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Whatever Happened to the AIDS Conspiracy?
by Mark Sanborne, WW4 REPORT
“Let he who has not sinned cast the first stone.”
In the last installment in this series we discussed Biopreparat, the Soviet Union’s massive yet surprisingly covert biological warfare program, the frightening details of which only emerged in the West in the early 1990s. It didn’t become a huge public issue at the time because with the Cold War over and Russia our “friend,” Soviet-era misbehavior no longer had the same propaganda value. But a number of US scientists, security experts, and pundits did express shock and legitimate outrage over the extent of Soviet violations of the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention (BWC): “weaponizing” vast amounts and varieties of deadly bioagents, designing bioweapon warheads for their intercontinental MIRV missiles, and using the emerging science of gene-splicing to engineer ever-more deadly hybrid and “chimera” versions of existing pathogens.
Terrible stuff. So the question naturally arises: what, if anything, were US biowarriors up to during the heyday of Biopreparat in the 1970s and ’80s? Except, of course, the question is virtually never asked in official discourse and mainstream accounts. So let’s try to begin to answer it.
Both Washington and Moscow used the “defensive research” exception in the BWC to justify designing new varieties of bioagents, the argument being you had to create a threat (a new version of a virus or bacteria) so you could devise vaccines or other countermeasures against it before a potential enemy did. Specifically, the treaty only allows the possession of limited amounts of bioagents or toxins “for prophylactic, protective, and other peaceful purposes.” Both sides found ways to stretch that language considerably—except while the Soviets drove a tank through the loophole, the Americans used a sports car, leaving a much lighter footprint.
There’s no evidence that after signing the BWC the US developed new stockpiles of “classic” bioagents (such as anthrax, tularemia, brucellosis, bubonic plague, and smallpox), at least not on anything near the enormous scale the Soviets did. Nor has evidence emerged that the US ever put biowarheads on its ICBMs, though that could be one top secret that’s stayed buried. But, as with most technical fields, the US was ahead of the Soviets in the emerging science of molecular biology, and the record indicates that US military scientists played an important role in the development of that field in the 1970s.
Interestingly, as Washington was preparing to sign the BWC, President Nixon, as part of his “War on Cancer,” in 1971 shifted much of the Army’s biowar research facilities at Fort Detrick, Md., to the ostensible control of the National Cancer Institute. This allowed military scientists (or civilian scientists working for the military) to conduct cutting-edge genetic engineering experiments with biowar applications under the cover of legitimate cancer research. Much of the work was done as part of the somewhat sinisterly named Special Virus Cancer Program, which had been in existence since 1964—and about which more later.
And so the US bio-military-industrial complex continued to quietly thrive, spread out in an archipelago of government and private labs around the country, with much of the work being farmed out to drug giants like Merck and spookier outfits like Litton Bionetics. In a sense, it was a more under-the-radar version of Biopreparat, lacking its mass industrial-production facilities and toxic outdoor testing grounds, but surpassing it in developing the technical skills needed to devise a new generation of deadly bioagents.
MACARTHUR TESTIMONY: BIONOIA’S ROSETTA STONE?
Where did that path lead? When conspiracy-minded critics raise questions about the origins of the variety of new diseases and medical syndromes that “emerged” in the 1970s and ’80s, they often point to the so-called MacArthur testimony as a putative smoking gun. For those uninitiated into the mysteries, that would be one Dr. Donald MacArthur, then-director of the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency, who on July 1, 1969, testified before the defense subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee on the “research, development, testing, and evaluation of synthetic biological agents,” among other things. A portion of his testimony was cited in Part 3 of this series, and referred to as a potential Rosetta Stone of bionia. Here is a more complete version, beginning with the good doctor’s exchange with Representatives Robert Sikes of Florida and Daniel Flood of Pennsylvania:
REP. SIKES: Tell us something about the biological weapons, both lethal and incapacitants. Tell us what we are doing and what the Russians are doing.
DR. MACARTHUR: I am sure all of you know biologicals are microorganisms. We have had a policy that the biological agents that we would try to develop would be noncontagious; that is, that it could not be passed on directly from individual to individual.
REP. FLOOD: Would they be effective if not contagious?
DR. MACARTHUR: They could be infectious from the standpoint that they would be used as a primary aerosol and infect people inhaling it. After that they could be carried from me to you, say by an insect vector—a mosquito, for example.
REP. FLOOD: Could they be effective and contagious?
DR. MACARTHUR: No.
REP. FLOOD: I doubt that. I doubt that.
DR. MACARTHUR: A contagious disease would not be effective as a biological warfare agent, although it might have devastating effects. It lacks the essential element of control which I alluded to earlier since there would be no way to predict or control the course of the epidemic that might result. [Emphasis added, here and below.]
REP. SIKES: Tell us the story of our progress and our capability.
DR. MACARTHUR: I want to reemphasize that our policy has been not to develop any contagious agents so that we could control the effects so that they would not “boomerang” on our own people if ever we were forced to use them. Typical examples of diseases caused by agents we have worked on are tularemia, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, “Q” fever, Venezuelan equine encephalitis. These agents are different from the chemicals in that they are naturally occurring diseases.
Talking about potential offensive agents, I will first restate the constraints I mentioned earlier that we have put on ourselves as a matter of policy to prevent exactly what people have been saying—that there will be a worldwide scourge, or a black death type disease that will envelop the world or major geographical areas if some of these materials were to accidentally escape. That could not possibly happen with the biological agents that we have. That is a constraint that we have put on ourselves.
However, to keep the record straight, we have done a small amount of research on a few agents that do not satisfy this constraint. [This is presumably a reference to US work with smallpox and bubonic plague.] The reason for this is that a potential enemy might use them against us and we have to be prepared to defend ourselves, so we try to develop vaccines and rapid identification systems, for example, for defensive purposes… Also, for most of these agents there is natural immunity. Some people will not be affected because of natural immunity. Second, you cannot use the same agent twice against the same population because after the first attack, the people build up immunity to that agent…
There are two things about the biological agent field I would like to mention. One is the possibility of technology surprise. Molecular biology is a field that is advancing very rapidly and eminent biologists believe that within a period of five to 10 years it would be possible to produce a synthetic biological agent, an agent that does not naturally exist and for which no natural immunity could have been acquired.
REP. SIKES: Are we doing any work in that field?
DR. MACARTHUR: We are not.
REP. SIKES: Why not? Lack of money or lack of interest?
DR. MACARTHUR: Certainly not lack of interest.
REP. SIKES. Would you provide for our records information on what would be required, what the advantages of such a program would be, the time and the cost involved?
MACARTHUR. We will be very happy to.
[The information follows:]
“The dramatic progress being made in the field of molecular biology led us to investigate the relevance of this field of science to biological warfare. A small group of experts considered this matter and provided the following observations:
1. All biological agents up the present time are representatives of naturally occurring disease, and are thus known by scientists throughout the world. They are easily available to qualified scientists for research, either for offensive or defensive purposes.
2. Within the next 5 to 10 years, it would probably be possible to make a new infective microorganism which could differ in certain important aspects from any known disease-causing organisms. Most important of these is that it might be refractory to the immunological and therapeutic processes upon which we depend to maintain our relative freedom from infectious disease.
3. A research program to explore the feasibility of this could be completed in approximately 5 years at a total cost of $10 million.
4. It would be very difficult to establish such a program. Molecular biology is a relatively new science. There are not many highly competent scientists in the field. Almost all are in university laboratories, and they are generally adequately supported from sources other than DOD. However, it was considered possible to initiate an adequate program through the National Academy of Sciences-National Research Council (NAS-NRC).
The matter was discussed with the NAS-NRC, and tentative plans were plans were made to initiate the program. However decreasing funds in CB [chemical and biological warfare], growing criticism of the CB program, and our reluctance to involve the NAS-NRC in such a controversial endeavor have led us to postpone it for the past 2 years. It is a highly controversial issue and there are many who believe such research should not be undertaken lest it lead to yet another method of massive killing of large populations. On the other hand, without the sure scientific knowledge that such a weapon is possible, and an understanding of the ways it could be done, there is little that can be done to devise defensive measures. Should an enemy develop it, there is little doubt that this is an important area of potential military technological inferiority in which there is no adequate research program.”
Postscript: The Pentagon got the requested $10 million for its research program, though it never officially announced what conclusions, recommendations, or “practical” results ultimately emerged from the effort. But here’s the key for those suspicious of the official story: MacArthur said the research could be completed in five years and that a synthetic biological agent “for which no natural immunity could have been acquired” could be produced “within the next five to 10 years.” A decade later, people—initially gay American men and shortly thereafter Africans and other populations around the world—suddenly began dying of what subsequently came to be called Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome: AIDS.
Technically speaking, despite some overlap in words, it’s clear that MacArthur was referring to a bioagent that, because of its laboratory origins, would be “refractory” (resistant) to the human immune system, not one that would damage or destroy it, as AIDS does by attacking crucial T-cells. However, that is a distinction without much difference, because suppressing immune function has the same effect as being resistant to it. Also, since MacArthur was speaking before the invention of such bioagents, he obviously couldn’t know what form their immunity resistance would ultimately take. But when all is said and done, the simple fact is that the man’s testimony is pretty damn spooky.
THE WORD ON THE STREET
So what ever did happen to the purported AIDS “conspiracy”? We don’t hear much about it anymore—not that we ever really did, at least in the mainstream press. Interestingly, despite the lack of coverage, opinion polls over the years have consistently shown that many African Americans (though not a majority) believe AIDS is man-made and was deliberately targeted at black people, just as many believe that the CIA deliberately allowed crack cocaine to enter their communities during the Contra war in the 1980s. Such polls are sometimes cited by the press to show that blacks have a tendency to believe in such presumably false conspiracy theories due to their memory of real ones, like the Tuskegee syphilis experiments. (As in the case of Tuskegee, radiation experiments, Agent Orange, and Gulf War Syndrome, it’s generally a long time after the fact before the government fesses up to its role in any such terrible doings, and sometimes it never does.)
Some public figures have spoken out, though black politicians have generally shied away from the subject. In the early 1990s, comedian Bill Cosby said AIDS was “started by human beings to get after certain people they don’t like,” and director Spike Lee said, “AIDS is a government-engineered disease.” More recently, Kenyan ecologist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai in 2004 declared that HIV was created in a biological warfare lab, though she didn’t specify the country. “Us black people are dying more than any other people in this planet,” she said. “Why has there been so much secrecy about AIDS? When you ask where did the virus come from, it raises a lot of flags. That makes me suspicious.”
But way back, there were the initial stories that emerged out of East Germany in the 1980s that AIDS had been created in a US biowar lab. The fact that the accounts were widely disseminated at the time by the Soviets, particularly in the Third World, made them easy to dismiss as crude disinformation. But the original source for the charges, Jakob Segal, an emeritus biology professor at Humboldt University in East Berlin who died in 1995, was a Russian-Lithuanian Jew who adamantly denied being a state propaganda tool, saying he couldn’t convince his East German academic colleagues to even consider his AIDS claims.
“Nobody in the Stasi [East German intelligence] had the technical expertise to have produced such a theory,” he said in 1992. “It was my work and mine along, and I refuse to allow a few sensation-hungry journalists to deprive me of the credit for it.”
In brief, Segal asserted that HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus), believed to be the cause of AIDS, was actually Visna, a fatal sheep virus, that had been combined in a lab—he pointed to Fort Detrick—with a small percentage of HTLV-1 (Human T-Cell Leukemia Virus). The more detailed genomic analysis of HIV that has since become possible reportedly rules out Segal’s hypothesis, and the current establishment view is that HIV is most closely related to the variety of SIV (Simian Immunodeficiency Virus) found in West African chimpanzees, and which somehow “jumped species” into humans sometime in the relatively recent past.
One of the more detailed and fascinating (if rambling) accounts of the Segal saga is a 30-page article titled “Was There an AIDS Contract?” posted on the Internet in 1994 by layman Michael Morrissey, who cites his numerous written exchanges with Segal and other scientists about the possibility of an AIDS conspiracy. Morrissey apparently likes writing about his back-and-forths with controversial figures, having penned another discursive online narrative called “My Beef With Chomsky,” which involved both AIDS and the JFK assassination.
