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Thread: Cold War Experiments on Guinea-Pig Soldiers

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    Cold War Experiments on Guinea-Pig Soldiers

    Colonel James S. Ketchum dreamed of war without killing. He joined the Army in 1956 and left it in 1976, and in that time he did not fight in Vietnam; he did not invade the Bay of Pigs; he did not guard Western Europe with tanks, or help build nuclear launch sites beneath the Arctic ice. Instead, he became the military’s leading expert in a secret Cold War experiment: to fight enemies with clouds of psychochemicals that temporarily incapacitate the mind—causing, in the words of one ranking officer, a “selective malfunctioning of the human machine.” For nearly a decade, Ketchum, a psychiatrist, went about his work in the belief that chemicals are more humane instruments of warfare than bullets and shrapnel—or, at least, he told himself such things.

    Within the Army, and in the world of medical research, the secret clinical trials are a faint memory. But for some of the surviving test subjects, and for the doctors who tested them, what happened at Edgewood remains deeply unresolved. Were the human experiments there a Dachau-like horror, or were they sound and necessary science? As veterans of the tests have come forward, their unanswered questions have slowly gathered into a kind of historical undertow, and Ketchum, more than anyone else, has been caught in its pull. In 2006, he self-published a memoir, “Chemical Warfare: Secrets Almost Forgotten,” which defended the research. Next year, a class-action lawsuit brought against the federal government by former test subjects will go to trial, and Ketchum is expected to be the star witness.

    The lawsuit’s argument is in line with broader criticisms of Edgewood: that, whether out of military urgency or scientific dabbling, the Army recklessly endangered the lives of its soldiers—naďve men, mostly, who were deceived or pressured into submitting to the risky experiments. The drugs under review ranged from tear gas and LSD to highly lethal nerve agents, like VX, a substance developed at Edgewood and, later, sought by Saddam Hussein. Ketchum’s specialty was a family of molecules that block a key neurotransmitter, causing delirium. The drugs were known mainly by Army codes, with their true formulas classified. The soldiers were never told what they were given, or what the specific effects might be, and the Army made no effort to track how they did afterward. Edgewood’s most extreme critics raise the spectre of mass injury—a hidden American tragedy.
    As the investigations progressed, half a dozen former test subjects sought to sue the government. Their cases were dismissed, based on a Supreme Court precedent, called the Feres Doctrine, which grants the Army immunity to tort claims filed by soldiers for service-connected issues. For a while, no one else came forward; many soldiers claim that, upon leaving Edgewood, they were instructed to swear a secrecy oath, and some held themselves to it. But in the nineteen-nineties the Defense Department began to lift the oaths, and volunteers gradually found each other on the Internet. Several years ago, two of them gathered up a pile of documents about the arsenal, which they called the Bible, and mailed it to Morrison & Foerster, the law firm in San Francisco, which agreed to take their case. A lawyer at the firm told me that millions of dollars had been spent on the litigation, and that he thought the lawsuit could end up being the most expensive pro-bono case in history.
    The NewYorker released a very good, long, & detailed article about Psycho-chemical Warfare experiments conducted on naive soldiers during the Cold-War, many of whom are now trying to sue the government.

    http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2...urrentPage=all
    Last edited by rob19; 12-10-2012 at 08:44 PM. Reason: typo
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