Poisoner in Chief

The use of a wide range of mind destroying drugs in secret sites around the world and doing so on non-consenting people by the CIA is detailed in the book "Poisoner in Chief Sidney Gottlieb and the CIA Search for Mind Control" (2019) by Stephen Kinzer. It took a long time for what was done to be exposed. The biological and chemical warfare work started in the 1940s (mass secret testing occurred in the US, include a city-wide test on San Francisco, which was thought to be harmless but was not) and the psychochemical warfare work began in 1951. It was not until 1975 that Gottlieb was called to speak about it, and it was not until 2019 when a book of this detail could be written (a span of 68 years).

Classified information takes time to emerge, but when it does it provides insight into the inner workers of intelligence agencies. In the WWII era, and following, the US engaged in internationally banned weapons research (for example: Ira Baldwin and biological warfare production banned by the 1925 Geneva Protocol). The US recruited and hired top Nazi biological and chemical warfare 'experts' who committed war crimes (an entire agency, the Joint Intelligence Objectives Agency and Operation Paperclip, was established to recruit such Nazi 'experts', 700 of whom were recruited and brought to the US, yet others worked for the CIA overseas, such as Kurt Blome; those that were too well known were supported to relocate elsewhere, such Walter Schreiber). The US hired biological weapons criminals to run hidden testing sites to conduct work that could not be done in the US (for example: Shiro Ishii who conducted "experiments" at sites in East Asia and provided all data to the Camp Detrick in the US, until captured by the Russians).

After WWII, the biological and chemical weapons initiatives sought to find a new mission – the fear that Russians had created mind controlling and/or mind opening (for coercive interrogation purposes) chemicals was used to justify what followed (psychochemical warfare). Projects tested chemical on prisoners (such as MK-NAOMI, Project Artichoke, MK-ULTRA), documents suggested that refugees, prisoners of war, and defectors would be ideal people to test. Mind control and 'truth serum' efforts were the focus. The experiments were applied in 'black sites' in Germany on German and Soviet prisoners (e.g., at Villa Schuster, amongst others) and in Japan on North Korean soldiers. All were considered 'expendables'. Within the US, Sidney Gottlieb undertook "medical torture" using pharmaceuticals and drugs (LSD, heroin, cocaine, etc), extreme temperatures and sounds, electroshock, testing toxin and radiation exposures, chronic hunger, prolonged "radical" isolation… "whatever they could imagine" (p. 56).

Overseas sites continued work in France, Japan, South Korea, West Germany, Canada. Tests were conducted on prisoners, criminals, people seeking treatment for mental illness, those struggling with addiction, children with disabilities, terminally ill patients, and unsuspecting civilians. Scores of "unfortunates" and "expendables" were killed and disposed of in the process. Assassinations were planned and undertaken using developed chemical weapons (including an in-country attempt at Prime Minister Lumumba in DRC, multiple attempts at Castro, others). Some of those who knew of, but disagreed with the work, ended up "committing suicide" under highly questionable circumstances. Some of the "research" was outsourced to university professors and medical professionals (in the US and Canada, providing funding via front "Foundations"; example: Cameron at McGill "destroying lives" of people who were seeking mental health care), of whom some knew the true objectives and others not. "Participants" included international students lured to study in the US via offers of scholarships funded by "Foundations". Records were intentionally destroyed (for example, in 1973 boxes of documents were destroyed, as were personal documents of Gottlieb). The White House paid off a family that attempted to file criminal a case, regarding the "suicide" of a government employee. Throughout, the book shows how the CIA and partners engaged in illegal and criminal activities, if not crimes against humanity, knowingly, and over decades. Worth a read. 

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Murdering Patrice Lumumba

Having recently read and posted about the letters, writing and speeches of Patrice Lumumba, I was looking forward the book by Gerard and Kuklick (2015), published by Harvard, titled "Death in the Congo: Murdering Patrice Lumumba". While it was well researched and interesting, it was a different book than what I was expecting, and I finished reading thinking that another book needs to be written (or maybe has been written?) that puts the Lumumba at the center, rather than others at the center in their efforts against him. The book outlines a wide array of actors seeking to murder Lumumba, with the Belgians and the CIA taking the lead, the authors end with this: "… the West could not conceive a stand-alone African state akin to European countries in its economic and political capabilities. Lumumba aspired to a greatness the West would not abide." (p. 217)

Other notes:

"The pro-Western United Nations had large debts to the United States, and in addition the United States would pay for much of the Congo operation of the UN. Its leadership regularly consulted not only with the US delegation to the United Nations in New York, but also with American diplomats in Washington. The peacekeepers would do whatever fighting had to be undertaken, and many of the African nations who contributed troops received training courtesy of the United States and purchased military equipment at a discount. More or less at American bidding, the United Nations might dampen the conflict in the just-born nation. The Americans soon had an understanding that Secretary-General Hammarskjöld would contain Lumumba." (p. 57)

"The Belgians advised Kasa-Vubu about what they considered a coup d'état, but Kasa-Vubu used the UN to carry it out. In the aftermath of Kasa-Vubu's radio performance, the Belgians thanked the Americans for egging on Hammarskjöld, yet while Washington supported the coup, it did not intervene as had Belgium. The UN led the way, although Hammarskjöld did discuss his outlook with the Americans and presumed himself in concert with them. Whether Cordier's throwing his weight around was good or bad, the UN violated its mandate, and meant to overturn Lumumba. Hammarskjöld had written that the prime minister must be "forced to constitutionality"; then the secretary-general had pushed Lumumba out of office by unconstitutional means." (p. 103)

"After Washington decided to assassinate, Devlin made eight separate suggestions over a three-week period on how the Americans might accomplish the murder, and he enlisted other to help." (p. 151)

"Eyskens warned: "In the actual state of things, it is necessary to contemplate the eventual return of Lumumba." This fear may have inspired another murder attempt. A Greek called "Georges" arrived in Brazzaville, probably in the beginning of November. Belgians in Brussels had hired him to kill Lumumba at his residence." (p. 175)

"On the tenth day Lumumba, Mpolo, and Okito rose from the dead a last time. Soete unearthed the cadavers and then used a hacksaw to sever the extremities—arms, legs, heads—from the three decaying carcasses. Soete wore a mask and gloves, and drank a lot. Three upper bodies remained. The lawman repeatedly refilled the the barrel with acid. Like the extremities, the torsos were small enough so that the grave robber could throw the chunks of rotting flesh into the vat and have them eaten away. But there was not enough acid, and flesh and bones that had not been obliterated had to be burned, although Soete held on to a few keepsakes like teeth. The butchering took two days and nights." (p. 208)

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