McMillan, “Biowarfare over Cuban skies,” The Manatoban, Feb. 25, 1998
Biowarfare over Cuban skies
Biological weapons are strictly off-limits... unless you're the American
By Stuart McMillan
Once again, the world is on the brink of another war - this time,
supposedly, because the U.S.
thinks Saddam Hussein may be hiding biological weapons stockpiles. That the U.S. already
has its own such stockpiles - and uses them - is less well-known.
Even though many countries have stated the need for more discussion and
negotiation in the current controversy over possible Iraqi stockpiling of
biological weapons, the U.S.
appears determined to show Iraq
a lesson. The U.S.
has continued to make statements that, "If Saddam doesn't agree to the
U.N. resolution, we will have no other option than to initiate a substantial
strike." They seem determined to get the support and involvement of as
many countries as possible.
Iraqi opposition to the Security Council Mandate has been well documented,
but what the agreement is about remains highly vague. To the media - as they
sell it to the public - it is about preventing violations of the ban on
chemical and biological weapons.
But this being the case, then the supposed defenders of freedom - a.k.a. the
- may need the most intense policing and control of all. Could the U.S. government
be so hypocritical as to threaten military strikes because Saddam Hussein might
potentially be making weapons of biological warfare, even as it was being
accused of deploying similar weapons against another nation?
Still leading the league
leads the development and production of bacteriological and chemical weapons on
a worldwide scale. Their use by the U.S.
military in the wars in Korea
and Viet Nam is well
documented by U.S.
government documents and the by media. What is not as well documented is U.S. use of
such weapons in covert operations. On the official books, all U.S. biological
weapons were destroyed in 1972, after signing of the
Biological Weapons Convention. In this way, the U.S.
is much like Iraq.
Unofficially, however, research, development and use of biological weapons by
the U.S. government has long been suspected, and recently, a strange incident
involving a U.S.
plane has brought the subject to light once again.
On October 21, 1996, an S2R crop-dusting plane registered to the U.S. State
Department was en route from Florida to Colombia via Grand Cayman
island. The plane was flying over an area known as the
Giron Corridor, heavily travelled by international aircraft. The plane had
Cuban permission to overfly, supposedly being part of a regularly scheduled U.S. narcotics
Flying over the same area was the regular flight of CU-170 Cubana de Aviacion from Havana
to Las Tunas. The pilots noticed the U.S. plane flying in an almost
parallel direction to them, 1,000 feet above. The Cuban pilot saw a "white
or greyish mist," as they put it, discharged
from the plane in an intermittent fashion some seven times. The Cuban pilot
immediately reported the discharge of unknown substance to Flight Control.
The Cuban Air Controller made contact with the U.S. plane. The Cuban Air
Controller's tape records them asking if the aircraft was having any technical
problems, to which the American pilot answered "No." When asked what
type of plane it was, the answer was "a single-engine AY-65." Which
it was not; it was a an S2R. How strange that a pilot
would forget what kind of plane he was flying.
On December 18, 1996, the first sign
of a foreign insect pest occurred in a potato plantation on the Lenin State
Horticultural Farm. Samples were sent to the Central Quarantine Laboratory of
the National Pest Control Centre, the insect being totally unknown to Cuba. An investigation
identified the organism as Thrips palmi
Trouble with Thrips
Thrips palmi is
indigenous to Asia. Since 1985, it has spread
across certain Caribbean countries such as Haiti,
the Dominican Republic and Jamaica. It
infects practically all crops, weeds and ornamental plants. It is
self-propagating in the field and is easily transferred when transporting any
plant material or soil. It is resistant to temperature changes and many
insecticides. In short, it is an agriculturalist's nightmare.
Could the two incidents be connected? The Cuban government certainly
believes so and has organized considerable amounts of information to prove it,
information which it submitted, in a formal complaint, to the U.N.
After registering its complaints with U.S. diplomats, the Cuban
government complained to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, charging that Thrips "strikes and severely damages practically every
crop and is also resistant to a considerable variety of pesticides."
Surely the U.S.
government would not violate the Biological Weapons Convention, which it signed
in 1972? But there are many reasons to believe that the U.S. has
violated and continues to violate this convention. Although "The U.S.
State Department denies the veracity of these Thrips
facts, alleging that" it has not committed a single act violating the 1972
The U.S.'s own
information releases paint a very different picture, showing that, through
successive administrations, the U.S.
has continued to run covert operations that started nearly 40 years ago.
It was 1959 and the Cuban Revolution had just occurred. The U.S., initially
very supportive of Castro, was beginning to grow uneasy with the government's
Communist leanings. CIA director Allen Dulles felt he had clear authorization
from President Eisenhower to assassinate Fidel Castro, his brother Raul Castro
and Che Guevara, Castro's military chief.
