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The Dark History of Population Control - Magda Hassan - 25-11-2009

The Dark History of Population Control

November 23, 2009
Book Review: Matthew Connelly: Fatal Misconception: The Struggle to Control World Population. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 2008

reviewed by Simon Butler
A select group of billionaires met in semi-secrecy in May 2009 to find answers to a “nightmarish” concern. Their worst nightmare wasn’t the imminent danger of runaway climate change, the burgeoning levels of hunger worldwide or the spread of weapons of mass destruction.
The nightmare was other people – lots of other people.
The self-styled “Good Group” included Microsoft founder Bill Gates, media mogul Ted Turner, David Rockefeller Jr and financiers George Soros and Warren Buffet.
The London Sunday Times said they discussed a plan to tackle overpopulation, something they considered “a potentially disastrous environmental, social and industrial threat.”
Yet it was far from the first time that the “born to rule” had sought to make rules about who could be born. The brutal fact is that a policy of controlling global population means controlling the poverty stricken – whether the policy be concerned with fertility or migration. More than 90% of projected population growth in the 21st century will occur in the global South. The highest birth rates are in the very poorest nations. The same was true in the 20th century.
However, most supporters say population control is a kindness – a benevolent measure that can lift people out of poverty, hunger and underdevelopment.
Cutting population has been put forward by some as a key measure to address ecological decay and prevent runaway climate change. The simple idea is that fewer people will mean less greenhouse gas emissions. Controlling population is equated with the very survival of humanity.
The fact that, unlike greenhouse gas emissions, population growth is slowing worldwide (the UN projects world population growth will peak by 2050) does not seem to sway the hardcore populationist lobby.
In response, other environmentalists say a focus on population is a dangerous diversion from the urgent need to transition to a zero-carbon economy and keep all remaining fossil fuels in the ground. They say population control schemes are not only ineffective but inevitably treat the victims of social and economic injustice as obstacles to a sustainable society.
Dark past
In these debates, few populationists care to reflect thoroughly on the history of population control. But population control has a dark past, which must be taken into account by everyone who wants to put forward solutions to the ecological crisis.
Matthew Connelly’s exhaustively researched history on the population control movement, Fatal Misconception, describes what happens when powerful, influential groups decide other groups of people are “excess.” “This is a story of how some people have tried to control others without having to answer to anyone,” Connelly says. “They could be ruthless and manipulative in ways that were, and are, shocking.”
He emphasises that population control has never been a global conspiracy. Rather, it reflects a highly conservative social outlook that treats other people as the biggest problem.
“In effect, [populationists] diagnosed political problems as pathologies that had a biological basis. At its most extreme, this logic has led to sterilisation of the ‘unfit’ or ethnic cleansing. But even family planning could be a form of population control when proponents aimed to plan other people’s families.”
Connelly, an associate professor of history at Columbia University, has no time for the “pro-life” religious groups who have opposed population control because they are against contraception or abortion.
The denial of a woman’s right to control her own fertility is simply another form of population control. State-run programs to artificially boost population levels are also contemptible.
“No less manipulative were those who were those who denied hundred of millions more people access to contraceptives and abortion because they wanted them to have more babies,” he says.
But his book deals mostly with the policies, influence and actions of those who organised to cut population in the 20th century. Fatal Misconception “is a history of how some people systematically devalued both the sanctity of life and the autonomy of the individual.”
Influence of eugenics
A key actor in this history is the US feminist and birth control pioneer Margaret Sanger. In a 2008 interview with Australian Broadcasting Corporation Radio National’s Phillip Adams, Connelly described Sanger as a tragic figure.
She rose to public prominence in the US before World War I as an outstanding representative of the political struggle for women’s right to safe abortion. She was persecuted and hounded by US government authorities for her pioneering stand.
But by the 1920s, she had gravitated from being a campaigner for working-class women’s rights to a supporter of efforts restrict the right of working-class people to parent children.
In 1925 she said:
“If the millions of dollars which are now expended in the care and maintenance of those who in all kindness should never have been brought into this world were converted to a system of bonuses to unfit parents, paying them to refrain from further parenthood, and continuing to pay them while they controlled their procreative faculties, this would not only be a profitable investment, but the salvation of American civilization.”
Sanger’s shift reflected a political compromise she, along with other early feminist activists such as Britain’s Marie Stopes, Japan’s Shidzue Ishimoto and Sweden’s Elise Ottesen-Jensen, made with the flagging eugenicist movement.
In this period, “With few accomplishments, less public credibility, and little access to policymakers [birth controllers] agreed on the need to ally with eugenicists in every country,” says Connelly.
The influence of eugenicist ideas became increasingly marked in Sanger’s public statements. Connelly records her saying:
