The Voice of the White House
Washington, D.C. May 30, 2016: “We are on a brief vacation until June 1.”
The Müller Washington Journals 1948-1951
At the beginning of December, 1948, a German national arrived in Washington, D.C. to take up an important position with the newly-formed CIA. He was a specialist on almost every aspect of Soviet intelligence and had actively fought them, both in his native Bavaria where he was head of the political police in Munich and later in Berlin as head of Amt IV of the State Security Office, also known as the Gestapo.
His name was Heinrich Müller.
Even as a young man, Heini Müller had kept daily journals of his activities, journals that covered his military service as a pilot in the Imperial German air arm and an apprentice policeman in Munich. He continued these journals throughout the war and while employed by the top CIA leadership in Washington, continued his daily notations.
This work is a translation of his complete journals from December of 1948 through September of 1951.
When Heinrich Müller was hired by the CIA¹s station chief in Bern, Switzerland, James Kronthal in 1948, he had misgivings about working for his former enemies but pragmatism and the lure of large amounts of money won him over to what he considered to be merely an extension of his life-work against the agents of the Comintern. What he discovered after living and working in official Washington for four years was that the nation¹s capital was, in truth, what he once humorously claimed sounded like a cross between a zoo and a lunatic asylum. His journals, in addition to personal letters, various reports and other personal material, give a very clear, but not particularly flattering, view of the inmates of both the zoo and the asylum.
Müller moved, albeit very carefully, in the rarefied atmosphere of senior policy personnel, military leaders, heads of various intelligence agencies and the White House itself. He was a very observant, quick-witted person who took copious notes of what he saw. This was not a departure from his earlier habits because Heinrich Müller had always kept a journal, even when he was a lowly Bavarian police officer, and his comments about personalities and events in the Third Reich are just as pungent and entertaining as the ones he made while in America.
The reason for publishing this phase of his eventful life is that so many agencies in the United States and their supporters do not want to believe that a man of Müller¹s position could ever have been employed by their country in general or their agency in specific.
Thursday, 2 March 1950
Another coup for me! One of the main secretaries for the agency has now become a great friend of mine. I learned that her mother was in the hospital so I made an investigation and discovered that an operation was needed and there was not a great deal of money for it. I managed to locate an excellent surgeon in Boston and paid him to take care of mama quite properly. Then, after much overjoyed comment from the secretary, who is not particularly attractive…but decent…I very discreetly let her discover that I was the unknown benefactor. Many tears and she even kissed me! I could have done without that because she has dentures and she smells like Camembert cheese! Still, I made my connection.
Now, I had a talk with her about how damned secretive the lunatics were and how much trouble all this secrecy made for me. After all, I had a job to do and they all liked to make it as difficult as they could for everyone. In the end, she now manages to give Irmgard all the important material that I. brings to me and I take into my large closet and carefully photograph everything. It only takes a few minutes and everything goes back to the benefactress and there I am with a wealth of inside information!
It does pay to be kind…at least to the right people! Friday, 10 March 1950
(Judith, Ed.) Coplon and (Valintin, ed.) Gubitchev have been convicted of espionage. Coplon worked for Justice and Gubitchev was connected with the UN. She gets 15 years in the cooler and he is to be deported. State wants this because they are afraid the Soviets might take action against Americans outside this country.
They were lovers and he is an ugly man. Poor, frustrated woman. Now she will pay the price for her glandular urges and he can go back to Russia to his ugly wife.
And McCarthy is firing wildly at anything in sight. He is terrifying all the left wing idiots who were running the country five years ago. I have given more information to him via the usual source, this time, a good deal of it from Hoover who wouldn’t dare be seen near the man. But of course, I can.
Brewing problems between Hoover and the CIA. Long talk with Philby who tells me the obvious: Hoover hates the CIA and is trying to cultivate British intelligence (even though he loathes the British) in the hopes of getting one up on the CIA. This is absolutely typical empire building (and territorial defense) that I observed in the Reich in former days. Always a struggle for supremacy while no one is minding the business of intelligence.
I have opted to support Hoover for several reasons. In the first place, he and I have a more common background. We were both poor and had to work for what we got. He is as anti-communist as I am and his agents are far more professional than anything the CIA has. In the second place, he is crisply businesslike and does not spend two hours a day at very alcoholic lunches. He does not have a degree from Harvard or Yale but is a man of common sense.
The CIA is filled with pseudo-intellectuals, drunks and egomaniacs who have no idea at all about what they are doing. It is actually a psychotic circus with manic clowns running about smacking each other with dead fish and accomplishing nothing at all.
Unlike Hoover, who is basically a very professional policeman, the CIA people are constantly plotting on how to expand their shabby lot, sniping at the President, attempting to set foreign policy and not one of them with any more brains than a ladle.
I have to put up with them and their idiotic schemings to the point where I genuinely prefer to work at home. But of course they follow me there, leer at the paintings, drink my liquor and try to steal my good cigars. I haven’t heard one sensible sentence over there since I started working with them and a good psychoanalyst would find a rich harvest among the chattering apes.
I have already had two sexual encounters with their frustrated and elegant wives and hopefully will have more. And the women do talk to me. Since all of them move in the same, vicious circles, I have to be careful that Bunny doesn’t get wind of my mattress exercises in the little pied-à-terre in Chevy Chase.
Much of the copied material I mentioned earlier goes to Hoover who is entirely delighted.
And Angleton slinks around the offices like some demonic character, a professional poisoner, from Shakespeare or…more to the point, something from the Renaissance in Italy when poison was indeed king.
This man is a poet, as he constantly reminds us, and he feels that he alone can see the dangerous movements of Stalin’s intelligence. I know more about that subject than Stalin, and Angleton knows less than nothing. It is actually very painful to listen to these cretins babbling about their knowledge of their enemy. I have carefully concealed much of my own knowledge and certainly my grasp of the Russian language or they would be after me day and night to give them material for their utterly worthless “position papers” which read like something by Kafka by way of Hasek’s “Schweik.”
he wives, on the other hand, are entirely bored with the heavy drinking, foul language and child-like secrets that their husbands mumble about at garden parties, and are easy pickings. I like nothing better than watching some bleating sheep with a Harvard tie going on about the situation in Italy when the night before, I was educating his wife in certain matters that he could never begin to grasp.
One charming lady told me yesterday evening that her husband is good for about ten minutes once a week…in a good week! Of course the one in question, who smokes a pipe and has leather patches on the elbows of his tweed jacket, spends a good deal of time bragging about his prowess with the women and how his wife can’t keep her hands off of him. Marvelous! He must use Chinese chopsticks for splints.
