27 June 1999.
The Editor, Book Reviews,
The New York Times,
229 West 43rd Street, New York, NY, 10036,
U. S. A.
Re: ‘Wartime Lies?' 27 June 1999.
Thank you for running a review of our book The United States and Biological Warfare: secrets from the Early Cold War and Korea. In casting doubt on the thesis of our book your reviewer makes two arguments, both of which we feel are questionable.
The first is that since two reputable American scientists reviewed the Chinese evidence about insects being used to spread germ warfare and declared the evidence to be unscientific therefore the charge is not credible. For your reviewer this is decisive. But in our book we point out that the U.S. Government similarly advised the Canadian government to ask distinguished scientists to comment on the Chinese evidence and that three reputable Canadian scientists were found to do this. They came to the same conclusions as their U.S. counterparts and their conclusions were also widely publicized at the time. However, when the archives were opened up to us 45 years later it turned out that these unsuspecting scientists were not in the biological warfare loop. They had no notion of what the Canadian and United States governments were really doing. At the time the Canadian government quietly asked a fourth scientist, Professor G. B. Reed, a member of its biological warfare panel, head of the Defense Research Laboratory at Queens University in Kingston, Ontario, and a leading expert on using insects as a vector for germ warfare, for his opinion on the Chinese evidence. In a report to Lester B. Pearson, then minister of external affairs, Reed said that while there were some anomalies, what the Chinese evidence described was "entirely feasible" and he advised the minister to avoid any public discussion of the scientific aspects of the charges. This report is stamped "Seen by L. B. Pearson." It was kept secret until 1997. Isn't there a question of integrity here? Who should we believe?
Your reviewer's other claim is that we did not consider the possibility that the Chinese germ war charges against the United States were a propaganda hoax. On the contrary, we did confront that scenario. In rejecting it we relied first, on the judgement of Dr. Joseph Needham, renowned scientist of Cambridge University, who headed an international investigation team to China and Korea in 1952 and who commented explicitly on that possibility and ruled it out. Secondly we relied on the new, previously classified top-secret Chinese documents, which were not part of the propaganda war of the 1950's. These documents, some of them at the cabinet level, show a worried premier Zhou Enlai and Mao Zedong, wondering what was happening, trying to figure out what to do to counter the enveloping biological warfare attacks that were threatening their armies and civilian populations. We see the patient, pragmatic approach of Chinese medical teams investigating and sifting reports of alleged biological warfare, reports of false alarms, complaints by scientists that people are panicking, imagining things that have a natural explanation; we see previously classified military maps showing where the attacks occurred near the main line of resistance, along railway lines and other lines of transportation and communications; we see interviews of American spies (Chinese defectors) who had been parachuted in to check on the effect of the biological warfare. If the Chinese charges were fabricated by the government then none of these materials would be in the archives. They represent serious attempts by the Chinese to figure out what was happening and to try to do something about it. That's our case about the credibility of the matter. We believe that it will convince reasonable people beyond reasonable doubt and, if they read our book, they will come to the further conclusion that the United States, supported by its Canadian ally, engaged in what will sooner or later be recognized as a major international war crime.
Stephen Endicott and Edward Hagerman
NOTE: The New York Times did not print our reply to its