For about a decade beginning in the early 1960s, the United States sprayed tens of thousands of tons of herbicides over three million acres of South Vietnam (as well as parts of Laos and Cambodia) to wipe out the foliage used as a cover by the enemy and to destroy crops. The herbicides, particularly the extensively-used Agent Orange, polluted Vietnam with some five hundred pounds of dioxin, a nearly indestructible pollutant that is regarded as one of the most toxic substances in the world-at least as toxic as nerve gas, and highly carcinogenic. Amongst other health effects associated with exposure to dioxin are metabolic disorders, immunological abnormalities, reproductive abnormalities, and neuro-psychiatric disorders. Three ounces in the water supply is thought to be enough to wipe out the population of New York.
As many as two million people were affected by these poisons in Vietnam (in addition to many thousands of American soldiers). There have been reports of high levels of birth defects in areas which were saturated with Agents Orange, and Vietnam government estimates that the various chemicals have contributed to birth defects in 500,000 children, although this has not been documented. No compensation has ever been paid by the United States to the Vietnamese people for government for any damage to health.
In addition, the US Army employed CS, DM and CN gases, which, Washington officials insisted, did not constitute “gas warfare”. The designated these gases as “riot control” agents. The Army pumped CS gas-a violent purgative that causes uncontrollable vomiting-into Vietnamese tunnels and caves, causing many Vietcong to choke to death on their own vomit in the confined spaces. The North Vietnamese branch of the International Red cross and other international sources reported numerous deaths amongst women and children from these gases, as well as injuries such as destroyed eye-balls, blistered faces and scorched and erupted skin. US Deputy Secretary of Defense Cyrus Vance admitted that cyanide and arsenic compounds were being used as well. Other harmful chemicals employed by the US in Vietnam were napalm and naphthalene flame throwers.
In September 1970, American forces in Laos, acting under Operation Tailwind, used aerosolized sarin nerve gas (referred to also as CBU-15 or GB) to prepare their entry in an attack upon to Laotian village base camp, with the object of killing a number of American military defectors who were reported to be there. The operation succeeded in killing in excess of 100 people, military and civilian, including at least two Americans. How many died before the attack from the gas and how many from the attack itself is not known.
Sarin, which was developed in Germany in the 1930s, can kill within minutes after inhalation on its vapor. A tiny drop of it on the skin will do the same; it may even penetrate ordinary clothing. It works by inhibiting an enzyme needed to control muscle movements. Without the enzyme, the body has no means of stopping the activation of muscles, and any physical horror is possible.
When the invading Americans were making their gateway, they were confronted by a superior force of North Vietnamese and communist Pathetic Lao soldiers. The Americans called for help from the air. Very shortly, US planes were overhead dropping canisters of sarin upon the enemy. As the canisters exploded, a wet fog enveloped the enemy soldiers, who dropped to the ground, vomiting and convulsing. Some of the gas spread towards the Americans, not all of whom were adequately protected. Some began vomiting violently. Today, one of them suffers from creeping paralysis, which was his doctor diagnosis as nerve-gas damage.
This story was reported on June 7, 1998, on the TV program “NewsStand: CNN and Time”, and featured Admiral Thomas Moore, who had been Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1970, as well as lesser military personnel, both on and off camera, who corroborated the incidents described above.
Then all hell broke loose. This was a story too much in conflict-painfully so-with American schoolbooks, Reader’s Digest, the flag, apple pie and mom. It was damage-control time. The big guns were called out-Henry Kissinger, Colin Powell, Green Beret veterans, the journalistic elite, the Pentagon itself. The story was wrong, absurd, slanderous, they all cried. CNN retracted, Moorer retracted, the show’s producers were fired…lawsuits all over the place…
Like the dissidents who became “non-persons” under Stalin, Operation Tailwind is now officially a “non-event”.
Notwithstanding this, the program’s producers, April Oliver and Jack Smith, put together a 77-page document supporting their side of the story, with actual testimony by military personnel confirming the use of the nerve gas.
