Plus Ça Change
For those unfamiliar with the French, the title means, in less refined parlance, "Same shit, different day."
As I've said, it was Turner's The Men Who Killed Kennedy that I saw in November 1988 that turned my head around, but not long after that, in January 1989, I saw another TV documentary, also on WDR, called AIDS - Die Afrikalegende (AIDS - The Africa Legend) that caused further neck-wrenching. You can still see this (in German) on YouTube. It caused a lot of controversy (which I only learned about later) because it included Jakob Segal's theory that HIV was created at Ft. Detrick and released accidentally into the public in 1979. You can read now in many places that this theory has been "discredited" and supposedly shown to be a KGB and/or Stasi (Staatssicherheitsdienst, the East German intelligence service) concoction (e.g., here). Neither of these "facts" was clear to me then, nor are they clear to me now. Erhard Geißler, who seems to have insider knowledge of the intelligence connections in those days, says Segal acted independently and maintained his scientific opinions until his death in 1995, although the KGB and the Stasi disavowed them early on.
I do not know, to this day, whether Segal was right or wrong, or whether Robert Strecker, Alan Cantwell and others were right or wrong about the origin of HIV. Nor do I trust Wikipedia as anything more than "received opinion" (see here and here) on politically sensitive subjects. What I offer here is simply a case history of one lay person's attempt to form an opinion on what should be a scientific subject – the origin of the AIDS virus. That person is me, of course, and the subject is highly relevant today because exactly the same discussion is now going on about the origin of coronavirus.
If you have Looking for the Enemy you can skip the rest of this because it is almost identical with Chapter 4 of that book. It appeared on the internet (e.g. here) in 1994 but I have cleaned up the formatting to make it easier to read.
I would not change my conclusion ("Science stops where politics begins"), but I don't want to be discouraging. Corona hasn't (yet) caused as many deaths as AIDS (ca. 5.4 million vs 27.2 million–47.8 million), but the economic impact has been much greater, and most importantly, there are a lot more scientists engaged in the question of origin now than there were (and are) in the case with AIDS. Even the mainstream media have been forced to cover it, instead of covering it up. (See the many articles at U.S. Right to Know.) The internet and social media have made a big difference, e.g., just yesterday (Dec. 22) the Jimmy Dore show quoting from a recent Newsweek article, and Robert Kennedy's bestselling book The Real Anthony Fauci. I don't know how long it will last, but it seems that the mass media - intelligence forces are going to have a lot more trouble deep-sixing the origin question this time (see "Primary and Secondary Spook-Speak").
Time will tell. Even if science stops where politics begins, that's no reason to give up, especially when it's déjà vu over and over again, as Yogi Berra said. It just means that when science reaches this point it has to be accompanied by political struggle. In what follows, just think "Covid-19" when you see "AIDS" and "SARS-Cov-2" when you see "HIV."
Was There an AIDS Contract?
I heard about Jakob Segal's theory that the AIDS virus originated in a US government biological warfare research laboratory in early 1989.
After some preliminary research, I was amazed to find that this shocking theory had received no attention whatsoever in the mainstream American press, and almost none in Europe.
The questions this theory raised were a matter of pure science, or so it seemed to me. There were only three possibilities: 1) Segal was wrong; 2) he was right; 3) it could not be determined either way. I resolved to find out which of these was true.
1. Informing the press
My first thought was to notify the press. Perhaps, by some fluke, they had not heard of Segal, just as I hadn't, though he had been publishing his conclusions since 1986. Surely American journalists would be as anxious as I was to find out and expose the truth. If Segal was wrong, it would be one's patriotic duty to say so. If he was right, or even might be right, the same principle would hold. In the land of the free and the home of the brave, one does not shirk from the truth. Remember Watergate! So I wrote the following article and sent it off in September 1989 to a couple of dozen US journals and newspapers:
Is AIDS Man-Made?
The theory that AIDS originated in the laboratory has been circulating in Europe, particularly in West Germany, since late 1986.
The theory hinges on the claim that the AIDS virus (HIV) is virtually identical to two other viruses: Visna, which causes a fatal disease in sheep but does not infect humans, and HTLV-I (Human T-Cell Leukemia Virus), which infects humans but is seldom fatal.
Prof. Jakob Segal, the author of the theory, says that structural analysis using genome mapping proves that HIV is more similar to Visna than to any other retrovirus. The portion (about three percent) of the HIV genome which does not correspond structurally to Visna corresponds exactly to part of the HTLV-I genome.
This similarity, says Segal, cannot be explained by a natural process of evolution and mutation. It can only have resulted from an artificial combination of the two viruses.
He notes that the symptoms of AIDS are consistent with the complementary effects of two different viruses. AIDS patients who do not die of the consequences of immune deficiency show the same damage to the brain, lungs, intestines, and kidneys that occurs in sheep affected with Visna. Combining Visna with HTLV-I would allow the virus to enter not only the macrophages of the inner organs but also the T4 lymphocytes and thus cause immune deficiency, which is exactly what AIDS does.
As further evidence that HIV is a construct of Visna and HTLV-I, Segal cites studies which show that the reverse transcription process in HIV has two discrete points of peak activity which correspond, respectively, to those of Visna and HTLV-I.
AIDS is thus, according to Segal, essentially a variety of Visna. This has important implications for research, since a cure or vaccine might be found sooner by studying Visna in sheep than by concentrating, as at present, on monkeys.
The theory of the African origin of AIDS, that it developed in African monkeys and was transferred to man, has been abandoned by most researchers. All of the known varieties of SIV (Simian Immunodeficiency Virus) are structurally so dissimilar to HIV (much less similar than HIV and Visna) that a common origin is out of the question. Furthermore, even if such a development by natural mutation were possible, it would not explain the sudden outbreak of AIDS in the early 1980s, since monkeys and men have been living together in Africa since the beginning of human history.
The "Africa Legend," as it is called in a 1988 West German (Westdeutscher Rundfunk) television documentary, is further debunked by the epidemiological history of AIDS. There is no solid evidence of AIDS in Africa before 1983. The earliest documented cases of AIDS date from 1979 in New York.
In addition to the WDR documentary and occasional mention in magazines like Stern and Spiegel, Segal's work has been published in West Germany (AIDS-Erreger aus dem Gen-Labor? [AIDS-Virus from the Gene Laboratory?], Kuno Kruse, ed., Berlin: Simon & Leutner, 1987) and India (with Lilli Segal, The Origin of AIDS, Trichur, India: Kerala Sastra Sahitya Parishad, 1989). He has also been conducting lecture tours in West Germany.
Scientific journals, Segal says, have refused to publish or discuss his theory. This is difficult to understand. If he is wrong, he should certainly be refuted. The cornerstone of the theory is that HIV is a combination of Visna and HTLV-I. Segal claims that any trained laboratory technician could produce AIDS from these components, today, in less than two weeks. If this is true, it should be demonstrable by experiment.
The next question is, if it is possible to produce HIV from Visna and HTLV-I now, was it also possible in 1977 [sic, actually between 1978 and 1978], when Segal claims the AIDS virus was created? He says it was, by use of the less precise "shotgun" method of gene manipulation available then, though it would have taken longer–about six months. If this is true, it should also be demonstrable.
The final question would be: Was it produced in a laboratory? Segal believes he has shown that it was, but he goes further than that. He also believes he knows who produced it and why. Segal quotes from a document presented by a Pentagon official named Donald MacArthur on June 9, 1969, to a Congressional committee, in which $10 million is requested to develop, over the next 5 to 10 years, a new, contagious micro-organism which would destroy the human immune system.
Whether such research is categorized as "offensive" or "defensive" is immaterial: in order to defend oneself against a possible new virus, so the reasoning goes, one must first develop the virus.
Since the Visna virus was already well known, Segal continues, the problem was to find a human retrovirus that would enable it to infect humans. Scrutiny of the technical literature, Segal says, reveals that Dr. Robert Gallo isolated such a virus, HTLV-I, by 1975, though it was not given this name until later.
1975 was also the year the virus section of Fort Detrick (the US Army's center for biological warfare research in Frederick, Maryland) was renamed the Frederick Cancer Research Facilities and placed under the supervision of the National Cancer Institute, Gallo's employer.
It was there, in the P4 (high-security) laboratory at Fort Detrick, according to Segal, where the AIDS virus was actually created, between the fall of 1977 and spring of 1978.
Six months is precisely the time it would have taken, using the techniques available then, to create the AIDS virus from Visna and HTLV-I.
Segal claims that the new virus was then tested on convicts who volunteered for the experiment in return for their release from prison. Failing to show any early symptoms of disease, the prisoners were released after six months. Some were homosexual, and went to New York, where the disease was first attested in 1979.
The researchers had not counted on creating a disease with such a long incubation period. (One year is relatively short for AIDS, but would not be unusual if the infection was induced by high-dosage injections.) If the researchers had kept their human guinea pigs under observation for a longer time, they would have detected the disease and been able to contain it.
In other words, Segal claims that AIDS is the result of a germ warfare research experiment gone awry.
In an interview on April 18, 1987, published in the Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant, Dr. Gallo describes Segal's theory as KGB propaganda.
Segal, who is Russian (Lithuanian Jewish) but has been a professor of biology (now emeritus) at Humboldt University in East Berlin since 1953, is a bit old (78) to be starting a career as a propagandist. Soviet and East German officials, for their part, have maintained a discreet silence on the matter, for reasons of realpolitik, Segal believes.
The question of whether AIDS is man-made or not cannot be answered by dismissing it as propaganda.
Segal believes he has answered the question. We do not have to believe him, but we do have to believe that the following questions are answerable:
1) Can HIV be produced by combining Visna and HTLV-I in the laboratory now?
2) Can it be produced using the techniques available in 1977?
3) What did go on at Ft. Detrick between 1969 and 1978? What were the results of the $10 million Pentagon research project announced on June 9, 1969?
I didn't get a single reply – not even a form-letter rejection. Later I rewrote the article, concentrating on the MacArthur testimony and the fact that neither it nor Segal had ever been discussed in the press. This much was certain. The MacArthur testimony was authentic, and part of the public record. I had seen and photocopied it myself in the Library of Congress. On June 9, 1969, Dr. D. M. MacArthur, then Deputy Director of Research and Technology for the Dept. of Defense, told the House Subcommittee on Appropriations:
Molecular biology is a field that is advancing very rapidly, and eminent biologists believe that within a period of 5 to 10 years it would be possible to produce a synthetic biological agent, an agent that does not naturally exist and for which no natural immunity could have been acquired...a new infective microorganism which could differ in certain important aspects from any known disease-causing organisms. Most important of these is that it might be refractory [resistant] to the immunological and therapeutic processes upon which we depend to maintain our relative freedom from infectious disease...A research program to explore the feasibility of this could be completed in approximately 5 years at a total cost of $10 million.
This was scandal enough. It does not mean that Segal is right, but it does mean the US government wanted, and considered it feasible, to create an AIDS-like virus as early as 1969.
It would not be surprising if the government wanted to keep this quiet, but what about the press? I could find only two references to MacArthur's testimony, in a book by Robert Harris and Jeremy Paxman (A Higher Form of Killing: The Secret Story of Chemical & Biological Warfare, NY: Hill & Wang, 1982), and in a couple of articles by Robert Lederer and Nathaniel S. Lehrman in Covert Action Information Bulletin (28, summer 1987, and 29, winter 1988).
Segal had been similarly ignored. Through the Amerika Haus library in Frankfurt I ran a DIALOGUE search of the indexes of major US newspapers, magazines and journals for the name Jakob Segal, and it came up negative. At least he had been mentioned a couple of times in Der Spiegel. In America he was apparently completely unknown.
I found this intolerable. I did not agree with Segal; I only wanted to see his arguments discussed by people competent to make a judgment. Then I and the rest of the reading public could decide which arguments were more convincing. I thought that was the way free speech worked. Here was a guy saying the US government created AIDS, and claiming to have proved it scientifically, and he was being ignored.
By contrast, I had read about the storm of controversy that Peter Duesberg's theory had caused. He suggested in 1987 that AIDS is not caused by a virus at all–certainly at least as speculative a thesis as Segal's. But there is a significant difference. If Duesberg is right and HIV does not cause the disease, the question of whether the virus originated in the laboratory is irrelevant. In that sense, it is the antithesis of Segal's theory. Was that why it received so much attention, while Segal was completely ignored?
