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Bio-Chemical Tests in Alaska Whitewashed By Government

Bio-Chemical Tests in Alaska Whitewashed By Government


By Greg Szymanski


President Bush extended holiday greetings to military troops this Christmas, but one gift he’ll never open is the executive order he signed, which keeps sensitive documents secret about biological and chemical testing at Fort Greely near Fairbanks, Alaska.

The president, by sealing important documents, obviously feels military health concerns were of secondary importance to protecting the Department of Defense (DOD) against potential exposure for injuries resulting from chemical testing and dumping.

What little is known about chemical and biological testing at Fort Greely has surfaced from leaked documents, eyewitness accounts and other general information provided reluctantly by the DOD after health problems began to surface by those living near the base.

Other information, scratching the surface of what really happened, has also appeared in Seymour Hersh’s book Chemical and Biological Testing: America’s Hidden Arsenal, a historical account of the base by Norman Chase and a March 2003 article entitled “Northern Exposure” in The Nation magazine by Korey Capozza.

“The real story of what went on is in the classified documents kept secret by the DOD and President Bush,” said Capozza, a critic of the recent executive order signed by Bush. “They have yet to give veterans a clear definition of possible causes of their health problems. The DOD also refuses to grant any of the veterans health care based on exposure to agents used in the secret site’s experiments.”

Records show that Fort Greely, as far back as 1952 and continuing to at least 1970, was used for the explicit purpose of testing chemical and biological weapons. The base, located 100 miles southwest of Fairbanks on 640,000 acres, originally began operating in 1942 as a staging area for planes ferried to the Soviet Union during World War II.

However, seven years later a nuclear reactor was built to serve as the military’s power plant. Then in 1966, the Army began testing biological, chemical and various other weapons. The reactor was dismantled in 1973, and in 1995 the base was scheduled for closure.

But recently, under the Bush administration, the DOD proposed Fort Greely be used as a storage site for interceptor missiles in support of the space-based missile defense program.

However, what transpired on the base during the 1960s and 1970s is still heavily debated as veterans are now surfacing with what amounts to “chemical horror” stories.

According to several veterans who spoke to VA officials, between 1962 and 1967, the Army blasted hundreds of rockets and bombs containing sarin and VX nerve gas into the region which is densely populated by forests and wildlife.

Veterans recall canisters of VX nerve agents being indiscriminately buried approximately a mile from the Alaskan highway or tossed in a nearby frozen lake in the winter of 1966, where the canisters later sank to the bottom when the ice melted in the spring. Regular dumping expeditions were reportedly carried out until 1970, when the testing discontinued.

Now, 30 years later, veterans and civilians are coming forward with serious health concerns, but since no records are available due to Fort Greely’s top-secret status, VA officials at first had a hard time believing the veterans’ credibility.

After heavy pressure was applied by watchdog groups, the DOD has released some documents revealing the test site may have been operated with blatant disregard for human and environmental safety.

The documents also suggest that some of the deadly materials used may still be unaccounted for and buried somewhere beneath the pristine Alaskan wilderness.

Critics suggest the executive order signed by Bush was designed to protect the DOD against conclusive evidence, hiding a massive cover-up of illegal chemical and biological testing.


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