Guinea Pigs and Mind Games

The last year has seen a steady stream of reports from the United States about the biological and nuclear weapons testing programmes of the US government and its agencies. As many have suspected, the US has been using military and civilian human “guinea pigs” for several decades in bio-warfare and radiation experiments. Some disclosures have come via requests from concerned individuals under the US Freedom of Information Act while the Department of Energy has released a number of documents which reveal America’s true nuclear heritage.


The liberal Energy Secretary Hazel O’Leary offered “full disclosure” early last year of the decades of abuse of an unwitting population by the government, military and scientific establishment. Reports in the US media have so far focused on the release of information concerning the horrific injection of humans with plutonium without informed consent. Rather less has been reported about the facts which first came out, “that throughout the forties and fifties the military dropped radioactive dust over vast areas of the Western States . . .  in an on-going test of the biological effects of radiation poisoning” (EMF, ELF and Cold War Nuclear Guinea Pigs by Jim Martin in Flatland 11).


President Clinton, recognising the potential danger of such disclosures to the authority of the US state, has distanced himself from O’Leary, characterising her stance as “very emotional”. Indeed, in recent months O’Leary has announced that the scope of the inquiry will be limited due to what she terms “national security” considerations. Even so, sufficient information has come forward about the fascistic methods of bio-warfare testing used on the US working class to cause widespread concern, if not in some quarters outright panic. The revelations thus far are only the tip of an extremely dangerous iceberg, and given the nature of some of them, we can only wonder at those horrors that have been deliberately kept secret.


But enough has been disclosed to reveal the true nature of the American ruling class’s contempt for its subjects. Here is a cross-section of recent disclosures in the US of experiments in bio-warfare and radiation testing over the last fifty years, (additional sources: Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Flatland magazine and Lobster):


  • 1942-6 Dr Joseph G. Hamilton of the University of California hospital at San Francisco proposed a radioactive aerosol as a military weapon. Experiments were conducted giving “lethal dose” exposures to terminal patients. At least one of the “terminal” patients had been misdiagnosed: he only had an ulcer.
  • 1945 in Miami, Florida, radioactive needles were placed in an Army private’s nostrils. At the Vanderbilt University Medical Center 751 late-term pregnant women were given radioactive water 30 times background radiation levels at a free clinic.
  • 1948-52 Twelve “battlefield radiation” tests were carried out over Tennessee and Utah. The US Air Force dropped radioactive cluster bombs dispersing as much as 15,000 curies in open-air fall-out tests.
  • 1951 In Virginia, aspergillus fumagatus, a potentially lethal bacterium, was released upon mainly black workers at the Norfolk Naval Supply Center.
  • 1951 In a nation-wide test 235 newborn babies were injected with radioactive iodide. In Memphis six out of every seven babies selected were black.
  • 1957 Mainly non-English speaking Eskimos in Alaska were given an apple and orange each for their participation in Army tests to inject them with radioactive iodide.
  • 1963 At least 34 underground nuclear tests in the US released significant levels of radiation into the atmosphere.
  • 1953-65 The CIA initiated a full-scale mind-control programme under the code-name MK-ULTRA. Experiments included lobotomics, electroshock, sensory deprivation and drugs According to the book Acid Dreams: The CIA, LSD and the Sixties Rebellion by Martin Lee and Bruce Shlain, “nearly fifteen hundred military personnel have served as human guinea pigs in LSD experiments conducted by the US Army Medical Corps”. In one experiment, black inmates at the Lexington Narcotics Hospital were given LSD for 75 days in gradually increased doses. The US government has paid out millions of dollars in recent years to settle lawsuits brought against them over MK-ULTRA.
  • 1966 In a case since well-documented in the British press, retarded children in a school in Massachusetts were given doses of radiation in their breakfast cereal
  • 1970 A recent Freedom of Information Act request produced a NASA report entitled Implantable Biotelemetry Systems, describing the development of radio receivers which could be implanted in the brain. Many US citizens claim to have undergone surgery for such implantation and lawsuits are currently pending.
  • 1973 Prisoners in Oregon and Washington agreed to have their testicles dipped in radioactive water for the princely sum of S5..00 per week.


It has been estimated that it has cost $200 billion in the US alone to clean up after the nuclear research of the Cold War. The human cost is incalculable. Furthermore, it is likely that the experiments conducted in the US have been replicated to certain degrees in other countries with nuclear programmes like Britain, Russia and South Africa. And bio-warfare experimentation continues to be a growth area not only in the “acceptable” and “democratic” citadels of capitalism like the US but in the up-and-coming gangster states also, from Iraq to North Korea.


Meanwhile in Britain it has just been revealed in an answer to Shadow Defence Secretary David Clark by the Director of the MOD’s Porton Down militaiy research establishment that LSD experiments were carried out on British troops in the 1960s. Clark says he is deeply concerned about this — and well he might be, for it was Labour in power for much of the time when the experiments were being carried out. According to a report in the Sunday Times (6 November) retired military personnel are still suffering severe side-effects from horrific experiments, including where they were strapped to a table before being administered with high doses of hallucinogenic drugs. It is claimed that large numbers were involved in brutal tests at Porton Down — 7,000 alone from 1944 to 1959 and many more thereafter. The Sunday Times states that “some were told that they would be assisting with research into a cure for the common cold; instead they say they were given nerve gas”.


What could illustrate the barbarism of the capitalist system better, even during so-called times of peace? Here for all to see is the competitive drive towards armed conflict ensuring that nation states treat the working class alternatively as cannon fodder and as guinea pigs for their inhumane and murderous experiments. As socialists have always contended, capitalism is not worth dying for, it is clear that less and less is it a system worthy of working-class support either – civilian or military. •


Dave Perrin