“I believe that now, immediately there should be national sterilisation for certain dysgenic types of our population who are being encouraged to breed and would die out were the government not feeding them.”
During the interwar years, Sanger played a key role in laying the foundations of a global population control movement.
From the outset, the partnership with the eugenicists warped the movement’s aims. Its prescriptions for the Third World avoided policies that focused on economic development or women’s access to education – despite the proven link between these and lower birth rates.
“But while birth control proponents were quite diverse and usually divided, none took up the cause of women’s education,” says Connelly.
“That would have undermined efforts to forge an alliance with eugenicists, because it would only remind them of how contraception helped educated women avoid contributing to the gene pool. Instead they could agree that the solution was to find a simpler, cheaper contraceptive that could be used by uneducated people.”
Population bomb becomes a Rockefeller baby
However, it wasn’t until the end of World War II that the population control movement began to build real influence in the halls of power.
In this period, the wealth gap between the capitalist West and the global South developed to unheard of proportions. But it was also a period of colonial revolution. Strong nationalist movements in most colonies defeated their colonisers and won independence from European powers in the decades following the war.
The unmistakable poverty in the majority world, along with the periodic rebelliousness of its people, reinforced the support for population control policies in conservative circles.
For those who benefited most from the global status quo, population control measures were a far more palatable alternative to ending Third World poverty or promoting genuine economic development.
“In the aftermath [of WWII], one might have expected the whole idea of shaping populations for political purposed to be discredited, considering the ways in which Nazis tried to control reproduction,” Connelly says.
“Instead, the cause of increasing access to birth control was about to enjoy a remarkable revival. In the years immediately following World War II it won outspoken converts among the leaders of new United Nations agencies. Tentatively at first, but with increasing largesse, it gained the support of the world’s richest foundations. And it would become the official policy of the largest nations.”
By the 1960s, record population growth rates in the global South were exploited to win broader support for population control. Paul Erlich’s 1968 bestseller The Population Bomb convinced millions that world’s biggest crisis was overcrowding.
Groups such as the Population Council and the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) had already formed but they now began to attract serious private and government funding.
Two of the biggest private sponsors were the Ford and Rockefeller foundations. Oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller III served as the Population Council’s first president.
The formation of this new “American population elite” was the subject of a famous 1970 essay by Steve Weissman inRamparts magazine, titled “Why the Population Bomb is a Rockefeller Baby.”
“In the hands of the self-seeking, humanitarianism is the most terrifying ism of all,” Weissman concluded.
Controllers, not doctors
Flush with funds and political clout, the search was on for a suitable method for population control on a mass scale. In the early 1960s, Western-sponsored population control programs in rural India and Pakistan experimented with contraceptives. But the programs failed, mostly because the villagers themselves saw no reason to take the pills.
The populationists turned to a highly intrusive method: the insertion of intrauterine devices (IUDs) into targeted women. The practice of inserting the spiral or ring shaped IUDs inside a woman’s vagina was widely discredited in medical circles. It was known for causing very high rates of infection, pain and bleeding.
Despite this, J. Robert Willson, chair of obstetrics and gynecology at Temple University, told the 1962 Population Council conference IUDs should be rolled out regardless. “We have to stop functioning like doctors,” he said.
“In fact, it may well be that the incidence of infection is going to be pretty high in the patients who need the device most. Again, if we look at this from an overall, long-range view (these are the things I have never said out aloud before and I don’t know how it is going to sound), perhaps the individual patient is expendable in the general scheme of things, particularly if the infection she acquires is sterilisation but not lethal.”
Willson’s fellow obstetrician, Alan Guttmacher, an influential figure in the Population Council and IPPF, extolled the benefits of IUDs in a similar vein: “No contraceptive could be cheaper, and also, once the damn thing is in the patient cannot change her mind. In fact, we can hope she will forget it’s there and perhaps in several months wonder why she has not conceived.”
However, in its broader publicity the population control groups took more care to portray their “family planning” programs as a compassionate way to overcome poverty.
But as Connelly notes, “the most effective propaganda for population control in the period did not threaten or cajole, or invoke poor victims. It played on the anxieties about crime, contagion and mass migration, but without actually naming them. It made people feel, viscerally, that it was already too late, and that they were living in a nightmare.”
By the late 1960s, population control became official US government policy. US President Lyndon Johnson (1963-69) openly tied aid to India with it agreeing to push ahead with a population control program. He said: “I’m not going to piss away foreign aid in nations where they refuse to deal with their own population problems.”
