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Monday, May 04, 2009

A swine flu conspiracy? Let's take a closer look...

The swine flu epidemic -- I'm not sure whether we should use the term "pandemic" -- has given rise to several conspiracy theories. One popular theory traces the origin of the disease to the Spanish flu of 1918 -- a true pandemic which killed over 60 million people. That outbreak, we are told, allegedly resulted from an early American experiment in biological warfare.

In other words, Uncle Sam did it.

Allegedly. Let us stress that word. I've uncovered evidence indicating that this widely-spread theory constitutes a bizarre attempt at disinformation.

The theory comes in two parts. First, we have the proposed link between swine flu and "the Spanish Lady." Second, we have the putative biowarfare origins of the most deadly flu ever to hit mankind. Let's consider these assertions separately.

Part one of the theory is valid. See, for example, this piece in Science Daily, which draws from the research of Dr. Juergen A. Richt, published in the May, 2009 edition of the Journal of Virology.
Their research supports the hypothesis that the 1918 pandemic influenza virus and the virus causing the swine flu were the same. Richt said the virus was able to infect and replicate in swine and cause mild respiratory disease. The 1918 virus spread through the pig population, adapted to the swine and resulted in the current lineage of the H1N1 swine influenza viruses.
This time around, H1N1 doesn't seem to have the killer instinct. I'm grateful for that, although I cannot easily understand our good fortune. Time suggests that we owe our success to more frequent hand-washing. Accept that explanation if you will.

Now let's get to the tricky part. Where did H1N1 come from, way back in 1918?

This CBC story argues that the swine flu virus originating in that period came from human beings. Previously, researchers suggested that transmission went in the other direction -- that people got it from pigs.

The 1918 pandemic began in the United States, a fact which may surprise those familiar with the term "Spanish Lady," the nickname for the disease. That sobriquet derives from the fact that the full deadly scope of the flu was first reported in the Spanish press, which did not operate under wartime censorship.

The disease originated in Fort Riley, Kansas, where 26,000 men underwent training.

The story includes imagery straight out of Hollywood: On May 9, 1918, a black cloud -- created, at least in part, by the burning of manure -- enveloped the camp and blocked out the sun. Two days later, 100 men took ill. The disease soon spread to other military camps. When the "doughboys" set out for Europe later that month, they brought the flu with them.

(Nota bene: Some have posited an alternative theory in which the flu originated in Asia. However, the Fort Riley scenario has far more adherents.)

Now let's get to the deep-dish conspiracy stuff.

The "Uncle Sam diddit" theory traces to this widely-republished and widely-cited piece by Henry Makow, who wants you to know that he has a PhD. Although many left-wing and right-wing websites have referenced his article (especially in recent days), the origin point appears to be

Not promising. I've met nine year-olds less gullible than Rense.

Who is Henry Makow, PhD? His personal website,, is devoted to "exposing feminism and the New World Order." The current headline reads "Lucifer's Rebellion Gains Momentum." Previous headlines include "Illuminati Defector Details Pervasive Conspiracy" and "The Devil's Work: Feminism and the Elite Depopulation Agenda."

In this YouTube video, Makow interviews an alleged ex-Illuminati bigwig named Mary Ann. Apparently, Ginger's roommate caused many of the world's problems.

Again: Not promising. I wish that left-ish bloggers would research guys like Makow before citing them.

At any rate, here's his argument that America deliberately caused the 1918 pandemic (and thus indirectly caused the current problem):
In 1948 Heinrich Mueller, the former head of the Gestapo, told his CIA interrogator that the most devastating plague in human history was man-made.

He was referring to the influenza pandemic of 1918-1919 that infected 20% of the world's population and killed between 60 and 100 million people.
Well, if you can't trust a guy like Mueller, who can you trust? Of course, we need to know how Mueller came across this information:
At a 1944 Nazi bacteriological warfare conference in Berlin, General Walter Schreiber, Chief of the Medical Corps of the German Army told Mueller that he had spent two months in the US in 1927 conferring with his counterparts. They told him that the "so-called double blow virus" (i.e. Spanish Flu) was developed and used during the 1914 war.

