Baseless: My Search for Secrets in the Ruins of the Freedom of Information Act
Bats With Napalm Vests and Other Great American Innovations
WN: This is horrible! Unconscionable! Despicable! Exponentially Hypocritical! . . . and whatever other superlative expletives can be thrown at U.S. planning, developing, experimenting, and deploying instruments of biological warfare cum mass destruction. And it is true! And staggering! That “normal” humans, quite likely to this day, in America daily donned their white coats and evil minds and headed off to work: all directed towards “fantasizing, researching, developing, testing, threatening, feigning, and lying about BW.” And they came home from work, hugged the kids, kissed their wives, watched Disney TV and felt good about “It’s a Small World After All”, then Sundays went off to church singing “God Bless America” . . . Not just once. But day-in, day-out, throughout entire careers . . . EVIL EMPIRE?! Impossibly inadequate to so designate with two words . . .
And this was known without question all the way up to top Administration officials and Presidents; etc. Aw that exceptional America! Moral leader of the Free World! Upholder of Human Rights, Home of the Free! Bastion of Democracy! . . .
But don’t gloat too much, Mr./Mrs. Canadian! Mr./Mrs. Westerner. We’re all tied in. All implicated . . . Would other countries do it if given opportunity? Of course. They in fact do do it! But the Sheer Deceitful Hypocrisy!
And so every conceivable kind of “Yankee Flu” comes home to roost . . .
excerpts from the Review:
Nicholson Baker’s new book, Baseless: My Search for Secrets in the Ruins of the Freedom of Information Act, is staggeringly good. If I point out any minor complaints with it, while ignoring, for example, the entirety of Trump’s latest press conference, this is because flaws stand out in a masterpiece while making up the uniform entirety of a Trumpandemic Talk.
Baker begins as if he has an unanswered and possibly unanswerable question: Did the U.S. government use biological weapons in the 1950s? Well, yes, of course it did, I want to reply. It used them in North Korea and (later) in Cuba; it tested them in U.S. cities. We know that the spread of Lyme disease came out of this. We can be pretty confident that Frank Olson was murdered for what he knew about U.S. biological warfare.
It’s not clear at first, as it seems later, that Baker is suggesting much more uncertainty than he actually has — presumably because that’s what you do toward the beginning of a book in order to not scare away the fragile readers.
This book gives us incontrovertible proof that the U.S. government had a significant, offensive, biological weapons program (if not as major a program as it dreamed of having), that it experimented on human beings during and after World War II, and that it routinely lied about what it was doing. Baker documents tests using not-so-harmless substitutes for biological weapons that were conducted by the U.S. government in numerous U.S. cities.
This book documents beyond any doubt enormous efforts and resources devoted over many years to fantasizing, researching, developing, testing, threatening, feigning, and lying about BW. This included the intentional destruction of great masses of insects and mammals, and the poisoning of ecosystems, water supplies, and crops. Scientists studied the eradication of species, the elimination of fish populations, and the use of all sorts of birds, arachnids, insects, bugs, voles, bats, and of course feathers to spread infectious diseases. In the process, they slaughtered large numbers of test subjects, including monkeys, pigs, sheep, dogs, cats, rats, mice, and humans. They devised mines and torpedoes for poisoning oceans. The aquifer that lies beneath Fort Dietrich is among the most polluted in the United States, according to the EPA — polluted with materials intentionally developed as pollutants.
Every disastrous environmental result of industrial mass-consumption has apparently been studied as an intentional end in itself by the U.S. military / CIA.
Baker blames on BW labs, not just Lyme, but also outbreaks of Rabbit fever, Q fever, bird flu, wheat stem rust, African swine fever, and hog cholera. Self-inflicted injury and death, as with nuclear tests and other war preparations, have been common with scientists and staff and people who just lived in the wrong place at the wrong time.
…Baker suggests, relatively off-handedly, that opposition to the use of biological and chemical weapons in the war on Vietnam put an end to such programs in the United States, or at least significantly reduced them. The latter is likely true. But are they gone? Baker tells us that Fort Dietrich was “repurposed” for cancer research — meaning cancer prevention research, not the spreading of cancer. But was it? Is anthrax useful in cancer research? Is the U.S. government reformed? Is Making America Great Again not a drive to rejuvenate all of the worst aspects of the 1950s?
And, to take one example of a much larger killing plan, Daniel Ellsberg tells us that U.S. nuclear war plans in response to any Soviet attack were expected to kill one-third of all humanity.
Baker is very clear throughout this book on what he knows and how he knows it, and what conclusions can possibly be drawn with what degree of certainty. So, it’s hard to say he gets anything wrong. But there may be a few things. He says that the biggest killing plan ever devised was the Nazi plan to kill Jews, and second was a secret U.S. plan to gas Japanese cities. But Hitler’s war plans far outstripped in expected and achieved deaths his plans for the Jews. Even the actual Holocaust included millions of victims who were not Jews. And, to take one example of a much larger killing plan, Daniel Ellsberg tells us that U.S. nuclear war plans in response to any Soviet attack were expected to kill one-third of all humanity.
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