The surgeon general warns that...
never wanted to be connected to the assassinations directly, so a number of
unusual plans were attempted. These including spraying Castro's broadcast
studio and a box of cigars with an LSD-like compound, so Castro would appear
publicly delerious and unfit to rule. When this
failed, the CIA attempted to exploit Castro's fondness for a certain kind of
cigar, by treating a quantity of such cigars with botulism toxin, but failed to
deliver them properly. Had the delivery occurred, it could have successfully
eliminated Castro. The U.S. Senate papers document these and other attempted
By 1962, the CIA, under direct orders from Kennedy himself, developed an
operation known as MONGOOSE with the goal of destroying the Cuban Revolution.
It was the largest covert operation undertaken by the CIA at that time.
Operation MONGOOSE is well documented in Arthur Schlesinger's book, Robert F.
Kennedy and His Times. Operation strategies included military force, sabotage,
assassination and the training of mercenaries in the Panama Canal Zone and Guatemala. All
of these tactical options were deemed somewhat undesirable; because they were
so blatant, Kennedy feared increasing the Cold War tensions.
It was at this point that U.S.
intelligence services and the military undertook the development of
bacteriological warfare, which included blights that attack food crops, sugar
cane defoliants and bacteria, as well as various diseases and viruses that
affect humans and animals. The development and implementation continued
throughout the sixties.
In 1971, Newsday revealed that a
virus originating in Fort Gulik, in the Panama Canal Zone, had been delivered by fishing boats to
anti-Cuban agents. In 1972, CIA agents introduced the African swine fever
virus, which decimated Cuban swine production, causing a half-million pigs to
be incinerated and buried. This was well documented by a book entitled The Fish
is Red and was admitted by a U.S.
intelligence source in 1977. A few years later Newsday reported that a
biological warfare program aimed at poultry production had failed for reasons
Between 1979 and 1981, four more
destructive diseases were unleashed against Cuba: haemorrhagic
conjunctivitis, dengue fever, sugar cane rust and tobacco blue mould. CovertAction, a Washington-based publication, boldly stated
that the CIA-Pentagon introduction of dengue fever had infected hundreds of
thousands of people, leaving 158 dead - 101 of which were children. The Washington Post reported
that, "the CIA had a program aimed at Cuban agriculture, andŠsince 1962 Pentagon specialists had been manufacturing
biological agents to be used for this purpose." In 1984, Eduardo Arocena, a leader of the anti-Cuba terrorist group Omega 7,
admitted before a U.S. court
that, in 1980, he had participated in a operation to
introduce germs into Cuba as
part of the U.S.
"war" against Cuba.
Throughout the history of the U.S.'s
operations against Cuba,
"plausible deniability" has been one its standard public-relations
tactics. Kennedy never wanted to be seen as an aggressor, so all operations
were orchestrated to appear to be the work of another organization or as a
random biological outbreak. The primary appeal of biological weapons is their
deniability. It is difficult to prove beyond a plausible doubt that an
aggressor is the cause of an infection. It is easy to blame random infection,
especially when a disease or bacteria is already active in an area. It is to
the advantage of the perpetrator of biological warfare to use an organism that
has already proven to be deadly and destructive in the target area, because its
presence is known and it may have adapted itself somehow, and thus, appears
easily explainable. Also, bacteria and insects don't reveal who gave them their
Kennedy and Clinton have in common an active hormonal life, but they may
have more than that. Kennedy began, and Clinton
may be continuing, the tradition of "plausible deniability."
Kennedy's hormones are linked to one of the assassination plots against
Castro. According to Senate documents, from January, 1961, through March 22,
1962, Kennedy had an affair with Judith Campbell. Judith Campbell was also the
mistress of Chicago
mafia chief Sam Giancana. The documents show that, in
late 1960, Giancana was hired by the CIA to kill Castro in exchange for
$150,000. Many attempts were made, but all failed.
But someone bought it in the end
A secret investigation was called, which eventually led to the release of
U.S. Senate Report 94-465, entitled Alleged Assassination Plots Involving
Foreign Leaders. Shortly after being called to testify about his involvement in
assassination plots, Sam Giancana was shot seven times in the throat and mouth,
and his accomplice was hacked to pieces, stuffed into an oil drum and dumped
into the ocean off the coast of Miami.
Both murders were committed by an unknown assailant who was never found. Thus,
plausible deniability remained the U.S. standard.
