More Future Military: Pharmaceutical bioweapons and warfare
- OK, I can see an argument that these drugs are more humane than
bombs, missiles and nukes, but it still is pretty scary. Again,
nobody seems to notice or care.
Perhaps the future will be defined explicitely by warfare. It has
defined much of our history, but I was sort of hoping that as a more
*civilized* society of tomorrow, we might be able to define
ourselves by more humane terms.
Pharmaceutical bioweapons and warfare
An important set of materials on the use of drugs to wage war (which
has said it will do, Rumsfeld is former CEO of Searle) can be found
This site discusses the drugs that are developed for this use,
conventions, regulations, laws and DOD policy, the lethality of these
non-lethal agents when used in war settings (DOD: "Non-Lethal
Weapons that are explicitly designed and primarily employed so as to
incapacitate personnel or materiel, while minimizing fatalities,
injury to personnel, and undesired damage to property and the
and so on.
HEre is another related story.
The Sunshine Project
News Release - 11 February 2003
Pentagon Perverts Pharma with New Weapons
Liability and Public Image in the Pentagon's Drug Weapons Research
(Austin and Hamburg, 11 February 2003) - The conventional view is
that pharmaceutical research develops new ways to treat disease and
reduce human suffering; but the Pentagon disagrees. Military weapons
developers see the pharmaceutical industry as central to a new
generation of anti-personnel weapons. Although it denied such
research as recently as the aftermath of the October theater tragedy
in Moscow, a Pentagon program has recently released more information
that confirm that it wants to makes pharmaceutical weapons. And on
February 5th, US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld went a big
further. Rumsfeld, himself a former pharmaceutical industry CEO (1),
announced that the US is making plans for the use of such
incapacitating biochemical weapons in an invasion of Iraq (see News
Release, 7 February 2003).
The Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate (JNLWD) and the US Army's
Soldier Chemical Biological Command (SBCCOM) are leading the
research. Of interest to the military are drugs that target the
brain's regulation of many aspects of cognition, such as sense of
pain, consciousness, and emotions like anxiety and fear. JNLWD is
preparing a database of pharmaceutical weapons candidates, many of
them off-the-shelf products, and indexing them by manufacturer. It
will choose drugs from this database for further work and, according
to Rumsfeld, if President Bush signs a waiver of existing US policy,
they can be used in Iraq. Delivery devices already exist or are in
advanced development. These include munitions for an unmanned aerial
vehicle or loitering missile, and a new 81mm (bio)chemical mortar
Many of the Pentagon's so-called "nonlethal" (bio)chemical weapons
candidates are pharmaceuticals. Different names are used for these
weapons ("calmatives", "disabling chemicals", "nonlethal chemicals",
etc.). Used as weapons, all minimally aim to incapacitate their
victims. They belong to the same broad category of agents as the
incapacitating chemical that killed more than 120 hostages in the
Moscow theater. That agent was reported to be based on fentanyl, an
opiate that is also among the weapons being assessed by JNLWD. In
US, pharmaceutical fentanyl is sold by Johnson & Johnson's
Janssen Pharmaceutica. Remifentanil, a closely related drug, is a
US military contractors have identified a host of other agents
manufactured by a Who's Who list of the pharmaceutical industry. In
2001 weapons researchers at the Applied Research Laboratory of
Pennsylvania State University assessed the anesthetic drugs
isoflurane and sevoflurane, produced by Syngenta and Abbott
Laboratories, respectively. The same Penn State team recommended
other drugs for "immediate consideration," some of which are in the
chart below. The Pentagon is also interested in industry's new ways
to apply (bio)chemicals through the skin and mucous membranes, which
could bring previously impractical drug weapons closer to reality by
overcoming technical hurdles related to delivery of certain agents.
Incapacitating (Bio)Chemical Weapons Candidates Cited by Pentagon
fentanyl - analgesic - Johnson & Johnson (and others)
carfentanil - veterinary anesthetic - Wildlife Pharmaceuticals
dexmeditomidine - anesthetic - Abbott Laboratories
isoflurane - anesthetic - Abbott Laboratories
sevoflurane - anesthetic - Syngenta
pramipexole - Parkinson's disease - Pharmacia
CI-1007 - experimental - Pfizer (2)
lesopitron - experimental anxiolytic - Esteve Pharmaceuticals
MKC-242 - experimental antidepressant - Mitsubishi Chemical Corp.
ketamine - anesthetic - Pfizer (and others)
diazepam (Valium) - anxiolytic - Hoffmann-LaRoche (and others)
Questioning Industry's Role: The silence of the Pharmaceutical
Manufacturers Association (PhRMA) and its members is becoming
increasingly conspicuous. The Pentagon research described here has
been underway for more than two years. It's no secret that pharma is
queuing up for lucrative biodefense contracts; but does industry's
enthusiasm for defense dollars extend to weaponsmaking?
If the pharmaceutical industry assists or accepts weaponization of
its products, it will negatively transform the public's view of the
nature of pharmaceutical research. Yet PhRMA's silence raises
fundamental questions about industry's commitment to peaceful
research. Will it work to prevent its drugs from being weaponized?
are weapons viewed as an emerging new market? Will industry
with the Pentagon to design weapons? Military researchers want such
collaborations. What if drug stockpiles are diverted into weapons?
Will industry be complicit by continuing to look the other way?