I refrain from telling Hoover how I get some of my inside information because he is a terrible moralist and I do not wish to upset him. Like all moralists leading a monastic life, Hoover is strangely interested in the sexual escapades of his enemies and he is the terror of his own men who do not dare frequent bars or other suspect establishments.
Drinking and nose painting are not encouraged by the little Colonel!
Sunday, 19 March 1950
Truman, at Key West to warm up, will be out of town in May to dedicate a dam in the west and I promised him a lengthy overview of the recent CIA plans and the cover stories prepared to delude him. I brought up the subject of a little dinner to him and he seemed quite receptive.
Bunny is going to New York for a concert but I am not able to break away and join her. She is talking about a trip to Europe and wants me to join her but that idea is out of the question.
McCarthy is about to attack Truman because T. does not want to release confidential files to M. Of course, he doesn’t want it known about the communist OSS men and there is, finally, some support for Truman in the CIA. I must say that many of them put on a ferocious act concerning the communists when many of them are a good deal more left of the center than they would like to admit. I have been passing some of their background and political attitudes to those who have the real power and at least hope to slow down some of the lunacy. I have fed M. some material on a few of my co-workers and of course they are in terror lest they be exposed.
I must say, I am greatly enjoying McCarthy’s forays and he is sensitizing the press and various other groups to the real dangers of communism here. We need a good cleansing of the Augean stables, packed with twelve years of Roosevelt’s horseshit.
Müller’s journals accurately reflect the growing rivalry between the newly established CIA and the FBI. Hoover was jealous of his territory, was afraid the CIA would encroach on it, and long-established bureaucrat that he was, fought tooth and nail to maintain his position.
Harold Philby kept as far away from Hoover as he could because the latter was anti-British in general and his agency was very actively searching for communist infiltrators in the British services. Neither Philby nor his superiors in London gave anything more than very token cooperation to the FBI in their searches, but Philby himself spent a great deal of time in attempting to discover just how far the Bureau had progressed in their breaking of the Soviet agent codes.
When it became evident that the FBI’s specialists had been enjoying considerable success in the code-breaking field, British officialdom, to include the Foreign Office and the intelligence community, did everything in their power to protect any British official accused of spying. It mattered not whether these spies worked for the Soviet Union or the United Kingdom. Files were hidden, suspect agents warned and other information destroyed.
Because England was actively spying against the United States and because a number of their own agents were also reporting to Moscow, London had no intentions whatsoever of cooperating with American counterintelligence.
While certainly pungent, Müller’s comments on the character and behavior of his associates in the CIA are certainly reflected in a number of biographies and histories that have emerged since the end of the Cold War and the CIA’s subsequent loss of power to control the media and to influence public opinion.
James Angleton emerges in these journals as a very intelligent, dangerous and brutal man, who like so many others of his profession, drank heavily and eventually descended into paranoid delusion. Angleton also advocated, and practiced, physical and psychological torture on his victims, a practice which did not cease until 1985.
Like his good friend Philby, there is a considerable amount of material in the journals on James Jesus Angleton.
Wednesday, 22 March 1950
McCarthy is certainly having his effect on things here! Accusations flying in all directions. M. has been savagely attacking the State Department and many are rushing to their defense. (General George C. ed) Marshall and Eisenhower are very annoyed with M…. who will now proceed to attack them. (Stewart, ed.) Alsop, a New Deal columnist has attacked M. in the New York press. Some matter of M. being paid while a judge in Wisconsin while engaged in politics (there are two of the Alsops, one worse than the other but I am not sure which is which. Rich, both of them, and one is a raging homosexual.) The Alsops are very popular in Washington society that is not a compliment as far as I am concerned.
A number of security risks in Commerce alleged and these must be investigated. Who knows what will happen to them? The point is, the press is starting to extend greater coverage to the communist problem and the more the better. The left wing is starting to screech “witchhunt” which is to be predicted in safety.
McCarthy said he was planning to go after homosexuals that, coming from him, is ludicrous. He might as well make attacks on balding, drunken Irishmen while he is at it. Such flawed people one have to deal with. The fairies, the drunks, the egomaniacs, the stupid, the greedy and the vicious. There must be civilized people here but I haven’t seen too many of them.
Truman is being asked to order the release of State Department files concerning their communists but will not do so. Why? Because the “spies” are actually OSS men who are being removed from government service as discreetly as possible and no one, especially the idiots in the CIA (most of whom were in the OSS), want their friends to be exposed. Truman would be inclined to release this material but has had far too much pressure against this so it will probably not be.
(Dr. Philip C. ed.) Jessup, a professor from Columbia University who Acheson is planning to take into his office, is being talked about as being very sympathetic to the communists. He probably is but after all, most of the academics are way left of center and were like swine in the farm gardens during Roosevelt’s reign. It was considered wonderful to love Marx then but certainly not now.
It seems very amusing to listen to my colleagues at the CIA ranting about how they wish to crush world communism when many of them have terrible, dark secrets in their own ideological closets. Hoover has many files on these assholes but is debating whether or not to use the information. In the first place, the CIA is growing in strength and Hoover is a very prudent man. However, he views the CIA as deadly rivals so who knows what might come out?
Am now considering the mechanics of the small dinner I want to give for Truman. The weather is not pleasant, so perhaps towards the end of next month will do. There is a great deal of planning which has to go into one of these things…the menu, the wine list, the entertainment, the outfitting and cleaning, not to mention the guest list.
It would be a wonderful coup for me to do this but I am afraid it will have to be very private if it happens at all. Truman and I do get along but he is a careful man.
Still, I heard about Mr. Pendergast, a political “boss” for whom Truman worked as a judge. P. went to jail, disgraced and when he died, forgotten and alone, the only outsider who attended his funeral was Truman. Told not to by his aides, he went anyway because “Tom was my friend.” This shows his character and his loyalty. Much good to be said for Truman but I heard him shout at someone in Florida and he has a terrible temper when he is aroused.
I just got in several excellent pieces of armor to enhance my already very significant collection. Both of these pieces belonged to the collection of Hearst and I got them at a very good price from a dealer in New York. Hearst is expected to die at any time now and I wonder what will happen to the rest of his collection when he does.
I recall that in 1936 Hearst and his lady friend were at Garmish for the Olympic winter games. We had to prepare a file on H. for Hitler who was planning to meet with him then. A very interesting and powerful man.
He was the first press owner in America to recognize the danger posed by communism in this country. A very intelligent, if eccentric, man with excellent perceptions. There has never been anyone like him before and with the press getting into alien hands, not likely to be seen again.
Hearst started a campaign against the communists about the time King Franklin was enthroned in 1933 and drove the communists and other left-wing assholes mad because he did have a large following here. Roosevelt then hated him although he needed the support of his chain of newspapers.
