Tuesday, August 16, 2005

The Secret Sharers: A Bargain With Evil

What would you call people who paid sadistic torturers for the information they had gleaned from macabre medical experiments on their helpless captives – and then used these evil findings to make biological weapons?

Why, you'd call them members of "the greatest generation," of course!

As we learn from ABC News (Australia) this week, the American victors in World War II "gave money and other benefits to former members of a Japanese germ warfare unit two years after the end of World War II to obtain data on human experiments the unit conducted in China."

U.S. military intelligence showered millions of dollars on these Mengeles – along with "food, gifts, entertainment and other kinds of rewards" (emphasis added). One shudders to think what this unnamed largesse entailed – "comfort women," perhaps? It seems nothing was too good for these "top-flight pathologists" who murdered more than 3,000 Chinese, Russians and others in their torture chambers.

Their patron was Brigadier General Charles Willoughby, head of the G2 intelligence unit of the US occupation forces in Japan. In his reports to his superiors, Willoughby waxed lyrical on the cost-efficient benefits of his war-criminal wooing. The killers' "data on human experiments may prove invaluable," and was "only obtainable through the skilful, psychological approach" to the torturers – i.e., buying them off.

"All of these actions did not amount to more than 200,000 yen, netting the [United States] the fruit of 20 years' laboratory tests and research," Willoughby wrote. The cost of obtaining the data, said the general, was "a mere pittance."

The "cost" of this information, of course, was not the money, booze and broads that Willoughby laid on for these wretched preservers of medicine and science; the cost was 3,000 human beings subjected to unimaginable anguish and vicious destruction. But then, human life is always considered "a mere pittance" to those caught up in the great engines of power, in the vast inhuman structures – military, political, economic – that grind through individual lives like combine harvesters winnowing chaff. Even the agents of these structures – the high and mighty drivers of the engines – are reduced to desiccated husks, their own humanity hollowed out and drained away to grease the gears of the Machine.

And why did Willoughby and his agents so assiduously pursue the evil fruits of the torturers' work? In order to inflict unimaginable anguish and vicious destruction on other victims, on a mass scale, in some future conflict. The "information procured will have the greatest value in future development of the US BW (bacteriological warfare) program," Willoughby enthused to the brass.

This was part of a larger operation that saw the United States incorporate the fruits of Nazi medical experiments, Nazi methodology – even Nazi agents – into its biological and "psychological" warfare programs and its intelligence apparatus. One particularly illuminating – and chilling – example of this process can be found in the piece below. (Apologies for an earlier link to the wrong story; the link is now correct.)

The Secret Sharers:
The CIA, the Bush Gang and the Killing of Frank Olson
(August 28, 2002)

There is a thread running through modern American history, a thin red cord that weaves in and out of the shifting facades of reason and respectability that mask the brutal machinery of power. At certain rare moments the thread flashes into sight, emerging from the chaotic jumble of unbearable truth and life-giving illusion that makes up human reality. It appears, bears witness, then vanishes again, forgotten behind the next facade.

It's a thread that runs from horrified young intelligence operatives stumbling into the death camps of Nazi Germany to hardened agents running assassination programs in the jungles of Vietnam to august men of state building a shadow government with secret decrees authorizing tyranny, murder, torture and deceit. It's a thread of moral corruption, corruption by an idea, a temptation, a perversion of reason, the whisper of evil that says: "The end justifies the means."

That thread fetched up briefly again earlier this month, then was buried, literally, in a Maryland grave. The family of Frank Olson laid his exhumed remains to rest, closing the book on their half-century of struggle to find out why he died so violently at the hands of the government he had served – and whose deepest secrets he had guarded.

Frank's son, Eric, believes he knows the answer now: his father was murdered to keep the thread from sight, to "protect" the American people from the knowledge that their own government had taken up and extended Nazi experiments on mind control, psychological torture and chemical warfare – and that it was conducting these experiments as the Nazis did, on unwilling subjects, on captives and "expendables," even to the point of "termination."

Story continued here.