I also wanted to call attention to Segal's new book (AIDS: Die Spur führt ins Pentagon, Essen: Neuer Weg, 1990), because as far as I knew none of his work had even appeared in English.
I sent the revised version of my article out to a number of journals, but the only reply I received was from a "radical" leftist editor [Covert Action Information Bulletin], who wrote:
We have real problems with the Segal material....There was a logical fallacy in Lehrman's reliance [on Segal's theory], too, because he used Segal's theories to bolster his notion that the release of AIDS was deliberate, even though Segal believes that it was accidentally released....The issue is further complicated by the recent retraction of the current Soviet government of the allegations of CBW connections they had made, undoubtedly another of Bush's little quid pro quos. A further difficulty is that the most credible critic in this country of the standard medical establishment line is Dr. Peter Duesberg, who argues (and Lehrman agrees) that AIDS is caused toxically, not simply virally. The synthesis of all this might be that if AIDS is toxically triggered, even if it requires some viral precondition, the trigger could be caused either environmentally or deliberately or both.
In any event, although we believe that the issue of the cause of AIDS is an incredibly significant one (and certainly do not think you or any other the other critics of the Establishment) are lone nuts, we don't think that the issue is anything near so clear-cut that the failure to give significant coverage to Segal is "the biggest cover-up since JFK.
We would be interested in a general piece on the failure of the media (U.S. and Western Europe) to cover alternative theories in general, which would not have to accept any particular theory, but would show how conferences which take the establishment line get considerable coverage whereas those which do not are barely, if at all, covered. Ditto for the personalities involved.
Anyway, these are some of the reasons why we do not feel like running with the ball right now.
I wanted to focus on the 1969 MacArthur testimony–a scandal in itself–and what Segal makes of that. You probably have Segal's English monograph of 1986, which he wrote before he knew about the MacArthur testimony. (He got it from Rifkin). Since then he has been much more specific about tracing what he considers to be the exact course of development of the virus, i.e. Gallo's execution of that 1969 contract.
This–Gallo's role–may not be provable, but the heart of Segal's thesis, namely that VISNA + HTLV-I = HIV-I, is testable, as I pointed out. There is no scientific explanation for why it has not been tested, which leaves the political one. The theory is very clear and precise. If Segal is wrong, he could easily be proved wrong.
This is not the case with Duesberg or any of the other theories. The effect of the Duesberg theory, as I pointed out in the article, is to remove the entire question of the origin of the virus from the debate, which then becomes dissipated in the probably unresolvable question of environmental triggers, susceptibility, etc.
The question we should ask is this: Why has Duesberg's theory, which is not testable, been given so much attention, while Segal's theory, which is testable, has been completely ignored? I did a national (US) magazine and newspaper database search (DIALOGUE), and if it is accurate, the name Jakob Segal has never appeared in a major US newspaper or any scientific journal.
If Duesberg is the most credible critic in the US of the medical establishment, as you say, he serves (willy nilly) the cover-up admirably, for the reason I have described. As we well know, mind control involves control of the offense as well as the defense (Gallo, Essex). The parallel here with the JFK case is the Blakey Mafia theory. That, as Garrison says, is a red herring. It doesn't matter who pulled the triggers, and it doesn't matter what 'triggers' AIDS, if we are trying to find out the whole truth. Blakey will have us tracking down Mafiosi for the next hundred years, and Duesberg will have us searching for non-viral AIDS 'triggers' for another hundred.
It's hard to say what the biggest cover-up up will turn out to be (if anyone ever finds out). The issue can never be as 'clear-cut' as JFK, in terms of evidence ignored, suppressed, and distorted, because there are not enough microbiologists around who are capable or willing to do the private research. In terms of lives lost and money spent, though, AIDS will be near the top. In another sense, too, this is as big as JFK, because if Segal is right it means that 'science' is just as corrupt and manipulable as the press and the government. This will come as a great shock to many who believe that questions of 'pure science' are immune to political manipulation.
You are probably right about a deal with the Russians. In fact, Segal says they talked about AIDS at Reykjavik. Maybe that's what Reagan was really upset about, rather than SDI. I wouldn't be surprised if he heard the truth about AIDS at that conference for the first time. In any case, Segal was told subsequently by East German and Soviet authorities that he could continue to publish and speak on the subject (mainly in West Germany–the East Germans gave him no opportunities), as long as he did not explicitly associate himself with the East German or Soviet governments. Now there is the question. They could have stopped him whenever they wanted to, but they didn't. Do you think they would have allowed him to continue to publish and give lectures in the West if they thought he was wrong? If he was a KGB agent, as some people have said, would they have been stupid enough to let him make such monstrous allegations if there was nothing to them, and if they could easily be proved false?
I will think about your suggestion for a more general approach, but are you sure that another consideration of alternative theories would be productive? CAIB did a good job on that. To make the analogy with JFK again, what good is rehash of the 'alternative' assassination theories? It just perpetuates the confusion and plays right into the hands of those who want to avoid, most of all, clear questions and clear answers. I tried to word my article so as not to imply acceptance of Segal's theory. I do not accept it. I think it should be discussed. My point was that Segal has posed a clear, testable hypothesis which, despite the importance of its implications, has been completely ignored. That point would be lost if other theories were included, because the others are not testable.
There was no response. I was getting nowhere.
2. Talking to the experts
My next tack was to try to pursue the science of the matter. This was difficult, since my last foray into the natural sciences was in 1968, when I took the general biology course at college which was also required for humanities majors. Still, as a linguist I felt I was a scientist of a sort, and I felt that with a reasonable effort I should at least be able to inform myself enough to answer my basic question: Was Segal right, wrong, or is it impossible to know?
In the summer of 1989 I had seen a reference in Time magazine to someone I had known as a teenager who had become a well-known cancer and AIDS researcher--a virologist and a viral surgeon. If anybody could answer my questions it would be Tony. (The name is fictitious; I see no reason to personalize the issue.) I found his address in Who's Who and wrote to him, enclosing a copy of my unpublished article and a longer article written by Segal that had been published by a left-wing (Marxist) West German newspaper. An exchange of letters followed, which I reproduce here.
Sept. 14, 1989
...My main reason for writing is to ask what you think of the enclosed. My article has not been published. Segal's article is from the Rote Fahne, a Marxist weekly, which I know doesn't exactly enhance its credibility, but nobody else will publish him. That shouldn't affect the science of the matter. I hope your German is up to it. I think you'll find Segal's style clear and non-convoluted, which is more than I can say for most German academicians--or American ones, for that matter.
Let me be honest. I'm quite aware that you might be the last person who might tell me anything, even if you could, about this,but the thing really bothers me, and a lot of other people too, at least in this country. If Segal is wrong, he sure as hell ought to be proved wrong. Would be great to hear from you, in any case.
September 21, 1989
Your question is one that has come up many times before. The answer is simple. The virus is not man-made. Segal gives us too much credit since this is the most complex virus we have seen. We can't even make a simple one. If it were as he says we would also have the technology to eliminate it and we do not, as yet.
We don't know where it actually comes from but the best guess is from a non-human primate from Africa. This is because very similar viruses cause AIDS-like diseases in these animals. However, the "missing link" has not been found, but it may turn up at any time as more studies are done.
You may also have heard that AIDS is not caused by the virus HIV. More nonsense. The evidence that it does is overwhelming and this will become clearer to the public as specific drugs and vaccines are developed. To get a better view of all of this let me refer you to the October 1988 issue of Scientific American.
Antonio L. DiAngelo
Oct. 6, 1989
I'm afraid I don't understand your comments on AIDS. Of course we cannot make a horse or a donkey, but if we put them together we can "make" a mule. Segal says the horse and the donkey were Visna and HTLV- 1. Nor do I see why, if this is what happened, the virus should be any more defeatable than any other.
I don't know if you have actually read Segal's work, but it is very convincing and simply cannot be dismissed out of hand. He has countered every even halfway "scientific" argument--it would appear--with success. What the public cannot understand or accept is why, if he is wrong, he cannot be refuted with scientific arguments, and why his arguments are simply ignored. If he is right, of course, everything is all too clear.
Segal deals at length with Essex's Africa hypothesis, and points out that even he (Essex) has retracted it, although it continues to be propagated in the media. Nor can I understand why researchers seem to be ignoring the possibility that AIDS is a Visna variety and might be more amenable to prevention or cure if treated as such. That means that they should be working with sheep, not monkeys.
Oct. 17, 1989
This is hard to do by letter, but here goes. Visna + HTLV-1 could never be crossed to give HIV-1. HIV-1 has things in it that neither of the others have.
HIV-1 is a member of the same family as Visna but more complex. Indeed, much of what is known about Visna is used to further our knowledge of HIV-1.
The Africa hypothesis is not that of Essex. What he has retracted is something that relates to HIV-2, an HIV of West African origin. Max detected the presence of this virus in man but when he isolated it, a contamination occurred in his lab with SIV-1 (a simian AIDS virus). This was not found out until later. The real HIV-2 exists and is a second human virus.
You need to read much more than Segal and I suppose I should read more abut him. I finally stopped some time ago when I concluded he was on the wrong track. I can imagine how difficult it is for you, though, with all of this controversy about. It is a very strange time in science.
Antonio L. DiAngelo
Oct. 29, 1989
I know I'm in way over my head, but all I can do, like everyone else, is try to evaluate somehow or other the opinions of experts, which is very difficult when they contradict each other.
I don't know if you are referring to the tat genes when you say HIV-1 has things that Visna and HTLV-1 do not, but if so Segal responds to this objection in his book as follows:
"As early as June 1986 Gonda et al. (Proceedings of the Nat. Academy of Sciences 83, 4007-4011) published a comparative study of the HIV and Visna virus genomes ... The result was that both genomes were highly similar, and that all structural elements were shared by both of them, except for a small segment of 300 nucleotide pairs with an exceptionally high genetic instability, nearly identical to a section of the HTLV-1 genome. That means that all the new structural elements first described in the HIV genome, such as the tat-genes complex, also exist in the Visna virus genome."
Segal has a whole chapter based largely on this study by Gonda and an earlier one published in Science 227, 173-177 (1985).The 60% homology Gonda found between Visna and HIV-1 in 1986, with the latter varying by mutation at abut 10% every 2 years (Hahn et al., Science 232, 1548-1553, 1986), would point to near identity around early 1978, when Segal claims that a section of a genome originating from HTLV-1 was added to Visna by gene surgery to produce HIV-1.
In another chapter, Segal suggests that HIV-2 is a manipulated SIV virus, made pathogenic possibly by the surgical insertion of an orf-A gene.
Other microbiologists I have talked to do not dispute Segal's thesis that AIDS is a laboratory product, though there is disagreement as to exactly how it might have happened and from precisely what components. I have also been referred to an article by Julie Overbaugh et al. in Nature 332, 731-734 (1988), which apparently demonstrates that it is possible to produce a new virus in the laboratory which is more pathogenic than its components. This means that Segal's scenario is at least not to be ruled out by any fundamental law of nature.
Certainly Dr. MacArthur did not believe this in 1969, when he made the statement to Congress that Segal quotes in the article I sent you. Jeremy Rifkin's petition of Feb. 10, 1988 (appended to Segal's book) to disclose what became of this project yielded nothing, of course. It's a secret! Perhaps the scientists themselves are our best hope. Segal feels that Gonda may have tried indirectly to point to the truth by calling attention to the similarity between Visna and HIV--if so, more power to him.
The worst thing about Segal's theory is not that it may be correct, bad as that would be, but that it is being, as the Germans say, "tot geschwiegen." Of that there can be no doubt, and the implications are dismal.
Nov. 20, 1989
I can sympathize with your confusion and let me state that it is Segal that is over his head. He doesn't understand the words homology or mutation rates. He creates new viruses by splicing in genes (which is possible) without understanding the outcome. It is all nonsense.
Surely we can switch genes between HIV and HTLV-1 and make them work. It could also be done between Visna and HTLV-1, in theory. But, I repeat, Visna plus HTLV-1 in any arrangement does not make HIV-1 now or in 1970. 60% homology is a very distant relationship. If Segal is so convinced, why doesn't he make the construct and see what kind of virus it makes. Would it infect human cells? Would it kill T cells (Visna does not)?
