The use of poison as a weapon dates to Greco-Roman times, and fourteenth century Mongols allegedly placed the cadavers of plague victims on hurling machines to infest the walled city of Kaffa, but the Cold War has spawned the most life-threatening organisms. After World War II, Japanese scientists who had conducted despicable tests on humans were granted immunity, in exchange for their data, by American officials, who then denied that such experiments had ever taken place. Evidence indicates that the United States waged germ warfare in North Korea and China during the early 1950’s and against the regime of Fidel Castro in Cuba to, among other things, spread African swine fever among pigs. The Nixon administration renounced biological weapons but not research on them. In the name of deterrence and fueled by fallacious rumors of Soviet use of “yellow rain” in Southeast Asia, the Pentagon is setting up new laboratories and courting experts in genetic engineering. As the author concludes: “The activities of a defensive program and the activities of an offensive program are virtually indistinguishable.”
THE KILLING WINDS ends on a hopeful note, however, noting that concerned scientists have forced public debate on the issues. Concerning the 1975 international ban on the possession or production of biological weapons, McDermott writes that “there are signs that the treaty will prevail.”
The author’s lively style and keen investigative talents combine to make THE KILLING WINDS truly compelling. Whether describing governmental testing facilities or the wonders of DNA research, McDermott never succumbs to cliches, jargon or sensationalism. This work is highly recommended for concerned citizens and is “must” reading for the scientific community.