THE USUAL SUSPECTS
In fact, along with such non-experts, there are a number of interesting characters with MDs attached to their names who regularly crop up when you type AIDS conspiracy queries into your search engine. Here are some of those who appear most often, either in their own writings (some of them quite dated) or cited by others for their supposed expertise:
Dr. Robert B. Strecker: Author of the “Strecker Memorandum,” a video peddled online that cited government documents and medical literature to connect AIDS to infected smallpox and hepatitis vaccines administered in Africa and the US in the 1970s. The tale of the Los Angeles internist and pathologist comes complete with two possibly suspicious deaths: his brother and research assistant, Ted, an attorney who supposedly shot himself but left no note, and Illinois state Rep. Douglas Huff, a vocal proponent of Strecker’s theories in the Chicago area who died of an overdose of cocaine and heroin. Both deaths took place within weeks of each other in 1988.
Dr. Boyd E. Graves: Links AIDS to biowar research by both the US and Soviet governments. In 1999 he claimed to have discovered a “flow chart” of the Special Virus Cancer Program from 1971 that demonstrated the incremental development of a lab-produced virus designed to undermine the immune systems of people of African descent. He also claims to have been infected by AIDS and then cured by a single injection of tetrasilver teotroxide, which he said was a US patented cure to the disease that’s been suppressed by the government, though he also points the finger at an Israeli medical institute and pharmaceutical company.
Dr. William C. Douglas: Includes elements similar to both Strecker and Graves, and like Graves he seems to believe there was some kind of communist role in fostering AIDS, whether in conjunction with the US or by infiltrating agents into Fort Detrick. Douglas also believes that the UN’s World Health Organization essentially created the AIDS epidemic via contaminated smallpox vaccines administered around the world, particularly in African locations, between 1966 and 1977. (See his online article “WHO Murdered Africa.”)
Dr. Leonard Horowitz: A doctor of dental medicine with a masters in public health from Harvard, “Len” is a motivational speaker who’s been dubbed (or dubs himself) “The King David of Natural Healing vs. the Goliath of Slash, Burn and Poison Medicine.” He’s published Emerging Viruses: AIDS & Ebola: Nature, Accident or Intentional? and Death in the Air: Globalism, Terrorism and Toxic Warfare under his own Tetrahedon imprint. A self-described Messianic Jew, he claims to have discovered codes in the Bible relating to electromagnetic, tone, and sound frequencies that can be used for healing. He was invited to testify before Congress about the dangers of vaccines and their reputed role in causing autism among children. And according to the Quackerywatch website, while waiting for Armageddon Horowitz lives on an isolated lake in northern Idaho not far from Ruby Ridge, an area famous for its white supremacists and end-timers. Nevertheless, he is a source of interesting information.
Dr. Alan Cantwell: A retired dermatologist and researcher who published dozens of scientific papers through the mid-1980s, many on Kaposi’s sarcoma, the “gay cancer.” He is the author of AIDS and the Doctors of Death: An Inquiry into the Origins of the AIDS Epidemic and Queer Blood: The Secret AIDS Genocide Plot, which like Horowitz he had to publish under his own imprint. Despite such dramatic titles, by the evidence of his numerous online articles Cantwell is actually one of the more careful writers of his ilk, generally not getting too far ahead of the evidence he cites or uncovers. He believes AIDS grew out of the Special Virus Cancer Program and was most likely deliberately tested on gay men with infected Hepatitis B vaccines in major American cities from 1978 to 1981, as well as in the WHO smallpox vaccination campaigns in Central Africa in the 1970s.
A CERTAIN LACK OF CERTAINTY
Leaving the “fringe” for the moment, it’s also interesting to note the amount of uncertainty that exists about the origins of AIDS even among some of the field’s top scientists:
Robert Gallo—the disputed co-discoverer of the HIV retrovirus along with French scientist Luc Montagnier—stated in 1987 that the proposed link between the WHO smallpox vaccination campaign and AIDS was “interesting and important,” adding that “live vaccines such as that used for smallpox can activate a dormant infection such as HIV.”
Matilde Krim, a top cancer virologist and co-chair of the American Foundation for AIDS Research, has raised the possibility that AIDS was caused by the experimental hepatitis-B vaccine, though unlike Cantwell she believes it was due to accidental contamination.
Harvard virologist Max Essex performed experiments that he says showed that the American strain of HIV spreads more easily via anal tissue, whereas the African strains spread more readily via vaginal tissue. This could explain the higher percentage of African women who become infected, while also raising further questions about the virus’ possibly “customized” origins.
Montagnier himself became less of a darling of the official AIDS establishment when in 1990 he declared that HIV by itself was “a peaceful virus” that only became dangerous in the presence of another co-factor: a hard-to-detect, super-tiny, bacteria-like bug called a mycoplasma, which in its normal form is mostly harmless to humans. Similar conclusions were arrived at in separate studies by Shyh-Ching Lo, director of AIDS pathology at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, and Robert Root-Bernstein, winner of a MacArthur “genius grant.” (No, not that MacArthur.) The work of all three men was ultimately either dismissed or ignored by the AIDS establishment. Gallo, who had also raised the idea of an AIDS co-factor, stopped discussing the subject.
Another of the country’s top virologists, Peter Duesberg of UC Berkeley, who isolated the first oncogene (cancer gene) through his work on retroviruses in 1970, has also been cast out as a heretic for saying HIV does not cause AIDS but is merely a coincidental marker for some people in high-risk AIDS populations. He became even more of a pariah when his theory that AIDS infections result from a complex combination of poverty, malnutrition, chronic disease, and other environmental factors was embraced by South African President Thabo Mbeki and other top African National Congress officials. Duesberg maintains that the many conditions lumped together under the rubric of “AIDS” are not sexually transmissible or otherwise infectious, and that AIDS is not viral in nature. He says AIDS (as opposed to HIV) cases in the US and Europe occur almost entirely among long-term intravenous and recreational drug users—primarily gay men. Most shockingly, he contends that when people test positive for the “harmless” HIV retrovirus and are then treated with toxic antiviral drugs like AZT, eventually it actually causes AIDS-like symptoms by compromising otherwise healthy immune systems.
THE POLIO CONNECTION
Smallpox and hepatitis-B vaccines aren’t the only possible alternative culprits for the spread of AIDS. In his 1999 book The River: A Journey to the Source of HIV and AIDS, author Edward Hooper marshals much evidence to support his hypothesis that the origin of HIV could be traced to the testing of an oral polio vaccine called Chat, which in the late 1950s was given to an estimated one million people in what was then the Belgian Congo. The theory is that vaccine may been cultivated in kidney cells harvested from local chimpanzees who were infected with SIV, ultimately causing the virus to jump species. However, one of the original manufacturers of Chat announced in 2000 that it had discovered a single leftover phial of the virus that had been used in the program, analyzed it, and found that it had been made from monkeys and did include HIV or chimp SIV.
Whether or not or not that finding is the death-knell of Hooper’s theory, it’s certainly not the end of controversy for the polio vaccine. It turns out AIDS was not the only primate virus to make the jump to humans. In a shocking and virtually unknown yet true story, it turns out that virtually every dose of Jonas Salk’s oral polio vaccine that was given to 98 million Americans in the baby-boom years between 1954 and 1963 was contaminated with a monkey virus known as Simian Virus #40. Numerous independent studies have shown that SV40 can cause cancer in humans, including rapidly fatal lung cancer (mesothelioma), bone marrow cancer (multiple myeloma), and brain tumors in children. Yet the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control down through the years have continued to deny or ignore any such links.
The details of this horrifying story are laid out in a 2004 book, The Virus and the Vaccine: The True Story of a Cancer-Causing Monkey Virus, Contaminated Polio Vaccine, and the Millions of Americans Exposed, by Debbie Bookchin and Jim Schumacher. As if the story couldn’t get any worse, the authors report that Lederle Laboratories, the government’s sole supplier of oral vaccines from 1977 onward, continued to use monkey kidneys possibly infected with SV40 in its production process until oral polio vaccine was removed from the market as late as January 2000.
AIDS AS POPULATION CONTROL
Getting back to the “fringe,” it should be noted that most if not all of the non-establishment AIDS conspiracy theorists cited earlier agree that a primary reason that Western elites would choose to design and loose something like the AIDS pandemic upon the world would be as a radical method of population control. In this context, two more of the “usual suspects” pop up: the Rockefeller family and one of their most loyal servants, Henry Kissinger.
Many conspiracist accounts (at least those that don’t go all the way back to the Illuminati or some other such uber-group) start with the Third International Conference of Eugenics held in 1932, coincidentally the same year the Tuskegee experiments began. The sponsors included members of leading families like the Rockefellers, Duponts, Harrimans, Morgans, Kellogs, and even Leonard Darwin, the son of Charles Darwin. The conference unanimously elected as president of the International Federation of Eugenics Organizations one Dr. Ernst Rudin, who later became the architect of Hitler’s “racial hygiene” program. Around the same time, as discussed in Part 3 of this series, Dr. Erich Traub was studying bacteriology and virology at the Rockefeller Institute in Princeton, N.J. He would subsequently head Hitler’s secret biological warfare laboratory during World War II before returning to the US and helping establish the Plum Island, N.Y., animal disease research lab, which played a shadowy role in the US biowar effort.
Critics then trace the transformation of eugenics—which thanks to the Nazis became taboo in the post-war period—into the more palatable modern concept of population control, as exemplified by the formation of the Population Council by the Rockefeller Foundation in 1952 and the establishment of State Department’s Office of Population Affairs in 1966. Finally, along the with the MacArthur testimony, the conspiracists like to point to a slightly less smoking gun: “National Security Study Memorandum 200: Implications of Worldwide Population Growth for US Security and Overseas Interests,” released in 1974 under the auspices of Kissinger, then serving as both national security adviser and secretary of state. The document remained classified until 1990. However, while it makes clear that aggressive Third World population-control measures would be necessary to ensure US “national security” in the decades ahead, and points to the likelihood of future famines and disease outbreaks as putting some brakes on population growth, it doesn’t hint at any covert strategies to help the process along. Then again, you wouldn’t really expect such evidence in an official government document.
THE HEPATITIS-B EXPERIMENTS
Alan Cantwell has written at length about the experimental hepatitis-B vaccine that was given to healthy gay men beginning in 1978 in New York City and shortly thereafter in other major cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Denver, and St. Louis. In 1979, the first cases of what would become known as AIDS began appearing in Manhattan and subsequently in the other cities as well. Cantwell obviously doesn’t think that’s a coincidence. He writes in his “The Secret Origin of AIDS in America”:
The exclusive introduction of HIV into the homosexual population of New York City is an unprecedented event in the history of medicine. This biologic phenomenon has never been explained scientifically. There is certainly no evidence to indicate white gay men were the only people exposed to sexual contact with Africans, particularly at a time when the epidemic did not even exist in Africa. [Or at least was not recognized—MS] Furthermore, it is biologically impossible for a purported sexually-transmitted and blood borne “virus out of Africa” to infect only young, white, healthy men in Manhattan! Yet the impossible did happen. Despite these facts, we are repeatedly told that AIDS began in Africa, even though the American epidemic began before the African epidemic.
Cantwell also details how the New York Blood Center, which conducted the hepatitis-B campaign, used vaccines developed from chimpanzees—theoretically the source of the SIV strain that mutated into HIV. In 1974, the center switched the chimp hepatitis research from a local New York animal lab to a new primate center called VILAB II in Liberia. “Chimps were captured from various parts of West Africa and brought to VILAB,” according to Cantwell. “The lab also prides itself on releasing ‘rehabilitated’ chimps back into the wild. One cannot help but wonder if some of the purported ‘ancestors’ of HIV in the African bush have their origin in chimpanzees held in African primate labs for vaccine and medical experimentation.”
Yet another disturbing wrinkle involves Kaposi’s sarcoma (KS), the cancer associated with AIDS. “In 1994 it was reported that KS is actually caused by a new ‘herpes-8’ virus,” Cantwell writes. “KS cases were first discovered in the late 19th century, and before AIDS it was a rare form of cancer. Before AIDS, KS was a non-transmissible disease that was never seen in young American men. The finding of a new KS virus indicates that two different viruses were simultaneously introduced into gay men when AIDS began in the late 1970s. No rational explanation has been put forth for this bizarre occurrence.”
