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The Extremely Unfortunate Skull Valley Incident

Donald W. Scott and William L. C. Scott. !997

Book summary by Fran Alberts, 1998

Alberts writes, in her introduction, "The name of this book is taken from the text of a government meeting held in 1969, during which reference is made to "the extremely unfortunate Skull Valley incident." In Skull Valley, an American military test of a deadly nerve gas went terribly wrong and resulted in the death of several thousand sheep downwind from the test site." Could AIDS and CFS be the result of experiments gone terribly wrong…or terribly right?

In The Extremely Unfortunate Skull Valley Incident, the reader is taken into the shadowy underworld of American military politics to examine the role of various agencies in the development and testing of biological and chemical weapons. Facts are taken from U.S. government documents, studied in the context of historical events and then used to form a hypothesis that the infectious agents responsible for the current epidemics of AIDS and CFS were created in a military lab.

The name of this book is taken from the text of a government meeting held in 1969, during which reference is made to "the extremely unfortunate Skull Valley incident." In Skull Valley, an American military test of a deadly nerve gas went terribly wrong and resulted in the death of several thousand sheep downwind from the test site. Thus, the title of this book serves to remind the reader that errors and unforseen events do occur and when they occur with biological weapons, the results are devastating.

June 9, 1969
Department of Defense records indicate that on this date a meeting was held between Dr. Donald MacArthur, Director of Research in the Biological Warfare Branch of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and a small group of U.S. Congressmen. An official record of that meeting, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, provides shocking revelations, even 30 years later.

Dr. MacArthur reported to the Congressmen that within 5 to 10 years it would be possible to create a synthetic biological agent that would disable the human immune system. Two versions would be developed, one that would leave its victims dead, and another that would chronically disable its victims. He requested, and was given, 10 million dollars to perform the research. He warned the congressmen that this was highly controversial research because an error in testing the new agent, or some unforeseen development, may release a pathogen that could kill or disable millions of innocent victims.

Isolated cases of two strange new diseases began appearing in the U.S. and in Africa. Some of the victims died; others remained seriously ill for years.

By 1984, there were two epidemics underway. AIDS was rapidly spreading through many third world countries and the homosexual population of North America. Clusters of a mysterious disease later named chronic fatigue syndrome were reported throughout North America.

We now know that both illnesses are characterized by marked loss of immune system integrity. One of the diseases kills its victims, while the other disables. It is interesting to note that Dr. MacArthur's timeline of 5-10 years puts us well within the years that AIDS and CFS first made their debuts. The authors ask if this is simply a coincidence, or if the DoD were indeed successful in their endeavours.

Much of what happened between the years 1969 and 1984 has never been uncovered. For those years, the authors delve into history to paint a picture of what might have occurred. Yet, the fact remains that in 1969 the DoD promised two new diseases in 5-10 years, and 5-10 years later two new diseases, matching the criteria, emerged.

One is left to ponder the rationale for introducing any new diseases into the world, let alone two as devastating as AIDS and CFS. The authors take us back through history to develop a view of the political climate that made this effort possible.

According to the authors, in the early 1900's, several prominent American families began to worry that world population growth would threaten their established position and power, as well as the global position of the United States. Certain third world countries supplied raw products to the U.S. at extremely low prices. It was thought that if the population of these countries continued to grow at an exponential rate, they would then require the raw products for their own population. American production and quality of living was greatly threatened.

This ideology was transformed into action in 1959 when a report to President Eisenhower recommended that, for the above mentioned reasons of national security, a method must be found to accelerate the death rate in those countries.

During World War II, interest in chemical and biological weapons began to grow. The Nazi's had well-developed chemical weapons that they used to exterminate millions of Jews. The Japanese had well-developed biological weapons which they tested in New Guinea and on prisoners of war in Manchuria. At war's end, some Nazi and Japanese scientists were offered immunity from prosecution as war criminals if they would share their secrets with the United States Department of Defense.

At the DoD meeting on June 9, 1969, interest was expressed in biological and chemical weapons that disable the enemy, rather than kill them. The rationale was that it is a tremendous burden for the enemy to have to care for its disabled population. Dr. MacArthur reported that his department had some of the top scientists in the country working "for years" to develop "more effective incapacitating agents", but that it was very difficult work. Key in this statement are the words for years and more effective. They imply that the DoD is already studying certain incapacitating agents, and are now focusing on making them more disabling. What were these agents, and where were they being tested?

Also revealed was the fact that the U.S. DoD had over 2,000 people working in its laboratories and an annual budget of $90 million dollars for chemical and biological weapons research. What were they doing?

The authors do not examine in detail the pathogen responsible for AIDS, perhaps subscribing to the belief that the HIV virus is the culprit. It does, indeed, fit Dr. MacArthur's criteria of being previously unknown and disabling to the human immune system.

They do, however, provide evidence to suggest that laboratory manipulation of the brucellosis bacteria has resulted in a pathogen that causes the disease later named Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

Brucellosis is a pathogen that has been around for centuries, generally causing disease in farm animals, and only occasionally making the leap to humans. In most cases, the victim recovers after a few weeks or months, but in some instances a chronic disease would develop. The symptoms attributed to brucellosis are familiar: low grade fever, malaise, fatigue, headache, weakness, sweats, chills, backache, myalgias, anorexia, nausea, cough and major organ damage. The onset of brucellosis can be acute or gradual. The disease typically presents a multitude of complaints and very few physical findings. It is notoriously difficult to diagnose based upon laboratory findings.