Johnson’s successor, Richard Nixon (1969-74), dismissed democratic freedoms as condition for countries to qualify for aid, but “population control is a must … population control must go hand in hand with aid,” he said.
A new phase of population control had opened. And it was sterilisation of the “expendables,” rather than contraceptives or IUDs, that was to become the most used method, with horrendous results.
‘War against the poor’
Western populationist groups had been active in India for decades. But by the early 1970s, population control advocates had won over much of the country’s upper-caste political elite.
Remarkably, family planning programs made up 59% of India’s total health budget before the 1973 oil shock, Connelly says.
By the mid-1970s, the Indira Gandhi government had declared the country to be on a “war footing” to stop population growth. Gandhi was open that this “war” would entail undemocratic measures. She said: “Some personal rights have to be kept in abeyance for the human rights of the nation, the right to live, the right to progress.”
Connelly describes the Indian campaign of as an undeclared “war against the poor.”"Sterilisation became a condition not just for land allotments, but for irrigation water, electricity, ration cards, rickshaw licences, medical care, and rises and promotions,” he writes.
“Everyone from senior government officials to train conductors to policemen, was given a sterilisation quota. This created a nationwide market, in which people bought and sold, sometimes more than once, the capacity to reproduce. Of course, for the very poorest, with no money and nothing else to sell, sterilisation in such conditions was not really a choice.”
Connelly cites figures from the state of Uttar Pradesh. People from lowest caste made up “29% of the population, but were 41% of those vasectomised”.
Government officials soon discovered that offering incentives and disincentives was not enough to meet the ever-rising sterilisation targets set. More repressive measures became common.
In 1976, the state of Maharastra proposed jailing parents with more than three children who refused sterilisation. The central government said it would not block the plan. In one case, a village in the state of Haryana “was surrounded by police, hundreds were taken into custody, and every eligible male was sterilised.”
India’s state teachers were also brought into the hysterical population control campaign. According to Connelly, teachers “like everyone else could be demoted, fired, or threatened with arrest. They, in turn, sometimes expelled students when their parents did not submit to sterilisation.”
In China, after years of promoting an artificially high birth rate, the ruling Chinese bureaucracy flipped to the complete opposite. It embarked on its own population control program in 1979.
For many years couples has to apply to the state for permission to have a child. One permit from the 1980s said: “Based on the nationally issued population plan targets combined with the need for late marriage, late birth, and fewer births, it is agreed that you may give birth to a child during [198-]; the quote is valid for this year and cannot be transferred.”
Each Chinese province worked out its own system of incentives and disincentives to meet its population control quota. Connelly give a typical example from Hubei province:
“If parents had only one child, they were to be given subsidies for health care, priority in housing and extra retirement pay. The child was also favoured with preferred access to schools, university and employment. But if the parents had another child, they were required to repay these benefits. As for those who had two or more children, both mother and father were docked 10% of their pay for a period of 14 years.”
But as in India, population control in China also relied on repressive force. In the “most coercive phase in the whole history of China’s one-child policy [in the 1980s] all women with one child were to be inserted with a stainless-steel tamper-resistant IUD, all parents with two or more children were to be sterilised, and all unauthorised pregnancies aborted.”
Defeat of the ‘old guard’
As knowledge of the human rights abuses spread, and a determined women’s rights movement arose (especially in the South), the institutional powerbase of the population controllers in the West gradually receded. Connelly cites the 1984 formation of the Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights as an important moment in the fightback. The feminist network of activists “condemned both abusive population control programs and the efforts to force women to bear unwanted children.”
The “old guard” of the international population control movement suffered a big defeat at the 1994 UN population conference in Cairo. Under pressure from Third World delegates, the conference formally renounced population control as its aim.
“The great tragedy of population control, the fatal misconception, was to think that one could know other people’s interests better than they know it themselves”, Connelly concludes.
“But if the idea of planning other people’s families is now discredited, this very human tendency is still with us. The essence of population control, whether it targeted migrants, the ‘unfit’, or families that seemed either too big or too small, was to make rules for other people without having to answer to them.
“It appealed to the rich and powerful because, with the spread of emancipatory movements and the integration of markets, it began to appear easier and more profitable to control populations than to control territory. That’s why opponents were correct in viewing it as another chapter in the unfinished history of imperialism.”
Connelly ends his history with a call for a “commitment to reproductive freedom, not just a fear of the future … [the future] must be both pro-life and pro-choice, combining forces to oppose population control of any kind.”
[This article first appeared in Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal. Simon Butler is a climate change activist and a member of the Australian Socialist Alliance.]