From the 1940s to the 1990s, the United States used various parts of Panama as a testing ground for all manner of chemical weapons, including mustard gas, VX, sarin, hydrogen cyanide and other nerve agents, in such forms as mines, rockets and shells; perhaps tens of thousands of chemical munitions in total. Some of the earlier tests used US troops as guinea pigs, with horrific results for some of the soldiers. When the US military vacated Panama at the end of 1999, it left behind many sites containing chemical and conventional weapons residue, including numerous chemical weapons (dropped from planes) which failed to detonate. Since 1979, 21 Panamanians have died from accidents with unexploded conventional weapons.
The US military also conducted secret tests of Agent Orange and other toxic herbicides in Panama during the 1960s and 1970s, potentially exposing many civilians and military personnel to these lethal chemicals. Hundreds of drums of dioxin-containing Agent Orange were whipped to Panama. Spraying was carried out in jungle areas and near popular outdoor sites in an effort to stimulate the tropical battlefield conditions of Southeast Asia.
During the invasion of Panama in December 1989 it was reported that the semi-mountainous village of Pacora, near Panama City, was bombed with a chemical substance by helicopters and aircraft from the US Southern Command in Panama. Residents complained to human-rights organizations and the press that the substances burned their skin, producing intense stinging and diarrhea. The bombing may have been carried out to keep the villagers from offering any assistance to the Panamanian soldiers who were caped in the nearby mountains. What the long-term effects of the chemical exposure have been are not known.
1) In August 1962, a British freighter under Soviet lease, having damaged its propeller on a reef, crept into the harbor at San Juan, Puerto Rico for repairs. It was bound for Soviet port with 80,000 bags of Cuban sugar. The ship was put into dry dock and 14,135 sacks of sugar were unloaded to a warehouse to facilitate the repairs. While in the warehouse, the sugar was contaminated by CIA agents with a substance that was allegedly harmless but unpalatable. When President Kennedy learned of the operation he was furious because it had taken place in US territory and if discovered could provide the Soviet Union with a propaganda field day and set a terrible precedent for chemical sabotage in the Cold War. He directed that the sugar not be returned to Russians, although what explanation was given to them is not publicly known. Similar undertakings were apparently not canceled. A CIA official, who helped direct worldwide sabotage efforts against Cuba, later revealed that “There was lots of sugar being sent out from Cuba, and we were putting a lot of contaminants.
2) The same year, a Canadian agricultural technician working as an adviser to the Cuban government was paid $5,000 by “an American military intelligence agent” to infect Cuban turkeys with a virus which would produce the fatal Newcastle disease. Subsequently, 8,000 turkeys died. The technician later claimed that although he had been to the farm where the turkeys had died, he had not actually administered the virus, but had instead pocketed the money, and that the turkeys had died from neglect and other causes unrelated to the virus. This may have been a self-serving statement. The Washington Post reported that “According to U.S. intelligence reports, the Cubans-and some Americans-believe the turkeys died as the result of espionage.”
3) According to a participant in the project: During 1969 and 1970, the CIA deployed futuristic weather modification technology to ravage Cuba’s sugar crop and undermine the economy. Planes from the China Lake Naval Weapons Center in the California desert, where high tech was developed, overflew the Island, seeding rain clouds with crystals that precipitated torrential rains over non-agricultural areas and left the cane fields arid (the downpours caused killer flash floods in some areas).
This said, it must be pointed out while it’s not terribly surprising that the CIA would have attempted such a thing, it’s highly unlikely that it have succeeded except through a great stroke of luck; i.e., heavy rains occurring at just the right time.
4) In 1971, also according to participants, the CIA turned over to Cuban exiles a virus which causes African swine fever. Six weeks later, an outbreak of the disease in Cuba forced the slaughter of 500,000 pigs to prevent a nationwide animal epidemic. The outbreak, the first ever in the Western hemisphere, was called the “most alarming event” of the year by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization.
