Got Atrocities?

Column by Don Stacy.

Exclusive to STR

Ascertaining the volume of State aggression required to horrify an acquaintance is a crude yet clever way to determine if your companion is a political friend (a libertarian opponent of aggression) or a political foe (a non-libertarian proponent of aggression). A discussion about current events is an ideal method to achieve this end. I recommend the use of bioethics news stories to instantaneously elicit passion.

For example, a July 25, 2013 Bob Egelko article in the San Francisco Chronicle describes the most recent legal decision in a lawsuit filed by veterans’ organizations demanding better medical care for thousands of military veterans exposed to various dangerous chemicals (e.g. mustard gas, lewisite, and LSD) during decades of secret weapons testing by the U.S. government. The journalist also notes that, during the course of the lawsuit, U.S. government officials admitted that informed consent was not obtained from many participants in the “voluntary” program. How does a political foe typically respond to this tale? A non-libertarian, misidentifying the State as a legitimate organization, is stunned to learn about such State duplicity. How does a political friend generally respond to this saga? A libertarian, recognizing the State as a criminal organization writ large, is unimpressed by a State confession of non-lethal crimes.

To summarize, the volume of State aggression required to shock a libertarian is exponentially larger than that necessary for a non-libertarian. Deviance from this pattern is rare. This generalization begs the following question: Can a libertarian be dismayed by any amount of State crime? The answer is yes, particularly if you introduce a political friend to the Wikipedia article entitled “Unethical human experimentation in the United States.”

The article details astounding crimes against Americans and non-Americans alike. The U.S. government funded many of the experiments. A libertarian opposes involuntary human experimentation by any organization, but especially repudiates the involvement of criminal gangs (i.e., governments) in medical acts of aggression.

The article provides information on the following types of experimentation: surgical, biological, radiation, chemical, psychological/torture, and pharmacological. The savagery of the experiments is distressing, even to a libertarian. As a disgusting appetizer, below I excerpt three brief passages from the full article.

Atrocity #1: “From 1913 to 1951, Dr. Leo Stanley, chief surgeon at the San Quentin prison performed a wide variety of experiments on hundreds of prisoners at San Quentin. Many of the experiments involved testicular implants, where Stanley would take the testicles out of executed prisoners and surgically implant them into living prisoners. In other experiments, he attempted to implant the testicles of rams, goats, and boars into living prisoners. Stanley also performed various eugenics experiments, and forced sterilizations on San Quentin prisoners.”

Atrocity #2: “In 1956 and 1957, several U.S. Army biological warfare experiments were conducted on the cities of Savannah, Georgia and Avon Park, Florida. In the experiments, Army bio-warfare researchers released millions of infected mosquitoes on the two towns, in order to see if the insects could potentially spread yellow fever and dengue fever. Hundreds of residents contracted a wide array of illnesses, including fevers, respiratory problems, stillbirths, encephalitis, and typhoid. Army researchers pretended to be public health workers, so that they could photograph and perform medical tests on the victims. Several people died as a result of the experiments.”

Atrocity #3: “Between 1960 and 1971, the Department of Defense funded non-consensual whole body radiation experiments on poor, black cancer patients, who were not told what was being done to them. Patients were told that they were receiving a "treatment" that might cure their cancer, but in reality the Pentagon was attempting to determine the effects of high levels of radiation on the human body. One of the doctors involved in the experiments, Robert Stone, was worried about litigation by the patients, so he only referred to them by their initials on the medical reports. He did this so that, in his words, "there will be no means by which the patients can ever connect themselves up with the report, “in order to prevent "either adverse publicity or litigation.”

A single nibble of this disturbing Wikipedia article (and footnotes) shall permanently sear into your craw the true nature of the State.

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Don Stacy's picture
Columns on STR: 4

Don Stacy is a 41 yo American libertarian writer and physician. 


Jim Davies's picture

Original and powerful, Don, thank you. This and the Wiki article should give a lot of people pause. It makes Dr Mengele look unexceptional.
Do you encounter the response "Yes but there are some bad apples in every batch" defense much?