Friday, February 11, 2011

The living weapon

The 1972 Biological Weapons Convention prohibited the development, production, stockpiling, and transfer of biological agents for use as weapons. It was ratified by more than 100 nation including the United States. Prior to 1972 however the United States had an active program developing biological weapons.

This program, and the development of biological weapons after the end of World War 2, was the subject of a PBS show in the 'American Experience' series entitled - The Living Weapon, I don't think the full video is on their website anymore but you can read the transcript there and there are a number of other interesting videos and links.

The US originally obtained much of its lead over the Soviet Union in germ warfare by granting immunity from war crimes prosecution to Japanese scientists such as Shiro Ishii who had obtained their knowledge by horrific experiments on living people. Thousands of people died in Japanese facilities such as the infamous Unit 731 in a Japanese-controlled region of China.

At Unit 731, Ishii made his mission crystal clear. "A doctor's God-given mission is to block and treat disease," he told his staff, "but the work on which we are now to embark is the complete opposite of those principles."

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