Though the United States’ ruling establishment points fingers at other governments — namely the current Syrian regime — for allegedly using chemical weapons, the American military has a history of using this vicious ammunition on its own soldiers – and fifty years later, the Pentagon is reserving its right to keep the details secret.
Between 1962 and 1974, during the Vietnam War era, the Pentagon tested nerve agents like Sarin gas and Vx and bacteria like E.Coli on as many as 6,000 military personnel in “Project 112” and SHAD (Shipboard Hazard and Defense). Most of the military members exposed to the chemical and biological weapons were in the Army and Navy, and according to McClatchy D.C., “The purpose was to identify any weaknesses to U.S. ships and troops and develop a response plan for a chemical attack.”
The outlet reported this week that though news of these practices first emerged in 2000, the Pentagon released only limited data on the tests at the request of the Department of Veterans Affairs. In the years since, the VA has commissioned studies by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine to investigate the tests’ effects.
“While they found no significant difference in the health of veterans involved in the tests and those who were not,” McClatchy notes, “the authors acknowledged the difficulty of studying this issue.”
This is peculiar considering, as McClatchy notes, “According to DOD documents, death can occur within 10 to 15 minutes of exposure to a fatal dose of Vx.
After exposure to a sufficient amount of Sarin, symptoms include, ‘difficulty breathing, dimness of vision, confusion, drowsiness, coma, and death.’”
According to the researchers who attempted to study the effects of the tests, multiple factors made it difficult to assess the extent of the damage to the veterans’ health.
“Our task was challenging because of the passage of time since the tests, and because many of the documents related to the tests remain classified,” last year’s report said, according to McClatchy. “Our requests for declassification of additional documents were not approved.”
On Wednesday in Washington, Ken Wiseman, senior vice commander of the Virginia branch of The Veterans of Foreign Wars, stressed the importance of uncovering the truth about these tests, which remained under wraps for decades. Despite the Pentagon’s admission in 2000, the public — and the veterans exposed to the chemicals — still know very little about them.
“Veterans were exposed to some of the most extreme and hazardous agents… and they now suffer from debilitating health care conditions,” Wiseman said.