Appendix 78a - Biological Warfare

by Michael Greger, MD and United Progressive Alumni

[ Medical School Resources | Appendices | Discussion ]


"Public health in reverse."[974]

On June 24, 1763, Captain Ecuyer gave blankets and a handkerchief from the smallpox hospital to the Native Americans and recorded in his journal, "I hope it will have the desired effect." So started American biological warfare.

From JAMA:

In the United States, an offensive biological program was begun in 1942.... Five thousand bombs filled with [anthrax] were produced at Camp Detrick.... By the late 1960's, the U.S. military had developed a biological arsenal that included numerous bacterial pathogens, toxins, and fungal plant pathogens that could be directed against crops to induce crop failure and famine.

Eight installations in the continental United States currently host aging stockpiles of [an estimated 25,000 metric tons of] chemical warfare agents.... The M55 rocket is the only declassified stockpiled element; as of December 31, 1983, there were 404,596 rockets, each containing 5 kg of [nerve gas] agent GB (sarin) or agent VX [enough to theoretically kill 12 million people each].... [Each of our mustard gasses] were formulated especially to cause major injuries or death to enemy forces in wartime and were acutely lethal at sufficiently high doses.[975]

Material Wealth

The American military was in love with biological weapons. Major General Thomas J. Hartford, for example, described them as, "an excellent means of producing noneffectiveness without causing damage to material things."[976] The decision to at least publicly terminate our offensive biological warfare program was more motivated by pragmatic considerations.

From JAMA: "The United States had a strategic interest in outlawing biological weapons programs.... By outlawing biological weapons, the arms race for weapons of mass destruction would be prohibitively expensive, given the expense of nuclear programs."[977] A recent Brooking's Institute study concluded that the cost since 1940 of the U.S. nuclear arsenal alone has been more than $5 trillion. As of 1998, the United States continues to spend $35 billion annually on nuclear weapons, similar to the budgetduring the Cold War.

Appendix 78b speaks to these priorities.

 


 

[974] Liberman, R, W Gold and VW Sidel. "Medical Ethics and the Military." New Physician 1968(November):17-27.

[975] Carnes, SA and APWatson. "Disposing of the US Chemical Weapons Stockpile." Journal of the American Medical Association 262(1989):653-659.

[976] Liberman, R, W Gold and VW Sidel. "Medical Ethics and the Military." New Physician 1968(November):17-27.

[977] Christopher, GW, et al. "Biological Warfare." Journal of the American Medical Association 278(1997):412-417.

 


 

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