As it remains today. State Department spokesperson
John Dinger denied any American violation of the 1972 Biological Weapons
Convention in the Thrips affair, stating that,
"the U.S. destroyed all stockpiled biological agents before the treaty
took place," calling the Cuban government's allegations outrageous and
accusing Cuba of "deliberate disinformation."
reaction is not at all surprising. In response to a note of complaint presented
to the U.S. Interest Section in Havana by the
Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the U.S. attempted to explain what
occurred on October, 1996, in the Giron Corridor. It was claimed that the pilot
was unsure if the Cuban airliner flying beneath him had spotted his plane.
"Following caution and safety procedures," the American response
continued, "and with the purpose of securing positive visual contact, the
pilot used a smoke generator, which all small aircraft of this kind are
equipped with." It was also stated that, "during long flights the
sprinkling system is not operational because it is used in the case to store
the fuel necessary for the journey."
Er, maybe it was an exhibition flight
On first impression, explanations like this one may seem like
"plausible denials," except that a little research makes it clear the
response lacks all plausibility. The norms and regulations of the International
Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) do not make any reference to the use of
smoke generators to announce the position of flying aircraft - it is not a
known practice. The ICAO does not require smoke generators on small, mid-size,
or large commercial planes nor does it require them on crop-dusting planes. The
only normal circumstance where a smoke generator is installed is in acrobatic
aircraft involved in exhibition flights.
Furthermore, the plane was flying under Instrumental Flight Rules, which
hold the Air Traffic Controller responsible for the separation of aircraft
during flight. It seems ludicrous that the U.S. pilot was so unsettled by the
approach of Cubana de Aviacion aircraft that he
decided to activate an alleged smoke generator without ever reporting this to
the Air Traffic Controller who was guiding him. Nor did the pilot make any
report of the use of the alleged smoke generator upon arriving at his
destination airport. The total lack of documentation of any
flight difficulties, together with the contradictions in the discussions with
the Air Traffic Controller, reveal the lack of believability in the U.S. claims.
The fact that the pilot who was
flying the Cubana de Aviacion had worked as a
fumigation pilot for many years makes the U.S. story even less believable. He
knew the apparent difference between smoke and liquid substances. The pilot
assured that it was not smoke he saw, but a substance.
Upon considering the insect population found at the main source of the
outbreak, on December 18, 1996, specialists estimated the beginning of the
Cuban Thrips plague began three or four generations
back. Considering the reproductive cycle of Thrips,
the infection began approximately October 21, 1996. Odd - the exact date of the
alleged smoke release by the concerned American S2R pilot! It has also been
confirmed that the area of highest Thrips
concentration correlates directly with the areas of probable infection based on
the wind patterns and the direction of the S2R flight.
also claimed that the Thrips insect would not survive
to infect effectively if it had been disseminated by aircraft. Sounds somewhat
believable, except that experiments made by U.S. citizens show that that type
of agent has been dropped from even higher altitudes. During its larval stage, Thrips is very well protected and highly resistant to
insecticides. According to the Federation of American Scientists' "Report
of the Subgroup for Investigation of Claims of Use or Escape of Agents which
Constitute Biological or Toxin Weapons," of February 29, 1996 (just eight
months previous to the incident), Thrips palmi is included among the invertebrates that could come
under the Biological Weapons Convention. The report states that, because of its
hardiness, ease of dissemination and voracity for all crops and plants, Thrips palmi is an ideal biological
agent for inflicting heavy damage upon agricultural food crops. Maybe it blew
over from Florida U.S. officials also claimed that the "credibility of the
Cuban claim is undermined by the fact that the Thrips
palmi is found in other Caribbean countries like
Haiti, and Jamaica before infesting Cuba." It would be expected, then,
that the region of Cuba
affected would be the one closest to other infested countries - on the east
coast. Yet, that area has no Thrips problem; the
current infestation is 600 kilometres away.
It seems blatantly obvious that the Thrips palmi outbreak in Matanzas
province is related to the deployment of an unknown substance by the U.S. State
Department. Yet, the posturing for war against Iraq continues to escalate and
tensions rise. It is shameful that the U.S. is willing to destroy so many
more civilian lives under the evidently false pretence of moral concern for the
potential threat of biological weapons.
There has been little positive documentation that Iraq is hiding any biological
weapons in its presidential areas. The presidential areas of the rest of other
U.N. Security Council members are certainly off limits; we are not informed of
their secrets. The hypocrisy may appear more pronounced when we think back to
the devastation unleashed by "smart bombs" upon innocent people
during the Gulf War. At a time when the U.S. ought to promote meaningful
and peaceful discussion, it points fingers and makes threats. Before the U.S.
investigates polices the rest of the world, it should investigate and police
itself, with the same rigour it demands of weaker