ZNet Daily Commentary - Biologisk

Knut Rognes (knrognes@online.no)
Mon, 08 Mar 1999 18:24:10 +0100


jeg videresender en ZNet Daily Commentary fra i dag om Japan og biologisk
krigføring i WWII, hvordan USA overtok hele programmet, og hvordan det
omtales i pressen i dag.

Knut Rognes

From: "Michael Albert" <sysop@zmag.org>
To: <znetcommentary@tao.ca>
Subject: ZNet Commentary March 8 -- Chomsky
Date: Sun, 7 Mar 1999 23:19:44 -0000

Here is today's ZNet Commentary Delivery from Noam Chomsky. As usual, the
atta...d file is the same material in nicely formatted html so that you can
read it in your browser if you wish.

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Here then is today's ZNet Commentary...


On Staying Informed and Intellectual Self-Defense
By Noam Chomsky

There's no way to be informed without devoting effort to the task, whether
we have in mind what's happening in the world, physics, major league
baseball, or anything else. Understanding doesn't come free. It's true that
the task is somewhere between awfully difficult and utterly hopeless for an
isolated individual. But it's feasible for anyone who is part of a
cooperative community -- and that's true about all of the other cases too.
Same holds for "intellectual self-defense." It takes a lot of
self-confidence -- perhaps more self-confidence than one ought to have -- to
take a position alone because it seems to you right, in opposition to
everything you see and hear. There's even evidence about this: under
experimental conditions people deny what they know to be true when they are
informed that others they have reason to trust are doing so (Solomon Asch's
classic experiments in social psychology, which were often held to show that
people are conformist and irrational, but can be understood differently, to
indicate that people are quite reasonable, and using all the information at

More important than any of this is that a community -- an organization --
can be a basis for action, and while understanding the world may be good for
the soul (not meant to be disparaging), it doesn't help anyone else, or
oneself very much either for that matter, unless it leads to action.
There are also many techniques for penetrating the veil of propaganda that
should become second nature in dealing with the output of doctrinal
institutions (media, journals of opinion, scholarship). For example, it is
quite common for the basic framework of an article or news report to be
hopelessly misleading, conforming to doctrinal requirements. But within it
one can often discover hints that something else is going on. I often
recommend reading the mainstream press beginning with the final paragraphs.
That's no joke. The headline, the framing, the initial paragraphs, are
designed (consciously -- you learn these things in journalism school) to
give the general picture, and the whole story for almost all readers, who
aren't going to take the trouble to look at the small print, to think much
about it, and to compare it with yesterday's tales. One discovers this all
the time.

To illustrate, I happen to have just read Sunday's NY Times. There's an
interesting article in the Week in Review section by Ralph Blumenthal called
"Comparing the Unspeakable to the Unthinkable." It summarizes his long
article (with Judith Miller) on March 4, concerning Japan's horrendous World
War II record of biological warfare, both experimentation and use, quite
comparable to Mengele as the articles correctly points out. They discuss the
horrifying Unit 731 and General Ishii, who ran it. The framework is "how
could such evil exist?," "Japan rebuffs requests for information," "how
could the Japanese be so awful?," etc., a familiar and useful genre, which
I've often discussed, comparing it with self-examination, a useful and
revealing exercise.

The original article condemns Japan for refusing inquiries from the US
Justice Department, which is seeking to expose these terrible crimes, and to
bar suspected (Japanese) participants from entering the US.

A careful reader, who has been following all of this for years, will notice
hints about something else, carefully sanitized in the article and review,
and properly hidden. Here are a few examples, keeping mostly to today's
summary article.

The article states that "in the early 1980s, American and British scholars
and journalists rediscovered the germ war issue, adding new details of
American involvement in covering up the crimes." Shows how wonderful and
fearless "American and British scholars and journalists" are. The truth, as
Blumenthal can hardly fail to know, is that the US government (and
mainstream scholars and journalists) were NOT covering the story (and
arguably, covering it up), including the nature and extent of US
involvement -- and that he and his colleagues are continuing along that
path. The facts were revealed not "in the early 1980s" by "American and
British scholars and journalists," but in October-Dec. 1980, in the
_Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars._ That is one of the journals that
grew out of '60s dissidence and critique of mainstream scholarship and
ideology, and this article is one example of its success in exposing
material that the mainstream -- surely the NY Times -- wanted hidden. The
author of that article, who provided extensive detail, was John Powell, who
had been hounded by congressional committees, denied employment, indicted
for sedition, his China journal closed, etc. This is highly relevant to the
Blumenthal/Miller stories, but to tell the truth, which they surely know,
would not help create the proper image of adulation of our free institutions
and the courage and integrity of its leaders and participants.

The Times article states that the "delay" in recognizing Japanese war crimes
"illustrates the West's Eurocentric view of wartime suffering as well as
striking differences in the willingness of the two former Axis allies to
come to terms with their past," and throws a "harsh light on cold-war
rivalries." The "delay" in fact illustrates something radically different:
it resulted from the fact that the US took over the whole hideous operation
and protected the Mengeles who it now claims to be so eager to reveal, and
used their work as the basis for the huge US biological and bacteriological
warfare program. By 1949 the Joint Chiefs had incorporated the results into
"first strike" plans, and that was given official authorization in 1956.