5) Ten years later, the target may well have been human beings, as an epidemic of dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF) swept across the island. Transmitted by blood-eating insects, usually mosquitoes, the disease produces severe flu-like symptoms and incapacitating bone pain. Between May and October 1981, over 300,000 cases were reported in Cuba with 158 fatalities, 101 of which were children under 15.
The Center for Disease Control later reported that the appearance in Cuba of this particular strain of dengue, DEN-2 from Southeast Asia, had caused the first major epidemic of DHF ever in the Americans. Castro announced that Cuba had asked the United States for a pesticide to help eradicate the fever-bearing mosquitoes in Georgia and Florida to see whether disease-carrying insects could be weapons in a biological war. The mosquitoes bred for the tests were of the Aedes aegypti type, the precise carrier of dengue fever as well as other diseases.
In 1967 it was reported by Science magazine that the US government center in Fort Detrick, Maryland, dengue fever was amongst those “diseases that are at least the objects of considerable research and that appear to be amongst of considerable research and that appear to be among those regarded as potential BW [biological warfare] agents. Then, in 1984, a Cuban exile on trial in New York on an unrelated matter testified that in the latter part of 1980 a ship traveled from Florida to Cuba with: A mission to carry some germs to introduce them in Cuba to be used against the Soviets and against the Cuban economy, to begin what was called chemical war, which later on produced results that were not what we had expected, because we thought that it was going to be used against the Soviet forces, and it was used against our own people, and with that we did not agree.
It’s not clear from the testimony whether the Cuban man thought that the germs would somehow be able to confine their actions to only Russians, or whether he had been misled by the people behind the operation.
6) On a clear day, October 21, 1996, a Cuban pilot flying over Matanzas province observed a plane releasing a mist of some substance about seven times. It turned out to be an American crop-duster plane operated by the US State Department, which had permission to fly over Cuba on a trip to Colombia via Grand Cayman Island. Responding to the Cuban pilot’s report, the Cuban air controller asked the US pilot if he was having any problem. The answer was “no”. on December 18, Cuba observed the first signs of a plague of Thrips palmi, a plant-eating insect never before detected in Cuba. It severely damages practically all crops and is resistant to a number of pesticides. Cuba asked the US for clarification of the October 21 incident. Seven weeks passed before the US replied that the State Department pilot had emitted only smoke, in order to indicate his location to the Cuban pilot. By this time, the Thrips palmi had spread rapidly, affecting corn, beans, squash, cucumbers and other crops.
In response to a query, the Federal Aviation Administration stated that emitting smoke to indicate location is “not an FAA practice” and that it knew of “no regulation calling for this practice”.
In April1997, Cuba presented a report to the United Nations which charged the US with “biological aggression” and provided a detailed description of the 1996 incident and the subsequent controversy. In August, signatories of the Biological Weapons Convention convened in Geneva to consider Cuba’s charges and Washington’s response. In December, the committee reported that due to the “technical complexity” of the matter, it had not proved possible to reach a definitive conclusion. There has not been any further development on the issue since that time.
The full extent of American chemical and biological warfare against Cuba will never be known. Over the years, the Castro government has in fact blamed the United States for a number of other plagues which afflicted various animals and crops. In 1977, newly-released CIA documents disclosed that the Agency “maintained a clandestine anti-crop warfare research program targeted during the 1960s at a number of countries throughout the world.”
During the time that Garcia and Vides have lived in the United States, US Immigration has been denying asylum status to many refugees from El Salvador even though they’ve claimed they were in fear of being tortured or losing their lives if sent back.
Numerous Haitian human-rights violators have resided in the United States in recent years, unmolested by the authorities. Their hands and souls are bloody from carrying out the repression of the Duvalier dynasty, or the overthrow of the democratically elected Father Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 1991, or the return to repression after the coup. Among their numbers are:
Luckner Cambronne, Haiti’s minister of the interior and defense under Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier and adviser to his son and successor, Jean Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier.
