State of Plague, Part 2: Disease-Mongering as Militarized Trojan Horse for Globalization and Surveillance
[T]he people who go and engage in those anti-vaccine efforts— you know, they, they kill children. ~Bill Gates, CNN, February 4th, 2011
Read Part 1 here.
By Adriana Gamondes
What the Foucault? The Gates Foundation and Panoptic Philanthropy
In February, 2011, less than three months prior to Operation Neptune Spear, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, the world’s leading vaccine philanthropist, pronounced on CNN that vaccine safety critics “kill children” and are “liars.” A few weeks earlier, Gates had invested in Neos Geosolutions, a mining technology company backed by Goldman Sachs and Saudi investors that has performed airborne surveys in the Middle East and maintains an office in Abu Dhabi.
And as it turns out, Gates’ investment coincided with several ongoing US military operations and installations in countries—from the Ukraine to Syria, Yemen and Kenya— openly touted for oil, frackable shale or offshore gas fields. And every one of these countries had been, at one point or another, a subject of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s and (offshoot) GAVI Alliance’s various disease monitoring and vaccination drives as well as surveillance of what the organization calls “vaccine confidence.”
It’s a valid argument that Gates Foundation’s initiatives, like biofuel exploration are nearly ubiquitous. The same is true for US military operations, as Nick Turse for The Nation reports:
During the fiscal year that ended on September 30, 2014, US Special Operations forces (SOF) deployed to 133 countries—roughly 70 percent of the nations on the planet—according to Lieutenant Colonel Robert Bockholt, a public affairs officer with US Special Operations Command (SOCOM). This capped a three-year span in which the country’s most elite forces were active in more than 150 different countries around the world, conducting missions ranging from kill/capture night raids to training exercises.
But aside from the ubiquity of certain programs, there are other convergences that make the chain of events leading up to Neptune Spear interesting. Imagining for a moment that Gates, whose foundation has been called a tax evasion shell by philanthropist and accounting expert Sheldon Drobny, has never used medical philanthropy to advance other investments, we should still be asking what Gates and members of his foundation—the prime implementers of third world vaccination drives similar to the one used as cover for the Bin Laden mission, and one of the primary media forces behind domestic mandates— may have known leading up to the operation. Was Gates briefed? Were other media and industrial players?
We may never know the answer to this, as Turse goes on to illustrate:
Despite its massive scale and scope, this secret global war across much of the planet is unknown to most Americans. Unlike the December debacle in Yemen, the vast majority of special ops missions remain completely in the shadows, hidden from external oversight or press scrutiny. In fact, aside from modest amounts of information disclosed through highly-selective coverage by military media, official White House leaks, SEALs with something to sell and a few cherry-picked journalists reporting on cherry-picked opportunities, much of what America’s special operators do is never subjected to meaningful examination, which only increases the chances of unforeseen blowback and catastrophic consequences.
The use of illegal domestic propaganda to facilitate military operations has happened more than once in recent history, most notably Judy Miller’s planting of WMD spin in the New York Times on behalf of the US State Department. And going by a shocking recent court ruling, it’s just become harder to prove. In a story for The Intercept, Glenn Greenwald reports,
A truly stunning debasement of the U.S. justice system just occurred through the joint efforts of the Obama Justice Department and a meek and frightened Obama-appointed federal judge, Edgardo Ramos, all in order to protect an extremist neocon front group from scrutiny and accountability…
This group of neocon extremists was literally just immunized by a federal court from the rule of law. That was based on the claim — advocated by the Obama DOJ and accepted by Judge Ramos — that subjecting them to litigation for their actions would risk disclosure of vital “state secrets.” The court’s ruling was based on assertions made through completely secret proceedings between the court and the U.S. government, with everyone else — including the lawyers for the parties — kept in the dark…
But in this case, there is no apparent U.S. government conduct at issue in the lawsuit. At least based on what they claim about themselves, UANI is just “a not-for-profit, non-partisan, advocacy group” that seeks to “educate” the public about the dangers of Iran’s nuclear program. Why would such a group like this even possess “state secrets”? It would be illegal to give them such material. Or could it be that the CIA or some other U.S. government agency has created and controls the group, which would be a form of government-disseminated propaganda, which happens to be illegal?