A VERY SPECIAL VIRUS CANCER PROGRAM
Under the category of leaving the scariest bit for last, we conclude with a look at the aforementioned Special Virus Cancer Program, or SVCP. Started in 1964, its name was shortened to the Cancer Virus Program (CVP) in 1973 “to integrate the program’s research activities into the framework of the new National Cancer Plan.” It brought together many of the nation’s top virologists, biochemists, molecular biologists, and related specialists, including some familiar names: Robert Gallo, Peter Duesberg, and Max Essex. Much of the work was contracted out to private companies like the military-linked Litton Bionetics. The aim was to discover if viruses caused some kinds of human cancer so that vaccines could be derived to prevent them. Eventually, studies focused on two classes of theoretically carcinogenic viruses: RNA-type tumor retroviruses and DNA herpes-type viruses. Officially, however, the program did not succeed in finding any human cancer-causing viruses before it closed up shop in 1980. But shortly thereafter AIDS exploded and the HIV retrovirus was discovered, and a decade later the “herpes-8” virus was found to be the cause of the now transmissible Kaposi’s sarcoma.
For most of the “usual suspect” critics cited above, the SVCP/CVP is the holy grail of the whole AIDS conundrum because, while little known and supposedly unsuccessful in its key aim, the program spawned much of the cutting-edge research that would have been necessary to design a new class of contagious cancer-causing agents. While many of the critics have written about its importance (such as Boyd Graves and his famous “flow chart”), to explain the program in more detail we will again turn to the work of Cantwell because unlike others he appears to have done significant original research on the subject. Specifically, he has studied the CVP’s annual reports (published by the NIH but hard to find) from the years 1971-74 and 1976-78. As he notes: “Each report is 300-400 pages, and the cumulative volumes refer to thousands of animal cancer virus and genetic engineering experiments.”
“The annual CVP Reports must be studied with an awareness that the program became wedded to secret biological warfare research in the early 1970s,” Cantwell notes. Officially, the SVCP/CVP became part of the Frederick Cancer Center at Fort Detrick when the Army joined much of its biowar facilities to the National Cancer Institute in 1971. According to the 1970s documents, the new center’s main task was “the large-scale production of oncogenic [cancer-causing] viruses and suspected oncogenic viruses to meet research needs on a continuing basis,” with a special focus on primate viruses and the successful propagation of “human candidate viruses,” defined as animal or human viruses that might cause human cancers. Scientists also studied the role human and non-human primate viruses as “helper viruses” in the production of cancer.
“By the early 1970s, experimenters had transferred cancer-causing viruses into several species of monkeys,” Cantwell writes. “Herpesvirus saimiri, a monkey virus discovered in 1967 in the squirrel monkey, has a close genetic relationship with the new KS herpes virus. H. saimiri virus is harmless in the squirrel monkey, but when the virus was forced in the lab to ‘jump species’ into different animal species, such as the owl monkey, marmosets, and rabbits, it produces cancer in the form of fatal malignant lymphoma. By 1971 Dharam V. Ablahsi of the NCI succeeded in transferring H. saimiri into various cell lines of human origin. Cancer-causing cat and hamster viruses were also engineered into macaques and other monkey species.”
There’s lots more where that came from, though it’s pretty gruesome stuff to read, never mind to contemplate it actually happening. Here are some other “highlights” of the program’s work:
* The 1978 report from the Offices of Biohazard Safety of the CVP states: “The inadequate care and handling of animals during the past several years have created a potential for the occurrence of infection of humans with simian microorganisms and cross-infection between species. Such interspecies disease transmission may seriously compromise the integrity of the experiment as well as the health of the experimenter.” Really?
* “By the late 1970s the mixing of animal cancer viruses with human cells to produce new ‘xenotropic’ viruses was commonplace,” Cantwell writes. “The human cells in question were placenta cells from patients with immune disease and cells from leukemia. Xenotropic viruses are viruses taken from one species and transplanted into another species. All these experiments represent ‘species jumping’ performed in the laboratory.” (Shades of The Island of Dr. Moreau.)
* By 1977 the program was producing “approximately 60,000 liters [15,840 gallons] of tissue culture-grown viruses, propagated in over 40 different cell lines, and distributed in over 1,250 shipments to over 250 participating laboratories throughout the world.” (This recalls the US Centers for Disease Control’s “foreign exchange program” that shipped disease-causing bacteria and viruses to scores of countries, including Iraq in the 1980s.)
* A CVP report stated that: “Attempts are being made to chronically infect cell cultures of human epithelial and fibroblast cells and similar cell cultures from non-human primates (marmosets) with simian sarcoma virus, gibbon ape leukemia, and baboon endogenous virus.” Cantwell adds: “A few years later primates in the Africa bush would be blamed for starting AIDS and the KS epidemics.”
* The CVP was interested in acquiring “information and materials from carefully selected patients suffering from immunodeficiency diseases.” This is made clear in a progress report from the University of Minnesota entitled, “The search for tumor virus related information in human immunodeficiency patients with cancer.” The researchers proposed “continuation of studies linking immunodeficiency, cancer, and oncogenic viruses.”
* Citing an experiment from a 1973 report, Cantwell writes: “Newborn chimps were taken away from their mothers at birth and weaned on milk from cancer virus-infected cows. Some of the chimps sickened and died with two diseases that had never been observed in chimpanzees. The first was Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (later known as the “gay pneumonia” associated with AIDS); the second was leukemia, a cancer of the blood.”
* “By 1977,” Cantwell writes, “the year the experimental hepatitis-B vaccine was being made, scientists in the CVP aimed ‘to determine the oncogenic potential of putative human viruses’ and ‘to begin viral vaccine (conventional or other) testing and immunization programs.’ The exact methods by which this was to be accomplished was not stated.”
That’s not a smoking gun, it’s an arsenal of smokestacks.
From a scientifically informed layman’s perspective, here’s what sticks out from that litany of horrors: If the whole point of the program was to determine if viruses caused some human cancers, why, when no evidence of that emerged, did researchers nevertheless obsessively continue to seek ways to introduce exotic animal viruses into human cell lines, including some with immodeficiency disease? If it didn’t occur naturally, why make it occur unnaturally? What’s that all about?
“By 1980 the CVP came to an inglorious end with the inability to prove that viruses were involved in human cancer,” Cantwell concludes. “More than any other program it built up the field of animal retrovirology, which led to a more complete understanding of how cancer and immunosupressive retroviruses caused disease in humans. The CVP was the birthplace of genetic engineering, molecular biology, and the human genome project. I am convinced the CVP (and not Africa) is the birthplace of HIV/AIDS as well.”
WHAT ARE THE ODDS?
Whither the AIDS conspiracy? The evidence seems way more than suggestive. Coincidently or not, the CVP’s work kicked into high gear in the years after DARPA’s Dr. MacArthur got his go-ahead to proceed with a research program into the prospects for designing synthetic bioagents for which humans would have no natural immunity. AIDS appeared suddenly less than a decade later—and strangely, more than two decades after that, despite billions of dollars of research, we still have no vaccine. So was there an operational relationship between the CVP and the US military’s ongoing biowar “research” program? As noted earlier, the CVP was folded into the Frederick Cancer Center at Fort Detrick, which continues to be the home of the US biowar establishment. Though the main CVP scientists were civilians, it’s hard to believe they had no interaction with their military counterparts, who included civilians under contract with the Army.
But the devil in any conspiracy theory is in the hard-to-swallow details. Easier to digest is the idea of an accident. (As noted above, this is what leading virologists Robert Gallo and Matilde Krim have acknowledged as a possibility.) Or more precisely, a number of distinct, widely separated accidents that achieved the same effect. This would involve both the hepatitis-B vaccine given to gay American men and the smallpox vaccine administered to Central Africans (both in the mid- to late-1970s) having been inadvertently contaminated with chimp SIV. Then in both cases the simian virus, which is mostly harmless to chimps, somehow mutated into HIV, which, if we are to accept the current paradigm, is far from harmless to its human hosts.
On second thought, maybe that’s not so easy to swallow. In fact, it’s much closer to the official story, in that it posits that HIV/AIDS was not bioengineered but was instead a mishandled product of nature. (A related scenario is that some of the frankenstein viruses concocted by CVP researchers and shipped around the world accidentally escaped into the environment, and then somehow initially infected only gay American men and Africans.)
So let’s return to the official story. The question then arises: What are the odds that an unprecedentedly deadly disease would “naturally” jump genus from ape to human at the precise moment—the precise decade—in history when man first gained the ability to play god and fiddle with his own genetic code? More specifically, at that exact moment when American (mad?) scientists were mixing exotic viral cocktails that infected immune-compromised human cell lines with simian and feline leukemia and a host of other cancers. (Note to cat-lovers: FIV, or feline immunodeficiency virus, made its first appearance in the 1980s, possibly due to the “inadequate care and handling” of infected lab animals, including cats, cited in the CVP documents above.) Whatever the odds, that remains the official story. A similar long-shot logic is entertained by those who assert that the earth “just happens” to be warming up by natural processes at the exact point in history when our species achieved the dubious ability to alter our planet’s temperature.
TOO MANY EVIL PEOPLE
Now for the hard-to-swallow: Let us postulate what is almost unthinkable, at least for most of us. That is, that HIV/AIDS (leaving aside whether AIDS is actually caused by HIV or some other hidden co-factor, like mycoplasmas) was deliberately engineered in a lab and loosed upon the world for nefarious, eugenics-inspired Kissingerian purposes. One was to target a hated minority: homosexuals. The other was to put a dent in the so-called Third World’s burgeoning population, starting with the birthplace of humanity: Africa.
But a cognitive problem now arises, which can be summarized as TMEP: Too Many Evil People. Many people find it hard to believe that such a vast and history-altering conspiracy could occur without at least one confirmed insider having gone public by now. Common sense tells us that too many evil people (many of them doctors) would be necessary to carry out the AIDS plot, and that over the years somebody would have had a crisis of conscience and spilled his guts to a reporter. The average person (indeed, the majority of Americans) can buy a JFK assassination conspiracy because it’s simpler and could involve a limited number of plotters, and so would be easier to cover up. But the case for much wider and elaborate conspiracies like AIDS and 9-11 is, well, harder to swallow.
But these are subjective judgments about human nature, and don’t prove or disprove anything. We can only try to deal with the facts. It’s hard to believe that key CVP scientists like Gallo and Duesberg could have been knowing actors in an AIDS plot (though they may have had their suspicions later), but it’s not so difficult to conceive that their work could have been hijacked by those working on the Dark Side of Fort Detrick. Earlier installments in this series dealt with evidence of illegal US biological warfare against North Korea in the 1950s and broad-spectrum biowar attacks on Cuba from the 1960s onward, including the introduction of a virulent form of dengue fever that then spread through the Western Hemisphere. We also explored the possibility that US biowarriors may have had a hand in introducing Lyme disease and West Nile virus into their own country. Despite significant evidence dating back half a century, no whistle-blowers have emerged to confirm any of these “conspiracy theories.” This either means that there were no such plots (though the long-standing US biowar attacks on Cuba are a matter of historical record), or that US covert operators—with the assistance of a compliant media, intellegentsia, and government—are better at keeping secrets than we might think.
A similar situation pertains at the international level. Could the UN World Health Organization’s smallpox vaccine campaign have been infiltrated by US agents in order to induce an AIDS epidemic in Africa in the 1970s? Though the idea seems outlandish, US intelligence operatives have a long history of infiltrating and co-opting UN agencies and other international bodies. One example, examined in Part 4 of this series, involved the WHO being used as a cover to conduct a massive mosquito-release program in Sonepat, India, in 1975. Though the operation was aborted by bad publicity, it appears likely to have been part of a US biological warfare program designed to lay the groundwork for the subsequent introduction of mosquito-borne dengue fever into Cuba.
A SOUTH AFRICAN CONNECTION?
Oddly, for all the charges thrown around by AIDS conspiracists, hardly anyone seems to have pointed a finger at apartheid South Africa and suggested it may have played a role in propagating the pandemic. The deeply racist ruling Afrikaner elite certainly had an interest in killing as many black Africans as possible. (Remember their nuclear weapons program?) There was also a decades-long history of under-the-table intelligence cooperation between Washington and Pretoria. And it’s fairly certain that out of the 250 laboratories that received bioengineered interspecies viruses from the CVP in the 1970s, at least one was in South Africa.
The early 1980s, when the spread of AIDS in Africa first began to be noticed, was a time of particularly warm relations between the Reagan administration and the P.W. Botha regime. It was also a time when the black townships were in full revolt and the security forces responded with every criminal and terrorist tactic at their disposal, including an elaborate biological warfare program that targeted black activists with various diseases, toxins, and poisons.