The Dark History of Population Control - Jan Klimkowski - 25-11-2009

The human consequences of the popluation control agenda, quotes from a "clinical trial" of a new long-acting contraceptive on poor women in Bangladesh:

Quote:INTERVIEWER: If they ask you to take Norplant again, will you?

WOMAN: That thing! Even if 14 generations of my ancestors asked me, I shall refuse.

INTERVIEWER [SUBTITLED]: How many times did you go to the clinic and ask them to take it out?

WOMAN: In 6 months about 12 times. Yes, about 12 times. I went to the clinic and pleaded 'I'm having so many problems. I'm confined to bed most of the time. Please remove it.' My health broke down completely. I was reduced to skin and bone I had milk and eggs when I could, but that did me no good.

WOMAN [SUBTITLED]: I felt so bad, my body felt so weak, even my husband told me it was all very inconvenient.

INTERVIEWER: How is your relationship with your husband?

WOMAN: What else could it be? He says he'll get another wife tomorrow. I told the doctors, 'Please take it out, I'm having so many problems.'

INTERVIEWER: How many times did you ask to get it removed?

WOMAN: Oh, about 15 times. One day I was so desperate. I gave up hope. I felt like throwing myself under the wheels of a car.

FARIDA AKHTER: One woman when she begged to remove it, they said 'I'm dying, please help me get it out'. They said 'OK, when you die you inform us, we'll get it out of your dead body', so this is the way they were treated. In a slum area people are living in a very small, like 5ft by 7ft where at least five family members are living and these woman are working outside. The most important resource they have is their own healthy condition.

NARRATOR: In Bangladesh if a woman can't work, often her family can't eat.

Quote:NASREEN HUQ: I think the Norplant trials were bad science, really shoddy science, because they were not recording the side-effects. They were scolding women when they wanted to report side-effects, they were scolding women if they came in at a time when they were not scheduled to come in for a follow-up check. Their request for removal were disregarded, were not even recorded during the trial. So how can they tell us that it was an acceptable method for women and that this has been scientifically tested out, you know? When continuation rates reflect caution, reflect refusal to remove, reflect disregard of women's concerns, reflect disregard for women's health, how can they even accept that this has been the work of scientists?

FARIDA AKHTER: If you look at the trial, it looks like as if this woman are no better than a guinea pig and a guinea pig perhaps is more expensive in the West, that's why our woman are cheaper here, so they're easily available, they can be easily controlled and their bodies can be easily tested.

NASREEN HUQ: When you conduct a trial in this sort of setting, you are simply taking advantage of them being poor. You've access, cheap access, to subjects, and you can write it up as a successful trial. You're not in any way advancing science, you're taking advantage of a situation in which women are poor and they don't want to have more children, and by providing this method, or conducting this trial, you are not in any way letting them out of their desperate situation. I mean, I have been trained in science and I'm sorry, this is not science.

NARRATOR: The trials were developed with funds from the US Agency for International Development.

The fanatics and true believers in population control via chemical sterilization without hospital treatment:

Quote:STEPHEN MUMFORD: It's a very simple procedure, takes only a few minutes. It can be done in very primitive settings by people who do not necessarily have a lot of clinical skills. Quinacrine is clearly the cheapest method available in the world and in fact the second cheapest method would probably be more than 100 times as expensive as the Quinacrine method. For $10,000's worth of Quinacrine pellets, 70,000 women can be sterilised.

INTERVIEWER: Is that a lot of women?

STEPHEN MUMFORD: That's a lot of women, and a lot of grateful women.