Moreover, HTLV-1 was discovered as a virus in 1978 but its genes were not defined until the 1980s, certainly the ones Segal talks about. For that matter, the Visna genes were also not well established until the 80s and perhaps even later than HTLV-1. I envision it to be almost totally impossible that the chemical equation he speaks about could have taken place even in 1978. Add to that the likelihood that HIV-1 was present in man before then, probably as far back as 1959 and you now reach absurdity. It just does not add up.
Where he is correct is that HIV-2 and SIV are very similar, one perhaps deriving from the other. You don't need a surgical insertion to visualize that.
Antonio L. DiAngelo
He had finally said it: Nonsense! So it is possible to "make" new viruses. That much, at least, was clear. Segal doesn't understand homology and mutation rates? What doesn't he understand, exactly? He doesn't understand "the outcome"? He says in this case the outcome was AIDS. Segal should do an experiment and find out? Why should an experiment be necessary, if Tony is so sure that Segal is wrong?
Is he sure? First he says "Visna plus HTLV-1 in any arrangement does not make HIV-1 now or in 1970." Then he says he "envisions it to be almost totally impossible." Not so sure, after all.
Tony must know that Segal doesn't say that Visna kills T-cells. Sheep with Visna die because the macrophages, the large whiteblood cells, become infected in the earliest stage, not the T-4 cells. The infected macrophages then eventually destroy the thymus gland, which prevents the further development of T-4 cells and destroys the immune system. This is why HIV-infected chimpanzees do not develop AIDS. The T-4 cells in the monkeys are infected, but the macrophages remain healthy. In humans, the macrophages are infected, as in sheep. If Segal is right, then, the key to therapy is not in preventing the infection of the T-4 cells but in preventing the infected macrophages from destroying the thymus.
Not a word about the tat-genes. Why? It's an important point. Does HIV- 1 have things that neither Visna nor HTLV-1 have or not? Segal says no, Tony says yes, then drops the point. Not a word about the MacArthur testimony, either.
I saw no point in continuing. Tony wasn't going to say more than he had, and I was not impressed. In fact, it was hard to believe he was being honest. He seemed to be dodging every point. Every time I threw him the ball, he just stepped out of the way and threw another ball back. What was a "simian AIDS virus"? Monkeys don't get AIDS. Tony never responded to my point about "making" the AIDS virus. Had this been a misunderstanding, a question of semantics?
I couldn't help remembering this a year and a half later, in March 1991, when I saw an interview on WorldNet, the USIA's satellite television network, with a chap named Todd Lowenthal, who looked a little like a llama and had an equally exotic job title, something like "Chief for Countering Soviet Disinformation." He used the Segal theory to explain what "disinformation" is. The theory was obviously false, said Lowenthal, because everybody knows that the AIDS virus is "far too complex to have been made by a scientist."
That was exactly what Tony had said. He had also said that if "we" had made it, we would be able to destroy it. But why should this be so?
Segal had dealt with all of the other points Tony brought up, as Tony presumably knew. What I wanted was a rebuttal to Segal, not simply a repetition of the claims that Segal had (seemingly) refuted, including the claim that there is evidence of AIDS before 1979. Segal has consistently argued that this evidence is inconclusive.
Almost a year later after Tony's last letter, Segal published a short article in the Rote Fahne (Aug. 25, 1990) responding to the latest claim of evidence for AIDS before 1979. I sent a copy of the article to The Lancet, Science, Nature, and Scientific American, along with a cover letter asking for a response. Not one responded. I also decided to try Tony once more:
Sept. 3, 1990
Enclosed is an article by Segal published here re. the Corbitt et al. study published in The Lancet (336, 51f., 1990), which I guess you know is a respected English medical journal. Corbitt et al.claim to show that a British sailor died indisputably of AIDS in 1959. Segal challenges this claim, as he has all the purported evidence of AIDS before 1979, saying they proved only that the sailor was infected with a retrovirus, not necessarily one that causes AIDS, it being now known that many people, perhaps half the population, are carriers of non- pathogenic retroviruses which have nothing to do with AIDS. What do you think?
Segal was in Kassel for a talk in February, and I asked him the same question you ask in your letter of last November: If Visna + HTLV-1 = HIV-1, why doesn't he do an experiment and prove it? He said he would like to but it's not that simple. You need a P-4 laboratory and the virus specimens, and no one is about to make those available to him.
An equally good question is, if he is wrong, why doesn't someone with the requisite facilities (e.g. the U.S. government) do the experiment and prove it? He could be invited as an observer to make sure he was convinced, then forced to retract his allegations.
Just to say it's nonsense, even if nearly everyone who should know something about the matter says it, is not enough. Remember the Warren Commission? Besides, even crazier theories, e.g. the Duesberg idea that HIV does not cause AIDS at all, get plenty of exposure and debate. There is absolutely no reason why Segal has not been discussed with equal fervor in the scientific community-- unless that reason is political. This is the sad thing, because it shows that science stops where politics begins.
I guess I have been naive, but I have always wanted to believe that science had a special status and was somehow immune (to use a fateful word) to political pressures. Yes, that really was naive, I'm afraid. No one is more subject to pressure and manipulation than high tech scientists, who can work only in dependence on complicated (and all- powerful) institutional and financial structures.
In short, I have no doubt that--if Segal is right--enough pressure could be brought to bear, all over the world, to keep the lid on. There are plenty of examples of that.
I'm quite aware that having worked at the Frederick Cancer Research Facilities under Gallo, formerly the virus section at Ft. Detrick, you probably know a lot more about these things than you could admit. That too is very sad. I wish you could find some way to tell me what you really know.
All the best,
Sept. 11, 1990
I have never worked under Bob Gallo nor in Gallo's laboratory atthe Frederick Cancer Research Facilities. There is also nothing secret or occult. Strike all of that from your mind.
Your apparent obsession with Segal is difficult to comprehend. There are many more important things to do than to rebut a theory that makes no scientific sense. Our focus is on a vaccine for AIDS and other measures that will help eradicate the disease and relieve suffering. This requires all of our attention, energy and skills. Scientific truth lies in reproducible experiments, which automatically means that these must fall in the public domain.
With best wishes,
Antonio L. DiAngelo
Never worked directly under Gallo? He had worked as a consultant to Frederick--that was in Who's Who. Not a word about Segal's article in The Lancet. Nothing secret or occult? Science always in the public domain? Who did he think he was kidding?
I felt there was nothing more I could say to Antonio L. DiAngelo. I wished that just once he had signed his name "Tony."
Tony wasn't the only scientist I talked to. One German researcher said sure, it was possible to mix viruses together. Yes, he had heard of Segal, but he didn't know a lot about it. In fact, he said, only scientists doing AIDS research would be able to answer my questions. But he didn't think Visna + HTLV-1 would make HIV- 1. Why not? He couldn't explain.
Another scientist, a woman who is also an environmental activist, said she thought it was possible that the AIDS virus was produced by mistake in a laboratory, most likely in experiments with monkeys, but that Segal's particular theory was wrong. Why? She couldn't explain. She was no longer pursuing the origin of AIDS question. She had butted her head against stone walls for a while and finally just gave up. I was beginning to see what she meant.
I talked with one of the representatives of the Greens in the European Parliament in Strasbourg. He wasn't interested. There were more important concerns than the origins of AIDS, he said. People were more concerned about the dangers of applying genetic engineering to agriculture, for example. Really? How could they expect to find out the truth about agricultural products if we can't find out the truth about AIDS? How did he know what people were concerned about? Here was one person who was concerned--me. What did he know but what he read in the press, just like the rest of us? Segal did not appear in the press (except occasionally in the Rote Fahne), so as far as this supposedly progressive politician was concerned, the origin of AIDS was not a public issue. I thought he might be interested in making it a public issue, but I was wrong.
Segal was scheduled to give a talk at the university in Kassel in September 1990. By then I knew his arguments, and I also knew that the problem for me--as well as for him--was to find someone willing and qualified to debate with him. I called the director of a German AIDS research institute, introduced myself and asked him if he would be willing to answer some questions. He was willing, and friendly enough, but that was all. Our telephone conversation went as follows (again, the name is fictitious):
Hoffmann: "Ok, shoot."
MM: "Have you heard of a man called Jacob Segal, from Humboldt University in Berlin?"
Hoffmann: "Yes, I've heard of him."
MM: "Well, I'm not a biologist, but the reason I'm calling is that he's coming here to Kassel the day after tomorrow to give a lecture. You probably know that his work is very controversial..."
Hoffmann (chuckling): "That's putting it mildly!" MM: "From what I've heard, he can't even get people to debate with him. That's why I'm calling. He's giving a speech here at the university next week, and I don't know anyone in Kassel involved in AIDS research, but a friend of mine told me you are one of the most competent men in the field, and I wanted to know if you or anybody at your institute could come to Kassel as a kind of counterpoint. Not necessarily to debate with him, but I think it would be good if a different point of view could be presented too."
Hoffmann: "I'll tell you, unless Segal has something new, it would be a waste of time. I remember a lecture he gave in Aachen. He claimed the AIDS virus was created in American biological warfare laboratories and set loose in order to get rid of homosexuals and control the overpopulation problem in Africa."
This was wrong, but I didn't correct him. Segal says the virus escaped accidentally, with prisoners who had been inoculated with it in an experiment, in return for their freedom. When no symptoms of disease showed up after six months, they were released prematurely, since no one knew the disease would have such a long incubation period. Some of the ex-prisoners joined the gay scene in New York, whence it spread. Segal has never implied that it was anything but an accident, an experiment gone awry.
But Hoffmann's inaccuracy was interesting. It showed how closely linked the two thoughts are, and how easily Theory A, that AIDS is laboratory product (which Segal endorses), leads to Theory B, that AIDS is biological warfare (which Segal does not endorse). If Theory A is correct, Theory B is at least conceivable.
Hoffmann: "Segal's first mistake was that he claimed it happened in 1976. That's completely impossible, from a bio-engineering point of view. Nobody could have spliced genes together with that result then, and I doubt that it's possible today."
He doubts that it's possible? He doesn't know? Has he tried it? If not, how can he be so sure?
Hoffmann: "But the most important proof that his theory is absolute nonsense is the fact that we have evidence of AIDS infections long before 1976."
1979, I corrected him silently. That was when the first AIDS case was documented in New York, which Segal still insists was in fact the first case, despite the so-called evidence (which Segal disputes) to the contrary.
Hoffmann: "That takes care of Mr. Segal. It's a completely idiotic hypothesis, and I hope that Segal, who has done some reasonable work in other areas, has found something else to spend his time on. Or how do you see it?"
MM: "I'm not in a position to judge, as a layman. That's just the point. I've read his book and I must say his arguments are plausible, but I have no way to evaluate them scientifically. I do know that he has counterarguments to what you've just said. I can't explain it in detail, but he says what other researchers have considered evidence of AIDS before 1979 is inconclusive, that there may be evidence of retroviruses, but not of AIDS in particular."
Hoffmann: "Nonsense. I saw cases myself in the sixties in Africa, even photographed them, and there are blood samples which have been preserved and documented. If Segal still wants to stick to the 1979 in New York thesis, he really ought to hang it up."
MM: "He puts a lot of faith in the gene-sequencing analysis or gene- mapping and Chandra's work showing the electro-focusing of the reverse transcription."
I had no idea what I was talking about, but I trusted that Hoffmann did.
MM: "Segal says this kind of analysis proves conclusively that the similarity of Visna and HTLV-1 with HIV-1 is so great that it could not have occurred otherwise, that is, naturally--that it must have resulted from gene-splicing. So there we are. He says the degree of similarity proves it beyond the shadow of a doubt, and other scientists say it proves nothing at all. What is the layman supposed to think?"
Hoffmann: "As far as I'm concerned, Segal is just being stubborn. The whole thing is very far-fetched. Of course you can talk forever about something, but in the scientific world you can't just go to a university somewhere and give a lecture and expect other people to jump to defend themselves or even respond. We have no time for that. Segal's theory is pass. The best you can say is that it was an idea once, a suspicion, but there isn't the slightest proof of it, never has been."
MM: "Still, it's a horrific accusation, and I don't say that just because I'm an American and it's my government that's being accused of being responsible for AIDS. I would think someone, not the least the American government, would want to prove him wrong. What he says sounds scientific enough to me, but of course I'm no judge. Aren't there any serious scientific rebuttals to Segal's theory?"
Hoffmann: "Serious scientists haven't dealt with it for the simple reason that it is ridiculous."