If AIDS was indeed created in an American lab and introduced into Africa via vaccine programs, one would think the Afrikaner securocrats would have been thrilled to be junior partners in such a genocidal enterprise, particularly in their own backyard. While this is a completely speculative hypothesis, it’s interesting to note that although HIV/AIDS is supposed to have emerged in Africa’s equatorial rain forest belt, and hence that region should have the highest rate of infection, today South Africa’s AIDS epidemic is widely considered the worst on the continent. Almost one in five adults are infected with HIV and an estimated 1,000 deaths blamed on AIDS occur every day. Perhaps the ghost of the white regime is still reaching out from beyond the grave to strangle South Africa’s future. Many critics, however, blame this state of affairs on the ANC government’s embrace of Duesberg’s heretical theories and the shortage of antiretroviral drug treatments.
As the decades pass, the full truth about the origins of this post-modern plague continues to elude us. In the end, after looking at all the evidence, the hypothesis that AIDS is a man-made catastrophe—whether by horrible accident or genocidal design—remains almost too shattering to contemplate, and yet too compelling not to at least consider. So let’s end by considering some stark, simple numbers.
According to UN figures, as many as 25 million people have died worldwide from AIDS since 1981, with nearly three million deaths in 2006. There are an estimated one million people living with HIV in the US and roughly half a million Americans are thought to have died of AIDS. Over 42 million people are living with HIV/AIDS around the world, and 74% of those infected are in sub-Saharan Africa. Young people under 25 now account for over half of all new HIV infections, around 6,000 every day. There are currently 14 million AIDS orphans, most of them African, and by 2010 there will be 25 million…
And we thought 9-11 was bad.
“The Secret Origin of AIDS in America,” by Alan Cantwell, Paranoia Magazine, 2005
“Is HIV Guilty?” Miami Herald, Dec. 23, 1990, online at VirusMyth.net
“Was There an AIDS Contract?” by Michael Morrissey
“My Beef With Chomsky” by Michael Morrissey
“WHO Murdered Africa” by Dr. William C. Douglas
QuackeryWatch on Dr. Leonard Horowitz
“National Security Study Memorandum 200:
Implications of Worldwide Population Growth for US Security and Overseas Interests,” April 1974
BIONOIA, Pt. 5
Biopreparat: Biowar on Steroids, Soviet-Style
WW4 REPORT #125, September 2006
Special to WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, April 1, 2007
Reprinting permissible with attribution
Electronic Journal & Daily Weblog YEMEN: ON THE BRINK OF SECTARIAN WAR Shi’ite Insurgency in Washington’s Strategic Red Sea Ally by Mohamed Al-Azaki, WW4 REPORT SOMALIA: THE NEW RESISTANCE Successor Factions to the Islamic Courts Union by Osman Yusuf, WW4… Read moreIssue #. 132. April 2007
from Weekly News Update on the Americas:
Guatemala: Three Salvadoran Reps Murdered; Accused Killers Follow Them to Grave
Three Salvadoran legislative deputies to the Central American Parliament (PARLACEN) were murdered along with their driver on the afternoon of Feb. 19 as they were visiting Guatemala to attend a session of the parliament. Assailants followed them in vehicles to a place about 36 km from Guatemala City, killed them and set their van on fire—although there was evidence that some of the victims may have been alive when the fire was set.
The deputies were Eduardo D’Aubuisson, William Pichinte and Jose Ramon Gonzalez; the driver was Gerardo Ramirez. All three deputies were from the rightwing Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) of Salvadoran president Elias Antonio Saca; D’Aubuisson’s father, the late Roberto D’Aubuisson, founded ARENA and reportedly led the notorious death squads of the 1980s.
Four agents from the Criminal Investigation Division (DINC) of the National Civilian Police (PNC)—Luis Arturo Herrera Lopez, head of the Section Against Organized Crime, and agents Jose Adolfo Gutierrez, Marvin Langen Escobar Mendez and Jose Korki Lopez Arreaga—were arrested on Feb. 21 and Feb. 22 and charged with the murders. According to the Guatemalan government, the agents had followed the Salvadorans in a patrol car with global positioning equipment, which allowed investigators to place the agents at the crime scene.
The four police agents reportedly confessed to executing the Salvadorans but claimed they thought the victims were Colombian narco-traffickers. The agents refused to say who had told them to carry out the executions. Their lawyers, Sandra Aguilar and Amanda Salazar Rodriguez, charged that the agents were beaten and tortured after their arrests. The agents were placed in the El Boqueron maximum security prison in Cuilapa, Santa Rosa department. On Feb. 23 Salazar filed an appeal asking for her clients to be placed in a more secure unit on the grounds that they feared for their lives.
The four agents were found dead in El Boqueron on Feb. 25; a prison guard was also killed. According to Governance Minister Carlos Vielman, who is in charge of national security, a group of prisoners rioted, took the warden and four guards hostage, and cut the throats of the four agents with knives. According to the authorities, the 177 prisoners who rioted were members of the notorious Mara Salvatrucha gang. The authorities suggested that the killers were prisoners who had been arrested by these agents in the past. Some 300 polices and soldiers with anti-riot equipment regained control of the prison.
Some of the prisoners and family members visiting the prison gave a different version. According to them, a group of masked armed men entered the prison without opposition, cut the electricity and executed the agents. The other prisoners then took the warden and guards hostage because they feared that they too would be executed or would be blamed for the murders. The daily Siglo Veintiuno obtained a report from the Public Ministry that seemed to back the prisoners’ version. The killers had altered the scene to make it appear that they had had to force the lock, according to the report, which found no evidence of a struggle at the scene. The report said the agents were killed by gunfire; there was no mention of knives. Four eyewitnesses were willing to testify if they were guaranteed protection, according to the report.
On March 2 Governance Minister Vielman announced that police operations assistant director Javier Figueroa had resigned on Feb. 26 and that Victor Soto had been removed from his post as chief of DINC, the division to which the agents belonged. On Feb. 27 the Guatemalan Congress had passed a resolution calling for Vielman himself to resign, but Vielman said he would keep his position. (Guatemala Hoy, Feb. 21, 22, 23, 26, 28, March 3; Adital, March 26 from Grupo de Apoyo Mutuo, March 1)
The Mutual Support Group (GAM), a Guatemalan human rights organization, charged that the murders of the agents were “a demonstration of the degree to which organized crime and drug trafficking have penetrated the structures of Guatemalan state agencies, particularly in the national security forces.” Others noted that 43 complaints were filed against the DINC in 2006, including three for extrajudicial execution and 10 for forced disappearances. The GAM called the “indifference of the international community” to criminality in the Guatemalan government “worrying.” (GH, Feb. 23; Adital, Feb. 26 from GAM)
Weekly News Update on the Americas, March 4, 2007
PNC agent Marvin Roberto Contreras Natareno testified on March 16 for the first time since his arrest in connection with the murder of the Salvadoran deputies. In his three-hour testimony Contreras Natareno told Judge Nery Medina that he had been called in as backup after four police agents stopped the deputies’ vehicle. According to Contreras Natareno, the deputies and their driver were still alive when he arrived, and the police agents were searching the vehicle for drugs. Later the agents shot some or all of the deputies and set the car on fire with the deputies inside. As of March 16 the Public Ministry had not decided whether to charge Contreras Natareno with murder or treat him as a witness. (Diario Colatino, San Salvador, March 16; Miami Herald, March 16 from AP; La Prensa Grafica, San Salvador, March 16)
In an interview published on March 10, PNC director Erwin Sperisen told the Guatemalan daily Prensa Libre that “Guatemalan drug traffickers” were behind the murder, but he refused to give details. (El Nuevo Herald, Miami, March 11 from EFE) Salvadoran officials have said that the three lawmakers were not linked to organized crime. (MH, March 16 from AP) In Guatemala the case has led to the resignations of DINC director Victor Soto and assistant director Javier Figueroa; Figueroa fled to Costa Rica on March 4. (La Prensa Grafica, San Salvador, March 16)
Guatemalan authorities still maintain other prisoners were responsible for the execution-style killings of the four DINC agents. According to Mario Falla, head of the attorney general’s technical bureau, four pistols were found in electrical appliances that the prisoners had in their possession; three of the pistols were used in the killing of the agents, Falla says. Some prisoners said the weapons were in fact planted in the appliances, which had been in the hands of the authorities for several days. (La Nacion, Costa Rica, March 15 from AFP)
Weekly News Update on the Americas, March 18, 2007
Guatemala: Student Leader Murdered, Peasants Block Highways
On the night of March 9, unidentified assailants shot to death Guatemalan student leader Oscar Abelardo Chata as he was walking to his home in Peten. He was in his fourth year of teachers’ college. Chata’s killing is believed to be political, since none of his belongings were stolen. The Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity-Broad Movement of the Left (URNG-MAIZ) condemned the killing, noting that it was one in a string of recent attacks against leftist activists. (Guatemala Hoy, March 17)
The Movement of Human Rights has recorded 278 attacks in the past three years against community leaders, human rights and union activists, designed to intimidate them into discontinuing their work. Many of the attacks and threats have come from public security forces. (La Semana en Guatemala, March 14-19)
On March 15, members of the Committee of Campesino Unity (CUC) and the National Coordinating Committee of Campesino Organizations (CNOC) blocked several highways in Huehuetenango, Izabal, Zacapa and Chiquimula to demand justice for murdered community members. CUC leader Jose Domingo said the protest commemorated the second anniversary of the killing of CUC member Juan Lopez Velasquez by soldiers and police during protests against the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA) in Colotenango. Some 500 campesinos from Izabal, Zacapa and Chiquimula held a similar demonstration to demand a prompt and thorough investigation into the murder last Feb. 6 of community leader Israel Carias Ortiz and his two sons, nine and 10 years old, in Los Achiotes, Zacapa. (La Semana en Guatemala, March 14-19)
Weekly News Update on the Americas, March 25, 2007
Zacapa: Campesino Leader Murdered
On Feb. 6 in the Guatemalan municipality of Zacapa, unidentified assailants shot to death campesino leader Israel Carias Ortiz and his two sons, nine-year old Ledwin Anilson Carias Ramirez and 10-year-old Ronald Haroldo Carias Ramirez. The family was ambushed on a rural road while heading home to the Los Achiotes farm. According to Radio Sonora, Nelly Ortiz, the campesino leader’s mother, died of shock upon hearing the news. Carias Ortiz was a leader of the Los Achiotes Indigenous Campesino Development Association (ACIDEA), a group of 150 families fighting to recover their lands on the Los Achiotes farm in Zacapa, which is currently occupied illegally by large-scale landholders. The Committee of Campesino Unity (CUC) blamed the murders on landholders Geraldina Cordon, Faustina Barrillas, Jorge Madrid, Victor Hugo Salguero, Edwin Ruiz, Salvador Cabrera and others. According to CUC, these landholders have been threatening local campesino leaders, including Carias and his family, and regional CUC leader Abelardo Roldan. (AP, Feb. 7; CUC communique, Feb. 6)
Weekly News Update on the Americas, Feb. 11, 2007
Costa Rica: 50,000 Protest Free Trade
Some 50,000 people took to the streets of San Jose, Costa Rica, on Feb. 26 to demand that the country’s Legislative Assembly not ratify the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA), a US-sponsored trade pact referred to in Central America by the Spanish initials for free trade treaty, TLC. The demonstration, dubbed “A Day for the Homeland” and organized by the National Front to Support the Struggle Against the TLC, was the largest one yet in Central America against the trade pact, and one of the largest protests ever in Costa Rica.
