Oct 01, 2010
U.S. apologizes for 1940s medical experiments on Guatemalans injected with STDs but does not apologize to the victims of mass murders slaughtered by right-wing death squads sponsored by an illegitimate US-installed and sponsored Guatemalan regime!
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius today
apologized for "abhorrent" and "clearly unethical" medical experiments in the 1940s in which U.S. Public Health Service doctors injected Guatemalan patients with syphilis and gonorrhea without their knowledge to study the effect of venereal disease
Doctors from the U.S. Public Health Service injected hundreds of Guatemalans with syphilis and gonorrhea in the 1940s without their knowledge or consent in a study of the effects of venereal disease, NBC news reports.
Information on the experiment was discovered by Susan Reverby, a professor of women's studies at Wellesley College, and can be seen today on her website.
Reverby says the "syphilis inoculation project" was co-sponsored by the PHS, the National Institutes of Health, the Pan American Health Sanitary Bureau and the Guatemalan government.
She says one of the doctors was also involved in the infamous "Tuskegee" syphilis study in which hundreds of already infected African-American men in Alabama were left untreated for 40 years while doctors observed the effects of the disease.
The Guatemala project involved 696 people, including prisoners and mental health patients.
The doctors used prostitutes with the disease to pass it on to the prisoners ... and then did direct inoculations made from syphilis bacteria poured into the men's penises or on forearms and faces that were slightly abraded when the 'normal exposure' produced little disease or in a few cases through spinal punctures.
She notes that unlike in the Tuskegee experiments in Alabama, the subjects in Guatemala were given penicillin after they contracted the illness, although she says it is unclear whether everyone was cured or received adequate treatment.
NBC News reporter Robert Bazell says mental patients and prostitutes were unwittingly injected in the experiments from 1946 to 1948.
It's a bit rich.
And it begs the question. Will the US come clean, and wholeheartedly apologize, and give reparations, for the tens of thousands of innocent civilians slaughtered by right-wing death squads sponsored by an illegitimate US-installed and sponsored Guatemalan regime?
The 1940s experiments in Guatemala were part of a wider, now well-documented, pattern of US imperial interference that escalated in the context of the 1994 democratic revolution that brought the Arbenz government to power. US official attitudes to the democratization of Guatemala were candidly described in a variety of now declassified internal documents I discuss in this paper.
In 1952, US intelligence noted the rise of "militant advocacy of social reforms and nationalistic policies identified with the Guatemalan revolution of 1944", resulting in 10 years of democracy - before the US intervened directly to secure strategic interests. "The radical and nationalistic policies" included "the persecution of foreign economic interests, especially the United Fruit Company", and had won "the support or acquiescence of almost all Guatemalans." The government had generated "mass support for the present regime", proceeding "to mobilize the hitherto politically inert peasantry" via agrarian reform and labour organization, undermining the hegemony of large foreign landowners. But democracy was not to be lauded - it was a serious problem: "Guatemalan official propaganda, with its emphasis on conflict between democracy and dictatorship and between national independence and 'economic imperialism', is a disturbing factor in the Caribbean area", the US concluded.
In other documents, the US noted that the democratic revolution of 1944 had contributed to "a strong national movement to free Guatemala from the military dictatorship, social backwardness, and 'economic colonialism', which had been the pattern of the past". The "social and economic programs of the elected government met the aspirations" of the impoverished, and "inspired the loyalty and conformed to the self-interest of most political conscious Guatemalans." Hence, "neither the landholders nor the [United] Fruit Company can expect any sympathy in Guatemalan public opinion." Worse still, the government's "agrarian reform is a powerful propaganda weapon; its broad social program of aiding the workers and peasants in a victorious struggle against the upper classes and large foreign enterprises has a strong appeal to the populations of Central American neighbours where similar conditions prevail."
Cold War 'Domino theory' was not seriously concerned by the threat of 'international communism' per se. It was more worried about the danger that a whole region might be inspired by a successful model of nationalist economic independence. So something had to be done. In the words of a 1949 CIA assessment, this programme was "distinctly unfriendly to US business interests". Similarly, the US State Department acknowledged that such policies constituted a threat to Guatemala as "a place for capital investment". (See Mark Curtis' Ambiguities of Power, Zed, 1995 p. 152) So in 1954, the US and British teamed up to violently overthrow Arbenz's reformist democratic administration, and installed Col. Castillo Armas. To keep the new, illegitimate, counter-democratic dictatorship in power required extensive 'force projection', in particular the creation and support of a lethal network of government-backed right-wing death squads whose sole task was to slaughter peasants into submission.
Amnesty International (AI) reported at the time that "tortures and murders... are part of a deliberate and long-standing program of the Guatemalan Government" and that the "selection of targets for detention and murder, and the deployment of official forces for extra-legal operations can be pin-pointed to secret offices in an annex of Guatemala's National Palace, under the direct control of the President of the Republic." Upwards of 60,000 people were killed by the 1980s. Further tens of thousands were killed after, and untold hundreds of thousands throughout this process were displaced in a conflict that spanned decades.
One report from Stephen Kinzer in the Boston Global in 1980 says it all. Kinzer cites a report from the National Council of the Jesuit Order in Guatemala as follows: "... it is only necessary to open one's eyes to realize that here we are ruled by a system of anti-Christian power which destroys life and persecutes those who fight for life... This anguishing situation is being maintained with a repression among the most severe in Guatemala's recent history. A regime of unjust force is trying to prevent the working people from reclaiming their just rights." The Council reported over three thousand killings in the first ten months of 1979 alone, by government-backed death squads acting "with total impunity. It is axiomatic that in Guatemala there are no political prisoners, only the dead and disappeared."
This kind of analysis could go on ad nauseum. The history is well-documented.
So the question remains. Will the US say "sorry" for the destruction of democracy in Guatemala, for the hundreds of thousands lives lost, for the millions repressed?