MM: "Yes, but it continues to circulate, and if it is nonsense it's not doing anybody any good. I'm not a superpatriot, in fact I'm pretty critical of my government, but I don't want to think of it as responsible for creating AIDS if it's not true. I hope it's not, but I just can't be as sure of that as you are. That's my problem. How can I convince myself that it's nonsense? I need to have a counterargument that makes at least equally good sense. Isn't there some way to prove that he's wrong--by experiment, for example? He says any trained laboratory technician could make HIV-1 out of Visna and HTLV-1 in less than two weeks. Why not try that and see?"
Hoffmann: "Such nonsense! Look, I have a young biochemist sitting here next to me. Let me repeat that for his benefit. [To his colleague] Segal claims any lab technician could produce HIV- 1 from Visna and something else in two weeks."
A loud guffaw could be heard in the background.
Hoffmann (chuckling): "He just fell off his chair! Absolutely ridiculous! You know, one thing really irritates me a bit. How can a German university invite someone like this to give a talk? Who's behind it? These are really stupid, completely outdated ideas."
MM: "I think someone in the public health office organized it."
Hoffmann: "Are you sure it wasn't one of the leftist student groups? You know who publishes his book, don't you--the MLPD, the Marxist- Leninist Partei Deutschlands. Maybe it was the Stasi [East German intelligence]. That's a joke, of course."
MM: "I don't know. But why should it matter? This is supposedly a question of science."
Hoffmann: "You should look into it, because I have good contacts with the Federal Ministry of Health, and I can tell you that we dismissed the Segal theory from the very beginning as totally absurd. The lecture in Aachen that I attended some years ago was organized by the Greens, whose environmental ideas aren't bad, but they're terribly left."
MM: "My problem is simply that I would like for Segal to be wrong, but I can't convince myself of that without counterarguments in some form or other, in a debate or a scientific journal, or whatever. As long as his ideas are not discussed, and as you say simply dismissed out of hand, I can't resolve it in my mind."
Hoffmann: "What do your American friends and colleagues think of all this?"
MM: "They don't even know about it. Segal's book hasn't been published in English." Hoffmann: "Well, that should tell you something. You have to remember that we--at least at my institute--are underfinanced, understaffed, and we have a lot more important things to spend our time on than Mr. Segal's silly theories. We think the best thing is to ignore him completely. You can lose months trying to refute whatever crackpot claims he might make. He has no proof at all, but the other guy, he has to have proof! That stuff about anybody being able to make HIV in the laboratory, for instance. Totally impossible."
Why months? I thought. Segal says it can be done easily, in two weeks, by anybody with access to the component viruses and research facilities. Hoffmann had such access, presumably. He could do the experiment, and if it was negative, it would be good publicity. I could picture the headline: "Hoffmann Proves Segal a Quack--U.S. Government Not Guilty." Wouldn't that be worth a few days' work?
MM: "There's also that Pentagon document from 1969. I know that's authentic, because I've seen it. That proves that the government did want to create an AIDS-like virus, and considered it feasible, as early as 1969."
Hoffmann (ignoring this point): "I suspect my American colleagues think the same way I do, that the best way to handle such nonsense is to ignore it. Let it play itself out, die a natural death, which it will because there's nothing to sustain it. Just wild hypotheses. That's why he goes to universities like Kassel, which doesn't have a medical school and might have a strong leftist contingent, so he thinks he can get away with it."
Handle it? This didn't sound very scientific. I didn't want him to handle it, I wanted him to refute it, if he could.
MM: "That's why I'd like to get someone like you or somebody from your institute to come here and debate with him."
Hoffmann: "No, I'm sorry, absolutely not. We really have better things to do. There's a saying: The more water you pour on the wheel, the more it turns. The best thing is just to let Segal run himself out. There are plenty of idiotic theories that can't be scientifically disproved. We can't spend our time refuting every ideologue that comes along. Maybe philosophers have time for that, but we don't. If I refute him it means I take him seriously, and I don't. I think he's a nut."
MM: "All right, Professor, I guess I'll just have to see how it goes. I mean, I don't have that much time either. Certainly not enough to try to become a microbiologist at this stage of the game. There must be a better way, but I don't know what it is."
Hoffmann: "Why bother with it then? Who's forcing you to go to this lecture?"
MM: "Well, nobody, of course. I'm just interested. Thank you very much for your time, Professor Hoffmann."
Hoffmann: "Not at all."
I was getting pretty discouraged. Another year went by, and I decided to make one more stab at the "science" question. I made up the following questionnaire and sent it to all the AIDS researchers whose addresses I could find:
I am a layman who has been trying for years, without success, toget a straightforward answer to a straightforward question on a matter of science. Hence this survey, which I hope you will help me with, because whatever the results, it should show something.
1) Is it possible to produce HIV-1 or HIV-2 in the laboratory (by manipulating or combining other organisms or substances by gene surgery or other means)?
____ Yes. ____ No.
____ I don't know, because
____ no one has done the work to find out.
____ it is not scientifically possible to find out.
____ the information cannot be divulged for security reasons.
____ I have not looked into the question.
____ (other reasons--use reverse side if necessary):
If the answer to 1) is "Yes":
2) With what components?
3) Since what year has this been possible (using either "shotgun" – trial -and-error--methods or more precise methods)?
In any case, bibliographical references and/or comments will be appreciated (use reverse side if necessary):
The information below will be kept strictly confidential.
Would you like to receive the results of this survey?
Name and address of others who could respond to this survey:
In April 1992 I received what I expect will be the last reply to my questionnaire, unless I send it out again. It was from an American professor of pharmacology, whom I'll call Professor Smith. I had not sent the questionnaire to him, so someone had forwarded it. Here is my reply to him:
June 6, 1992
Dear Prof. Smith,
Thank you very much for responding to my questionnaire. Your reply is in fact the most important one I have received, and I've been walking around with it now in my briefcase ever since I got it, not quite sure what to do next. Perhaps you can help me.
Let me first tell the results so far (without mentioning names, since I promised not to). Of the couple of dozen people I sent the questionnaire to, 8 people have replied. 5 said "No" (not possible to produce HIV-1 or -2 in the laboratory).
2 (one was you) said "Yes." Another person said "Yes--in theory, but not practical."
The other unequivocal "Yes" came from someone who is apparently "only" a secondary school science teacher, but he is writing a book on the subject and enclosed an extensive bibliography. His answer to "With what components?" was:
"HIV-1: Visna, CAEV, BVV + minor component, either from another virus, or picking segments of original human DNA. HIV-2: SIV (SMM) + minor segments picked after selection from human cell culture (evolution in test tube)--the reverse may also be true."
His answer to "Since what year has this been possible?" was:
"HIV-1: trial-and-error, since ca. 1970. HIV-2: since the exploration of the SIVs, ca. 1985, by mistake probably earlier."
The "theoretically Yes" answer was from an American researcher and professor, whose answer to "With what components?" was:
"One could provide equivalent genes from other retroviruses and then synthesize those unique to HIV."
His answer to "Since what year has this been possible?" was (underlining "possible"):
The other 5 respondents – a couple of whom are "heavyweights" in the field (since even I have heard of them) – said "No" categorically, without further comments, except for one person, (professor, MD, public health scientist), who added to his "No":
"I'm not a molecular biologist etc. but am virtually certain, from reading and discussions, that HIV-1 and HIV-2 arose from "wild" viruses and that when they arose we did not have the technology to create them. We may however be developing the technology which could allow us to produce "new" or modified dangerous viruses in the future. (But if we use the technology reasonably we can use it against disease.)"
I think from these results you can see why your response strikes me as extremely significant. Even if it had been only 1 out of 100, it would have been significant.
What I would like to do now is write back to the other respondents and see if I can elicit a response to what you have said. I will not identify you, of course, unless you wish, but if there is anything you can add to what you wrote on the questionnaire (further remarks, bibliographical references), I would like to include it.
You wrote, in case you don't recall, in answer to "With what components?":
"Ribonucleotide triphosphates, enzymes, salts & buffer, RNA synthesizing machine."
In answer to "Since what year has this been possible?," you wrote:
"HIV-1 1985; HIV-2 1986 (once the nucleotide sequence of the viruses was known)."
I find it very difficult to understand, if this is only a matter of science, why even my little survey has produced such different answers.
I purposely limited my question and treated it as a purely scientific one, because I know that the further questions and implications are highly political and sensitive (to put it mildly). I don't want to ask you to comment on any of that, but if you wish to (just for my information, not for the letter I'm thinking of sending to the other respondents), of course I would be very interested to know your opinion.
I assume that you know what I'm talking about: the question of an artificial origin of AIDS has been around for some time, though ignored by the mass media. There are the recent polio (and earlier smallpox) vaccine theories, the theories of Jakob Segal, John Seale, Robert Strecker, etc. If the viruses cannot be produced artificially now, however, the question of an (accidental) artificial origin some years ago, though it does not disappear, is more speculative. If the viruses can be produced in the laboratory now, as you say they can, the next question is clear: How can one be sure that this capability did not exist prior to 1985-86 (e.g. in secret military research, the results of which can remain unpublished and unknown even in the "scientific community" for years)? (I don't know if you are aware that the DOD wanted, considered it possible, and asked Congress for the money to create an AIDS-like virus -- though the term "AIDS" was not used -- as early as 1969. I have the documentation if you'd like to see it.)
But as I said, I don't want to ask you to speculate on these questions. My primary purpose is still to get a reasonably satisfying "scientific" answer to the question I have posed. You have said the viruses can be made in the laboratory today, and that is certainly reason enough to wonder why the others say no. No one said they didn't know, that the answer is not yet known, unknowable, etc., although I specifically mentioned these possibilities. So I am left with flatly contradictory opinions by presumably equally qualified experts. Though obviously this may happen on many questions, I don't see how it is possible on this particular question, because it is testable by experiment.
What would be necessary to prove that what you say is correct -- which would mean, of course, that the others are wrong? Has anyone actually made HIV-1 or -2 in the lab? Would that be the only incontrovertible proof that it is possible? Would it be difficult? Time-consuming? Legal? Would you need access to controlled substances or special facilities (e.g. a P-4 lab)?
I did not hear from Professor Smith again.
3. Conspiracy theories
I felt that I had given it my best shot. I hadn't heard much lately from Segal, either, but after all, he was in his eighties. He published another book in 1991 called AIDS -- Zellphysiologie, Pathologie und Therapie (Essen: Neuer Weg), but it is a highly technical work and I haven't read it, nor have I heard of any reactions to it. He doesn't discuss the question of origin in this book, but since it is based on the thesis that HIV-1 is essentially a form of Visna, if this work is scientifically sound it will support his origins thesis. But how, if ever, will I know that?
In January 1992 a German television program repeated the old accusation that Segal had developed his origins theory for the Stasi, the (former) East German intelligence service. Segal responded as follows (my translation):
Public Statement by Prof. Jakob Segal
On January 28, 1991, the German television program "Panorama" claimed the theory that the AIDS virus HIV-1 was developed for military purposes by the Pentagon was an invention of the (former) East German intelligence service (Stasi). The writers Stefan Heym (East) and Mario Simmel (West) were said to have fallen for this lie and helped to spread it further.
This claim is completely false. The suspicion that HIV-1 originated in the laboratory was discussed as early as 1984 at the annual meeting of the American Academy for the Advancement of Science. Then the American researchers Robert Gallo and Max Essex launched a counter-theory suggesting an African origin, which was publicly described by the World Health Organization asscientifically untenable. This theory contained such obvious errors that I became curious and joined the discussion in 1985. By careful analysis of molecular genetic and immunological data I was able to prove that the AIDS virus in fact resulted from splicing part of the human-cancer-causing virus HTLV-1 into the virus that causes the fatal sheep disease known as Visna.
In the meantime official documentation has been discovered which proves that the Pentagon requested 10 million dollars as early as 1969 for the purpose of developing a virus that would destroy the human immune system, i.e. a synthetic AIDS-like virus. My theory is thus supported by the documentary record, and no convincing scientific arguments have appeared to refute it. Nevertheless, for reasons that are all too clear, no reputable scientific journal will publish my work.