The usual attacks were made on him by the left. “Hearst is a fascist” was one of the chants and he was accused of being a Nazi, which he was not.
Hearst, in his conversations with Hitler, expressed great fear that communism would get a fatal grip on the United States through their support of Roosevelt. He said that fascism was a movement that was created solely as a reaction to the brutal activity of communists and not the other way around. He, at least, could see what I have known for years.
Of course American liberal Jews loathed him and attacked him in left wing magazines and elsewhere. What these screeching morons did not realize is that Hearst intervened on their behalf with Hitler…who certainly listened to him. It did some good for Jews because Hitler wanted Hearst’s support.
I have always said that Hitler’s worst error was not the Russian campaign but his attack on the Jews. He did not like them and viewed them as totally parasitic in society and wanted them out of his new Germany. By expelling and mistreating them, he stirred up a great storm of fury, firstly among the powerful Jewish financial interests in England (where they bribed Churchill to represent their views in the British press) and then this wave of vindictive fury against anything German spread to the United States.
It did not help us that Roosevelt had been elected and had the complete support of influential Jewish bankers but also the total, dedicated support of the communists in America. This combination, which had been in effect before the October Revolution in Russia, worked against anything German. There were savage attacks in the motion picture industry, filled with German refugees, and of course Roosevelt was easily persuaded to attack Hitler and Germany at every opportunity.
It became a virtual war, long before Spain in 1936 (where these groups strongly supported the Republicans or communists) and the war in 1939.
There were economic boycotts but that did not fare too well. Hitler retaliated against these sly bankers by instituting his famous barter system whereby Germany, who had lost all her gold assets at the end of the 1914 war, no longer had to go to the international banking types for funding. For example, he would trade German locomotives and other such products to, let us say, the Argentine for wheat and beef products. When the international banking houses discovered that they had lost an enormous amount of control over Hitler, not to mention huge interest payments on loans lost to his barter program, they really began to howl.
I would say, without doubt, that the horrors of the last war were due entirely to this issue of Hitler’s anti-Semitism and nothing else.
Now that Roosevelt is dead, Truman has said, in private, that he wants to disassociate himself from the cabals who controlled his predecessor. That will be the absolute end of the man. We saw that in the last election when all the secret financial support was swung away from the liberal Democratic programs (now in danger of being destroyed by Truman) to Dewey. At least, according to Hoover’s files, Dewey agreed to go along with the various cabals and keep away from the communist issue.
But we can see in the left wing attacks on Hearst what one can expect in this country when someone does not pay sufficient attention to the suffering of Jews or has the audacity to question the joys of the worker’s and peasant’s paradise.
Hitler is now accused of slaughtering millions of Jews (which he did not) but Roosevelt’s close friend, Stalin, is never mentioned as the real butcher of at least 40 millions of his own people as well as a large number of unfortunate Polish Jews whom he murdered in 1939.
This is the reason that I am strongly pushing McCarthy to attack those American institutions like the Department of State as being filled with communists. Once the American people become aware of what a pack of verminous and lunatic murderers communists are, they will rise up and throw the lot of them into the sea where their rotting bodies will no doubt kill off all the fish.
Hearst understood all of this very clearly. Hitler said that of all the visiting foreign leaders he had met, Hearst was the man with the quickest mind. Like so many other intelligent people, Hearst was immediately branded as a Nazi that I know he was not. Neither was I for that matter but the truth has nothing to do with the hysterical venom of a crossed communist.
If I were to sum up Hearst from what I knew about him, I would say that he was neither a fascist nor a Nazi, but was a very patriotic American who saw Hitler as the lesser of two evils. He did not embrace him but viewed him as a man, who, not like the communists, was not interested in seizing power in America and destroying its economic structure and instituting a lunatic reign of terror against anyone and everyone whom they hated. And those the communists hate with an insane fury are anyone who has become an actual success, either in finance or even in the arts.
I note with amusement that there are no really creative communist writers and there is nothing like the fury of a failed writer or, especially, poet when confronted with someone who actually can create and be a success at it.
I note in passing that the CIA have, in its upper ranks, a number of very bad poets, none of whom are worth a pinch of dried cow dung. I am thinking of Angleton here most specifically.
A short sentence should sum up these people: All communists are failures and moral bankrupts.
The most dangerous groups in any normal society are communists and hidden homosexuals, both of whom exist on a diet of hate and envy directed towards those who they perceive as being unjustly in control of their miserable existences.
At any rate, the armor is much welcome and we can add to the display in the main hall.
ISIS may attack Euro 2016 England, Russia fans with ‘suicide bombs & chem weapons drones’ – report
May 30, 2016
An Islamic State sleeper cell has plans to carry out attacks targeting English and Russian football fans at Euro 2016 during a match in Marseilles, data retrieved from the main Paris attacks suspect’s laptop reveal, according to the Sun.
Photos retrieved from the computer found during a raid in Brussels and belonging to Salah Abdeslam, reportedly point to the French city of Marseilles, where England is scheduled to play Russia on June 11.
The information also allegedly disclosed that Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) was considering using drones “possibly” armed with chemical weapons, as well as suicide bombs and AK47s to carry out mass attacks, the Sun reports citing its sources.
Despite Abdeslam’s capture, authorities fear other ISIS-linked cell members could still proceed with the plan.
“Most of the information was contained in Abdeslam’s personal testament setting out his wishes in the event of death,” a Belgian security source told the Sun.
The gathered information is making authorities believe that the primary target of terrorists will be the English team’s fan zone in the Old Port quarter of the city.
“This can only mean plans were being drawn up to attack England and Russia fans before the game. England and Russia fans are obvious targets, because both countries are bombing IS in Syria and Iraq,” the source added.
“Drones are mentioned on the computer, but it’s not clear how they might have been used in an attack — possibly armed with chemical weapons.”
Football fans may also potentially be targeted in indiscriminate shooting at bars and other entertainment venues in the city. UK security chiefs fear IS may try to gun down England supporters as they enjoy a drink in bars outside the official fan zone.
“What they might attempt outside of the secure zones is what worries us most. Bars full of happy, drunk blokes are a very soft target. We are working extremely closely with the French,” a senior Whitehall source told the Sun.
“A more conventional Paris-style assault on thousands of fans in bars before the game is seen as much more likely,” the Belgian source concurred.
The terror attacks rocked the French capital on November 13, 2015, killing over 130 people and injuring hundreds of others. Three suicide bombers carried out an assault near the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, which was followed by suicide bombings and mass shootings at cafés and restaurants. Of the 130 victims, at least 89 were killed in the Bataclan Theater, where the jihadists took hostages before engaging in a stand-off with police officers.