Costa Rica signed DR-CAFTA last year but is the only participating nation which has not yet ratified the pact. The Legislative Assembly had planned to debate the TLC on Feb. 26. President Oscar Arias, who has been pushing heavily for DR-CAFTA’s approval, claimed his supporters have the 38 votes they need to ratify the pact. But in the end the Legislative Assembly was unable to debate the treaty on Feb. 26 because it lacked a quorum. (Red de Comunicacion Alternativa contra el TLC, Feb. 26; El Comerico, Peru, Feb. 27 from DPA; Inter Press Service, Feb. 26)
Ricardo Segura of the National Committee of Struggle Against the TLC said simultaneous demonstrations were also held in San Carlos and Palmares de Alajuela in Guanacaste province, in Coto Brus in the south of the country, and in Limon on the Atlantic coast, among other areas. Carlos Arguedas, leader of the Union of Agricultural and Plantation Workers (SITRAP), said riot police violently attacked more than 600 demonstrators who blocked Route 32 in Siquirres, Limon province. The agents destroyed banners and signs and confiscated a loudspeaker vehicle, detaining its driver. At least five people were arrested, and a group of at least 80 demonstrators encircled the Siquirres jail to demand their release. (Red de Comunicacion Alternativa contra el TLC, Feb. 26; Argenpress, March 4)
Leaders of the Union of National University Workers (SITUN) and the Union Association of Industrial Communication and Energy Workers (ASDEICE) said separately that police stopped and searched several buses taking workers to the demonstration in San Jose, and a number of protesters had to continue on foot. (Red de Comunicacion Alternativa contra el TLC, Feb. 26)
Weekly News Update on the Americas, March 4, 2007
El Salvador: Students Block Streets
In El Salvador, 27 people—most of them students of the University of San Salvador—were arrested on Feb. 28 for “public disorder” after blocking traffic on Constitucion Boulevard in the northern sector of San Salvador during a protest against DR-CAFTA. The protest marked the close of the country’s first year under DR-CAFTA; El Salvador was the first nation to implement the pact, on Mar. 1, 2006. (El Vocero de Michigan, March 2 from AFP)
Weekly News Update on the Americas
WW4 REPORT #130, February 2007
From our weblog:
Guatemala: Maya priests to purify sacred site after Bush visit
WW4 REPORT, March 13, 2007
Reprinted by WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, April 1, 2007
Reprinting permissible with attribution
from Weekly News Update on the Americas:
On March 24, two separate but nearly simultaneous marches were held in Buenos Aires to mark the anniversary of Argentina’s 1976 coup and remember the 30,000 people who were disappeared by the military regime.
The first march—attended by 10,000 people, according to the Buenos Aires daily Clarin—was called by organizations allied with or supportive of the government of President Nestor Kirchner, including the Grandmothers and Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo-Founding Line, the Permanent Assembly for Human Rights, the Good Memory Association, Relatives and Siblings of the Disappeared, and the Historical Memory Foundation. The second march was organized by the Memory, Truth and Justice Encounter, a coalition of 185 human rights, community, media and cultural groups not aligned with the government, including the HIJOS group of children of the disappeared and the Association of Former Detained-Disappeared. Both marches ended at the Plaza de Mayo, the second one arriving just after the first rally ended. According to the Buenos Aires daily Cronica, the two marches together drew about 100,000 people.
In addition to marking the coup anniversary, the marchers were commemorating the 30th anniversary of the murder of journalist Rodolfo Walsh, who authored an open letter to the military regime on March 24, 1977, the first anniversary of the coup, and was disappeared hours later. Both marches also coincided in demanding the reappearance—alive—of human rights activist Jorge Julio Lopez, who disappeared last September after testifying against former military officer Miguel Etchecolatz in a trial over dirty war human rights abuses. (Prensa Latina, March 24; Documento del 24 de marzo Memoria, Verdad y Justicia, March 24, posted on Argentina Indymedia; Clarin, March 25; Cronica, March 24; La Jornada, Mexico, March 25)
President Nestor Kirchner headed a separate commemoration earlier on March 24 at the former clandestine detention center of La Perla, in Cordoba province, where an estimated 2,000 political prisoners were held during the dictatorship. (PL, March 24; LJ, March 25)
In Jujuy, protesters held an “escrache”—a noisy human rights protest—at a police station where a detention center operated during the dictatorship. (Clarin, March 25) Protests were also held in Rosario, Salta, La Pampa, Chaco, Santiago del Estero and Entre Rios. (LJ, March 25)
Another protest was scheduled for March 25 at the former detention center of Campo de Mayo, in front of a building where pregnant political detainees gave birth; the regime routinely disappeared the mothers, and illegally gave the infants into adoption with falsified birth papers. (Clarin, March 25)
Santa Fe: Police Attack Water Protest
On the morning of March 22, World Water Day, activists from the Coordinating Committee of Neighborhood Unity-Teresa Rodriguez Movement (CUBa-MTR) in Rosario, Santa Fe province, held a demonstration protesting the government’s failure to provide running water to the city’s Santa Clara neighborhood. Provincial police attacked the protesters, firing metal bullets into the air and rubber bullets into the crowd. Dozens of people were wounded, and nine people—five women and four men—were arrested. An eight-year-old boy was among those hit by rubber bullets. Agents also used clubs to beat demonstrators, including children and pregnant women.
The protesters regrouped at the police station to demand the release of those arrested. The nine detainees were freed around 6:30 PM but were ordered to appear in court the next day. In a communique, the CUBa-MTR blamed the Santa Fe provincial government for the violence, and warned that its members would not be intimidated. (CUBa-MTR Communique, March 22)
Weekly News Update on the Americas, March 25, 2007
Weekly News Update on the Americas
WW4 REPORT #130, February 2007
From our weblog:
South America protests Bush
WW4 REPORT, March 13, 2007
Reprinted by WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, April 1, 2007
Reprinting permissible with attribution
from Weekly News Update on the Americas:
On March 19 the Cincinnati-based banana company Chiquita Brands International formally admitted that its wholly owned Colombian subsidiary Banadex paid a total $1.7 million to the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), a rightwing paramilitary group, between 1997 and 2004. The company agreed to pay the US federal government $25 million in fines for supporting a terrorist group; the AUC is on the US State Department’s list of terrorist organizations. On March 20 Colombian attorney general Mario Iguaran announced that he would seek the extradition of eight Chiquita officials to face trial in Colombia.
Chiquita officials claimed the company paid the paramilitary group to keep it from attacking Chiquita employees; the company said it had also paid off the two leftist guerrilla organizations, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN), for the same reason. But Colombian prosecutors indicate that Chiquita’s ties to the AUC are more extensive. They plan to ask the US Justice Department about a November 2001 incident in which a Banadex ship was used to unload 3,000 AK-47 rifles and more than 2.5 million bullets; these were bought by the paramilitaries from arms dealers who got them from Nicaraguan police. Colombia held Banadex’s legal representative, Giovanny Hurtado Torres, in jail for a year in the investigation of the arms smuggling, but finally released him for lack of evidence. (Reuters, March 20 via Yahoo en Espanol; Houston Chronicle, March 25 from AP)
On March 16 Sun-Times Media Group Inc., publisher of the Chicago Sun-Times, said the US may investigate its chief executive, Cyrus Freidheim Jr., who headed Chiquita from 2002 to 2004. (Reuters, March 17)
Meanwhile, a suit is proceeding against the Alabama-based mining company Drummond Co. Inc. in connection with the 2001 murder of three unionists representing workers at Drummond’s coal mine in northern Colombia. The suit, filed in US federal court in 2002 by the Colombian miners’ union, Sintramienergetica, and the United Steelworkers of America, is now set for trial on May 14.
On March 14 the 11th US Court of Appeals ruled that US District Judge Karon Bowdre had exceeded her authority by sealing the documents in the case. These documents included sworn testimony by Rafael Garcia, a former Colombian security official now in prison in Colombia, that he was present at a meeting where Augusto Jimenez, president of Drummond Ltd, the company’s Colombian branch, handed “a suitcase full of money” to a representative of paramilitary leader Rodrigo Tovar Pupo to have the three union leaders murdered. The sealed documents also showed that Drummond attempted to lobby the US State Department, apparently to get its help to have the lawsuit dismissed. The lobby effort included working with Baker Botts LLP, the law firm of James Baker, secretary of state in the 1989-1993 government of former US president George H.W. Bush.
On March 22 Drummond officials denied Rafael Garcia’s allegations. But Jose Miguel Linares, a local Drummond vice president, acknowledged that a Drummond Ltd. director, Alfredo Araujo, is a cousin of Senator Alvaro Araujo, who was jailed in February on charges of working with the paramilitaries to kidnap a political rival; Alvaro Araujo’s sister, Maria Consuelo Araujo, resigned from her post as foreign minister in the resulting scandal. On March 20 Colombia announced that it was starting a formal investigation of Drummond’s possible ties to paramilitaries. (Forbes, March 14 from AP; Associated Press, March 16; Houston Chronicle, March 22 from AP)
Army Kills Peasants on Eastern Plains
According to information provided by the Foundation of the Committee in Solidarity with Political Prisoners (FCSPP) and the Social Corporation for Community Advising and Training (COS-PACC), troops from the Colombian Army’s 16th Brigade executed two campesinos, Daniel Torres Arciniegas and 16-year-old Roque Julio Torres Torres, in the rural hamlet of El Triunfo, in Aguazul municipality, Casanare department. The army then presented the victims as “subversives killed in combat.” Torres Torres had been a witness to the earlier execution of Hugo Edgar Araque Rodriguez and Freddy Alexander Cardenas by members of the same 16th Brigade; several soldiers were under judicial investigation for that crime.
Since 1996, 13 campesinos from Aguazul have been executed, another 26 have been disappeared, and there have been multiple cases of torture, forced displacement, arbitrary detention and other abuses in the municipality. The community has reported the abuses and fears retaliation. (Agencia Prensa Rural, March 20)
At least three other campesinos have been murdered in Aguazul since the beginning of this year. On Jan. 18, Angel Camacho was murdered in the hamlet of Plan Cunama las Brisas by individuals who appeared to be from a unit of the GAULA, a national anti-kidnapping force, based in Yopal, capital of Casanare. Witnesses said that after killing Camacho, the assassins placed a gun in the victim’s hand and took photos of the body before taking it away.
On Jan. 29, two young individuals in civilian clothing who appeared to be leftist guerrillas murdered Reinaldo Zea in the hamlet of Retiro Milagro. After killing Zea, the assailants threatened his wife, warning her to stay quiet or face the same fate. On Feb. 12, a heavily armed group of men dressed in camouflage, accompanied by others in civilian clothing, stopped a bus transporting British Petroleum contract workers in the hamlet of La Florida; the men took Jaime Palacios off the bus and murdered him. (Message posted by FCSPP/COS-PACC March 20 on Colombia Indymedia)
On March 15, troops from Battalion 29 of the army’s 16th Brigade, based in Yopal, took campesino Carlos Guevara from his home in the village of Ocove, in Labranzagrande municipality, Boyaca department (just northwest of Casanare), and forced him to accompany them. Hours later members of the army told the community that they had killed a guerrilla; residents recognized the body as that of Guevara. Several months earlier, the army had detained Guevara and accused him of being a guerrilla; the courts had freed him after finding no evidence for that claim. (Message from FCSPP/COS-PACC, undated, received March 23)
Weekly News Update on the Americas, March 25, 2007
Weekly News Update on the Americas
WW4 REPORT #126, October 2006
More on Drummond at WW4 REPORT #43:
From our weblog:
Colombia rejects CIA report on army-para ties
WW4 REPORT, March 26, 2007
Reprinted by WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, April 1, 2007
Reprinting permissible with attribution
How a Yippie conspiracist changed America, mainstreamed marijuana and was destroyed by his dream…
Thomas K. Forçade was one of the most influential figures of the counterculture, and changed American culture as much as his confederates Abbie Hoffman and Larry Flynt. Forçade built a media empire, revolutionized journalism, mainstreamed marijuana and helped found the legalization movement before his untimely and still-mysterious apparent suicide at the age of 33. But he was the counterculture’s Howard Hughes, who labored behind the scenes, shunned the spotlight, wrote under pseudonyms—and continued to move large quantities of grass right to the end. Nearly 30 years after his death, it is time those who stand on his shoulders to know the man and the myth that was Tom Forçade.
by Bill Weinberg, Cannabis Culture
The Youth International Party (YIP)—popularly known as the Yippies—came to fame in 1968, with the violence at that summer’s protests against the Democratic Convention in Chicago, where the pro-war candidate Hubert Humphrey won the nomination. The protesters themselves had overwhelmingly been the target of violence by the Chicago police and Illinois National Guard—yet in the aftermath, eight activists associated (to varying degrees) with the Yippies were charged with federal conspiracy. In what was widely perceived as a travesty of justice, five of the “Chicago eight”—Yippie co-founders Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin, Tom Hayden of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), and Dave Dellinger and Rennie Davis of the National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam (“The Mobe”)—were convicted of inciting to riot (although cleared of conspiracy) and each sentenced to five years. Bobby Seale of the Black Panthers was charged separately and convicted of contempt after being ordered bound and gagged in the courtroom by Judge Julius Hoffman. The convictions were reversed on appeal. But the trial—and the prankish antics by the defendants—catapulted Hoffman, Rubin and their cohorts to celebrity status. They were breathing the same rarefied air as the rock stars with whom they jointly defined the “counter-culture”—and they as eagerly exploited the media attention.