An ethical scientist provides a counter view:

Quote:PROF. SHREE MULAY: This method of producing scar tissue is extremely barbaric. to try to damage the tissue so that you produce inflammation and block the tubes that way I think is extremely crude. It is imprecise for sure because one does not know where exactly that is going to take place and it causes a tremendous amount of pain because of the inflammation. There has been a long history of chemical sterilisation research and this history is really an ugly one and it's quite a shocking one because all kinds of agents have been used - sulphuric acid, formaldehyde - all of these agents which actually burn the tissue and cause production of scar tissue. Chemical sterilisation was first tried out by the Nazis in their very first experiments in the death camps. That it has been picked up in the 60s, 70s and the 80s and been promoted as rescue for the women of the Third World I think is quite extraordinary.

And here's the money:

Quote:NARRATOR: So who is funding the research?

BETSY HARTMANN: A student of mine was examining who was funding the anti-immigration movement in the United States and searching through the tax records of various foundations, when she chanced upon the tax records of the Leland Fikes Foundation and found to her amazement that that Foundation was not only funding the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which is very anti-immigrant, but Mumford's work on Quinacrine. It's very scary that you have a private foundation funding both an anti-immigration group and a form of unethical contraception. I think there's a racial fear involved in this politics.

STEPHEN MUMFORD: My God this is they call this an anti-immigrant organisation. I think that the Federation of American Immigration Reform is a highly patriotic institution, that is correct. I mean very few Americans agree that we should have open borders and FAIR's position is that we should not have open borders and that has been the focus of their efforts since they were created. I'm very happy to identify with the Federation for American Immigration Reform.

ELTON KESSEL: You know, if you open the borders of the United States, the United States will become a developing country.

STEPHEN MUMFORD: That's correct. Most Americans do not want to live in these conditions, including myself.

NARRATOR: They've had sympathisers for their philosophy in high places.

STEPHEN MUMFORD: I've just completed a book and George Bush was just leaving the directorship of the CIA at that time. George Bush read the synopsis again, which said over-population is a graver threat to US security than the nuclear threat. George Bush says I agree with everything you're saying here in this synopsis and I can assure you that the people at the CIA agree with you too, so at that point I knew that at the highest levels of our government this issue was being discussed.

The Dark History of Population Control - Helen Reyes - 26-11-2009

I'm no expert and haven't looked into this much, but I detected two problems with the review of the book, or the book itself (can't tell which):

1. The reviewer says the author doesn't think it's a global conspiracy. Then the reviewer/author goes on to discuss the UN role. If it's a crime (and it is, under the Nuremberg Code, drafted inidentally by Ewen Cameron at the war crimes tribunal), and it's planned in advance by more than one person, it's a conspiracy. If the UN is doing it, it's global.

2. The reviewer/author says the depopulation movement began to receive more support from the wealthy after WWII. My cursory readings tell me that this isn't exactly true. The wealthy elite supported it from the beginning, and it reached its heyday in the eugenics movement of the 20s and 30s. China was one of the big boogeymen, everyone pointed at the "yellow peril" and made grave pronouncments on being outnumbered by "chinamen." "Triracial ioslates" such as the backwoods inhabitants of the New Jersey Pine Barrens were singled out for special handling as well. The war discredited the idea of eugenics, and it was rebranded as family planning, but the political and financial supporters didn't radically change, from what I've read.


The attention of the civilized world is, at present, concentrated upon
The Science of Eugenics. The author sincerely trusts that this important
contribution to the data now being so earnestly nosed out and gathered,
may aid his fellow students, scientifically, politically and
--Robert W. Chambers, The Gay Rebellion, 1913.

The Dark History of Population Control - David Guyatt - 26-11-2009

Academics, journalists and others shy away from using the C word at every opportunity - even when the evidence they gather and the story they tell clearly and implacably points to this.

Such has been the success of the "move along folks, it's another wild conspiracy theory" crowd over the last few decades.

The Dark History of Population Control - Helen Reyes - 26-11-2009

Yes, when they say conspiracy it means something else than what the dictionary says it means. Semantic drift.