Fears of a Paris-style assault have also been confirmed to the publication by a police source, who said that “Marseille is the Kalashnikov capital of France, and there are plenty of potential IS recruits here.”
More than 1,000 police officers will be deployed to offer security for the duration of the competition in Marseilles, with snipers deployed throughout the city. Shoulder-mounted Mistral surface-to-air missile launchers will also be used for security, positioned at the city’s strategic points, the publication reports.
“Officers will be authorized to intervene the moment a terrorist is identified,” another senior security force officer told the Sun. “Terrorism is our main security priority.”
Is China Really That Dangerous?
May 25, 2016
by Doug Bandow
The National Interest
The United States dominates the globe militarily. Washington possesses the most powerful armed forces, accounts for roughly 40 percent of the globe’s military outlays, and is allied with every major industrialized state save China and Russia.
Yet the bipartisan hawks who dominate U.S. foreign policy see threats at every turn. For some, the People’s Republic of China is replacing the Soviet Union as America’s chief adversary. They view another military buildup as the only answer.
The PRC’s rise is reshaping the globe. Today, the PRC ranks second only to the United States economically. Increased financial resources have enabled Beijing to take on a much greater international role.
Of greatest concern in Washington is China’s military buildup. Indeed, a novel reportedly making the rounds at the Pentagon is Ghost Fleet, which posits a Chinese attack on Hawaii.
The Department of Defense publishes an annual review of China’s military. The latest report warns that the PRC “continued to improve key capabilities,” including ballistic and cruise missiles, aircraft and air defense, information capabilities, submarines, and amphibious and airborne assault units. The Chinese military “is also focusing on counterspace, offensive cyber operations, and electronic warfare.” Further, Beijing “continued to modernize and to restructure its ground forces to create a fully modern army.”
This program may sound menacing, but Beijing’s ambitions are bounded. DOD observes that China’s leaders “portray a strong military as critical to advancing Chinese interests, preventing other countries from taking steps that would damage those interests, and ensuring that China can defend itself and its sovereignty claims.” Which is precisely what U.S. policymakers do.
In the short term, Beijing’s principal objective is to advance its territorial claims in the Asia-Pacific without provoking conflict. In the longer term the objective, says DOD, is “to deter or defeat adversary power projection and counter third-party—including U.S.—intervention during a crisis or conflict.” That is, deterrence.
Most important is planning for contingencies in the Taiwan Strait, East and South China Sea, and Korean peninsula. They all concern Beijing far more than America, and involve other, potentially well-armed states, including Japan, South Korea and the Southeast Asian nations, which are able to advance their own interests.
China also is developing a capability for such missions as “sea lane security, counterpiracy, peacekeeping, and humanitarian assistance/disaster relief.” These tasks actually mirror U.S. interests. Washington officials might feel uncomfortable sharing leadership with the PRC, but that cannot justify a military response.
Most important, even the Pentagon does not believe Beijing is planning an aggressive war. America enjoys a vast military lead, possessing a significantly larger nuclear force, ten carrier groups compared to China’s single carrier and much more. With Washington spending roughly $600 billion annually on the military, compared to an estimated $180 billion by Beijing, China is not overtaking America.
Moreover, the PRC’s economic predominance is not guaranteed. China’s challenges are huge: white elephant investments, a shrinking labor force, inefficient state enterprises, ubiquitous bank bad debts, pervasive corruption and regional disparities. Because of Beijing’s one-child policy, the country may grow old before it grows rich. China’s military modernization program also faces serious challenges, including a slowing economy and pervasive corruption that afflicts the People’s Liberation Army.
Even a more powerful PRC would not easily threaten the United States. Projecting force across oceans and continents is extraordinarily expensive. Deterring use of such force is relatively cheap. America is uniquely secure, enjoying relative geographic isolation—in contrast to China, which is surrounded by nations with which it has been at war over the last century: Russia, Japan, Korea, India and Vietnam.
In fact, only Washington’s attempt to dominate China along the latter’s border (imagine the Chinese navy patrolling America’s East Coast) might trigger war.
The United States understandably favors its friends in their disputes with the PRC. However, they should be responsible for defending their own interests. None of the ongoing territorial controversies is worth conflict with nuclear-armed China.
Unfortunately, deterrence often fails. If Beijing ignores U.S. threats, Washington could find itself in a real war with a real power. Are Americans prepared to sacrifice Los Angeles or San Francisco for Tokyo or Taipei? Doing so would be madness.
Despite the tendency to treat the PRC as the next superpower, Chinese officials are aware of their limitations, tempering any danger to America. Concludes DOD: “China continues to regard stable relations with the United States and China’s neighbors as key to its development.”
The United States should be watchful and wary of China’s rise. But the best way for the United States to prepare for the future is to husband its economic strength and respond militarily only if a serious threat develops. Otherwise, Washington should seek to accommodate, rather than combat such an important rising power.
Abolish Memorial Day
When memory goes, what is there to memorialize?
May 30, 2016
by Jason Raimondo
We might as well get rid of Memorial Day, for all the good it does us. Originally “Decoration Day,” the last Monday in May has been the designated time for us to remember the war dead and honor their sacrifice – while, perhaps, taking in the lessons of the many conflicts that have marked our history as a free nation. In line with the modern trend of universal trivialization, however, the holiday has been paganized to mark the beginning of summer, when we get out the barbecue grill and have the neighbors over for hamburgers and beer. As for contemplating the meaning of the day in the context of our current and recent wars, that is left to those few pundits who pay attention to foreign policy issues, or else to writers of paeans to the “Greatest Generation” – World War II being the only modern war our panegyrists deign to recall, since it is relatively untouched by the ravages of historical revisionism.
Indeed, as far as our wars are concerned, the very concept of historical memory has vanished from the post-9/11 world. It seems the earth was born anew on September 11, 2001, and only ragged remnants of our mystified past – mostly from World War II and the Civil War – survived the purge. In the new version our victories are exaggerated and glorified, while our defeats – e.g. Vietnam, Korea, our nasty little covert wars in Central and South America – are not even mentioned, let alone considered in depth.
The abolition of historical memory is one of the worst aspects of modernity: it is certainly the most depressing. For the modern man, it’s an effort to recall what happened last week, never mind the last century. The news cycle spins madly and ever-faster, and the result is that we are lost in the blur of Now: for all intents and purposes, we are a people without a history, who recall past events – if we remember them at all – as one would summon a vague and confusing dream.