The irony of the outlandish conspiracy charges for First Amendment activity is that the Yippies did actually see themselves as a sort of conspiracy. Hoffman especially saw his mission as to bring a political consciousness to the hedonistic hippies, and to harness the creative energies of the counter-culture to protest the war in Vietnam. They set about this with a methodical intent that belied their seeming spontaneity. In fact, a case can be made that many of the vast cultural and political changes that swept America in the years of the Vietnam adventure’s grim endgame traced their origins to a New Years Day 1968 conclave, in a smoke-filled room in Hoffman’s apartment on New York’s Lower East Side, where the “Yippie” concept was conceived. And the smoke in that room wasn’t tobacco.
So the movement was riven with paradoxes from the start: Activism versus hedonism. Idealism versus opportunism. Ultra-democracy versus conspiracism. Anarchists versus hustlers. Disciplined cadre versus dope-fueled rabble. Even the “party” of Youth International Party was intended as a pun, with both senses of the word equally legitimate.
The Yippies’ unlikely fusion of these seeming opposites was, somehow, a real one. They saw themselves as the harbingers of a new culture, seeking to psychedelicize the left as well as to politicize the hippies. While the traditional left (like the Mobe) held orderly marches and chanted in unison, the Yippies used hit-and-run street guerilla tactics and bizarre theater, like their October 1967 “exorcism” ritual at the Pentagon. While the traditional left disdained marijuana and LSD as decadent self-indulgence, the Yippies embraced them as agents of liberation, and adopted their legalization as a cause. They saw themselves—however unrealistically—as genuine revolutionaries, and the notion of a populist revolution as the product of an elite conspiracy can be traced back to the 19th-century Russian anarchist Mikhail Bakunin and Auguste Blanqui, who fancied himself the secret mastermind of the Paris Commune from his prison cell. The Yippies’ ethic of media manipulation—”using the system against the system”—fit this mentality perfectly.
But if Hoffman played the media by acting the role of irreverent jester for the cameras, there is another figure who was arguably even more influential—yet virtually unknown because, by choice, he labored in the shadows. And rather than merely manipulate the media, this man of mystery (an image he consciously cultivated) actually built his own modest media empire in the 1970s, creating something that, at least briefly, approached a real alternative to the corporate press, and helped move the whole American spectrum to the left, the loose and the funky. Tellingly, he killed himself on the very eve of the Reagan revolution, in which those gains would be largely repealed.
With the country once again as divided as it was in 1968, perhaps it is time that Thomas King Forçade received his posthumous due.
THE YIPPIE YEARS: GENESIS OF THE CONSPIRACY
Born Kenneth Gary Goodson (the name-change came when he forged his new identity), he started life as the nomad brat of a military contractor. After stints in Okinawa, Alaska and Greenland, the family returned to their native Arizona—where Gary’s father met his death in a car accident when the boy was 11. Gary’s principal passion as a teenager was hot-rodding, his anti-authoritarian streak manifested by getting into chases across the desert with the Utah state police. He eventually graduated to smuggling in trunkloads of marijuana from across the Mexican border. He briefly served in the Air Force in 1965, but, feigning insanity, was dishonorably discharged before he could be dispatched to Vietnam. Back in the civilian world, he earned a degree in business administration from the University of Utah. In 1967, he caught the psychedelic wave, grew his hair long, and moved into a communal household in the Tucson area. When the commune was raided for marijuana and LSD by the police, and some members arrested, he became politicized—and somewhat paranoid. He changed his name and began publishing his drug-culture journal Orpheus, which seems to have been inspired by San Francisco’s contemporaneous Oracle. But this had more of an edge—each edition of one issue was shot through with a bullet as an artistic statement. He produced it from a 1946 Chevy school bus he drove around Arizona to avoid police harassment. The name Forçade was an intentional play on the word “facade”—a wink to the initiated that it was an alias (although some sources maintain Forçade was his paternal grandmother’s maiden name).
Isolated in conservative Arizona, Forçade identified with the then-mushrooming radical or “underground” press movement. Small publications were springing up from coast to coast. Some, like Oracle, were focused on psychedelic exploration and mysticism. Others, like the Los Angeles Free Press, were journalistic, full of leftist muckracking. But increasingly, papers like New York’s East Village Other, which merged the two sensibilities, set the template. The underground press came to be seen as the voice of the radical youth movement of which the Yippies were the avant-garde.
In 1969 Forçade drove the school bus to New York where he teamed up with John Wilcock of the East Village Other to launch what they dubbed the Underground Press Syndicate (UPS), which served as a clearing house for the numerous new radical journals around the country. (The acronym, of course, was another play—on United Parcel Service.) UPS affiliates could lift material from each other, and link as a network. Forçade’s friends back in Arizona continued to publish Orpheus, which now metamorphosed into the official “directory” and periodic anthology of the UPS. But the UPS national headquarters, in a big loft on New York’s West 17th Street, became Forçade’s new base of operations.
Already Forçade was harboring dreams of the counter-culture supplanting and becoming the mainstream. “A daily underground paper in every city, and a weekly in every town,” he articulated his vision. “The underground press,” he wrote in the UPS founding manifesto, “is crouched like a Panther, dollars and days away from daily publication and thus total domination in the print media. After the underground press goes daily, they’ll die like flies.”
He saw his enterprise as on the frontlines of a culture war: “The Underground Press Syndicate papers, as advance scouts for journalism in Amerika & the world, often find themselves in conflict with the last vestiges of honky mentality… uptight Smokey-the-Bears of the totalitarian forest running around with axe-wielding blue-meanie henchmen, stomping out the fires of a people who have found their voice and are using it.” But he was convinced of victory. “The fires are too many and too big.”
The UPS claimed a collective 20 million readers, and Forçade strove to make the venture economically self-sustaining. He sold the microfilm rights of all UPS affiliates to the firm Bell & Howell for re-sale to libraries—which simultaneously brought in money and made the material more widely available. He contracted one Concert Hill Publications of Pennsylvania as the syndicate’s official ad agency. Some expressed fears that UPS was becoming too capitalistic with this move, but revenues from rock bands and concert promoters flowed in, and the underground press movement grew.
In New York, Forçade cut a strange figure. In an era and milieu of self-conscious flamboyance, he went around in an austere black outfit resembling a priest’s cassock, with a matching black wide-brimmed cowboy hat and ever-present dark glasses. He also rode around in a matching black Cadillac. He seemed to relish the rumors surrounding him that he was moving large quantities of marijuana into the city. In these years—like Hoffman, a senior figure in the New York radical scene, and clearly a role model—he actively sought notoriety, while justifying it as a tool of social change.
But, with Richard Nixon now in power, there was also an increased sense of paranoia. The Senate Internal Security Subcommittee investigated the finances of Liberation News Service, the journalistic collective that serviced many UPS affiliates. Federal legislation was introduced that sought to ban publications that ran communiqués from armed groups like the Black Panthers and Weather Underground. Local district attorneys and police forces launched a campaign of harassment. The Phoenix office of the UPS was raided in an ostensible drug search; no drugs were found, but police confiscated files and subscription lists. Wrote Forçade: “With obscenity busts, they get your money; with drug busts, they get your people; with intimidation, they get your printer; and if you still manage somehow to get out a sheet, their distribution monopolies and rousts keep it from ever getting to the people.”
The obscenity busts were also real—there was a cross-fertilization between pornography and the underground press at this point, with the radical journals pushing the limits on sexual frankness, providing personal ads for amorous readers (a new idea back then), and (in theory at least) making erotic imagery less voyeuristic and objectifying and more participatory and instructive. These distinctions were, of course, lost on the authorities. And on May 14, 1970, Forçade registered a rather dramatic protest.
Dressed in his trademark outfit, Forçade showed up at the hearings of the President’s Commission on Obscenity and Pornography in Washington DC, carrying an open letter to the commission listing 45 publications that had been censored or shut down by busts or intimidation. His testimony accused the commissioners of being “walking antiques…trying to stamp out our…working model of tomorrow’s paleocybernetic culture, soul, life, manifesting love force, anarchy, euphoria…flowing new-consciousness media… So fuck off, and fuck censorship!” Concluding his comments, he stepped forward and—with a war cry of “The only obscenity is censorship!”—wafted a cream pie right into the face of the commission’s chairman, Otto N. Larsen of the University of Washington.
This event—which took place the same day that two black student protesters were killed and nine injured by police gunfire at Mississippi’s Jackson State College—is now known as the first Yippie pie-ing. The tactic would later be taken up by Yippie Pie-Man Aron Kay, who would go on to symbolically “assassinate” Nixon aides G. Gordon Liddy, E. Howard Hunt and John Dean; CIA director William Colby; UN ambassador Daniel Patrick Moynihan; conservative pundit William F. Buckley; anti-feminist crusader Phyllis Schlafly; pop artist Andy Warhol; California governor Jerry Brown; New York mayors Abe Beame and Ed Koch, and several other icons of the establishment. Other Yippies creamed H-bomb mastermind Edward Teller, anti-gay mouthpiece Anita Bryant and Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner, a perceived exploiter of the youth culture. (The tradition is still being carried on today by a loose network known as the Biotic Baking Brigade, which has pied many captains of government and industry in recent years, including San Francisco mayor Willie Brown, Microsoft magnate Bill Gates and corporate raider Charles Hurwitz.)
In August 1970, Forçade undertook another high-profile caper. Warner Brothers was filming a movie entitled Medicine Ball Caravan, that chronicled the adventures of a tribe of hippies—including ex-Merry Prankster Wavy Gravy and his Hog Farm commune—as they made their way cross-country to attend the Isle of Wight rock festival in England. Forçade intercepted the caravan near Boulder. In his Cadillac limousine (now painted a militaristic olive drab) was a wide assortment of fireworks and smoke-bombs. In his entourage was one of the Yippies’ most provocative characters, David Peel—the group’s official songster, whose John Lennon-produced album The Pope Smokes Dope was an underground classic then being banned all over the world (and who took his name from his habit of smoking banana peels). Peel’s incessant taunting of the caravan leaders as whores for Warner Brothers finally brought the situation to violence. The camp boss pulled a knife on Peel; then Forçade (decked out like a frontiersman in a fringed leather jacket with a skull-and-crossbones button reading “The American Revolution”) jumped the boss from behind. The whole episode was caught on film—and used in the movie. While Forçade claimed his aim had been to expose the caravan as corporate exploitation of the counter-culture, rumors circulated that he had actually been in Warner Brothers’ pay—to provide some on-camera violence and publicity. Others claimed he was piggy-backing a big cross-country marijuana run on the caravan.
In 1971, when rock producer Phil Spector was accused of sitting on money raised by ex-Beatle George Harrison and friends (Ravi Shankar, Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan) at Madison Square Garden’s legendary Concert for Bangladesh, Forçade joined with another Yippie, AJ Weberman, to found the Rock Liberation Front—which occupied Spector’s office to demand the funds be released. The negative publicity worked. Finally, the money started to arrive at the relief organizations working at the camps in northeast India, where some 10 million had taken precarious refuge from the brutal war in Bangladesh.
But there was again an ambiguity of motives surrounding the next escapade, which represented both the pinnacle of Forçade’s career as a visible activist leader and the impetus for an abrupt change in his trajectory—the defining moment in his life. It was also the last gasp of the Yippies, and the group’s inevitable Oedipal revolt.
Forçade had, of course, been drawn into the Yippies’ orbit upon his arrival in New York. His first ego-clash with Hoffman surrounded production of Abbie’s third and most popular tome: the cleverly entitled Steal This Book. The previous two, the Yippie manifesto Woodstock Nation and the stream-of-consciousness Revolution for the Hell of It (written under the pseudonym “Free,” even though Hoffman’s highly recognizable image adorned the cover, and several inside pages), had been successful—as had Rubin’s own manifesto Do It! But Steal This Book would have to be self-published—given the provocative title (which Hoffman refused to compromise on), and the fact that it was an explicit how-to manual on subverting and ripping off the system, including detailed instructions on squatting, shoplifting and building pipe-bombs and Molotov cocktails, complete with charts and diagrams.