The first non-scientific journal to publish my theory, along with the similar ones of John Seale of Great Britain and the American Robert Strecker, was the London Sunday Times in the fall of 1986. On the basis of comprehensive materials I distributed, some African scientists then put together a brochure which was distributed at the Conference of Non- Aligned Nations in Harare. After that my theory began to arouse some interest in official circles. Representatives from the US embassy, the East German Ministry of Health and the Stasi talked with me. I was invited to give a series of lectures in West Germany with well-qualified discussion partners, but I had much worse luck in my own country of East Germany. There I was not allowed to present my views in any journals, and the only lecture I gave to a sizeable audience was organized by a dissident church group.
In view of this history, it is ridiculous to claim that the Stasi thought up this theory and ordered me to propagate it. Nobody in the Stasi had the technical expertise to have produced such a theory. It was my work and mine alone, and I refuse to allow a few sensation-hungry journalists to deprive me of the credit for it.
January 30, 1992
Prof. Dr. sc. Jakob Segal
This had no discernible consequences. It seemed the question of the origin of AIDS was taboo, and had been for several years. Segal could be denounced, but not discussed.
Then, on March 3, 1992, I saw a surprising report on CNN, which I had recorded and was thus able to transcribe:
CNN: A Texas researcher has a new theory about how the AIDS virus developed. He says it mutated from a virus that causes an AIDS- like disease in monkeys and that humans were inoculated with it. His claim is detailed in Rolling Stone magazine. "The Origin of AIDS" proposes a shocking theory: that the AIDS virus, now known to have existed in monkeys, may have spread to humans through, of all things, experimental polio vaccinations. Tom Curtis (freelance writer): The polio vaccine did great things in terms of sparing us, you know, the dreaded scourge of that period, but it would be a terrible irony to find that it brought another scourge. I sort of hope against hope that this hypothesis is wrong, but it is testable.
CNN: Curtis found that a quarter million people in Africa were inoculated by American doctors with an experimental polio vaccine. That vaccine was produced using the kidney tissues of monkeys. More recent research has shown that some monkeys carry a virus similar to the one that now causes AIDS.
Curtis: "If those monkey kidneys were contaminated, it would be an efficient way to spread the disease, that is to say, the disease of AIDS."
CNN: Far-fetched? Yes, according to the polio-pioneering doctors quoted in Curtis's story. One is quoted as saying, "You're beating a dead horse. It does not make sense. But one AIDS researcher is not dismissing the theory.
Dr. Robert Bohannon (AIDS researcher): Nobody will ever know unless those stocks are turned over for analysis.
CNN: Dr. Robert Bohannon has done AIDS research at Baylor and M.D. Anderson. He has requested samples of the original polio vaccines so that he can test them for AIDS-related viruses. One researcher has sent him some very early vaccine, another has not responded. The federal government, which also holds some of the original vaccines, is considering his request. If he does find the AIDS-related virus in the vaccines, he says the polio researchers themselves should not be faulted.
Bohannon: If they had known that there was anything like HIV or SIV in those, I'm sure they would not have used them. They would have found something else.
CNN: So for now Bohannon continues to wait for more samples to come from the government and from polio researchers -- samples of polio vaccine that could help to answer the question, Where did AIDS come from? Elsewhere, Dr. Bohannon's theory of how AIDS developed has not yet been reviewed by other scientists or appeared in scientific journals.
This was the first discussion of the origins question I had heard or read in the media in years, outside of the Rote Fahne, and here it was on CNN! I was astounded. This theory was considerably less explosive than Segal's, but the essential implication was not that different: AIDS was created by human error. Someone was responsible. Maybe not the US government, but someone.
A couple of weeks later there was another interesting news item. MacNeil-Lehrer reported on 3/25/92 that nearly 50% of the 210,000 documented AIDS cases in the US were blacks, Hispanic, native, Americans or Asians -- blacks forming 31% of the new cases, although they are only 12% of the population. Blacks and minorities, then,are clearly getting hit disproportionately hard by AIDS, just as gays, intravenous drug users and prostitutes are.
These figures referred only to the US. Worldwide, given the proliferation of the disease in Africa and the rest of the Third World, the disproportion of non-whites getting the disease is much greater. Surveys reported at the 4th International Conference on AIDS in Africa, held in Marseilles on Oct. 18-20, 1989, gave the percentage of HIV infections ranging from 10% to 60%, depending on the population tested. The percentage for the US as a whole is only 0.4% (about 1 million in a population of 250 million).
The effect of the disease, in other words, regardless of the causes, is genocidal. The non-white populations of Africa, India and Asia are being decimated while the predominately white populations of Europe and the US are escaping relatively unscathed. The same is true of the people living under Third World conditions within the US, who are mostly non-white. Steven Thomas, a public health researcher at the University of Maryland who researched 1000 blacks in five cities, said on the MacNeil-Lehrer program:
Consistently, people wanted to know, was it man-made, was it a form of genocide? Are the numbers from the government true? We now have sufficient data to demonstrate that mistrust of government reports on AIDS is real, and that the belief that AIDS is a form of genocide is real.
Robert MacNeil commented:
Thomas says that mistrust of government springs in part from blacks' lasting memories of incidents like the Tuskegee syphilis study (Condemned to Die for Science) undertaken by the federal government in 1932. 400 Alabama black who had syphilis were studied and later deprived of penicillin, decades after it became the standard treatment.
And Thomas continued:
It is part of the subconscious history that all black people carry, in terms of their mistrust of those who come into their communities offering help, because that's how the Tuskegee study began, with an effort to improve health care delivery to blacks in the deep rural south.
Again, I was astounded. I hadn't heard of this. Nobody was talking about Segal, but apparently millions of black Americans suspected that AIDS was a form of genocide! This went a lot further than Segal had gone.
The year that Robert MacNeil had mentioned, 1932, the year of the Tuskegee syphilis study, struck me, because that was also the year of the Third International Conference of Eugenics, which I had recently read about. It's sponsors included some famous names: Mrs. H. B. Dupont, Col. William Draper (an investment banker associated with the Harriman interests), Mrs. Averell Harriman (mother of Democratic Party leader Averell Harriman), Dr. J. Harvey Kellog (of Kellog's cereals), Major Leonard Darwin (son ofCharles Darwin), Mrs. John T. Pratt and Mrs. Walter Jennings (both of Standard Oil), Mr. and Mrs. Cleveland H. Dodge (of Phelps-Dodge mining interests). Henry Fairchild Osborn, a nephew of J. P. Morgan and vice-president of the conference, opened it by saying:
I have reached the opinion that over-population and underemployment may be regarded as twin sisters. From this point of view I even find that the United States [then with a population of 112 million] is overpopulated at the present....In nature the less fitted individuals would gradually disappear, but in civilization we are keeping them in the community in the hopes that in brighter days they may find employment. This is only another instance of humane civilization going directly against the order of nature and encouraging the survival of the unfittest.
This seems less than innocuous considering that the conference unanimously elected Dr. Ernst Rudin as President of the International Federation of Eugenics Organizations. Rudin became the architect of Hitler's "racial hygiene" policies and trained the medical personnel who conducted the Nazis' first extermination program, killing 40,000 mental patients. The Nazi "eugenics" (i.e. racist) policies were supported until the late 1930's by the Eugenics Record Office in Cold Spring Harbor, New York, which had been founded and endowed by the Harriman family in 1910. Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, today a major center of molecular biological research (headed by James Watson, the co-discoverer of DNA), had itself been founded six years earlier under the name "Station for Experimental Evolution" by similarly elite financial interests: the J. P. Morgan, Rockefeller, Vanderbilt, and Carnegie families.
Obviously, the power elite has been interested in eugenics, now known as genetic engineering, for a long time.
The 1932 Tuskegee syphilis study was not the first time blacks have been disproportionately affected by diseases which the government wilfully neglected. In the early years of this century, hundreds of thousands of Americans died every year from pellagra and related opportunistic diseases. Almost all the deaths occurred in the rural south, and 50% of the victims were black. Although the cause of pellagra -- niacin deficiency, which can be cured by a balanced diet -- was discovered in 1915 by Dr. Joseph Goldberger of the US Public Health Service, these findings were not accepted and acted upon until the mid-1930s.
During these two decades, in which 6 million people died of the disease, the Eugenics Record Office conducted a massive campaign to discredit Goldberger's work and continue the idea that pellagra resulted from a hereditary defect. Charles Davenport, the Office director and chairman of the National Pellagra Commission, continued to argue that susceptibility to pellagra was inherited, just as the susceptibility to tuberculosis was among Irish Americans was, so that all attempts to improve dietary or sanitary conditions among the affected groups were futile.
4. The "population bomb"
"Eugenics" today, of course, is a taboo concept, since Hitlershowed us all too clearly what could be made of it. Since the war, however, the closely related question of "population control" has been very much a part of elite agendas: e.g., the Population Council, founded by the Rockefeller Foundation in 1952; the Population Crisis Committee, founded by General Draper in 1966, which included Gen. Maxwell Taylor, McGeorge Bundy and Robert McNamara; the Office of Population Affairs, founded by Henry Kissinger in 1966 as part of the State Department.
The importance of population control to the US government is well illustrated by a secret document prepared under the direction of Henry Kissinger in 1974 called "National Security Study Memorandum 200."It was not declassified until 1989 and finally released by the National Archives in 1990 -- 16 years after completion (12/10/74). The very fact that this document was classified is a good example of how fascistic the notion of "national security"has become. How could such a document endanger national security, and why shouldn't American citizens have a right to read it?
The answer is stated clearly in the document itself. The government's concern with Third World population growth might be interpreted as "imperialistic":
The US can help to minimize charges of an imperialist motivation behind its support of population activities by repeatedly asserting that such support derives from a concern with (a) the right of the individual to determine freely and responsibly their number and spacing of children...and (b) the fundamental social and economic development of poor countries... (p. 115).
In other words, propaganda must be used to disguise the true nature of US interest in population control, and for the same reason the American people were not allowed to know what policies their "democratic" government was implementing in their name. The real government interest in population control was, and is, not humanitarian at all but political and economic:
The political consequences of current population factors in the LDCs [Less Developed Countries] -- rapid growth, internal migration, high percentages of young people, slow improvement in living standards, urban concentrations, and pressures for foreign migration -- are damaging to the internal stability and international relations of countries in whose advancement the US is interested, thus creating political or even national security problems for the US (p. 10).
If these [adverse socio-economic] conditions result in expropriation of foreign interests, such action,from an economic viewpoint,is not in the best interests of either the investing country or the host government (p. 11).
While specific goals in this are difficult to state, our aim should be for the world to achieve a replacement level of fertility, (a two- child family on the average), by about the year 2000.This will require the present 2% growth rate to decline to 1.7% within a decade and to 1.1% by 2000. Compared to the UN medium projection, this goal would result in 500 million fewer people in 2000 and about 3 billion fewer in 2050. Attainment of this goal will require greatly intensified population programs. A basis for developing national population growth control targets to achieve this world target is contained in the World Population Plan of Action.
The World Population Plan of Action is not self-enforcing and will require vigorous efforts by interested countries, UN agencies and other international bodies to make it effective. US leadership is essential.The strategy must include the following elements and actions:
(a) Concentration on key countries.
Assistance for population moderation should give primary emphasis to the largest and fastest growing developing countries where there is special US political and strategic in terests. Those countries are:India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nigeria, Mexico, Indonesia, Brazil, the Philippines, Thailand,Egypt, Turkey, Ethiopia and Colombia. Together,they accountfor 47% of the world's current population increase. (It should be recognized that at present AID bilateral assistance to someof these countries may not be acceptable.) Bilateral [US] assistance, to the extent that funds are available, will be given to other countries, considering such factors as population growth, need for external assistance, long-term US interests and willingness to engage in self-help....At the same time, the US will look to the multilateral agencies -- especially the UN Fund for Population Activities which already has projects in over 80 countries -- to increase population assistance on a broader basis with increased US contributions (p. 14-15).
In other words, food and economic assistance will be used to blackmail countries the US considers overpopulated -- especially the 13 "key" countries named -- into reducing their population growth. Otherwise these superfluous populations might cause "interruptions of supply," since "the US economy will require large and increasing amounts of minerals from abroad, especially from less developed countries" (p. 43). For example,
Bangladesh is now a fairly solid supporter of Third World positions, advocating better distribution of the world's wealth and extensive trade concessions to poor nations. As its problems grow and its ability to gain assistance fails to keep pace, Bangladesh's positions on international issues likely will become radicalized, inevitably in opposition to US interests on major issues as it seeks to align itself with others to force adequate aid (p. 80).