The Vietnam war was the last major conflict that caused us to reconsider our foreign policy of global intervention for any length of time, and at this point it has been thoroughly buried in the public imagination. For a brief moment the so-called Vietnam Syndrome was bemoaned by the political class, who complained it prevented them from indulging their desire to intervene anywhere and everywhere at will. And the memory of that futile crusade did have a restraining effect for some years – until the passage of time, the collapse of Communism, and – finally – the 9/11 terrorist attacks wiped the slate clean.
Never mind remembering the lessons of Vietnam – we’ve repressed even the bitter lessons of our most recent “past” conflict, the disastrous invasion and occupation of Iraq. No sooner had we fallen into that quicksand then we promptly forgot who pushed us in – which is why the authors of that disaster continue to function as foreign policy mavens and political seers whose reputations are considered sterling. The neocon clique, and any number of politicians of both parties who fulsomely supported that war, today act as if they have nothing to apologize for, and nothing to regret: far from being repentant, they are, if anything, proud of their advocacy, secure in the knowledge that “everyone” believed Iraq possessed “weapons of mass destruction,” and smug in the certainty that no one of any consequence has anything to gain by raising the subject.
Who really remembers the Kosovo war – that is, the war as it unfolded? We were told as many as a hundred-thousand Kosovars were being exterminated, and yet at war’s end we found a few thousand – Serbs and Kosovars in equal number – had been murdered. The trial of a man named Ratko has the War Party mythologizing that conflict, as is its wont: unfortunately for them, the kangaroo court known as the Hague Tribunal has been adjourned in that case, perhaps permanently, on account of the prosecution’s withholding of evidence. That’s par for the course: withholding evidence, suppressing truth, editing the historical record has been their modus operandi from the start, but apparently the judges had an attack of conscience in this case, and it looks like the NATO-crats won’t get their show trial after all.
Who really remembers the Korean war? Not even writers whose major interest is foreign policy are capable of recalling it as it was actually fought. Rachel Maddow, MSNBC anchor and liberal voice, recently wrote an entire book based on the premise that Republicans are primarily responsible for “the unmooring of American military power” from either constitutional or political restraints – forgetting (if she ever knew) it was Harry Truman who set that precedent when he sent US troops to Korea without bothering to ask Congress first.
I don’t blame Rachel: history is a forgotten discipline, practiced selectively when it is invoked at all. These days it is best not to contemplate the past too much, or too intently, because comparison with the present is bound to depress us. An ice-cream cone bought for a Memorial Day picnic used to cost a dime: today nothing costs a dime, not even alms to a beggar.
To recall past wars is to recall their folly, and no one wants to be reminded of their moral and cognitive shortcomings: so we resort to mythology that valorizes the victors and paints the defeated in various shades of black – and when that’s not possible, amnesia is our last resort.
So I say: let’s rid ourselves of Memorial Day, and at least be honest with ourselves in this one instance. Let’s acknowledge we’d much rather forget our history of mass murder, and rename the last Monday in May in honor of some pagan holiday – because Memorial Day is an oxymoron in a nation of amnesiacs.
Two Men, Two Legs, and Too Much Suffering
America’s Forgotten Vietnamese Victims
by Nick Turse
Nguyen Van Tu asks if I’m serious. Am I really willing to tell his story — to tell the story of the Vietnamese who live in this rural corner of the Mekong Delta? Almost 40 years after guerrilla fighters in his country threw the limits of U.S. military power into stark relief — during the 1968 Tet Offensive — we sit in his rustic home, built of wood and thatch with an earthen floor, and speak of two hallmarks of that power: ignorance and lack of accountability. As awkward chicks scurry past my feet, I have the sickening feeling that, in decades to come, far too many Iraqis and Afghans will have similar stories to tell. Similar memories of American troops. Similar accounts of air strikes and artillery bombardments. Nightmare knowledge of what “America” means to far too many outside the United States.
“Do you really want to publicize this thing?” Nguyen asks. “Do you really dare tell everyone about all the losses and sufferings of the Vietnamese people here?” I assure this well-weathered 60-year old grandfather that that’s just why I’ve come to Vietnam for the third time in three years. I tell him I have every intention of reporting what he’s told me — decades-old memories of daily artillery shelling, of near constant air attacks, of farming families forced to live in their fields because of the constant bombardment of their homes, of women and children killed by bombs, of going hungry because U.S. troops and allied South Vietnamese forces confiscated their rice, lest it be used to feed guerrillas.
After hearing of the many horrors he endured, I hesitantly ask him about the greatest hardship he lived through during what’s appropriately known here as the American War. I expect him to mention his brother, a simple farmer shot dead by America’s South Vietnamese allies in the early years of the war, when the United States was engaged primarily in an “advisory” role. Or his father who was killed just after the war, while tending his garden, when an M-79 round — a 40 mm shell fired from a single-shot grenade launcher — buried in the soil, exploded. Or that afternoon in 1971 when he heard outgoing artillery being fired and warned his family to scramble for their bunker by shouting, “Shelling, shelling!” They made it to safety. He didn’t. The 105 mm artillery shell that landed near him ripped off most of his right leg.
But he didn’t name any of these tragedies.
“During the war, the greatest difficulty was a lack of freedom,” he tells me. “We had no freedom.”
A Simple Request
Elsewhere in the Mekong Delta, Pham Van Chap, a solidly-built 52-year-old with jet black hair tells a similar story. His was a farming family, but the lands they worked and lived on were regularly blasted by U.S. ordnance. “During the ten years of the war, there was serious bombing and shelling in this region — two to three times a day,” he recalls while sitting in front of his home, a one-story house surrounded by animal pens in a bucolic setting deep in the Delta countryside. “So many houses and trees were destroyed. There were so many bomb craters around here.”
In January 1973, the first month of the last year U.S. troops fought in Vietnam, Pham heard the ubiquitous sound of artillery and started to run to safety. It was too late. A 105 mm shell slammed into the earth four meters in front of him, propelling razor-sharp shrapnel into both legs. When he awoke in the hospital, one leg was gone from the thigh down. After 40 days in the hospital, he was sent home, but he didn’t get his first prosthetic leg until the 1990s. His new replacement is now eight years old and a far cry from the advanced, computerized prosthetics and carbon fiber and titanium artificial legs that wounded U.S. veterans of America’s latest wars get. His wooden prosthetic instead resembles a table leg with a hoof at the bottom. “It has not been easy for me without my leg,” he confides.
When I ask if there are any questions he’d like to ask me or anything he’d like to say to Americans, he has a quick response. He doesn’t ask for money for his pain and suffering. Nor for compensation for living his adult life without a leg. Nor vengeance, that all-American urge, in the words of George W. Bush to “kick some ass.” Not even an apology. His request is entirely too reasonable. He simply asks for a new leg. Nothing more.