Woodstock Nation and Revolution for the Hell of It were credited to the celebrity-hungry Hoffman despite the fact that—by many accounts—they were actually collective efforts, with lesser-known and younger Yippies helping out on the editing and even writing. Steal This Book was to be an even more explicitly collaborative project. When Hoffman had to return to Chicago in 1969 to serve a 13-day jail sentence for writing “FUCK” on his forehead in public, he hired Forçade to edit, typeset and lay out the manuscript. Upon his return to New York, Hoffman was presented with a bill of $5,000 for two weeks of work. Unhappy with either the price or the work, he refused to pay. The Yippies organized a “people’s court” to settle the matter, with Hoffman and Forçade each presenting their case to a panel of three arbiters.
Forçade argued that his fee was based on what he was paid by Madison Avenue advertising agencies as a “youth market” consultant—which particularly galled Hoffman, as this was exactly the kind of work he regularly turned down. For Forçade, in turn, the Yippies’ spirit of volunteerism and shoestring improvisation masked exploitation. As panelist Craig Karpel put it: “If Tom was trying to use his competence to hustle Abbie, Abbie was trying to use his incompetence to hustle Tom.” The panel ultimately issued what was conceived as a compromise: Hoffman would pay Forçade $1,000. There is a famous photo taken after the verdict was announced, in which a smiling Hoffman extends his hand to Forçade, as one of the panelists, a young Yippie named Mayer Vishner, looks on between them, clearly hoping for reconciliation. Forçade makes no move to accept Hoffman’s hand, or even turn to face him; he looks at the camera, ramrod-straight and poker-faced.
After the verdict, Forçade hit Hoffman with a double-whammy. First, he held a press conference in which he announced that the “people’s court” had ruled in his favor because it had ordered Hoffman to pay him money. The “Abbie Guilty!” headline hit both the mainstream and underground media. Then, he sued Hoffman in civil court—which was seen as a grave betrayal of counter-culture ethics.
Ultimately, two rival editions were issued, identical in every particular except the title and cover. Ironically Hoffman’s was printed under the moniker of “Pirate Editions,” while Forçade’s smaller print run was a pirate edition of this version! Printed by “Hopscotch, Inc.,” Forçade’s knock-off was dubbed The “Steal Yourself Rich” Book. Hoffman’s name only appeared on the title page, not the cover. A line of small print read: “Large portions of this book were previously published under the title ‘Steal This Book.'” Of course, the text said nothing about getting rich, but much about living for free on the fringe of society, fighting the police and generally making trouble for the “Pig Empire.” The two titles exemplified the divergent philosophies of the two men: Hoffman’s saw theft as an act of resistance against the system of private property; Forçade’s as a mere hustle.
The Yippie split intensified with the presidential campaigns of 1972. Both the Republicans and Democrats would be holding their conventions in Miami. The Republicans stood behind Nixon, who had escalated the bombardment of Vietnam and spread the war to Cambodia. But this time the Democrats seemed poised to nominate the anti-war candidate George McGovern—in the first election in which 18-year-olds would have the vote. The old Yippie leaders announced that they were prepared to protest the Republicans, but not the Democrats. Hoffman, Rubin and Ed Sanders (the rock star/poet of The Fugs, a Lower East Side-based band) joined to co-author the book Vote!, which urged the anti-war movement to support McGovern. Read Hoffman’s jacket blurb: “This is the first time since 1776 that America is up for grabs. Vote and its yours.” Sanders: “I might have done a lot of crazy things before, but now, it’s time to get the rock and roll people to vote.”
The younger generation of Yippies wouldn’t go along with this. A counter-triumvirate to Hoffman/Rubin/Sanders congealed around Forçade, Dana Beal and Cindy Ornsteen, and insisted on protesting both parties at Miami. They assumed a more hard-left posture, arguing that the Democrats as well as Republicans were a party of big business and war, and that the founding Yippies had become ossified and sold out. The breakaway faction around Forçade dubbed themselves the “Zippies,” and adopted the slogan: “Put the zip back into YIP!” Another Zippie slogan was “We are not McGovernable!”
Accused a post-Miami manifesto officially purging Hoffman and Rubin as YIP leaders: “Their endorsement of the McGovern candidacy was an attempt to commit YIP to surrendering our independent identity to a party controlled by oil billionaires and labor reactionaries, the Connallys and Meanys. Our survival as a party is absolutely incompatable [sic] with that of the Democratic Party. We cannot represent the interests of youth within the Democratic Party.” It also accused them of being anti-democratic and elitist.
The folks around Hoffman and Rubin saw baser motives. Chicago ’68 had been the Yippies’ moment of glory, and these younger Yips had missed it. Forçade had still been in Arizona, and Beal had been in jail on a marijuana charge during the “Battle of Chicago.” Now they wanted their own chance to make history—or at least headlines.
Sexual rivalries may have also played a part—Forçade’s love interest, former Berkeley Barb reporter Gabrielle Schang, had recently dumped him for Sanders. In fact, some sources maintain that finding out Schang was in Miami with Sanders was what prompted him to go there and assume the role of protest leader in the first place—and that he took a New York City taxi-cab all the way down in a split-instant decision!
Finally, there were the inevitable rumors that Forçade was a paid agent provocateur—assigned a task of discrediting the protest movement as kneejerk nihilism, and even tilting the election to law-and-order candidate Nixon. In a possible revenge strategy by Hoffman for Forçade’s media zap against him over the Steal This Book affair, the old Yippies (or somebody) succeeded in selling this spin to the mainstream press. Wrote Jack Anderson in the Washington Post: “Published reports claim that the young radicals who slashed tires, threw rocks and terrorized Republicans at the national convention were really on the GOP payroll.” Mike Royko in the Chicago Tribune: “Is somebody in the White House the real leader of the Zippies?” Both stories mentioned Forçade by name, and Anderson even revealed his real name.
The Miami protests did indeed explode into violence, and even the Zippies afterwards said that real agents provocateurs had been at work. In an effort to split the Zippies from other groups at Miami—particularly Vietnam Veterans Against the War—poison-pen leaflets were distributed bearing Forçade’s face in the style of a “WANTED” poster, accusing him of dealing heroin and getting vets hooked on smack. This was almost certainly part of the FBI’s COINTELPRO (Counter-Intelligence Program), which widely used such tactics against the New Left and especially the Black Panthers (as declassification of documents subsequently revealed). A goon squad of burly crew-cut men with shirts reading “FUC” attacked and beat up protesters. It was said this stood for Florida Undercover Coalition, a semi-official extremist wing of the Miami police.
Worse, the Miami protests failed to win the media attention that had riveted the nation and the world in the summer of ’68. Wrote historian Todd Gitlin in his account of the protest movement, The Whole World is Watching: “There was, in fact, far less live coverage of the demonstrations at the 1972 Republican Convention in Miami Beach, though those demonstrations were numerically larger than the Chicago events.”
But the real trouble came in the aftermath—when Forçade was charged by federal prosecutors with possession of a firebomb and intention to incinerate the convention center. (He had been arrested during the protests for attempting to steal a portrait of Lyndon Johnson from the convention center, but the charge didn’t stick.) The nostalgia for Chicago ’68 was becoming too real. If convicted, he faced a lengthy prison term.
Initially, he considered going underground. He laid low for weeks, checking into motels under false names with Cindy Ornsteen (while planting the rumor that he had fled to Argentina). Finally he turned himself in to face the charges—and in one last hurrah of bravado boasted to the feds that the Weathermen would soon break him out of jail (as they recently had Timothy Leary). Shotgun-wielding guards were posted outside his cell around the clock.
Forçade was cleared of the charges, but the episode prompted a radical change of direction in his life. On the lam with Ornsteen, he had arrived at a new strategy to realize his ambitions—to build the radical press movement and effect social change—but this time from the shadows rather than the limelight. And, this time, to get rich in the process.
THE HIGH TIMES YEARS: THE CONSPIRACY REALIZED
1974 was a turning point. US troops were finally home from Vietnam. Abbie Hoffman, wanted on a cocaine sale rap, went underground. Jerry Rubin dropped out of activist politics. Richard Nixon resigned to avoid facing impeachment proceedings. And Tom Forçade launched High Times magazine.
The concept was brilliant, and more successful than Forçade himself had anticipated. A whole industry of marijuana paraphernalia and growing equipment had sprung up in recent years, and needed a place to advertise. And there was a public eager for the magazine’s unique mixture of sophisticated alternative journalism and marijuana pornography. A small print run disappeared from the news-stands in a flash; more were printed, and they too were gone in the blink of an eye. It was an instant sensation.
As Albert Goldman would write in a retrospective in High Times on the magazine’s founder 15 years after his death: “Starting the magazine on a $20,000 shoestring, Forçade would see the circulation double with every issue for years, until at its peak, in 1978, High Times was read by four million people a month, grossed five million dollars a year and had been acclaimed as the ‘publishing success story of the seventies.’ The same shrewdness exemplified by the concept and the financing was evinced in the design and packaging of the product… Forçade produced a slick knock-off of the paramount magazine formula of recent times: the Playboy-Penthouse sex mag. His reasoning was flawless. Dope was the sex of the ’70s: a universal pleasure fighting for full acceptance… [W]hy shouldn’t the formula that worked for pussy work for pot?”
Forçade had found his true calling. He had once theorized to the UPS: “You’re going to have to identify…some sort of base that the straight press can’t co-opt. Either sex, drugs or politics.” Precisely because drugs were illegal, they fit the bill perfectly. Sex could be commodified, and politics could go soft. But dope was inexorably outlaw—and especially after Nixon, who had launched a “War on Drugs,” and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). High Times was inherently oppositional.
In addition to full-color centerfolds of high-grade marijuana, there were columnists—principally Ed Rosenthal and Mel Frank—who provided explicit instructions on how to grow the stuff, and one, “‘R.’, Dope Connoisseur,” who reviewed the latest strains. As the magazine was popularized, the homegrown movement flourished. There were also first-hand accounts of smuggling, and domestic growers followed in the footsteps of High Times journalists to bring back exotic strains from Morocco, Afghanistan and Nepal.
But being the Hugh Hefner of the dope culture also fueled Forçade’s paranoia. While he was both full owner and real editorial director (closely managing the official publisher, Andy Kowl, and editor, Ed Dwyer), his name did not appear in the magazine. When he wrote, it was under pseudonyms like “Leslie Morrison.” At first High Times operated out of the UPS office; eventually both moved to a bigger space at East 27th Street. Forçade (who now developed a penchant for white suits—again with matching cowboy hat and ever-present shades) rented a loft across the street, or stayed in nearby hotels, where he hosted conclaves with the staff. He ceased to be a visible figure—he now craved anonymity as avidly as he had once craved notoriety. He had become the Howard Hughes of the counter-culture, as much as the Hugh Hefner.
His old sense of absurdist humor was still at work. The company he formed as official publisher of High Times was dubbed the Trans-High Corporation, or THC—the acronym for tetrahydro-cannabinol, the psycho-active ingredient in marijuana. Its official icon was the P-38, a twin-tailed World War II fighter which Forçade re-envisioned as the ultimate smuggler plane.
A remnant faction of the Yippies, meanwhile, continued to exist under the leadership of Dana Beal, from a building at 9 Bleecker Street in the East Village. They continued to launch protests at national political conventions (Kansas City, 1976), but marijuana legalization became their special cause. They held public “smoke-ins” around the country, the most prominent being the annual affairs in Washington DC on July 4, New York’s Fifth Avenue on May 1, and Washington Square Park on Halloween. They also launched their own publication, Yipster Times. Forçade and Beal remained close collaborators—High Times publicized and covered the Yippie events, and Tom sunk money into them.
He also sunk money into an array of other publications. Just before High Times was founded, the Underground Press Syndicate officially changed its name to the Alternative Press Syndicate, hoping to win greater mainstream legitimacy—and less heat from the authorities. The APS launched its own magazine, Alternative Media, published at the High Times offices, and conceived as a more serious and activist-oriented sibling journal. Forçade also quietly provided seed money for many new additions to the APS network around the country—from gay and feminist publications to the burgeoning ecologist, anti-nuclear and Native American press.