"But," according to Mueller, "it got out of control and instead of killing the Germans who had surrendered by then, it turned back on you, and nearly everybody else." ("Gestapo Chief: The 1948 CIA Interrogation of Heinrich Mueller" Vol. 2 by Gregory Douglas, p. 106)
Makow goes on to quote this interrogation at length. Mueller, we are told, said that British scientists originally concocted the pathogen.

Naturally, when I read these words, I wanted to learn more about the book which Makow summarizes.
Gregory Douglas apparently is a pseudonym for his nephew with whom he left his papers. Normally a hoax would not run to thousands of pages. The Interrogation is 800 pages. The Memoirs are 250 pages. The Microfilmed Archive apparently covers 850,000 pages. Finally, the material I have read is incredibly well informed, authoritative and consistent.
Alas, Makow leaves out the most important information: Who stores this archive? How do we know that these claims are on the level?

We need answers to these questions for one important reason:

We have no hard proof that Heinrich Mueller lived beyond 1945.

Although Mueller is widely believed to have died during the conquest of Berlin, his fate has engendered almost as much controversy as did the post-war career of Martin Bormann. If you will permit a quote from Wikipedia...
He is the most senior member of the Nazi regime about whose fate nothing is known. Possible explanations for his disappearance include:

* That he was killed, or killed himself, during the chaos of the fall of Berlin, and that his body was never found.

* That he escaped from Berlin and made his way to a safe location, possibly in South America, where he lived the rest of his life undetected, and that his identity was not disclosed even after his death.

* That he was recruited and given a new identity by either the United States or the Soviet Union, and employed by them during the Cold War, and that this has never been disclosed.
In the 1960s, Adolf Eichmann told his Israeli interrogators that he thought Mueller was still alive. He offered no substantive data to back that allegation.

According to Wikipedia and other sources, a defector named Michael Goleniewski once told the CIA that the Soviets had captured Mueller. Alas, Wikipedia does not mention that Goleniewski was a nutcase who also claimed to be the Tsarevitch Alexei, having escaped (a miracle!) from Ekaterinberg after being cured (another miracle!) of his hemophilia.

(In the '70s, Goleniewski frequently appeared on television in New York; he came across as a charming eccentric. He also published a lot of crank conspiracy material -- I used to possess a few samples -- of the sort that makes guys like Henry Makow seem rational.)

This far-right site has a story on Mueller's alleged post-war career. The site, alas, is TBRNews. We've run into these fellows before: They are Holocaust deniers who attracted some attention in progressive circles when they published a fake series of "insider" reports from the Bush White House. (This humble site may have been the first to expose the bogus nature of the "Voice of the White House" reports.)

According to TBRNews, Mueller lived for a few years in Switzerland under the name of Schwartzer, until he was recruited by Bern CIA station chief James Kronthal in 1948.

Makow also mentions Kronthal (who really was the CIA station chief in Bern in 1948). That fact, in itself, provides evidence of nothing beyond the obvious surmise that Makow reads TBRNews.

TBRnews, drawing from "archival" material unavailable to non-insiders, gives us a rather full description of Mueller's post-war career:
The CIA offered him a job. He took it and used his position to ingratiate himself with the President of the United States and the Director of the FBI as well as to marry into a wealthy and influential Washington family. He had no hesitation in exchanging information and confidences with a high-level Soviet agent although his raison d¹etre was to assist his new employers in tracking down and exposing the same people. At one time, he had the same agent to dinner with two of the senior members of the CIA and, from his notes, thoroughly enjoyed the irony of the situation. In fact, it could be said that Müller always seemed to enjoy the ironical side of his work, took nothing seriously and filled his journals with comments and asides which the complaisant and conventional view with genuine horror and, more often than not, great disgust.

In Washington, Müller lost no time in climbing the social ladder and filling his Georgetown home with a fortune in art stolen by the Germans during the war. Some of this art, which included portions of the famed Amber Room, he sold off for the private purses of his co-workers in the CIA. He once gave a small, very private dinner for the President to which Müller wore all of his Third Reich and Imperial decorations and while sitting across from President Truman, discussed the activities of Senator Joseph McCarthy, a man to whom Müller was supplying inside information to aid him in his reign of terror.