One clear takeaway is the fact that any agenda, if combined with military intelligence, now enjoys the unconstitutionally broad, secretive cover afforded to “state security.” About the only way to find out whether Gates was privy to and abetting government plans would be to somehow sue him for defamation over his CNN statements against consumer advocates and wait for the DOJ to swoop in. Of course anyone doing so would be accused of simultaneously defending Bin Laden and endangering public health, and would come smack against the double accountability shield of the war on terror and the war on disease— two things that are equally handy for destroying constitutional protections and rationalizing fallout.
And whether or not Gates participated in illegal propaganda, considering the 47,500 cases of flaccid paralysis following the Gates Foundation’s live oral polio vaccine campaign in the third world, ethics violations in vaccine trials, reliance on repressive regimes for implementation of those trials (discussed later in the series), in light of the foundation’s commitment to global vaccine surveillance, and, again, in view of the admission that vaccine drives have been repeatedly used as a cover for military operations, it’s become apparent that medical philanthropy has not always improved public health in foreign populations. From some of his foundation’s further investments, it’s apparent that human health may not even be a driving force for Gates. Drawing from the motives behind US expansionist policies, it may be that these philanthropic medical campaigns are more a classic manner of gathering intelligence and capturing health infrastructure in certain oil, gas or mineral rich target nations as a militarized Trojan horse operation to gain control of populations and resources.
Obviously the spread of vaccine criticism would be viewed as a threat to any compounded operation like this, and the confluence of events should trigger concern, as should media campaigns to spin even the most moderate and reasonable criticism of vaccine safety, efficacy and research integrity as extremist and akin to terrorism. But it’s not as if disease-mongering in service of military and authoritarian agendas is a new phenomenon and the concern should have been long-standing in the public mind.
The Security State Moebius
In 20th century modernist philosopher Michel Foucault’s concept of “panoticism,” the surveillance state is literally modeled on the city in quarantine, the total control of which is dependent on the existance of a deadly contagion to justify incursons on freedom and privacy.
A panopticon (pan, all; optic, see= “all-seeing”) was originally conceived as a prison plan by 19th century utopian philosopher Jeremy Bentham to replace corporal punishment with psychological constraint. The panotic prison involves a circular hive of prison cells surrounding a central observation tower whereby every gesture of every prisoner can be supervised around the clock both by guards (the “state” in Foucault’s analogy) and by other prisoners, turning the watched into watchers and creating a system of informants which would presumably normalize conduct and otpimize conformity.
Despite occasional grumbling in the alternative media that the mainstream has repeatedly sensationalized various outbreaks— the most recent being SARS, anthrax, Marburg, swine flu and Ebola— the most cynical interpretations of it usually stop short at charges that the pharmaceutical industry sells disease for profit or that the media has a stake in stoking panic as distraction and to boost ratings.
Both takes are true, but ten years ago, journalist and Dirty Wars documentarian Jeremy Scahill, the son of healthcare professionals, took a closer look at the phenomenon in Huffington Post, tying disease mongering to WMD spin and war-footing:
Lewis "Scooter" Libby was a busy man in 2002-2003, pushing the lie that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and targeting those who dared to challenge the Administration. Still, with all the leaking and smearing they were doing, Libby and his "former" boss Dick Cheney found the time to conduct a parallel propaganda war in which they attempted to use the US public as guinea pigs. And once again, Judy Miller served as a crucial PR agent for the cause. In mid-2002, as they struggled desperately to sell the war, these key players in "Plamegate" were engaged in full-out offensive aimed at convincing Americans that the country faced an imminent threat of a smallpox attack. To underscore this "threat," Libby began fanatically pressing to have the entire US population preemptively vaccinated against smallpox (which was declared eradicated in 1980). The proposal was immediately met with opposition from public health experts, including those at the Department of Health and Human Services. They warned Libby that the vaccine could injure, even kill people and that a universal vaccination could in and of itself spark a public health crisis in the US. "The risks of vaccinating the whole country with the existing vaccine were greater than what we saw as the threat," says Jerry Hauer, the HHS official at the time that would have been in charge of implementing the vaccinations. "We felt it was the wrong thing from a public health perspective to do." As the administration did with so many independent experts who said Iraq posed no WMD threat, Libby attempted to sideline those who questioned him.