When the punk sub-culture exploded, many old hippies were aghast, but Forçade cheered it on, providing seed money, advertisers and national distribution for Punk magazine, the brainchild of cartoonist John Holmstrom (who did the back-cover art for the Ramones’ third album, 1977’s Rocket to Russia, and the front-cover art for the following year’s Road to Ruin). This became the prototype for a whole universe of punk fanzines, and was key to popularizing the genre in America. Forçade also slapped down $400,000 for a documentary of the Sex Pistols’ legendary and star-crossed 1978 US tour, DOA.
Forçade even for a time published (it is widely suspected) his own ostensible rivals to High Times, called Stone Age and Head—another of his obsessive pranks. And he opened his own bookstore in Soho, called New Morning (from the title of both a Bob Dylan album and a Weather Underground manifesto).
High Times, it must be emphasized, contained intelligent journalism, not just pot pornography. One star reporter was Rob Singer (who in the ’90s would serve a prison term for a huge California marijuana operation, which involved moving the stuff around in a fleet of refrigerated cross-country rigs). In 1976, he authored an in-depth and highly prescient piece, “Dope Dictators,” which documented the drug ties of various despots around the planet and predicted: “In the years to come the rhetoric of the Dope War will replace rhetoric of the Cold War as the justification for foreign military intervention. Instead of sending in the Marines, Washington will send in the narcs.” These lines anticipated the 1989 invasion of Panama, and the secret war currently underway in Colombia.
Key to High Times’ success was Forçade’s partnership with Larry Flynt, the publisher of Hustler. Flynt bucked the Mafia, which had traditionally maintained control of pornography distribution, by establishing his own distribution company for Hustler and his other magazines. High Times also used this company, which—in a practice unheard-of in the business—paid for magazines up front. This allowed Forçade to maintain High Times’ extensive payroll (it is said two staffers were hired just to roll joints for the rest!), throw lavish parties regularly, and still sink money into political causes.
And Forçade’s success extended to his personal life—he finally won the love of Gabrielle Schang, who became his common-law wife (and editor of Alternative Media).
However, there were also contradictions eating away at the dream. Forçade, it became clear, was (like Abbie Hoffman) manic-depressive—or, more accurately, afflicted with what is now called seasonal affective disorder, SAD. He was full of frenetic energy in the spring and summer, but grew despondent as the days grew shorter. His mood swings made life difficult for High Times staff. In one episode, he staged a “Saturday Night Massacre,” firing everybody—only to hire them all back the next day. Andy Kowl related to Albert Goldman an incident in which Tom produced a .45 pistol in the midst of an argument—only to hand it to Kowl and demand he shoot him.
While Forçade ploughed money into the DC-based National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML, founded 1970), he could also lord it over the organization in the most arrogant manner. In one famous episode, he showed up at a NORML benefit party at a posh Park Avenue apartment and intentionally offended the hostess—putting his boots up on the polished wood table, lighting a joint and meeting protests with “Go fuck yourself!”
Most bizarrely, even as High Times became massively successful, Forçade continued to smuggle massive quantities of marijuana into the country. He established a clandestine “smoke-easy” at 714 Broadway, where the city’s pot dealers congregated to share samples, compare prices and conduct business. Goldman relates one escapade in which Forçade was personally overseeing the ferrying of boatloads of Colombian to a drop-off point from a freighter off the Florida coast. The operation was discovered by the police, and Forçade fled into the Everglades, where he hid out for days before he made his escape.
One such operation in the spring of 1978 went horribly wrong—and cost the life of Forçade’s close friend and longtime smuggling partner Jack (O’Lantern) Coombs, who was flying in a load of Colombian in a twin-engine cargo plane. Forçade was to meet him mid-air in a smaller plane and guide him to a Florida drop-off point, where the cargo would be parachuted to a waiting ground crew. Coombs’ plane came in too low, hit tree level—and burst into flames. Forçade, it was said by those who knew him, always blamed himself for his friend’s death. This is counted as the beginning of his downward spiral.
Some of High Times’ journalistic coups also backfired. In 1978, President Carter’s drug policy advisor Dr. Peter Bourne—already under fire for allegedly approving a Quaalude prescription for a secretary’s recreational use—was spotted snorting coke at a NORML party in the fashionable DC district of Georgetown. High Times writer Craig Copetas had been present, and the magazine eagerly reported this hot gossip, hoping to shame Carter into following through on his promises to decriminalize marijuana. Predictably, it had exactly the opposite effect. Bourne was forced to resign, and Carter stepped up aid to Mexico to spray the defoliant paraquat on marijuana fields.
A key turning point in High Times’ fortunes came with the attempted assassination of Larry Flynt. In March 1978, during a legal battle against obscenity charges in Georgia’s Gwinnett County, Flynt and his lawyer were shot outside the courthouse. A white supremacist militant later confessed to the crime, but rumors of Mafia or CIA involvement abounded. They both survived, but Flynt was confined to a wheelchair for life—and during his lengthy recovery, the distribution business fell into disarray. High Times lost the sweet distribution deal on which it depended. Economic chaos loomed for the magazine.
Later that year, Gabrielle Schang interviewed Tom on tape at their Greenwich Village apartment, at his request. He spoke about his ongoing dreams of building a viable alternative press, about his fears of government surveillance. (“Effectively, I’ve already spent the last 10 years in jail—I’ve been under such close surveillance.”) Incredibly, he denied ever breaking any laws. (“My only crime is not agreeing with the straight media.”) He boasted of his voracious reading and work habits. Asked what motivated him, he said: “I have a deep fear of killing myself out of boredom.”
On November 16, 1978, alone in his bed, with Gabrielle in the very next room, Tom Forçade, depressed, insomniac and paranoid (and—allegedly—having taken Quaaludes in an effort to sleep), shot himself in the temple with a pearl-handled .22.
He was 33 years old.
THE AFTERMATH: STRUGGLE FOR THE LEGACY
There were, of course, the inevitable rumors of government involvement. Forçade’s old Yippie friend AJ Weberman—a notorious conspiracy theorist, author of the book Coup d’Etat in America, claiming Watergate burglar E. Howard Hunt killed JFK for the CIA—immediately charged that Schang was a paid agent and had killed Forçade for the CIA. He noted that right-handed Tom had been shot in the left temple. Mel Frank would assert that Forçade had been followed by mysterious black cars in his final weeks.
Schang became the new High Times editor, but control of THC passed to Forçade’s lawyer Michael Kennedy, and she remained at the helm only a few issues. A succession of new editors followed, but it was clear the magazine was foundering.
The general cultural atmosphere changed rapidly. Reagan was elected. Hippies—and even Yippies, like Jerry Rubin—became yuppies. Colombia’s marijuana syndicates morphed into the sinister cocaine cartels, and coke replaced pot as America’s fashionable youth drug—but now as a symbol of affluence, not rebellion. Hardcore porn put the sexual frankness of the old underground press to shame, but utterly betrayed any ethic of equalitarian eroticism and de-objectification.
High Times, its circulation plummeting, followed this cultural de-evolution. Under editor Larry “Ratso” Sloman (who would later write an unflattering biography of Abbie Hoffman), photos of sparkling cocaine replaced marijuana buds and hashish balls in the centerfold spreads. Serious journalism nearly disappeared from the magazine. The APS withered, and Alternative Media ceased publication.
The remnant Yippies around Dana Beal (adopting a plethora of ad hoc front organizations) continued with their smoke-ins and protests at the political conventions (Detroit, New York, 1980; San Francisco, Dallas, 1984), but with greatly reduced numbers and far less support from High Times. Forçade’s final interview was run in the premier issue of Overthrow, as Yipster Times was re-named in 1979. Adopting a punk aesthetic and launching the American branch of the UK Rock Against Racism movement, the latter-day Yips that year opened a rock club at 10 Bleecker Street (just a few doors down from CBGB), popularly called Studio 10 but officially the Thomas K. Forçade Memorial Multi-Media Center. It would be evicted in 1981, with the gentrification of the East Village. Overthrow would finally cease publication in the late ’80s (perhaps marking an official end of the underground press movement), although Beal continues even now to reside in the building at 9 Bleecker, where a faded sign over the door reads “Yipster Times”—an incongruous anachronism among upscale boutiques and eateries. He is currently touting it as “The Yippie Museum.”
In 1986, as crack was infesting the streets of America’s cities, Reagan launched his own renewed War on Drugs. In the inevitable crackdown on the paraphernalia industry, High Times’ advertising base was virtually wiped out; the Justice Department even launched an investigation into the magazine for conspiracy to distribute paraphernalia. As the cheap freeze-dried variety became ubiquitous, cocaine quickly went from being a symbol of yuppie prosperity to a stigma associated with the urban poor and criminal element. Ironically, the official anti-drug hysteria came just as the CIA’s “contra” operations in Nicaragua were overseeing massive cocaine imports into the United States. (Abbie Hoffman, who had cut a deal with the authorities and come out from underground in 1980, made opposition to the secret war in Nicaragua one of his new activist campaigns. He too would fall victim to an apparent suicide in 1989.)
It was clear that High Times had to change. Steve Hager was brought in as the new editor in ’86. He cleaned out the cocaine, brought back the marijuana and a degree of political idealism. John Holmstrom, formerly of Punk, became publisher. In the late ’80s and ’90s High Times underwent something of a renaissance, with writers such as Peter Gorman, Steve Wishnia, Preston Peet and myself covering the War on Drugs as a serious political issue. Dean Latimer, the news editor from the Forçade era, was brought back. But this came to an end in subsequent editorial purges. High Times remains today the proverbial shadow of its former self—and something of a self-parody, with lots of pot pornography and sophomoric humor, but very little real journalism or political consciousness.
Controversy also surrounded Forçade’s stated desire that a certain percentage of High Times’ profits go to NORML in perpetuity. Former NORML board member Don Wirtshafter has accused THC of cooking the books to avoid giving the organization what it is due under Forçade’s deal. In 2000, THC was officially turned over from the trustees of Forçade’s estate (including some fairly conservative family members in Arizona) to those who had been on High Times staff for more than 10 years—again, in accord with Forçade’s stated wishes. But both Ed Rosenthal and John Holmstrom have sued THC, claiming they didn’t get what they were owed under the arrangement. Rosenthal lost his case, and Holmstrom’s was dropped. Michael Kennedy (while never a trustee or share-holder) is still seen as the real brains behind THC.
Marijuana, of course, remains illegal, with some 50,000 doing time for the stuff nationwide (out of over a million nonviolent drug offenders)—although several states have decriminalized, and several others passed laws or referenda legalizing medical marijuana, sparking a states’ rights showdown with the feds. Ed Rosenthal has been officially licensed to grow medical marijuana for the city of Oakland, California, and is prevailing in the courts against federal efforts to prosecute him on various felonies.
New publications on the High Times model have sprung up—principally Cannabis Culture, Heads and Skunk (all published in Canada), Weed World (UK), Cáñamo (Spain) and Stickypoint (Australia). The whole notion of an “alternative press” has been changed by the Internet in ways Forçade never could have anticipated, with webzines and blogs filling a similar niche. The Independent Media Centers, which emerged from the 1999 Seattle protests against the World Trade Organization, are in some ways an updated answer to the UPS. But the IMCs are a uniform franchise, contrasting the homespun individualism of the old underground press. And the sheer abundance of electronic media also has a marginalizing effect. With the IMCs lost amid a cacophony of right-wing blogs, there is certainly no sense of a unified oppositional culture animating the new digital alternative media.
Yet, the USA is once again bitterly divided over an unpopular war, riven by stark cultural contradictions; and issues of government surveillance and abuse of power have only grown more pressing since 9-11. These parallels make this an opportune moment to look back, re-asses what has brought us to this point. The legacy of Tom Forçade is now more worthy of examination than at any time since his death.
Bill Weinberg is a former High Times news editor and currently editor of the online journal World War 4 Report. He is the author of Homage to Chiapas: The New Indigenous Struggles in Mexico (Verso Books, 2000), and is at work on a book on the secret war in Colombia.
This story originally appeared in the January/February edition of Cannabis Culture
Tom Forçade reminiscences at AcidTrip.com
Abbie Hoffman website
Ed Rosenthal’s website
John Holmstrom’s website
Yippie Pie-Man’s Homepage
The Yippie Museum
Cannabis Culture on the Forçade Trust controversy
Accuracy in Media on Ed Dwyer: “From Pot to Porn to AARP”
Special to WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, April 1, 2007
Reprinting permissible with attribution