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Abraham Lincoln on America
| "This country, with its institutions, belongs to
the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the
existing government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it, or their revolutionary right to dismember it or overthrow it"
-- Abraham Lincoln,
16th President of the US
First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1861
U.S. admits germ war tests in Britain|
Posted on Thursday, October 10 @ 13:23:21 EDT by JohnBrown
Submitted by sv3n
By Charles Aldinger, Reuters Newswire
October 10th 2002 00:43 BST
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States has acknowledged it carried out a sweeping Cold War-era test programme of chemical and germ warfare agents in Britain and North America.
unknown number of civilians were exposed at the time to "simulants", or
what were then thought to be harmless agents meant to stand in for
deadlier ones, the Defense Department said. Some of those were later
discovered to be dangerous.
"We do know that some civilians were exposed in tests that occurred
in Hawaii, possibly in Alaska and possibly in Florida," said William
Winkenwerder, assistant secretary of defense for health affairs.
Also exposed or possibly exposed were civilians in or around
Vieques, Puerto Rico, and an unknown number of U.S. service personnel,
said Michael Kilpatrick of the Pentagon's Deployment Health Support
As many as 5,500 members of the U.S. armed forces were involved,
including 5,000 who took part in previously disclosed ship-board
experiments in the Pacific in the 1960s, the Pentagon said.
So far, more than 50 veterans have filed claims related to symptoms
they associate with exposure to the tests, the Department of Veterans
The tests of such nerve agents as Sarin, Soman, Tabun and VX were
carried out from 1962 to 1973 both on land and at sea "out of concern
for our ability to protect and defend against these potential threats,"
a Pentagon statement said on Wednesday. The tests were co-ordinated by
an outfit called the Deseret Test Center at Fort Douglas, Utah.
The reports amounted to an acknowledgement of much wider Cold War
testing of toxic arms involving U.S. forces than earlier admitted by
"During this period there were serious and legitimate concerns
about the Soviet Union's chemical and biological warfare programme,"
Winkenwerder added at a Pentagon news briefing.
But the tests also had applications to the offensive chemical and
biological weapons stocks then maintained by the United States, he
said. President Richard Nixon ordered an end to U.S. offensive chemical
and biological weapons programmes in 1970.
Britain and Canada joined the United States in a series of tests on
their military proving grounds from July 1967 to September 1968, a
document released by the Pentagon said.
These joint exercises, known as Rapid Tan 1, 2 and 3, were designed
to investigate "the extent and duration of hazard" following a Tabun,
Soman or other nerve agent attack, a fact sheet said. These agents,
along with VX, were sprayed in both open grassland and wooded terrain
at the Chemical Defence Establishment in Porton Down, Wiltshire, the
Similar tests took place at the Suffield Defence Research Establishment in Ralston, Canada, the Pentagon said.
"The weapons systems germane to this test were explosive munitions
(Soman-filled), aircraft spray, rain-type munitions (using both Tabun
and Soman), and massive bombs (Tabun- and Soman-filled), the fact sheet
Both Canada and Britain made public information about these tests
years ago, Kilpatrick said, citing word received from their governments
as part of the process of co-ordinating the U.S. release of
But in Ottawa, Canadian Defense Minister John McCallum told reporters he had just learned of the experiments.
"My understanding is that this was ... for the purposes of defence
against biological or chemical weapons ... My understanding also is
that no human beings were deliberately exposed to any of these agents."
The department said it had contracted with the Institute of
Medicine, a private group with ties to the National Academy of
Sciences, to carry out a three-year, $3 million (1.92 million pounds)
study of potential long-term health effects of the tests conducted
aboard U.S. Navy ships.
The reports on the U.S. land tests in Alaska, Hawaii, Maryland and
Florida did not all involve deadly agents and were used to learn how
climate and a battle environment would affect the use of such arms, the
The information was released amid U.S. charges that Iraq has
continued building weapons of mass destruction despite disarmament
requirements at the end of the 1991 Gulf War.
Iraq flatly denies having such weapons programmes.
Within minutes, Sarin can trigger symptoms including difficult
breathing, nausea, jerking, staggering, loss of bladder-bowel control
Extremely lethal VX is an oily liquid that is tasteless and
odourless and considered one of the most deadly agents ever made by
man. With severe exposure to the skin or lungs, death usually occurs
within 10 to 15 minutes.
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