What Hauer and his colleagues at HHS may not have known is that smallpox was a career-long obsession of Libby's--so much so that his nickname in the administration was "Germ Boy." His 1996 novel, The Apprentice, is about a smallpox outbreak and it was one of Libby's main areas of concern when he worked under Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz at the Pentagon during the Gulf War. In Judy Miller's 2001 book (written with 2 colleagues) "Germs: Biological Weapons and America's Secret War," Libby is described during his time at the Pentagon as "a trim, boyish lawyer" irritated by intelligence reports about Iraqi WMDs containing the words "probably" and "possibly." Miller writes that Libby "told colleagues that intelligence analysts had an unfortunate habit: If they did not see a report on something, they assumed it did not exist."
More than a decade later, Libby was facing renewed frustration with another group of experts challenging his obsession. Hauer says that when he and other public health officials presented their opposition to Libby's "hysterical" universal smallpox vaccination scheme, the pressure from Cheney's office increased.
To make matters worse, a powerful group of Republicans, led by Senator/Dr. Bill Frist, is pushing legislation that would strip people injured by vaccines of their right to sue manufacturers and would virtually eliminate pharmaceutical corporate accountability. The legislation would also make the newly created Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Agency the only federal agency exempt from the Freedom of Information Act.
Now, there is grave concern that the man responsible for coordinating the federal response to a flu pandemic or bioterror attack could well be the next "Brownie." His name is Stewart Simonson--a well-connected, ideological, ambitious Republican with zero public health management or medical expertise, whose previous job was as a corporate lawyer for Amtrak. He replaced Jerry Hauer, the HHS official who stood up to Libby's smallpox vaccination scheme. Hauer says that in replacing him with Simonson the Administration has "somebody they know will go along with pretty much anything they want."
Scahill arguably makes the point that it is at the “biowarfare” juncture mingling disease management more closely than ever with “security” interests that reasonable voices in domestic public health are pushed aside for those who would happily militarize the function of health regulatory institutions at the potential cost of public health and trust. Scahill expanded the panoptic theme in an article titled Germ Boys and Yes Men for The Nation:
In early November George W. Bush, struggling to claw his way upward in polls that had acquired the consistency of quicksand after two months of blunders and disasters, launched a new PR blitz. The Administration declared it was taking charge of the nation's health and security with an all-out war on the flu (to be conducted with vaccines provided by well-connected pharmaceutical companies). "Our country has been given fair warning of this danger to our homeland," Bush declared. "It's my responsibility as President to take measures now to protect the American people."
One of the things that happens to any issue given a “war on” suffix (war on disease, war on drugs, war on terror) is that wars on social problems inevitably identify human enemies. In a paper entitled War as Metaphor, law professor Susan Stuart of Valparaiso University writes,
…today’s increasing use of militaristic rhetoric by politicians and pundits goes beyond its metaphorical use as a war against an abstraction. Instead, the use of such language is becoming literal, and that rhetorical shift matters. Today’s militaristic rhetoric is increasingly identifying fellow citizens as enemies in a literal war…we have crossed the line from the marketing use of the metaphorical militarization to actual militarization. Somewhere in the last thirty or forty years, we have found it too easy to use militarized rhetoric without examining its consequences.
Since former Health and Human Services director Kathleen Sebelius (who, like Libby’s pick to replace noncompliant HHS official Jerry Hauer, is a lawyer, not a medical or scientific expert) issued her “loose lips sink ships” edict in 2010 for censorship of vaccine and public health criticism in Reader’s Digest, frank interpretations like Scahill’s have tapered off. Any reporter who presently breaks rank on the subject risks being hounded by astroturf media hordes, branded a danger to the public and shut down.
These are the rules of engagement in actual war. My question is whether the power boost received by public health and the pharmaceutical industry via a military-industrial merger has been somehow reciprocal. Could the idea that the panoptic surveillance state model evolved from the management of contagion partly explain the growing ferocity of pharmaceutical industry PR and captured public health machinery in defending policy like vaccination—particularly in that this is happening with the emergence of a massive security apparatus? Is it possible that incentives for it extend beyond immediate profits and that an entire militarized globalization scheme could plausibly rest—more or less— on a protection racket construct fueled by various concepts of contagion, whether literal, figurative or both?
As with anti-terrorism campaigns, a public health protection racket depends on the public’s dutiful panic in the face of a deadly menace that appears to be more imminent than (thus supplanting fears of) longstanding human-wrought threats such as pollution and climate change, disasters stemming from genetically modified seed technology, oil spills, fracking disasters and attendant water shortages, etc. To work, the scheme requires absolute dependence on the state’s role as protector, absolute faith in technology, and grateful relinquishment of rights and privacy in exchange for supposed safety.