Ignorance Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry
I ask Nguyen Van Tu the same thing. And it turns out he has a question of his own: “Americans caused many losses and much suffering for the Vietnamese during the war. Do Americans now feel remorse?” I wish I could answer “yes.” Instead, I tell him that most Americans are totally ignorant of the pain of the Vietnamese people, and then I think to myself, as I glance at the ample pile of tiny, local potatoes on his floor, about widespread American indifference to civilians killed, maimed, or suffering in other ways in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Even those Vietnamese who didn’t lose a limb — or a loved one — carry memories of years of anguish, grief, and terror from the American War. The fall-out here is still palpable. The elderly woman who tells me how her home was destroyed by an incendiary bomb. The people who speak of utter devastation — of villages laid waste by shelling and bombing, of gardens and orchards decimated by chemical defoliants. The older woman who, with trepidation, peeks into a home where I’m interviewing — she hasn’t seen a Caucasian since the war — and is visibly unnerved by the memories I conjure up. Another begins trembling upon hearing that the Americans have arrived again, fearing she might be taken away, as her son was almost 40 years earlier. The people with memories of heavily armed American patrols disrupting their lives, searching their homes, killing their livestock. The people for whom English was only one phrase, the one they all seem to remember: “VC, VC” — slang for the pejorative term “Viet Cong”; and those who recall model names and official designations of U.S. weaponry of the era — from bombs to rifles — as intimately as Americans today know their sports and celebrities.
I wish I could tell Nguyen Van Tu that most Americans know something of his country’s torture and torment during the war. I wish I could tell him that most Americans care. I wish I could tell him that Americans feel true remorse for the terror visited upon the Vietnamese in their name, or that an apology is forthcoming and reparations on their way. But then I’d be lying. Mercifully, he doesn’t quiz me as I’ve quizzed him for the better part of an hour. He doesn’t ask how Americans can be so ignorant or hard-hearted, how they could allow their country to repeatedly invade other nations and leave them littered with corpses and filled with shattered families, lives, and dreams. Instead he answers calmly and methodically:
“I have two things to say. First, there have been many consequences due to the war and even now the Vietnamese people suffer greatly because of it, so I think that the American government must do something in response — they caused all of these losses here in Vietnam, so they must take responsibility for that. Secondly, this interview should be an article in the press.”
I sit there knowing that the chances of the former are nil. The U.S. government won’t do it and the American people don’t know, let alone care, enough to make it happen. But for the latter, I tell him I share his sentiments and I’ll do my best.
Nguyen Van Tu grasps my hands in thanks as we end the interview. His story is part of a hidden, if not forbidden, history that few in the U.S. know. It’s a story that was written in blood in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos during the 1960s and 1970s and now is being rewritten in Afghanistan and Iraq. It’s a story to which new episodes are added each day that U.S. forces roll armored vehicles down other people’s streets, kick down other people’s doors, carry out attacks in other people’s neighborhoods, and occupy other people’s countries.
It took nearly 40 years for word of Nguyen Van Tu’s hardships at the hands of the United States to filter back to America. Perhaps a few more Americans will feel remorse as a result. But who will come forward to take responsibility for all this suffering? And who will give Pham Van Chap a new leg?
Turkey: changing terror law ‘impossible,’ EU refugee deal hinges on visa-free travel
Ankara has warned it will drop the refugee deal unless the EU introduces visa-free travel for its citizens. The country’s foreign minister also ruled out changes to terror laws, arguing that Turkey’s needs are unique
May 30, 2016
“We have told them, ‘we are not threatening you,’ but there’s a reality. We have signed two deals with you [the EU] and both are interlinked,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told the AFP news agency and other outlets in Antalya on Monday.
“This is not a threat, but what is required from an agreement,” he insisted, adding that his country would use “administrative” measures to block the refugee deal if visa requirements were not waived for its citizens within the EU.
“The number of migrants crossing to Greek islands in October was around 6,800. Now it is around 80 daily,” Cavusoglu said. His country had taken in more than 400 refugees under the deal, while only 130 Syrians from Turkish camps had been resettled in EU member states, he said, insisting that Turkey had stuck to its half of the one-for-one exchange agreement.
No change in terror law
Following last year’s refugee crisis, European leaders signed a deal worth billions of euros with Ankara to take back migrants crossing over into Europe from the Aegean Sea. In return, the bloc promised to take Syrian refugees from camps within Turkey, to restart Turkey’s EU membership talks and allow its citizens to travel into the region without a visa, subject to Turkey meeting 72 conditions necessary for this.
Ankara has passed several laws in the last few months to meet the EU’s requirements, but has refused to change its anti-terror regulations that have often been used to detain journalists and academics.
But Cavusoglu said his country was battling “more than one terrorist group,” including the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and it would be “impossible to change terror laws” under such circumstances.
“Which definition are you talking about? Each country in Europe has different terror definitions,” he argued.
The PKK has been waging an armed struggle against Ankara for the last 30 years, demanding more autonomy in the country’s southeast region.
No fighting with Kurds in Syria
Cavusoglu also spoke about his country’s offer to join forces with the US and fight the so-called “Islamic State” in Syria, on the condition that the Syrian Kurdish militia wasn’t included.
The minister advocated the formation of a “second front,” in which Syrian Arab groups opposing President Bashar Assad’s regime could be backed up with soldiers from Turkey, US and other NATO countries such as France, Germany and Britain.
However, Kurdish groups would have to be excluded. “We say okay, a second front should be opened, but not with the PYD,” Cavusoglu said, referring to the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the political wing of the anti-IS YPG Kurds.
70% of Americans ‘feel frustrated’ about presidential election – poll
May 30, 2016
Just a handful of Americans view the 2016 presidential election through rose-colored spectacles, the latest poll has found. Seven in 10 people say they feel frustrated with it, while over half, including majorities in both parties, are angry and helpless.
About one-quarter say they have hardly any confidence that their votes will be counted accurately, a poll by the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research has revealed. As much as 55 percent, including majorities from Democrats and Republicans, say they feel totally helpless about the ongoing election.
Only eight percent of Americans say they have a great deal of confidence in the Republican Party, and 15 percent – in the Democratic Party. Similarly, just 29 percent of Democrats and 16 percent of Republicans have any confidence in their own political parties.
Just 13 percent say they are proud about the election, 37 percent feel hopeful, and three in 10 say they are already bored.
Only 13 percent of Americans say they think the two-party political system in the US works fairly smoothly, while 38 percent say it’s seriously broken. An additional 49 percent believe the system has real problems.
A mere 10 percent say they have a great deal of confidence in the US political system overall, with 38 percent saying they have hardly any trust left.
