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The Needle and the Damage Done: Toxic Fallout From the CIA's Human Shield Operation

By Chris Floyd  

When I first saw the stories about the CIA’s super-cunning covert op – setting up a fake vaccination scheme to try to get DNA from Osama bin Laden's children in Abbottabad – I immediately thought: How many innocent people are going to die or suffer needlessly from this unconscionable tainting of medical programmes by Terror War subterfuge?

How many people will now turn away from ostensibly genuine humanitarian efforts, wary of being used by foreign spies infiltrating their country? How many more genuine medical relief and health care workers will now be targeted as agents of militarist agendas in troubled lands already rightly suspicious of the murderous spy games being played in their midst?

Now Médecins Sans Frontières has voiced the same concerns, in public blast on Thursday which called the CIA's toying with the lives and health of vulnerable children "grave manipulation of the medical act."

Of course, the story has already been forgotten in the American media echo chamber, now solely obsessed with the epic battle between Obama and the Republicans to see who can degrade the largest number of American lives and usher in oligarchic rule the fastest. [For more on this, see the superb piece by Arthur Silber.] So we'll let the Guardian re-set the scene:

The CIA recruited a Pakistani doctor and health visitors before the operation in May that killed Bin Laden in Abbottabad in northern Pakistan, to try to ascertain whether the al-Qaida leader was living in the compound. The doctor, Shakil Afridi, set up a vaccination drive for Hepatitis B in the town in order to try to gain entry to the Bin Laden compound and obtain DNA samples from those living there. ..

However, on the ground in Abbottabad the Guardian discovered that while the vaccine doses themselves were genuine, the medical professionals involved were not following procedures. In an area called Nawa Sher, they did not return a month after the first dose to provide the required second batch. Instead, according to local officials and residents, the team moved on, in April this year, to Bilal Town, the suburb where Bin Laden lived.

These vaccines are not effective unless the full course of doses is administered. The CIA thus suborned genuine medical professionals, without their knowledge, and then left the children being used as -- dare we say it? -- human shields for the spy agency still at grave risk of contracting Hepatitis B. Having established their front in the poorest part of town, luring in the most vulnerable, they simply "moved on." What of the children of Nawa Sher? Who cares? They're expendable.

The Guardian story spells out the larger implications:

"The risk is that vulnerable communities – anywhere – needing access to essential health services will understandably question the true motivation of medical workers and humanitarian aid," said Unni Karunakara, MSF's international president. "The potential consequence is that even basic healthcare, including vaccination, does not reach those who need it most."

"It is challenging enough for health agencies and humanitarian aid workers to gain access to, and the trust of, communities, especially populations already sceptical of the motives of any outside assistance," said MSF. "Deceptive use of medical care also endangers those who provide legitimate and essential health services."

The impact of the fake vaccination drive may be keenly felt in Pakistan, where the public already sees an American conspiracy everywhere. Polio campaigns could be at particular risk, as Pakistan has the biggest polio problem in the world.

But again, none of that matters. These are non-people, unpersons, Untermenschen. The only thing that matters is that American elites are made to look tough, willing to do "whatever it takes." The Guardian quotes the usual anonymous Obama Administration official defending the use of innocent children as human shields for black ops:

The US official said: "The vaccination campaign was part of the hunt for the world's top terrorist, and nothing else. If the United States hadn't shown this kind of creativity, people would be scratching their heads asking why it hadn't used all tools at its disposal to find Bin Laden."

Yes, inquiring minds want to know: why didn't the United States abuse and exploit and endanger even more innocent children to find bin Laden? (Aside from the thousands of children killed in the post-9/11 Terror Wars, of course.) Thank god the Peace Laureate and his people have more "creativity" than his cloddish predecessors!

Oh, and what was the upshot of this "creativity"? I mean, sure, they put the poorest children in Abbotabad at grave risk of suffering, and yeah, they endangered vaccination and health programs and medical workers all over the world -- but hey, the fake vaccine thing worked, didn't it? It helped them get bin Laden, didn't it?

Er, no. Like so much else in the Terror War -- indeed, like the Terror War in its entirety -- the CIA human shield operation in Abbotabad was a busted flush. The whole thing was designed to suck blood from bin Laden's children to get the DNA that would confirm his presence in the house -- but it didn't even do that. As the New York Times reports:

The American official said that the doctor managed to temporarily gain access to the compound, but that he never saw Bin Laden and was not successful in getting DNA samples from any Bin Laden family members.

Endangering children, increasing mistrust and instability around the world, militarizing medicine, polluting every notion of a greater common good or human fellow-feeling -- and all for absolutely nothing (aside from the perpetuation of the pointless dominance of a witless, brutal, all-devouring elite): that pretty much sums up the foreign policy of our rotting, blundering, bankrupt empire.

This article originally appeared on Chris Floyd's blog Empire Burlesque.

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