Heaven forbid that the starving millions in Bangladesh should become so "radicalized" as to question the right of Americans, who constitute 6% of the world population, to consume 33% of the world's goods!
The answer to this threat is not only economic blackmail but energetic assistance in family planning, though one must be careful to avoid "charges of an imperialist motivation" by emphasizing that it is all for their own good and working through national leaders and international institutions:
Beyond seeking to reach and influence national leaders,improved worldwide support for population-related efforts should be sought through increased emphasis on mass media and other population education and motivation programs by the UN, USIA and USAID. We should give higher priorities in our information programs worldwide for this area and consider expansion of collaborative arrangements with multilateral institutions in population education programs (p. 117).
Nevertheless, "some controversial, but remarkably successful, experiments in India in which financial incentives, along with other motivational devices, were used to get large numbers of men to accept vasectomies" (p. 138). In Brazil, too, extraordinary "success" has been achieved in persuading women to practice birth control, primarily with the pill and sterilization, a success many attribute to the unspoken pressures of the IMF and the World Bank. Indeed, such achievements are quite in line with the thinking of Robert McNamara, who became president of the World Bank (1968-81) after presiding over the Vietnam War as Secretary of Defense (1961-68).
On October 2, 1979, McNamara told a group of international bankers:
We can begin with the most critical problem of all, population growth. As I have pointed out elsewhere, short of nuclear war itself, it is the gravest issue that the world faces over the decades immediately ahead...If current trends continue, the world as a whole will not reach replacement-level fertility -- in effect, an average of two children per family -- until about the year 2020. That means that some 70 years later the world's population would finally stabilize at about 10 billion individuals compared with today's 4.3 billion.
We call it stabilized, but what kind of stability would be possible? Can we assume that the levels of poverty, hunger, stress, crowding and frustration that such a situation could cause in the developing nations -- which by then would contain 9 out of every 10 human beings on earth -- would be likely to assure social stability? Or political stability? Or, for that matter, military stability? It is not a world that any of us would want to live in.
Is such a world inevitable? It is not, but there are only two possible ways in which a world of 10 billion people can be averted. Either the current birth rates must come down more quickly. Or the current death rates must go up. There is no other way.
There are, of course, many ways in which the death rates can go up. In a thermonuclear age, war can accomplish it very quickly and decisively. Famine and disease are nature's ancient checks on population growth, and neither one has disappeared from the scene.
This Malthusian point of view is obviously deeply entrenched among the governing elite. Although "population control" sounds different from "eugenics," it amounts to the same thing. The populations that are being controlled, that supposedly need to be controlled, are not those of Europe and the United States but those of the "LDCs" -- exactly the same populations that the eugenicists would consider less productive, less civilized and less worthy of proliferation.
This is of course a philosophy that dares not speak its name, hence the secrecy of documents such as NSSM 200. The facts are clear. Birth control is not sufficient to achieve the "stabilization" goals that McNamara, Kissinger et al. have set. Overpopulation remains "life- threatening," an opinion confirmed by many supposedly politically neutral organizations such as World Watch and the Club of Rome.
Since it is impolitic to speak of the "population problem" in plain words -- that is, too many poor people – in recent years it has become integrated within a complex of problems called "development" and "the environment." Again, commentators are chary of formulating their thoughts on the relationship between population growth and development, and between population growth and pollution, in plain terms, but the implications are always clear.
"There is no doubt that population growth is inextricably linked to development," says the Washington Post ("Forge a Population Plan," reprinted in the International Herald Tribune, 6/8/92:6). "International efforts to help countries out of poverty founder when very high rates of population growth outstrip progress." The link, clearly, is that overpopulation causes poverty and hinders development. "But this truth, so obvious to economists and other planners, cannot be presented as a demand or used as a threat. Language matters....In fact, the debate should be framed in terms of 'family planning'..." In other words, the victims are to blame, but we shouldn't tell them that in so many words.
The poor are not only responsible for their own poverty because they reproduce too fast, they are also responsible for pollution. This logic seems compelling when we see the pictures of teeming multitudes living in squalor. There are too many of them, we think, so they are poor and forced to live in their own dirt. Herein lies the fallacy: it is their dirt, not ours.
Pollution in a global sense has little to do with poverty and everything to do wealth, but the contradictory assumption persists. In covering the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio, Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post writes that the "ranks of the have-nots continue to grow rapidly," and "UN demographers expect global population to double to more than 10 billion by the middle of the next century, with most of the increase coming in the poorest countries" ("One Summit, Differing Goals," reprinted in the International Herald Tribune 6/2/92:1). Robinson laments that "while the population boom has an impact on the whole range of environmental concerns -- carbon-dioxide emissions, deforestation, water pollution, extinction of plant and animal species -- the Rio summit is expected to skirt the people issue." It is the "people issue" -- population growth -- according to William Stevens of the New York Times, that "lies at the root of the global environmental problem" (6/15/92:2), meaning poor people, since they are the ones with the population boom, "along with rich countries' wasteful consumption patterns."
It may be true that overpopulation causes pollution, but it is the ranks of the haves, not of the have-nots, who are the problem. The same IHT article just quoted (6/2/92:1) acknowledges that "23% of the world's people receive 85% of its income." This same fifth of the population constitutes the industrialized world, which, as we can also read in the IHT, produces 80% of the pollution that (probably) causes global warming (5/21/92:3). The same is true of deforestation, water pollution, and species extinction. The rain forest is not being cut down to feed or house the indigenous population, but to satisfy the consumer demands and capitalist greed of the First World. As Paul Ehrlich said in a Newsweek interview, "the most serious population problem is in the United States" (5/25/92:56, international edition). The real threat to the environment is posed not by the poor but by the rich, as "a product of population and per-capita consumption."
Why are these facts consistently turned on their head? Because the burgeoning ranks of the poor threaten not the environment but the wealth, power, and "national security" of the ruling elite. The real problem, for the haves, is that too many have-nots leads to political instability, as NSSM 200 makes clear.
The propaganda is designed to disguise this truth. Who does not say to himself, seeing the pictures on TV of starving multitudes, "If only there weren't so many of them!" Who stops to think that they could say the same thing, with more justification, about us? Who is reminded that a fraction of the energy and funds our governments spend on weaponry could feed and house the entire world? The conclusion is taken for granted, though it is false: there's not enough to go around; there are too many people; we can't help them all without hurting ourselves; they want what we've got. Thomas Malthus elevated these principles of greed to economic "law": The population will always outgrow its ability to feed itself; therefore, control by war and natural catastrophe (famine, disease) is not only natural but necessary. We can assuage our consciences by donating to the Red Cross, but the poor bastards, most of them, will die anyway. It's in the nature of things. Nothing can be done.
Darwin contributed the doctrine of the survival of the fittest to this view of "natural order." If white Europeans survive at the expense of black Africans, if the rich survive at the expense of the poor, it's only "natural." Wars, too, are "natural." Men fight because only the fittest are destined to survive. Let the best men win. Death in battle is quicker and less painful, after all, than death by disease, starvation or natural catastrophe, which are the only alternatives for the "less fit" populations of the planet.
Malthus wrote at the beginning of the 19th century and Darwin somewhat later. Neither could have foreseen the technological achievements that have been made since. Few of us realize, either, the full potential of these achievements. When someone like Buckminster Fuller comes along and tells us we have the technological capability of providing the basic necessities of life to every human being on earth, with plenty of room to spare, we call him an eccentric, a hopeless dreamer, without bothering to find out if he is correct. Our view of reality has been conditioned by elite spokesmen like Robert McNamara, who envision a world of 10 billion people as unliveable, a horror second only to nuclear holocaust. We do not stop to calculate that even with 10 billion people, the average population density worldwide would be less than one-third that of former West Germany.
The greatest fallacy in the elitist Malthusian scenario, however, is the assumption that overpopulation causes poverty. The reverse is true: poverty causes overpopulation. Poverty can be reduced, of course, by reducing the number of poor people, which is what we really mean by "population control." It can also be reduced, however, by development, that is, by humane development, designed to eliminate rather than exploit poverty, which automatically reduces population growth. This is another much-disguised fact, but we need only look around us to see the proof. The most developed countries, and the ones with the highest level of equality in the distribution of wealth, are the ones whose populations have stabilized (Scandinavia, Germany). This is "natural," if anything is. Reproducing in quantity has always been the peasant's way of surviving from one generation to the next. It is nature's way of compensating the poor and oppressed.
And they know it! As Steven Thomas says, it is part of their "subconscious history." Of course "family planning" is doomed to fail when their subconscious history warns them to beware of "those who come into their communities offering help." The logic of having fewer children so as to be able to take better care of them doesn't work with them. They have nothing, so what can they give to two children that they cannot give to ten or twenty? The two would probably die, but of ten or twenty some would survive and perhaps improve their lot. This is the logic of the poor, learned and confirmed throughout history and applied instinctively.
The most effective method of birth control, therefore, is to fight poverty. The better off people are, the less they reproduce. As the standard of living improves, the birth rate decreases. This is confirmed by history and observation of the world around us. Malthus and Darwin's contemporaries did not have the technological means for doing this, but we do. We have the means to produce and distribute the necessities of life for every person on the planet, without anyone having to give up his TV set, car, house, etc. I suspect the Rockefellers and the Harrimans and the DuPonts could even keep their billions. I don't have the figures to prove it, but I'm sure one could produce them. The idea only seems so crazy because we have absorbed the propaganda to the contrary so thoroughly.
The rich, who disseminate the propaganda, are not interested in fighting poverty because they fear a redistribution of wealth. But they are in part victims of their own propaganda. Their fears are exaggerated: there is enough to go around. The world could remain as undemocratic as it is, with the same class differences, but the underclass could be lifted to a considerably less miserable state. This would also be a safer world for the privileged, because the ranks of the have-nots, having a little more, would be less prone to revolt. The rich would still have their slaves -- to fight their wars, run their factories, build their roads, make their Porsches and Lear jets and yachts and Rolexes, etc. -- but they would be happier slaves.
Unfortunately, I doubt that this attitude is widespread on Wall Street or among the Fortune 500 or Social Register types. As I said, in part they are victims of their own propaganda. It wouldn't work, they would say. They would have to sacrifice too much. And who said happy slaves are good slaves? Give an inch, they'll take a mile. Feed, clothe and house them, and pretty soon they'll want leisure time. The idle mind being the devil's workshop, they'll soon start thinking, and then we'll really be in trouble. But the more important point, quite simply, is why should the rich and powerful give a hoot about the poor? Why should they care more than the rest of us? Given the choice -- and we do have the choice -- of letting the poor die off or eliminating poverty, the former solution is by far the easier and more practical one.
Still, it is not all that simple to let Malthus' and Darwin's "nature" take its course, because "nature" is not what it was a hundred years ago. Modern technology and medicine have changed things. The poor do not die fast enough anymore. There are not enough natural disasters, fewer fatal diseases. Nuclear war, as McNamara said, would solve the problem, but it is impractical. Family planning isn't effective enough. Mandatory birth control, as in China, is incompatible with the tenets of a democratic society. Famine is not effective in the long run, because societies that like to think of themselves as humane cannot tolerate pictures of starving babies forever. That leaves conventional warfare and disease as "natural" inhibitors of population growth.
War has always been an effective agent for population reduction in the Third World, but it is dangerous. Proxy wars have an insidious tendency to involve their sponsors, in one way or another. There is always the danger of their getting out of hand, especially with more and more nuclear, chemical and biological weapons in the hands of poor countries. There is the threat to Third World resources, such as oil, on which the rest of the world depends. Finally, there is the danger that the rich countries may get directly involved in the fighting -- as in Vietnam.