Few Americans have much confidence in any of the branches of the US government either. Just fifteen percent say they have a lot of confidence in the executive branch, while 50 percent have “some” and 33 percent have hardly any.
Only four percent say they still have much faith in the Washington D.C.-based Congress, as opposed to 46 percent, who have hardly any trust left. A modest 24 percent have a lot of confidence in the Supreme Court, and 17 percent have hardly any.
By striking contrast, a staggering 56 percent of Americans say they have a great deal of confidence in the military.
The AP-NORC poll of 1,060 adults was conducted in mid-May, and is designed to be representative of the US population. Respondents were first selected randomly using address-based sampling methods, and later interviewed online or by phone, with the margin of sampling error for all respondents said to be plus or minus 4.1 percentage points.
Another poll, conducted late last month, showed that more than half of US voters believe the system to pick their president is “rigged.” The poll, conducted by Reuters and Ipsos, found that some 51 percent of voters believe the primary system is rigged against certain candidates. Over 70 percent said they would prefer to pick their party’s presidential nominee with a direct vote, cutting out the use of delegates as intermediaries. The survey also found that at least 27 percent of likely voters do not understand how the primary process works, and 44 percent do not understand why delegates are involved at all.
These are all the countries that still have nuclear weapons
There are around 15,850 nuclear warheads in the world, spread between nine nations
May 28, 2016
by Samuel Osborne
Barack Obama has called for a “world without nuclear weapons” during a historic speech in Hiroshima, Japan.
There are around 15,850 nuclear warheads spread between nine nations, according to a report from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).
Speaking in Hiroshima, President Obama told a crowd that included the Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, and survivors of the atomic bombing.“We may not be able to eliminate man’s capacity to do evil, so nations and the alliances we have formed must possess the means to defend ourselves.
“But among those nations like my own that hold nuclear stockpiles, we must have the courage to escape the logic of fear and pursue a world without them.
“We may not realise this goal in my lifetime but persistent effort can roll back the possibility of catastrophe.”
While nine nations to control nuclear weapons, five other countries also host them as part of Nato’s nuclear deterrence policy.
Which countries have nuclear weapons?
Legally recognised nuclear states
The total number of nuclear warheads in the world is declining, the SIPRI report notes, as Russia and the USA continue to reduce their nuclear arsenals.
However, the other legally recognised nuclear states – China, France, Russia and the UK – are “either developing or deploying new weapon systems or have announced their intention to do so”.
“All five legally recognised nuclear weapon states appear determined to retain their nuclear arsenals indefinitely,” the report concludes.
Nato-member states Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey all host nuclear weapons for the alliance.
The isolated communist state is believed to have between six and eight nuclear warheads and has carried out a series of nuclear tests over the last year.
The United Nations imposed sanctions against North Korea as a result of its fourth nuclear test in January this year.
Kim Jong-un has ordered the country’s military to prepare to carry out a pre-emptive strike due to its poor relations with other states.
Both the US and South Korea believe Pyongyang is attempting to develop an intercontinental missile system which could put the US in range of a nuclear strike.
India and regional rival Pakistan are expanding their nuclear weapon stockpiles as well as their missile delivery capabilities.
Earlier this year India conducted the final trials of its first nuclear-armed submarine, the INS Arihant, making it the sixth country in the world to possess a vessel capable of launching nuclear warheads from under water.
Once deployed, the submarine will complete India’s nuclear triad, allowing it to launch atomic weapons from land, sea and air.
Work has already begun on two more Arihant-class submarines. India intends to have a total of four by 2020.
Pakistan’s nuclear weapons programme began in the 1970s in response to India’s development and testing of its nuclear weapons.
Abdul Qadeer Khan, the Pakistani scientist who helped develop Pakistan’s nuclear bomb, confessed in 2004 that his network had sold nuclear know-how on the black market to states such as North Korea and Iran.
In 2015, India’s defence minister warned Isis could obtain a nuclear weapon from “states like Pakistan”. Isis has also claimed it could buy its first nuclear weapon from Pakistan.
However, political analysts see the scenario as unlikely.
Israel is believed to have the only nuclear weapons arsenal in the Middle East.
In February, Israeli defence minister warned of a coming nuclear arms race in the Middle East in response to Iran’s nuclear deal with the US and other Western countries. This saw the lifting of economic sanctions against Tehran in exchange for limitations on its nuclear programme, which it insists is for purely civilian purposes.
Although Israel neither officially confirms or denies it possesses nuclear weapons, it is estimated to have an inventory of around 80 warheads.
Growing Uneasiness: EU Preparing for a Possible Brexit
May 27, 2016
In Brussels, preparations have begun for the possibility that the British electorate chooses to leave the European Union in the referendum to be held on June 23. Foreign ministers from the six founding states of the European Union met last Friday at the Château de Val-Duchesse just outside the Belgian capital to discuss possible consequences.
SPIEGEL has learned that Martin Selmayr, the head of cabinet for European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, held a meeting on Monday with representatives from some EU states to take part in the discrete talks. The meetings are considered to be extremely sensitive since nobody in Brussels wants to give the impression that the EU is anticipating the British will vote to leave the EU. In reality, however, uneasiness is on the rise at EU headquarters given how even the two sides are according to British public opinion polls.
The discussion at Château de Val-Duchesse made it clear that the foreign ministers, including Frank-Walter Steinmeier of Germany and his French counterpart Jean-Marc Ayrault, believe that, should Britain vote to leave, difficult negotiations over the course of two years would result. “A lot of money would be at stake,” one of the meeting participants told SPIEGEL. The foreign ministers agreed that, should Brexit become a reality, Europe would badly need a boost of energy. Luxembourgian Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn called for more solidarity among Europeans, and not just in the refugee crisis.
EU Denies Times Report about an EU Army
Among those invited to the meeting called by Selmayr were Chancellor Angela Merkel’s advisor on European affairs, Uwe Corsepius, as well as representatives from France, Slovakia and Malta. Slovakia is scheduled to take over the rotating EU presidency in July and Malta is to follow in that role in January 2017. In addition, European Social Democrats are currently working on a paper calling for the intensification of European integration.
Meanwhile, those in favor of Britain’s departure from the EU have begun resorting to dubious reports in their effort to win over voters. A story in the British daily The Times on Friday claims that the EU has taken “steps towards creating a European army.” According to the story in the conservative euroskeptic paper, the plan was to have been kept secret until after the Brexit referendum.
The story was likely referring to comprehensive foreign policy guidelines currently being developed by Federica Mogherini, the EU’s top foreign policy representative. Mogherini’s draft text includes ideas aimed at exploring stronger joint European defense efforts. Originally, she was scheduled to present her draft text in the coming days, but the presentation has been pushed back to June 24 due to British sensitivities regarding common EU defense efforts.