The fact that brucellosis has been around for centuries ties in with the belief that CFS is not a new disease. Brucellosis infection occurred occasionally and would have presented as a disease very similar to CFS, as seems to be the case with Florence Nightingale. However, no one will dispute the fact that beginning in the early 1980's, unprecedented numbers of individuals began acquiring this disease. Something happened to make this disease much more prevalent and much more disabling. The Extremely Unfortunate Skull Valley Incident argues compellingly that this change occurred in the laboratory.

If indeed AIDS and CFS are the products of the DoD efforts to create a new microorganism for which there would be no natural immunity, then how did they make the leap from the laboratory to the world's population. The problem with biological weapons is that they have to be tested. It is a very daunting challenge indeed to recruit willing volunteers for biological weapons testing. How, then, would their effectiveness be measured?

As no official record has been found directly linking AIDS to the DoD, the authors are left to study history for the connection. If Dr. MacArthur's 5-10 year projection was correct, sometime in the mid 1970's the new agents would be ready for testing. It is just at this time that the World Health Organization, with funding from the United States, initiated a program of 'smallpox eradication' in many of the countries targeted earlier by the U.S. as needing population control. Villagers flocked to the vaccination centers, eager for this weapon against the deadly disease. 5 years later, a high percentage of these villagers had AIDS. Today many of these countries are associated with devastating incidences of AIDS (including much of Africa), and their populations are indeed being reduced.

In 1979, under the supervision of Dr. Don Francis of the Centers for Disease Control (who also oversaw the smallpox eradication program), gay men in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco received vaccinations against 'Hepatitis B'. Again, a high percentage of the recipients came down with AIDS. The authors make special note of this coincidence.

The authors develop the theory that there have been many tests, over the years and on unsuspecting victims, to perfect the disabling pathogen that causes CFS. Those who have studied the history of CFS will immediately recognize such places as Akureyri, Iceland; Key West, Florida; Truckee, Nevada; and Lyndonville, New York. The authors point out that each early outbreak occurred in a relatively isolated or contained location and within a specific population; i.e. elementary school children in Lyndonville and high school teachers in Truckee. Schools and hospitals seem to have been favorite test sites. The authors assume that the isolated locales were specifically chosen as to minimize publicity and to help contain the pathogen should an accident or unforeseen event occur. The specific populations targeted would simply make it easier to monitor the outcome of the test.

Typically, the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health helped the military to monitor such tests. These agencies would need to, at the very least, be informed of the testing, because it would fall to them to investigate such outbreaks. The last thing the DoD needed was the CDC or NIH investigator innocently publicizing information that could link the outbreak with the biological weapons program.

The Gulf War Syndrome Connection
An official United States Government document cited by the authors details several shipments of biological weapons to Iraq between the years 1985 and 1989. These weapons were sent to Iraq to assist in the war against Iran. Included on the list of agents shipped to Iraq are Brucella abortus Biotypes 3 and 9; and Brucella melitensis Biotypes 1 and 3, the pathogens the authors claim cause CFS. The authors believe that these agents, along with a 'cocktail of others' were subsequently used against Allied forces in the Gulf War, causing Gulf War Syndrome (GWS), a condition nearly identical to CFS.

The U.S. Government's own documents list the symptoms of Brucella melitensis as: chronic fatigue, loss of appetite, profuse sweating when at rest, pain in joints and muscles, nausea, and damage to major organs. How did they find out what the symptoms of infection with this biological agent are?

It's all in your head
It's easy to see why the official government response to CFS and GWS has been to readily promote the notion that sufferers are mentally ill. Were the physical basis for these illnesses documented and the connection made to the American, Canadian and British militaries, and therefore governments, the repercussions for such agencies would be astronomical. It is interesting to note that the initial government response to AIDS was to claim mental illness. That story was rapidly discarded, however, when AIDS victims began dying en masse.

The Extremely Unfortunate Skull Valley Incident is, at the very least, a thought provoking work. Much of what the authors detail is difficult to imagine. Throughout the book, the authors contempt for those involved, and indeed the entire process, is clearly discernable. Yet, one wonders, who wouldn't be angry at the individuals responsible for such devastating events?

Upon completion of the book, I couldn't help but wonder about the authors' account of the testing of the brucellosis pathogen. Why the outbreaks in Iceland, the U.S., Canada and Great Britain? If Africans were deemed expendable enough to warrant testing of the AIDS virus, then why not test the brucellosis pathogen there as well? Essentially, why disable your own population? Or, did something get out of hand, as it did in Skull Valley? Perhaps the DoD ended up with a pathogen that was not as easily containable as they thought it would be.

It would be easy to simply disregard this work, believing that it's nonsensical speculation and far too outrageous to have any foundation in the truth. However, just the simple facts, detailed in the U.S. government's own documents, speak volumes. In 1969, the Pentagon promised a new infectious agent that the human immune system would be unable to defend against. One version would be deadly, the other chronic and disabling. By 1979 we witnessed the emergence of two new diseases which disable the immune system. One was deadly, the other chronic and disabling. In the 1980's, the U.S. sold biological weapons components to Iraq, including one which causes an illness identical to Gulf War Syndrome. Following a war against Iraq, soldiers developed this disease.

These are very strange coincidences.

© Fran Alberts 1998

Scott, Donald W. & Scott, William L. C. 1997. The Extremely Unfortunate Accident at Skull Valley. The Chelmsford Publishers, Sudbury, Ontario, Canada. No longer in print though used copies may be found or special ordered through some online booksellers.

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