Limited warfare (an oxymoron) is a compromise solution. It is true that nine years of war in Vietnam reduced the population of Southeast Asia by several million people, and the underclass population of the US also by tens of thousands. The point is made with unusual clarity in an early, excellent film about the JFK assassination called Executive Action (1973). In the film, Big Oil (Will Geer) pulls the strings from the top, and Burt Lancaster plays the role equivalent to General Y (Lansdale) in Oliver Stone's JFK, i.e. the operational head of the assassination project. Another character, played by Robert Ryan, is the middleman, apparently a media mogul (shown a number of times in what appears to be a television studio). Big Oil and his cohorts are greatly troubled by the test ban treaty, Kennedy's support of the civil rights movement, etc., and finally gives the go-ahead for the assassination when the White House announces the withdrawal plan on Oct. 2, 1963. This much is in line with the Stone movie, but the following brief dialogue between Ryan and Lancaster introduces a further dimension:
Ryan: The real problem is this, James. In two decades there'll be 7 billion human beings on this planet, most of them brown, yellow or black, all of them hungry, all of them determined to love and swarm out of their breeding grounds into Europe and North America. Hence Vietnam. An all-out effort there will give us control of south Asia for decades to come, and with proper planning we can reduce the population to 550 million by the end of the century. I know, I've seen the data.
Lancaster: We sound rather like gods reading the Doomsday Book, don't we?
Ryan: Well, someone has to do it. Not only will the nations affected be better off, but the techniques developed there can be used to reduce our own excess population -- blacks, Puerto Ricans, Mexican-Americans, poverty-prone whites, and so forth.
But eventually, as Vietnam demonstrated, people get tired of war. Furthermore, conventional warfare does not kill enough people to make a significant difference in the population figures. What's a few million here, a few million there? These figures don't make a dent in the projections of population growth that have the power elite so worried.
5. AIDS as genocide?
McNamara spoke to his fellow bankers in 1979 of a world populated by 10 billion people by the year 2090 as "not a world that any of us would want to live in." If this is a horror vision, what must he think in 1992, when the projections are considerably more alarming? "UN demographers expect global population to double to more than 10 billion by the middle of the next century, with most of the increase coming in the poorest countries," says Eugene Robinson (op. cit.). McNamara's unliveable world is only 58 years away! This leaves us with the last of the Malthusian alternatives to nuclear war: disease.
Enter AIDS, in the same year (1979) that McNamara was describing Third World population growth as the greatest threat to mankind "short of nuclear war itself" and four years after the secret Kissinger study described it as a national security threat.
Technology, in the form of modern medicine, has the troublingly "unnatural" tendency to keep more people alive longer than was possible in Malthus' day, but AIDS, almost miraculously, has solved the problem. Provided a cure remains elusive for another decade or so, the population bomb will be totally defused. For the elite, given the choice between an "unlivable world" of 10 billion people and AIDS, the latter must come as a godsend.
The International AIDS Center at the Harvard School of Public Health has predicted 120 million AIDS infections by the year 2000 ("Grim Global Outlook on AIDS," IHT, 6/4/92:1). Even this doesn't seem like much compared to global population figures (currently 5.4 billion; cf. IHT 6/1/92:2). But the increase in infections since 1981 has been more than 100-fold: from 100,000 infections in 1981 to 12.9 million in 1992 (2.5 million deaths). The increase from 1992 to 2000, according to the Harvard AIDS Center, will be almost ten-fold. Even if the disease continues to spread at a much slower rate -- say, one-tenth as fast -- the number of infections would double every ten years. [Here I made some speculative calculations predicting that "the human race will become extinct sometime between 2060 and 2070!" – but I have never been good at math so I will omit this.]
Surely no one is counting on such a grim scenario, but it is clear that population growth estimates will have to be drastically revised to take account of the AIDS toll, unless a cure is found soon. By the same token, McNamara's horror vision of a 10-billion global population will be easily averted.
In other words, AIDS may solve the "population problem." Not only will the "death rates" rise significantly, but they will rise in the right places, namely in the Third World. Since the populations being decimated by AIDS are the same ones suffering most from overpopulation, it is hard to see how anyone who considers the latter the "gravest issue" facing mankind "short of nuclear war itself" could be unhappy about AIDS. Obviously, no one is going to admit this publicly -- unless he is as stupid as Prince Philip, who said in 1988 that if he were reborn he would like to return as a deadly virus in order to help solve the population problem -- but the logic, if unspeakable, is inescapable.
The logic has not escaped those who are directly affected, as Steven Thomas' research showed. The New York Times, however, finds it "bizarre" that blacks think AIDS is a form of genocide ("AIDS and Black America," reprinted in the IHT, 5/13/92:6). According to the polls they quote, 35% of blacks think AIDS is a form of genocide, 10% believe it was created in a laboratory deliberately to infect blacks, and 20% think it might have been. This is "paranoia," says the NYT, based on "pernicious and dispiriting rumors" which "black leaders and public figures with high credibility like Magic Johnson could do much to discredit." Dispiriting, yes, but why pernicious? Whom do they threaten? Who is the NYT protecting? The words "paranoia" and "rumor" presume that the rumors are unfounded, but what is the basis of this presumption? The only theories of the origin of AIDS that have proven to be unfounded, though they still circulate in the press, are the ones about green monkeys and isolated African villages. The NYT quotes a black health worker who testified to the National Commission on AIDS that "until it was proved otherwise she considered AIDS a man-made disease." This is not paranoia, but common sense. The best explanation for the known facts can be considered true until a better explanation comes along.
What are the facts? Here are five, as I see them:
1. No socially transmitted disease has ever appeared so suddenly and spread so rapidly as AIDS.
2. It is possible to create pathogenic viruses by genetic engineering. The crucial, and as yet unanswered, questions are: a) is it possible to create HIV this way now; b) if so, exactly when did this become possible; c) when did the first case of AIDS in fact appear?
3. Plausible scientific arguments have been made to support various theories of an artificial origin of AIDS, though these arguments have been suppressed in both the mainstream press and in scientific literature.
4. The Pentagon thought it possible and wanted to create an AIDS- like virus in 1969 and asked Congress for the money to do so (MacArthur's testimony before the House Subcommittee, July 9, 1969).
5. Neither the government nor the press nor the scientific community has made any effort to bring the above facts to the attention of the public, much less investigate their possible significance.
Given these facts, it demands a huge leap of faith not to suspect the worst. I don't recall anyone calling Anita Bryant and the clean-thinking crowd paranoid because it occurred to them that AIDS was God's scourge upon the wicked. Why is it paranoid to suspect human beings of genocide, but not to suspect God? Why blame God? God has never been convicted of persecuting or killing blacks, homosexuals, drug addicts or prostitutes. Human beings have. We have a rich historical record to demonstrate the horrors which man is quite able and willing to inflict on his fellow man. AIDS could be another one.
It is not difficult to imagine that if our worst suspicions are correct, those responsible have convinced themselves that they are doing God's work. If one accepts the Malthusian premise, AIDS may appear to be the only feasible way to keep the world from becoming unlivable, which would make its inventor a hero! Is it not worth sacrificing a few billion lives to disease, if it means saving the human species as a whole and preserving the earth as a "liveable place"? Are these not exactly the same grandiose strategic terms, the same philosophy, that our rulers use to justify all the wars they force us to endure? The relative few must be sacrificed for the greater good. A few million to save South Vietnam, a few billion to save the world.
Of course, the catch is that the "relative few" are always the relatively poor and powerless. It is the underclass who are the grunts in the AIDS war, just as they were in Vietnam and in all wars. Naturally, a portion of the middle class, and perhaps even a tiny fraction of the upper class, get caught under the wheels too, but this is a numbers game. And the numbers speak for themselves. They tell us that in the industrialized countries, it is non-whites, homosexuals, drug addicts and prostitutes who are getting hit disproportionately by AIDS. The NYT says more than half the AIDS cases are non-whites (31% blacks, according to the MacNeil-Lehrer report quoted above), and more than half the cases in women and children are blacks. Given the rate of spread of the disease in Africa and Asia, the percentage of non-whites who will be killed worldwide is much higher.
This does not necessarily add up to genocide, or to an artificial origin of the AIDS virus. It does add up to a lot of questions which, despite the New York Times, are neither "bizarre" nor "paranoid," and are not being asked. The answers may not be forthcoming, but if we do not ask the questions, we have no one to blame for the consequences but ourselves.
After posting what I have written so far (AIDS Contract 1-5) to the Internet, I carried on a discussion with several biologists that led me to the following additional conclusions:
1. I am convinced that the published genetic sequences (PGS) show greater similarity between HIV and SIV than between HIV and visna.
2. I am not convinced that the greater similarity between HIV and SIV would be confirmed by analysis of ANY sample of HIV. Segal says the early similarity of HIV and visna (and dissimilarity of HIV and SIV), confirmed by the first PGS, was simply forgotten after other analyses were published. If he is right, one would think there would be HIV samples around that do NOT conform to the PGS. But the onus must be on him (or someone else who suspects this) to prove it.
3. I am not convinced that there is any conclusive evidence of HIV before the first diagnosis in 1981. Segal attempts to debunk much of this evidence in his book (AIDS: Die Spur fuehrt ins Pentagon, Verlag Neuer Weg, Essen, Germany, 1990), which unfortunately has still not appeared in English.
4. I am not convinced that AIDS began anywhere but in New York, because of 3.
5. Because of 3 and 4, I think it is correct to assume that AIDS is an entirely new disease -- not a new outbreak of an old disease. The analogies with bubonic plague and syphilis are false. Segal's suspicion that lyme disease may also be a product of military laboratories deserves a response.
6. I am certainly not convinced by the argument that secret (military, CIA) scientific research is only on "applications" and never fundamentally ahead of published research. Therefore, it seems quite possible to me that SIV, for example, was discovered long before 1985, and could have been one of the original components (rather than visna, as Segal contends) of an artificially produced HIV. At least one of the microbiologists I corresponded with admits that such a synthesis would have been possible by 1980, so we are only talking about a difference of a year or two, since Segal says it was made in late 1978. And we should not forget that "eminent scientists'' (and the Pentagon) believed in 1969 that it would be possible in 5 to 10 years to make a "new infective microorganism" that would be "refractory to the immunological and therapeutic processes upon which we depend to maintain our relative freedom from infectious disease" (MacArthur testimony).
7. From what all my correspondents have said, I am convinced that HIV can be synthesized in the laboratory NOW. This seems to be generally known by experts, but it is still a secret, I think, as far as the public is concerned. That was the first question in the questionnaire I sent out in late 1991 to a number of well- known AIDS researchers: "Is it possible to produce HIV-1 or HIV-2 in the laboratory (by manipulating or combining other organisms or substances by gene surgery or other means)?" Since most of these researchers answered a flat "No" to this question, I must conclude that they were being disingenuous, and that their failure to answer the second and third questions ("If so, since when has this been possible?" and "With what components?") was equally disingenuous.
When I published the above "amended" conclusions on the Internet, I again received responses, which I will quote briefly.
Re 2, one correspondent wrote:
I've seen hundreds of HIV sequences, from all over the world, sequenced by many different people. Basically all you have to do is get a blood sample from someone, purify it, and run it through a sequencer. There's no way the "bad guys" could interfere with this.
Segal's claims that HIV and visna were originally reported similar and that this has been covered up are unfounded. There is no coverup of the fact that HIV is a lentivirus and is related to visna. However, SIV is also a lentivirus and is closer to HIV than visna is.
In conclusion, I've read the papers Segal referenced, but I couldn't find anything to support his theory that new sequences replaced the old ones. From the first, visna was suspected to be close to HIV, and it still is. The only thing that changed is visna used to be the closest known virus to HIV; when SIV was discovered, visna lost that role.
This is a pretty convincing challenge to Segal's argument that the similarity of visna and HIV was discovered early and then inexplicably ignored in favor of the new discovery of the similarity of HIV and SIV. I would like to have Segal's response, but since he is old and quite ill, I am afraid it will not be forthcoming.
Re 7, the same person wrote:
I think this is an unfair interpretation. You asked a bunch of people, one said yes, so you're assuming the "yes" is right and everyone else is lying. I think the proper explanation is: a) this question can be interpreted several different ways; b) people can honestly give different answers on this question.
I'll go into a bit more detail. First, when you ask is it possible to produce HIV in the laboratory, this can be interpreted as:
i) Before HIV was discovered, would it be possible to deliberately design HIV and then produce it?
ii) Before HIV was discovered, would it be possible to produce HIV by trial-and-error?
iii) After HIV was discovered, analyzed and sequenced, would it be possible to make HIV from scratch?
I think everyone would agree that (i) is impossible. My reason is that even after a decade of intensive research, nobody understands the details of some of the genes of HIV or how exactly HIV works. Thus, I consider it impossible for someone to sit down and design HIV even now, much less 10 years ago.