The European Commission immediately denied the Times report and said that the EU’s new foreign and defense strategy does not include plans for the creation of an EU army.
Israel police send Netanyahu spending file to district attorney
May 29, 2016
Jerusalem (AFP) – Israeli police said Sunday they had completed a probe into allegations Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife used public funds for their private villa, with the findings now passed on to prosecutors.
Police gave no indication of the results of their investigation, though Israeli media reported that they recommended charges against Sara Netanyahu.
The announcement comes days after the release of a separate official report into alleged overcharging and conflict of interest involving Netanyahu’s past travel expenses.
Sara Netanyahu was questioned by fraud squad detectives last year as part of a 15-month investigation over claims the couple spent taxpayers’ money on garden furniture and electrical repairs at their private villa in the exclusive coastal resort of Caesarea.
A police statement said Sunday that the inquiry began in February 2015 and examined “suspicion of commission of criminal acts including fraudulently obtaining a benefit, fraud and breach of trust.”
“All of the alleged evidence… was passed to the Jerusalem district attorney, who has been following the investigation, for the purpose of studying the material and reaching a decision (whether to prosecute),” it said.
The statement did not comment further but Israeli media said the police recommended that the district attorney file charges against Sara Netanyahu and others, but not her husband.
Among the allegations is that Sara Netanyahu pocketed at least $1,000 from deposits on empty bottles returned from the official residence between 2009 and 2013, money that should have gone to the treasury.
In 2013, Netanyahu reimbursed the state $1,000 but the premier’s former butler has said that the figure should have been six times higher.
The Netanyahus have dismissed the allegations as a smear campaign.
On Tuesday the Israeli state comptroller issued a report on Netanyahu’s foreign trips, some with his wife and children, in 2003-05 when he was finance minister.
“Trips by Mr. Netanyahu and his family, funded by external bodies during the period in which he served as finance minister, deviated from regulations on the subject and as such could give the appearance of obtaining a benefit or of a conflict of interest,” the report said.
It did not allege criminality but said some of its findings had been passed to the attorney general’s office and could therefore not be publicised for the time being.
New incentives needed to develop antibiotics to fight superbugs
May 29, 2016
by Bill Berkrot
NEW YORK-Drugmakers are renewing efforts to develop medicines to fight emerging antibiotic-resistant bacteria, but creating new classes of drugs on the scale needed is unlikely to happen without new financial incentives to make the effort worth the investment, companies and industry experts said.
American military researchers on Thursday announced the first U.S. case of a patient with an infection found to be resistant to the antibiotic colistin, the drug often held in reserve for when all else fails.
That put a spotlight on the urgent need for new medicines that can combat what health officials have called “nightmare bacteria.”
Drugmakers on Friday acknowledged that in the absence of a new way of compensating them, it simply does not make economic sense to pour serious resources into work on new antibiotics.
“The return on investment based on the current commercial model is not really commensurate with the amount of effort you have to put into it,” said David Payne, who heads GlaxoSmithKline PLC’s antibiotics drug group.
Other pharmaceutical companies expressed a similar sentiment.
In January, some 80 drugmakers and diagnostics companies, including Pfizer Inc, Merck & Co, Johnson & Johnson and Glaxo, signed a declaration calling for cooperation among governments and companies to create incentives to revitalize research and development of new antibiotics.
It proposed a new business model in which profit would not be linked to higher sales. For example, governments and health organizations could offer lump-sum rewards for development of a successful new antibiotic. A British government panel suggested this month that drug companies be offered up to $1.5 billion for successful development of a new antibiotic.
In the United States alone, antibiotic-resistant bacteria causes 2 million serious infections and 23,000 deaths annually, according to U.S. health officials.
Unrestrained overuse of current antibiotics by doctors and hospitals, often when they are not needed, and widespread antibiotic use in food livestock have contributed to the evolution of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
But in recent years, major drugmakers have poured most of their research dollars into highly profitable medicines to fight cancer, rare diseases and hepatitis C. These drugs not only command high prices, they also are typically used far longer than antibiotics.
And the companies, which have come under intense criticism in recent months for continually raising prices on popular drugs, say it costs about as much to develop a new antibiotic as it does to bring to market new cancer drugs that can command more than $100,000 a year per patient.
“Drug companies can’t make an economic case for investing in superbug drugs,” said Erik Gordon, a professor at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business.
Gordon said governments and foundations need to get more involved in research and funding to spearhead efforts to combat the problem.
To critics who argue that U.S. companies have enormous cash reserves that could be used to address a public health crisis, drugmakers say they have a fiduciary duty to shareholders to maximize profits.
ON THE R&D FRONT LINES
One reason companies are calling for alternative compensation is that aggressive sales and use of new antibiotics could help create ever more dangerous bacteria that develop resistance to the new medicines.
Glaxo and Merck are among the large pharmaceutical companies developing new antibiotics they hope can beat back resistant bugs, while Pfizer is working on vaccines aimed at reducing the need for their use.
Industry experts said small, lesser-known companies with promising approaches to tackling resistant superbugs included: Entasis Therapeutics, an AstraZeneca PLC spinoff, Tetraphase Pharmaceuticals Inc; and Achaogen Inc.
“We believe plazomicin, our lead drug in late-stage development, has the potential to play an important role in treating this dreaded superbug,” Achaogen Chief Executive Kenneth Hillan said.
Allan Coukell, an antibiotics expert at the Pew Charitable Trusts nonprofit research and policy organization, said what is needed is a wave of new drugs based on new chemistry or that work in new ways.
“Most of what’s being developed are variations on drugs that we’ve had for decades,” Coukell said.
Pew has outlined what its calls a scientific roadmap to create a body of work around new drug discovery that companies and academic researchers could draw upon to help jumpstart the process of finding new antibiotics.
Glaxo said its experimental antibiotic gepotidacin, in midstage testing, belongs to an entirely new class of antibacterials.
“Based on that, we’re predicting it would work against infections that could be caused by bacteria that are resistant to available antibiotics,” Payne said.
Other companies with late-stage studies underway for antibiotics include: Cempra Inc, whose drug was recently validated in a Japanese trial; Medicines Co; and Paratek Pharmaceuticals Inc. J&J is also putting money into battling antibiotic resistance.
“If there is a bright side, it is that the world policymakers and health leaders have focused on this issue like never before,” Coukell said. “But we’ve got a long way to go.”
(Reporting by Bill Berkrot, Caroline Humer and Ransdell Pierson in New York and Natalie Grover and Amrutha Penumundiin Bangaluru; Editing by Eric Effron and Will Dunham)