Liability: Serious liability questions will be raised if these drugs
are used as weapons in Iraq or elsewhere. Scores of innocent
died in the Moscow theater. Many survivors are likely suffering
lasting, even permanent effects. If the US uses these weapons, more
casualties are inevitable.(3) So long as the pharmaceutical
does not make every possible effort to prevent the Pentagon's
perversion of its products, manufacturers should be held liable for
the damage that weaponized drugs inflict.
(An extensive online archive of US research documents on biochemical
weapons, including the materials referenced in this release, is
available online at the Sunshine Project website.)
(1) From 1977 to 1985, Rumsfeld was the President and CEO of Searle
Pharmaceuticals. After Rumsfeld's tenure, Searle was bought by
Monsanto, which itself was subsequently taken over by Pharmacia.
Pharmacia kept Searle when it spun-off Monsanto's agricultural
division as 'new' public company.
(2)A merger between Pfizer and Pharmacia is pending.
(3)A recent, concise paper explaining why these weapons will always
cause substantial casualties has been published by the Federation of
American Scientists. It can be downloaded at: http://www.fas.org/bwc
- Michael Korns wrote:
> Why not stop when there is a Worldwide Democracy which protects the rights of all citizens? After all they are all our brothers and sisters, with DNA so close to ours that the differences are not worth mentioning.I agree that rights should be protected. But democracy is not enough.
Venezuela elected Chavez fair and square, and Venezuela is daily
becoming more of a total disaster; Chavez is a key contributor to this
What about countries that elect theocracies? We may need democracy
*and* separation of church and state.
What if corporations are rich enough to buy laws, and do? (Note that
they can do it completely legally, simply by buying enough advertising
America is not just a democracy. We're a representative democracy. And
we have a three-branch government with separation of power. And many of
our civil servants are appointed or simply hired. And we have a high
literacy rate and (at least traditionally) a fairly good media. How
much of this do we need to export for a working democratic model?
What about conflict of rights between two citizens? For that matter,
what about deciding who's a citizen? Given the number of different
religions and cultures in the world, I don't want to see one worldwide
democracy. America is less than 1/10 the world's population, and even
within America we can't agree on abortion, euthanasia, gay marriage...
Let's take a really simple issue. Is it a violation of women's rights
to require them to go out draped head to toe in ugly cloth without even
a hole for their face? Sure seems like it. But here in America we
require women to cover their breasts. Is this more than a difference in
degree? Both cultures claim it's simply a matter of modesty.
There are cultures--ours among them--that believe some information is
bad. How do you decide what information is OK? We all agree (at least
I hope so!) that NAMBLA and kiddie porn are bad, disgusting, and evil.
But in some religions and cultures, a picture of two grown men kissing
is also bad, disgusting, and evil. Would you force them to accept our
ways, or would you accept theirs? It's easy to argue that adults are
different from kids, but what's adult? In Austria the age of consent is
14. I'm not arguing that there is no way to choose standards for human
rights. But many questions have no easy answers. And it seems obvious
that having people from one culture *vote* on what rights and
restrictions should apply in another culture is not a good way to find
So let's assume that "a Worldwide Democracy" doesn't mean that the
world's citizens get a unified vote on laws to be applied globally.
Then we're back to local democracies--which don't always work out very
well. (There's the example of several African nations a few decades
ago: "one man, one vote--once.") Even if we could propagate the
American system to every country, and even if we could magically educate
the diverse populations to participate constructively (a process that is
badly needed in America as well), America hasn't always done well on
human rights. In fact, we're still not doing well even by our own
standards. And by other standards we're doing worse--to many societies,
the death penalty is a clear violation of human rights. Our prisons
could be improved a lot too. We don't use torture much, but why is it
that no one worries about the fact that prisoners are routinely allowed
to rape each other?
I'm not saying democracy is bad, or even that we shouldn't try to spread
it to countries that lack it. I'm just saying that it would not solve
all human rights problems, even if we were willing to impose it
everywhere. Even a country that's been democratic for more than two
centuries still has serious problems.
In fact, I can't think of a single moral theory that is globally
defensible. Even the idea that human rights are paramount is not
universally held. What would you say to a person who believes religious
purity is more important than human rights? Other than "You're just
wrong," and "This planet ain't big enough for the both of us?"
Personally, I'm glad that the world's superpower thinks human rights are
important. I'm glad we're working to export democracy--along with
literacy and humanitarian aid. (But I blame us bitterly for blocking
the export of birth control and cheap medicines.) And yes, I'm willing
to tell a religious fanatic that this planet ain't big enough for the
both of us, and back it up by whatever force is necessary to defend my
freedom. (Whether the current use of force in the War on Terror is
necessary or effective is a question I don't intend to get into.) But
I'm a little bit less comfortable at exporting my beliefs forcibly, and
I'm a lot less comfortable at the idea that I have a high moral right to
Of course I don't want to see a world full of what I consider barbarism,
torture, and dehumanization. But in the end, it's not morals that
instruct me to destroy the Taliban and free the oppressed women. It's
simple empathy. In one, very real, sense, the Taliban have more morals
than I do. So I get uncomfortable when people talk as though we're on a
moral crusade to reform the world. I get the feeling that they are
willingly transforming into the monster they're fighting.
I have known many Christians who would agree with the following
statement, modified from your statement above: "Why not stop when there
is a Worldwide Church which preaches the rights of all citizens? After
all we are all children of God, and all right-thinking people have
morals so close to ours that the differences are not worth mentioning."
I'm not sure that this is less useful or less valid than your
Chris Phoenix cphoenix@... http://xenophilia.org
Center for Responsible Nanotechnology (co-founder) http://CRNano.org