But in case the public can’t be persuaded to accept the tradeoff, there’s always legislation to force the issue that continues to ride the tails of various draconian post-9/11 anti-terrorism policies:
- The Project BioShield Act of 2004 (S. 15) became law on July 21 of that year “to provide protections and countermeasures against chemical, radiological, or nuclear agents that may be used in a terrorist attack against the United States by giving the National Institutes of Health contracting flexibility, infrastructure improvements, and expediting the scientific peer review process, and streamlining the Food and Drug Administration approval process of countermeasures.” The act was also meant to incentivize the pharmaceutical industry to support national security.
- The Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act was quietly signed into law by George Bush as part of the 2006 Defense Appropriations Act (HR 2863). It lets the HHS Secretary declare any disease an epidemic or national emergency requiring mandatory vaccinations. Nothing in the Act lists criteria that warrant a threat. Potential penalties aren’t specified for those who resist but fines and quarantine are likely. The HHS web site also says the Secretary may “issue a declaration….that provides immunity from tort liability (except for willful misconduct) for claims of loss caused, arising out of, relating to, or resulting from administration or use of (vaccine or other pharmaceutical) countermeasures to diseases, threats and conditions determined by the Secretary to constitute a present, or credible risk of a future public health emergency….”
- The Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act (S. 3678), effective December 19, 2006, amended “the Public Health Service Act with respect to public health security and all-hazards preparedness and response, and for other purposes.”
- The Model State Emergency Health Powers Act (MSEHPA)– “A Collaborative at Johns Hopkins and Georgetown Universities (as) a primary, international, national, state, and local resource on public health law (and) policy for public health practitioners, judges, academics, policymakers, and others.”
MSEHPA is now “track(ing) legal responses to the emerging international response to the 2009 H1N1 (swine flu) outbreak, including declarations of public health emergency at the international, national, state, and local levels….” MSEHPA has been criticized as “overly paternalistic.”
ACLU continues on the subject of MSEHPA:
It’s “written in a way that doesn’t adequately protect citizens against the misuse of the tremendous powers that it would grant in an emergency. (It’s) replete with civil liberties problems. Its three top flaws are that:
(1) It fails to include basic checks and balances (by) grant(ing) extraordinary emergency powers (that) should never go unchecked. (It) could have serious consequences for individuals’ freedom, privacy, and equality.”
(2) “It goes well beyond bioterrorism (with) an over-broad definition of ‘public health emergency” that may be anything a local or national authority declares for any reason with no conclusive evidence for proof.
(3) “It lacks privacy protections (and) undercut(s) existing protections for sensitive medical information.”
- …Massachusetts Senate unanimously passed a pandemic flu preparation bill that rises to the level of martial law. If approved by the House and signed into law, it will mandate among other measures:
- “vaccination, treatment, examination, or testing of” all individuals involved in providing health care – as perhaps step one before ordering the same process for all state residents;
- owners or occupiers of all premises “to permit entry into and investigation of the premises;”
- closure, evacuation, and decontamination of all suspected facilities; and restricting or prohibiting “assemblages of persons.”
By gearing the security state to monitor and manage actual as well as conceptual political contagion, it creates the potential for a strange, moebius strip reality where just as one Trojan horse for incursions on privacy and civil rights gallops away to a safe distance, another rides in, ricocheting the public between bomb threats and outbreaks, etc., etc., in perpetuity. The crisis has no end point and the inescapable state of “permanent registration” provides what Foucault described as the “penetration of regulation into even the smallest details of everyday life through the mediation of the complete hierarchy that assured the capillary functioning of power.”
To the best of my understanding, what Foucault means by “capillary power,” as opposed to central power, are the apparatuses of local enforcement—police, district courts, regional prisons, etc.— that directly reach into the most private aspects of citizen’s lives. But Foucault also places the term in the historical context of the authoritarian state, where the greatest violence is found "at the extreme points of its exercise, where it is always less legal in character.” In other words, on-the-ground enforcement under a panoptic system is by definition brutal. “Civil liberties problems,” incursions on “freedom, privacy and equality,” restricted “assemblages of persons,” “entry into and investigations of premises”—a perfect state of plague.
Part 3 will look further into the weird coordination of disease themes in today’s politics—how theories of viral political ideology used to justify aggressive foreign policy are also wielded domestically against those who resist a prospective entry point (disease-mongering) for “permanent registration.”
Adriana Gamondes is a Contributing Editor for Age of Autism and one of the blog’s Facebook administrators.