then pray the ship and concrete never wear out at the bottom of the sea. The Germans did this during the First and Second World Wars. Some muddleheaded scientists have said that we are about to see some of these chemicals reappear in the form of dead fish, dead fishermen, and dead coastal cities. Partisans of the German and the American military have shouted cries of "Quack" and "Muddleheaded." Only time will tell, but it's not a nice surprise to have to wait for.
Okay, you don't sink it in the sea. Maybe you drill a big hole into the ground and pump it all in and then seal up the hole. This technique was tried at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal. All kinds of gases, chemicals, and other nasty pollutants were pumped down one well deep into the bowels of the earth for months. Suddenly, Denver began to experience the first earthquakes in its history. By seismographic analysis, scientists in Colorado and California located the cause of the trouble in the very well down which waste products were pumped. The Army began by saying there was no connection. Nevertheless, it was soon noted that when there was no pumping there were no earthquakes. The Army then stopped the well entirely, since it would have been futile to try to show the public that they were mistaken. Scratch another disposal method.
The techniques now being used involve efforts to sterilize it, mix it with other chemicals to render it harmless, and bury the gas in eternal time capsules for our descendants to deal with.
What lies ahead in the fascinating realms of CBW? Almost anything you can imagine, if you care to imagine those kind of things. Very soon we will see the specter of gases against which there is no defense and which don't lose their potency over a period of time.
Dr. J.B. Neilands (Professor of Biochemistry, University of California, Berkeley) has said:
The future is important to consider. The science of biochemical genetics is at a stage where they can produce an organism that is uncontrollable. First you simply make an organism that is resistant to the common run of antibiotics. You could do this through exposure of the organism to the antibiotics and selection of those organisms that developed an immunity to them, or you could inject it with a genetic package that would confer immunity upon it. It's now possible to create organisms which defeat the immune reactions of the body. It is technically possible to create a germ that is highly contagious and incurable. And to do this is going to prove to be cheaper than any of the large weapons, even if it is more unpredictable.