The Dark History of Population Control - Jan Klimkowski - 24-05-2010

I've added Ed's valuable post to this thread:

Ed Jewett Wrote:Flashback 2002: Australian Scientist Urged Government to Use Biological Weapons Against “Overpopulated” Countries

May 24th, 2010 Via: The Age:
World-famous microbiologist Sir Macfarlane Burnet, the Nobel prize winner revered as Australia’s greatest medical research scientist, secretly urged the government to develop biological weapons for use against Indonesia and other “overpopulated” countries of South-East Asia.
The revelation is contained in top-secret files declassified by the National Archives of Australia, despite resistance from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
Sir Macfarlane recommended in a secret report in 1947 that biological and chemical weapons should be developed to target food crops and spread infectious diseases.
His key advisory role on biological warfare was uncovered by Canberra historian Philip Dorling in the National Archives in 1998.
The department initially blocked release of the material on the basis it would damage Australia’s international relations. Dr Dorling sought a review and the material was finally released to him late last year.
The files include a comprehensive memo Sir Macfarlane wrote for the Defence Department in 1947 in which he said Australia should develop biological weapons that would work in tropical Asia without spreading to Australia’s more temperate population centres.
“Specifically to the Australian situation, the most effective counter-offensive to threatened invasion by overpopulated Asiatic countries would be directed towards the destruction by biological or chemical means of tropical food crops and the dissemination of infectious disease capable of spreading in tropical but not under Australian conditions,” Sir Macfarlane said.
The Victorian-born immunologist, who headed the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, won the Nobel prize for medicine in 1960. He died in 1985 but his theories on immunity and “clonal selection” provided the basis for modern biotechnology and genetic engineering.
On December 24, 1946, the secretary of the Department of Defence, F.G. Shedden, wrote to Macfarlane Burnet saying Australia could not ignore the fact that many countries were conducting intense research on biological warfare and inviting him to a meeting of top military officers to discuss the question.
The minutes of a meeting in January, 1947, reveal that Sir Macfarlane argued that Australia’s temperate climate could give it a significant military advantage.
“The main contribution of local research so far as Australia is concerned might be to study intensively the possibilities of biological warfare in the tropics against troops and civil populations at a relatively low level of hygiene and with correspondingly high resistance to the common infectious diseases,” he told the meeting.
In September, 1947, Sir Macfarlane was invited to join a chemical and biological warfare subcommittee of the New Weapons and Equipment Development Committee.
He prepared a secret report titled Note on War from a Biological Angle suggesting that biological warfare could be a powerful weapon to help defend a thinly populated Australia.
Sir Macfarlane also urged the government to encourage universities to research those branches of biological science that had a special bearing on biological warfare.
A clinically scientific approach is evident in a note he wrote in June, 1948.
He said a successful attack with a microbiological agent on a large population would have such a devastating impact that its use was extremely unlikely while both sides were capable of retaliation.
“The main strategic use of biological warfare may well be to administer the coup de grace to a virtually defeated enemy and compel surrender in the same way that the atomic bomb served in 1945.
“Its use has the tremendous advantage of not destroying the enemy’s industrial potential which can then be taken over intact.
“Overt biological warfare might be used to enforce surrender by psychological rather than direct destructive measures.”
The minutes of a meeting at Melbourne’s Victoria Barracks in 1948 noted that Sir Macfarlane “was of the opinion that if Australia undertakes work in this field it should be on the tropical offensive side rather than the defensive. There was very little known about biological attack on tropical crops.”
After visiting the UK in 1950 and examining the British chemical and biological warfare research effort, Sir Macfarlane told the committee that the initiation of epidemics among enemy populations had usually been discarded as a means of waging war because it was likely to rebound on the user.
“In a country of low sanitation the introduction of an exotic intestinal pathogen, e.g. by water contamination, might initiate widespread dissemination,” he said.
“Introduction of yellow fever into a country with appropriate mosquito vectors might build up into a disabling epidemic before control measures were established.”
The subcommittee recommended that “the possibilities of an attack on the food supplies of S-E Asia and Indonesia using B.W. agents should be considered by a small study group”.
It 1951 it recommended that “a panel reporting to the chemical and biological warfare subcommittee should be authorised to report on the offensive potentiality of biological agents likely to be effective against the local food supplies of South-East Asia and Indonesia”.
Dr Dorling said that while Sir Macfarlane was a great Australian he was also a product of times when many Australians held deep fears about more populous Asian countries.
He said the Menzies government was more interested in trying to acquire nuclear weapons. “Fortunately this also proved impracticable and Australia never acquired a weapon of mass destruction.”
The secretary of the Federation of Australian Scientific and Technological Societies, Peter French, said he had not yet seen the files but the whole notion of biological warfare was something that Australian scientists would not be comfortable with today. “Viewed through today’s eyes it is clearly an abhorrent suggestion,” Dr French said.