As for the lame reference to the "cold war," that's a standard -- virtually
reflexive -- device for covering up past crimes; it's being invoked right
now in the case of Central America, in ways that are as cowardly as they are
shameful. One should always look more closely when the ritual phrase "cold
war" is invoked. But crucially, the "delay" has little to do with what is
mentioned, and a great deal to do with what is VERY conveniently ignored.

The Times article states that Soviet trials of Japanese for biological war
crimes were "largely ignored or dismissed in the West as Communist
propaganda," and that the US prosecuted no one for these crimes. True, and a
true picture of the New York Times for example (as might have been pointed
out in an honest report), but far from the whole story. The Soviet trials of
Japanese Mengeles were ridiculed as part of the need to cover up the
protection the US was offering them and its takeover of their criminal
activities. One finds a hint of what the Times knows full well in the
phrase, towards the end, that the US was able to "snare General Ishii's
data." The fuller story is as just indicated.

And that's only a small part of it. As the Times can hardly fail to know, a
year ago Indiana University press published a scholarly study of all of
these matters, based on newly available Chinese and US archives (Endicott
and Hagerman, "The US and Biological Warfare"). The story goes goes far
beyond what I've just mentioned, which is bad enough. The Times article
refers to new evidence from Chinese researchers about the victims of
Japanese biological/bacteriological warfare. True, but as the Times also
must know, and Endicott-Hagerman document, these Chinese researchers are
also bringing out evidence about the victims of UNITED STATES use of what it
learned from Ishii and Unit 731, in North Korea and China in the early '50s.
Furthermore, what's appearing in Chinese documents and by Chinese
researchers has disturbing correlations with information from US archives,
as Endicott-Hagerman discuss. In the past, I'd always dismissed charges of
US bacteriological/biological warfare in North Korea/China. It's less easy
now. In fact, this is one of the few nontrivial revelations coming out from
newly released Communist archives and research, a fact that also merits
headlines. The charges are not proven, but they surely merit a much closer
examination, and can no longer simply be dismissed as Communist propaganda
(as I'd done myself, in fact).

The Times articles do cite scholarly research, but studiously omit what they
know to be the most recent and most important study, the only one to use
recently available Chinese archives and Chinese research as well as newly
declassified US archives. It would take remarkable incompetence to have
investigated this topic and to have "failed to discover" the most important
and most recent scholarly work, not to speak of the original breakthrough,
unmentionable for reasons that are not hard to guess.

The true story, surely known to those who are presenting it, continues along
these lines. An honest report would not only have emphasized all of this
instead of concealing hints here and there and telling a very different tale
up front. It would also have drawn the obvious implications concerning
current matters: e.g., US fulmination about the dangers of "weapons of mass
destruction" -- a category that does not exist, according to official US
policy from the early postwar period, perhaps still operative -- and the
horrors of biological/bacteriological weapons and their potential use by
terrorists and rogue states. Very much on the front pages, and surely worth
discussing -- including its origins in Unit 731, the US takeover and
development of all of this (including possible experimentation in the
field), and the way the whole story has been handled, and is being handled.

And will be handled. It's likely that some day the Times will run a long
article on all of this, after it has had time to frame the story the right
way. It will be framed by official denials, irrelevant but useful
apologetics about the Cold War, much ranting on the (inevitable) errors that
appear in the scholarly work that has revealed what has long been
suppressed, etc. (no doubt they are there, but it will be surprising if they
amount to a fraction of the revelations about what is considered highly
respectable history when it serves doctrinal needs. There will also be hints
scattered around that the careful reader may find, which could lead them to
the truth -- with considerable effort.

The truth is not only ugly, but highly pertinent and timely. That's the way
the story would be framed and presented in a free press, if such existed.
With considerable effort, one can discern hints that will lead one to the
true picture in the existing press. But it takes effort, and a little
familiarity with how these things typically work.

I might add that the _Boston Globe_ -- a journal that is directed (in part)
to the leading figures in the "Athens of America" -- has an editorial on the
topic, denouncing crimes "so despicable that no statute of limitations
should ever be applied to the, and no veil of forgetfulness should be
allowed to hide them away from future generations." Even the few hints
scattered through the Times reports are excised from the editorial, which
denounces Tokyo because it "has even refused to give the United States the
names of Japanese veterans who belonged to a biological warfare unit." How
dare they impede our dedication to reveal every scrap of truth about the
Japanese Mengeles -- and how they were received by those we are taught to

That's a single example. I could have used have a dozen other examples from
the same day's newspapers. I used to write regular articles about these
things for a now defunct journal called "Lies of Our Times" -- I presume it
wasn't called "Lies of the Times" because of fear of libel suits. Many of
them are collected in a book called "Letters from Lexington" (Common
Courage); the title is because they were written informally, as letters.
There are far more detailed analyses in print. I think they might give some
hints on "intellectual self-defense," but ultimately, it's no different than
physics or baseball. If you want to learn something, it'll take work. And
the chances of success, or useful success, are greatly magnified by
cooperative interchange and effort.