Beginning in this issue of the newspaper we’ll be serializing an article entitled OPERATION DELIRIUM I found in the December 17, 2012 issue of The New Yorker. I’m using this column to call special attention to the article because these types of long, introspective articles can easily escape readers who are not absolutely focused.
I was struck by the article because the writer is discussing matters which had to have been American state secrets during my time in school there (1965 to 1968). Because the United States, compared to Russia and China, is a democracy, most of their state secrets become declassified after forty years, as I understand it. That is to say that secret materials become available for researchers to study and submit to the general public for the people’s perusal and analysis.
A lot of changes took place within the student population at Dartmouth while I was there. These changes essentially coincided with the escalation of American involvement in the Vietnam War, which was, generally speaking, a civil war between capitalist Christians and communist revolutionaries in Vietnam. During the period between 1965 to 1968, the American military required more and more bodies for their war effort in Vietnam on behalf of the capitalist Christians. The draft law was still in effect in America; this was a law which required all able-bodied American males to register for the military once they reached the age of 18. Students on American college campuses began to panic between 1965 and 1968 because the military was coming after them, and these students, unlike Belizean immigrants for instance, knew exactly what was going on in Vietnam – death and derangement.
As college students in the United States became scared, they became alienated from the government power structure, which was heavily influenced by the financial, military and industrial elite in America. So that, even though most of the students at an Ivy League campus like Dartmouth were children of the ruling class, they began to lash out at the older generations who were in charge of making war and all the decisions which led to war.
If you think about it, the United States had been led by militaristic presidents from the end of World War II in 1945 until John Fitzgerald Kennedy, a Harvard graduate and civilian, was elected president in 1960. Harry Truman was U.S. president from April of 1945, when Franklin Delano Roosevelt died, until 1952. Truman was a civilian, but he thought like a soldier. He dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, and he never uttered a word of regret. He was succeeded by a former United States Army five-star general – Dwight D. Eisenhower. Kennedy was the first post-World War II civilian in the United States White House who thought like a civilian. For skeptics, it is no surprise, in retrospect, that he was assassinated in 1963.
The point of all this is that the generals and admirals of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines who make up the Joint Chief of Staffs who advise the American president, the titular Commander-in-Chief of the military, on matters of war and waging war, have more power in the United States than most people realize.
The university population of America began to get the sense of this while I was there, and so they began to talk about all the things the military was doing in secret, government-financed projects such as the one discussed in OPERATION DELIRIUM. I never saw these matters reported or analyzed in the mainstream America media while I was there. It may be that this has been taking place since I came home 44 years ago, but this article in The New Yorker was the first time I have seen such documented evidence of “volunteers” being used as guinea pigs to test the effects of various drugs which were very, very dangerous drugs indeed.
The doctors in charge of the experiments believed that they were doing work which contributed to the strengthening of the United States. They believed that in order to be competitive with the Russians, who were the Americans’ chief rivals in the early 1960s, the American military needed for such work to be done.
There is a philosophical question here, and it has to do with how much power the state should have in order to carry out its responsibilities where the general citizenry is concerned. The state sometimes tells its citizens that there is a need for the citizens to give up some of their individual freedoms in order for the state to protect them. This is a debate which the citizens in democratic countries always make sure is at the forefront of public conversations. In totalitarian states like Russia and China, by definition, such conversations are not held.
We Belizeans don’t know what atrocities Russian leaders proposed or countenanced in their quest for Russian security and Russian power. Because the United States is a democratic country, by contrast, sometimes we get a chance to see how dangerous are the games which the American military plays. It is good for us to know these things, because ignorance is not bliss; ignorance is death.
Power to the people.