The yes answer you received is clearly an answer to (iii), since he says it was possible with a RNA synthesizing machine "once the nucleotide sequence of the viruses was known". This is not an interesting answer from your point of view, since it assumes someone already has HIV. I would also say he's probably wrong in terms of it being possible in practice: in the 1970's, the longest piece of RNA synthesized was about 150 bases long; in the mid 1980's, the longest piece was about 1000 bases long, but HIV is about 10000 bases long.
That leaves (ii), which is the question you're interested in. I would say that (ii) is possible in theory, but not possible in practice. Theoretically it is possible to form HIV from SIV by trial-and-error, since it is generally believed to have formed by evolution. However, since this is estimated to have taken hundreds or thousands of years and millions and millions of monkeys, it is not practical.
In the lab, the changes you can make to a virus by trial-and- error are rather small. In the 1970's, there was a lot of work in modifying the virus used to infect E. Coli, to give it improved properties. These involved small changes to single genes, and the viruses could be tested immediately, but it still took years of effort. In the case of HIV, the virus is significantly different from SIV and contains an entirely new gene. In addition, if scientists wanted to check their progress, they would have to infect humans and wait years to see what happens, rather than hours for E. Coli viruses. Thus, I conclude that even if evil scientists had SIV and wanted to create a human version of it, it would probably take them hundreds of years to do it even if they had a good idea of how to check their progress. And this neglects the fact that SIV wasn't discovered until HIV was discovered, because after HIV scientists checked thousands of monkeys to find something related. Before HIV, nobody had any reason to look for SIV.
Another correspondent wrote:
Another, far more true-to-life hypothesis is that most scientists are quite conservative about making off-the-wall, unorthodox predictions in any contexts. You may be familiar with Arthur C. Clarke's First Law: "When an elderly but eminent scientist says something is possible, he is almost certainly right; when he says something is impossible, he is almost certainly wrong." This is, in my experience, a very general phenomenon that readily accounts for the refusal of established biologists to consider the synthesis of HIV.
I would also like to set you straight about my time predictions. I held 1980 as the earliest possible date at which HIV could begin to be synthesized in the best pure-research labs in the world. You seem to take this as meaning that HIV could be completed in non-specialized labs by 1978. This is a misrepresentation of my position.
My answer was as follows:
Question 1 in my questionnaire, to which almost all the researchers who replied answered a flat "No," was: "Is it possible to produce HIV-1 or HIV-2 in the laboratory (by manipulating or combining other organisms or substances by gene surgery or other means)?" I don't see how this could have been (mis)interpreted as "After HIV was discovered, analyzed and sequenced, would it be possible to make HIV from scratch?" I was clearly not asking about making viruses "from scratch." You do not need to make a mule "from scratch." All you need is a horse and a donkey. Segal says the horse and donkey were visna and HTLV-1, though I purposely avoided being that specific.
Interpretation ii) also assumes that we are talking about "synthesizing" (i.e., making the virus "from scratch"), rather than gene-splicing (hybridization). Why should "the changes you can make to a virus by trial-and-error" be "rather small" if we are talking about hybridization? As for testing, that is precisely what Segal says the origin of AIDS was -- an accidental breakout of the virus from an experiment conducted on prisoners who volunteered as guinea pigs.
The argument that it would not have been "practical" to develop HIV from SIV because it would have taken "thousands of years and millions and millions of monkeys" begs the question. The question is: Did HIV evolve in nature, or did it come from a laboratory? If the latter is true, the discussion of evolution is entirely irrelevant.
Ditto the argument that HIV cannot have been made from SIV because "SIV wasn't discovered until HIV was discovered" (both in 1985, I think). The question is whether SIV was really discovered when it is thought to have been discovered, and whether the "discovery" of HIV was not the public discovery of a virus created some years earlier by secret biowarfare research.
Question 1 in my questionnaire says, quite clearly: Suppose you are one of the best virologists around, with all possible facilities, including samples of all kinds of viruses. Can you put a combination of them together that will end up looking like HIV, or something close to it? With genetic sequencing available now to compare the results, this question should be precisely answerable.
"Yes" to this question, of course, would lead to Questions 2 and 3 (since when has this been possible and with what components?). Again, I am not talking about making viruses "from scratch" or "by design" in the sense of constructing them according to genetic blueprints. I'm talking about mixing things together to see what you come up with. You don't need to know precisely what you're going to end up with beforehand.
For example, if you've got an immune deficiency virus that only attacks monkeys, you try adding things to it (like HTLV-1) to see if you can make it pathogenic to humans. How do you know if it's pathogenic to humans? You inject it in massive doses (to speed up the onset of disease) in various animals and human cell cultures, and when you've got something that looks promising, you test it on humans. (Segal is not the first person to note that prisoners -- and others -- have been used as guinea pigs in government- sponsored experiments.)
Does anyone really want to deny that the technology for doing this (making hybrid viruses) was available in the 1970s? Why else would "eminent biologists" have assured the Pentagon in 1969 that they could create a "new synthetic biological agent" ("synthetic" meaning simply "man-made," "not naturally occurring") between 1974 and 1979 that would attack the human immune system (MacArthur testimony)?
Biological warfare researchers would not have needed to create HIV from scratch or re-create it from a blueprint. They would not have needed RNA synthesizing machines (which, whatever they are, I assume were not around in the 70s), and they would not have needed hundreds of years to find out what the effects of their nasty products were. All they would have needed was the ability to make hybrid viruses, standard facilities for experiments with animals and human cell cultures, and, ultimately, a few human guinea pigs.
Perhaps the difficulty is that "normal" scientists simply cannot conceive of anyone TRYING to produce a disease agent. But that is precisely what biological and chemical warfare researchers do. That much is no secret."
My correspondent replied to this as follows:
I've looked at the gene sequences carefully, with an open mind, and I can't see any way you could splice together known viruses (including SIV) to form HIV. (I've sent you the sequences; you can try yourself to cut and paste the viruses together to form HIV.)
I've read the MacArthur testimony. It says they were looking for an agent refractory to immunological processes; this means something resisting immunological processes. The quoted testimony and other parts of the testimony state they are looking for a new agent for which people do not have natural immunity; this is entirely different from an agent that destroys the immune system. It is also much easier than producing something like HIV.
I've read about the research into disease agents. I know roughly what sorts of problems they were looking at and hoped to solve with genetic engineering: making an agent without natural immunity, improving the virulence of agents, making agents more infective, and making agents more stable for distribution as aerosols and at high temperatures. They were looking at using raw nucleic acids rather than normal protein encapsulated viruses, in order to evade the immune system. They were also looking at more hypothetical possiblities such as splicing a toxin gene (e.g. botulism) into an infective virus. These are the sorts of new agents refractory to immunological and therapeutic processes that were being considered in the 1970's.
Based on how recent genetic engineering was developed, the immense effort that academia and industry has poured into research, the comparatively limited amount of research by the military, the published reports of what the military was looking at, and the government support for academic research into genetic engineering, I don't think that there is any significant basic military research in genetic engineering ahead of what is publicly known. The MacArthur testimony makes it pretty clear that the military wasn't doing genetic engineering research in 1969, but based on what was happening outside they thought there might be military applications and they would like to start investigating this. I don't see when they would have had the time between 1969 and the mid 70's to get years ahead of public genetic engineering in fundamental research, even if they tried."
I don't see why you can't cut and paste viruses together to get HIV. I too looked again at the sequences you sent me, and drew lines between the letters that were the same (and in the same positions) in SIV and HIV. These identities amounted to about 70%, as you said. Certainly I could cut out the 30% of the SIV sequence that doesn't match and paste in sequences from other viruses (like HTLV-1?), until I have even greater similarity with HIV.
But I am not at all sure the "cut-and-paste" analogy is valid for the "shotgun" method of hybridization Segal says created HIV. This would have been a matter of putting viruses together to achieve not a 100% predetermined sequence, but just enough identity with the component viruses to produce the desired pathogenic effects. A certain percentage of HIV's genetic makeup may have been "born" quite randomly, and thus not traceable to any other virus. This would be more like shuffling a deck of cards. Each time you shuffle, you will retain some percentage of sequential identity, depending on how carefully you shuffle, but the rest of the deck will be a random distribution. Similarly, HIV contains large chunks identical with visna and SIV, and smaller chunks identical with other viruses (HTLV-1?), but the rest of the genome may be a random (and thus unrecognizable) recombination of whatever the original components were. I could not expect, then, to "cut and paste" or map the *entire* HIV genome onto a combination of known viruses. Indeed, because of mutations, I suspect that it is difficult or impossible to match even various samples of HIV -- the "same" virus -- with 100% success.
In other words, HIV does not have to be completely identical with any combination of other viruses to have been made from them. It need only have retained enough identity with SIV or visna, for example, to cause immune deficiency, and enough identity with another virus or viruses (HTLV-1?) to make it pathogenic to humans. The rest of the genome may be unique.
Thus the argument that there is no "way you could splice together known viruses (including SIV) to form HIV" -- that is, 100% of HIV -- does not preclude the possibility that HIV was created this way. Part of the genome may have been "born" by a random combination of genes.
Let's try another analogy. Can you map the genome of a mule *exactly* onto a combination of the genomes of a horse and a donkey? I don't think so. Part of the mule is mule. But the mule still came from the horse and donkey.
As for the MacArthur testimony, According to my dictionary, "refractory" means "not responsive to treatment, e.g. a refractory disease." HIV is unresponsive -- resistant -- to the human immune system. Certainly this sentence refers to something more fundamentally dangerous than "a new agent for which people do not have natural immunity," as my correspondent puts it. They wanted an agent "for which no natural immunity *could* have been acquired," a completely new kind of *synthetic* microorganism, different from *any known* cause of disease. Not just an agent that could penetrate the immune system, but one that would *not respond* (be "refractory") to it, one that would beat the entire system, all "the immunological and therapeutic processes upon which we depend to maintain our relative freedom from infectious disease." This is not different from "an agent that destroys the immune system," as my correspondent says. It is precisely that. An agent that will defeat the immune system *must* be able to destroy it. In short, MacArthur's description of the "new infective microorganism" he wanted to make fits HIV quite well.
As for the history of secret biowar research, scant as it is, if the government was looking at splicing toxin genes into infective viruses in the 70s, why shouldn't they have been looking at splicing infective viruses into deadly sheep viruses, as Segal says? Since it is secret, how can my correspondent presume to know that military research has been "comparatively limited"? Why does he assume there is no "significant basic military research in genetic engineering ahead of what is publicly known"? We are not talking about soldiers playing scientists, but about top scientists doing top secret work funded directly or indirectly (through foundations, grants, private organizations, etc.) by the government, which they would not be allowed to talk or write about even if they wanted to. When he says "government support for academic research into genetic engineering," surely my correspondent realizes that this includes millions or billions of dollars in the "black budget" that is totally unaccounted for and can be allocated for secret projects through any number of channels. There is nothing new about this. If the government wants the science, and they want it secret, they can get it.
The MacArthur testimony makes it quite clear that the military was working very closely, and certainly secretly, with "eminent biologists" in 1969, and they were far beyond just "starting" to investigate the military applications of genetic engineering. They would not have asked for $10 million (equivalent to 25-30 million in 1993 dollars, I would estimate), and commit themselves to a timetable ("within the next 5 to 10 years") if they weren't pretty far along already. I haven't looked at the technical journals of the period -- and wouldn't understand much in them if I did -- but I would be very surprised to find anything published by "eminent biologists" at the time equivalent to what is in the MacArthur testimony. (I suspect that the failure to classify this testimony was a major screw-up, though so far it has been effectively kept under wraps. Not another word since then has leaked about that $10 million project. Jeremy Rifkin's 1988 petition to find out what happened to it hit a stone wall.)
Furthermore, the distinction between "fundamental" and "applied" research is not clear-cut. One might not consider inventing a new disease-agent "fundamental." One might not consider looking for, and finding, animal viruses (like visna or SIV) that could be converted into pathogenic human viruses "fundamental research." What difference does it make what we call it? The question is whether the research -- "fundamental" or "applied" -- produced AIDS.
In sum, much as I would like to have been convinced by my interlocutors that my conclusions are wrong, I'm afraid they stand. Whether Segal is right about the components or not, his theory that AIDS originated in a biowarfare laboratory remains plausible, and much too disturbing to ignore. As long as the question remains unanswered, I cannot help coming to a further conclusion: Whoever it was that said, "Science stops where politics begins," was right.