Army Lt. Col. Paul Samuel Jeremie. After Baby Doc was forced to abdicate in 1986, Jeremie was convicted of torturing Duvalier opponents and sentenced to 15 years in prison. He escaped in 1988.
General Prosper Avril, another Haitian dictator, responsible for the torture of opposition activists, whom he then displayed, bloodied, on television. Forced out by angry mobs in 1990, he was flown to Florida by the US government, where he might have lived happily ever after except that some of his former torture victims brought suit against him. At one point in the process, he failed to make a court appearance and thus defaulted. He fled to several countries trying to find haven. Meanwhile, in 1994, a US federal judge awarded $41 million to six Haitians living in the US.
During the period of Aristide’s exile, 1991-94, Colonel Carl Dorelien oversaw a 7,000-man force whose well-documented campaign of butchery included murder, rape, kidnapping and torture, leading to the deaths of some 5,000 Haitian civilians. The good colonel has found a home in Florida as well.
We also have leading Haitian death-squad leader Emmanuel Constant, former head of FRAPH, the paramilitary group of thugs which spread deep fear amongst the Haitian people with its regular murders, torture, public beatings, arson raids on poor neighborhoods and mutilation by machete in the aftermath of the coup against Aristide. He was on the CIA payroll in Haiti and now lives in New York. The State Department refused a Haitian extradition request for Constant and stopped his deportation back to that country. Constant apparently knows of a lot of skeletons in the American closet.
Other Haitians of this ilk residing in the United States include Major General Jean-Claude Duperval, and Ernst Prud’homme, a former high-ranking member of the Bureau du Information et Coordination, a notoriously violent propaganda unit.
Armando Fernandez Larios, a member of a Chilean military squad responsible for the torture and execution of at least 72 political prisoners in the month following the 1973 coup, is now residing in the United States. Fernandez has publicly acknowledged his service as a member of the military squad, as well as his role as an agent of Chile’s notorious secret police, the DINA, during the Pinochet regime. He struck a plea bargain with US government prosecutors, pleading guilty to being an “accessory after the fact” in the DINA-sponsored 1976 Washington, DC bombing murder of former Chilean dissident official Orlando Letelier. The Chilean government reportedly would like Fernandez extradited from the US, but his lawyer in Miami has said that the 1987 plea-agreement between his client and the Department of Justice stipulated that Fernandez would never be returned to Chile. Department of Justice officials have declined to comment on the degree of Fernandez’s protection under the terms of the agreement, which is under court seal.
Michael Townley of Chile played an even more significant role in the Letelier assassination. He served some time in a US prison and is now in the Federal Witness Protection Program. So if you see him, you don’t know him.
Argentine admiral Jorge Enrico, who was associated with the Escuela Mecanica in Buenos Aires, the infamous torture center of the “Dirty War” period (1976-83), now freely enjoys Hawaii when he wishes.
At least two former members of the Honduran army’s Battalion 316 (see “Torture” chapter), a CIA-trained intelligence unit that murdered hundreds of suspected leftists in the 1980s, are also known to be living the good life in South Florida.
Kebassa Negawa of Ethiopia was a defender in an Atlanta case for torture. When he lost the case and his wages began to be garnished, he disappeared.
Also a resident is Sintong Panjaitan, an Indonesia general responsible for the 1991 Santa Cruz massacre in East Timor that took hundreds of lives.
At Washington’s insistence, Thiounn Prasith was the Cambodian envoy to the United Nations for Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge from 1979 to 1993, even though the Khmer Rouge was ousted from power in 1979. Prasith was a leading apologist for Pol Pot’s horrendous crimes and played a major role in their cover up. (See “Pol Pot” chapter.) He resides in peace and comfort in Mount Vernon, New York.
General Mansour Moharari, an Iranian who was in charge of prisons under the Shah, and thus is no stranger to the practice of torture, has lived in the US for many years despite a price being put on his head by the Iranian mullahs.
Twenty former South Vietnamese officers who have admitted to committing torture and other human-rights violations during the Vietnam War are residing legally in California.
Throughout the 1980s and into the 1990s, numerous other Vietnamese in California carried out a violet terrorist campaign against their countrymen who were deemed not sufficiently anti-communist, sometimes merely for resumption of contracts with Hanoi; others were attacked simply for questioning the terrorists’ actions. Under names such as “Anti-Communist Viets Organization” and “Vietnamese Organization to Exterminate Communists and Restore the Nation”, on hundreds of occasions they assaulted and murdered, burned down businesses and vehicles, forced Vietnamese newspapers to cease publishing, issued death threats, engaged in extortion and many other aspects of organized crime…all with virtual impunity, even with numerous witnesses to some murders. In the few cases where arrests were made, suspects were generally released or acquitted; the few who were convicted had their wrists slapped. This clear pattern of law-enforcement neglect suggests some kind of understanding with higher-ups in Washington. If there was indeed a “see-no-evil” federal policy, the most likely explanation would be the powerful, lingering antipathy toward any Vietnamese with a presumed leaning toward Hanoi.
Additionally, a number of persons from the former Yugoslavia who have been accused of war crimes by their fellow nationals are also living in the US, although in most cases it appears to be due to American bureaucratic failings, rather than a knowing offering of haven to the henchmen of former allies.
The above doesn’t include all the dictators cum terrorists whom the United States was king enough to fly to safe havens in third countries (enabling them to be reunited with their bank accounts), such as those from Haiti who are still alive: Gen. Raoul Cedras and President Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier; as well as the nefarious police chief Joseph Michael Francois.
In 1998 President Clinton went before the United Nations to speak about terrorism. “What are our global obligations?” he asked. “To give terrorist no support, no sanctuary.”
Extradite or prosecute
The system of international criminal prosecution covering genocide, terrorism, war crimes and torture makes all governments responsible for the criminal prosecution of offenders. Under this basic principle of “universal enforcement,” countries where alleged offenders are found are obligated either to extradite them for prosecution by a more directly affected government (e.g., the country where the offenses were committed, or the country of citizenship of the victims or the abusers), or to initiate prosecution themselves. The Pinochet case in the UK was begun in 1998 as an example of this.
The US government strongly supports this principle of “extradite or prosecute” in theory, and in fact invoked it a few years ago in a proceeding before the International Court of Justice as the basic for seeking extradite from Libya of two men alleged to be responsible for the bombing of Pan Am flight 103. The US government also strongly supports the application of this principle to those indicted for war crimes by the International War Crimes Tribunals for former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. One of those indicted as a war criminal by the Rwanda tribunal was discovered in Texas, arrested, and bound over for criminal extradite by a federal court in that state.
Yet, when it comes to the relics of the Cold War being given haven in the US, as listed above, Washington chooses to neither prosecute nor extradite, although Cuba, for one, has asked for the extradite of a number of individuals.
Zero tolerance for other havens
Presidential Decision Directive 39, signed by President Clinton in 1995, states:
If we do not receive adequate cooperation from a state that harbors a terrorist whose extradition we are seeking, we shall take appropriate measures to induce cooperation. Return of suspects by force may be affected without the cooperation of the host government.
So determined was the Clinton administration to punish other states that compete with the US in harboring terrorists, that in February 1999 it asserted the right to bomb government facilities in such nations. “We may not just go in a strike against a terrorist facility; we may choose to retaliate against the facilities of the host country, if that host country is a knowing, cooperative sanctuary,” Richard Clarke, President Clinton’s coordinator for counter-terrorism.
I tried to reach Mr. Clarke at White House office to ask him what he thought of the proposition that Cuba could justifiably designate the United States as a “knowing, cooperative sanctuary” and bomb CIA headquarters or a Cuba exile office in Miami, amongst other sites. However, I was told that he was “not available to the general public to speak to”. Pity, so I sent him a letter posing these questions, with little expectatio