Müller had known the British-Soviet spy, Harold “Kim” Philby...
TBR goes on and on like that. It's all very intriguing, especially to those who (like me) have read a lot of books about early cold war espionage. But there's an obvious problem:

No proof. Many huge claims: No evidence.

We have no evidence that the Mueller journals exist. All the TBRNews references go to this rare book by -- you guessed it -- the elusive Gregory Douglas. The volume was published by R. James Bender, which seems to specialize in large, worshipful volumes devoted to German militariana. I suspect that the people who buy these books also root for the bad guys when they see The Sound of Music.

To judge from the handful of Amazon reviews, the Douglas volume transcribes a communique "proving" that FDR engineered the Pearl Harbor attack. There's also "proof" that the Holocaust did not exist, along with much talk of made-by-the-USA flying saucers.

We can't dismiss the possibility that someone has used reports of Mueller's survival as an excuse for putting history into rewrite.

The same Douglas -- who may or may not be Mueller's nephew -- also wrote a JFK assassination book called Regicide, which draws its argument from a cache of "official" U.S. documents made available to no other researcher. Other JFK investigators (including pro-conspiracy guys) have denounced these documents as frauds. Even Jim Fetzer mistrusts Douglas, and Fetzer's the kind of guy who would believe you if you told him that Cocoa Puffs are imported from Mars.

I think that we all get the picture by this point.

As far as I know, a Mueller archive may indeed exist -- somewhere. Alas, Makow, Douglas and TBRnews won't tell us where. Although Mueller may have survived the war, the CIA (in answer to an FOIA request) insists that they never made contact with him.
The CIA file on Heinrich Mueller, chief of Hitler's Gestapo and a major Nazi war criminal, sheds important new light on U.S. and international efforts to find Mueller after his disappearance in May 1945. Though inconclusive on Mueller's ultimate fate, the file is very clear on one point. The Central Intelligence Agency and its predecessors did not know Mueller's whereabouts at any point after the war. In other words, the CIA was never in contact with Gestapo Mueller.
Is the CIA file an elaborate hoax? Maybe. On the other hand, that file has one point in its favor: It exists in hard copy. You can go to an actual building with an actual address -- the National Archives are located at 700 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC (although the folks there may tell you to go to the building in Maryland) -- where you can sit in a chair and read Record Group 263.

Can the same be said of the elusive Mueller archive? Does it truly exist? Are the documents genuine? If so, then perhaps Henry Makow, PhD., will be kind enough to supply us with an address.

Until he does, I call bullshit on his swine flu story. Nazi bullshit, to be specific.
Joe, you mention Gregory Douglas, whom I first tripped over at "The Truthseeker" site, wherein the occasional article by Makow can also be found.

You might be interested in Douglas' "Conversations with the Crow" (Robert Trumbull Crowley) at, which is a supposed revelatory series of conversations between Douglas and Crowley, former head of the CIA's Clandestine Operations Division, but which Douglas agreed to publish only after Crowley's death.

Another related link entitled "The Crow: Crowley Files of 1996" can be found at

If the "Conversations" are faked, it's a pretty good job of fakery--the text reads very like conversations typed directly from a taped recording.
Joseph, since reading your post I've been consulting some of my old text books in Microbiology, Immunology and Virology. The time line seemed to be impossible that the 1918 flu pandemic could have been man made. What I found is that by 1918 we did in fact have the Germ theory of disease and Koch's postulates of such. We also had a very primitive concept of viruses. I know that the Tobacco mosaic virus is the very first virus discovered and that was way, way, way later.

As for the origins of the Spanish Flu pandemic I think that is so far fetched it is beyond belief. A really sharp individual would have had to recognize what it was and then they would have to ship all of the ill people to Europe and intentionally place them in enemy hands without ever coming in contact with our own troops. Seems both implausible and impossible. If they knew enough that they thought the infected soldiers would be a danger they would have certainly isolated them at the point of origin and quarantined the entire area.

There just seems to be no way that the military would risk infecting our own soldiers with such a thing. It would border on incompetence of an extreme level because if our soldiers all died off due to the flu then our national sovereignty would be jeopardized. The whole argument just doesn't make sense to me.

Another thing, without a full grounding of DNA and RNA theory there is no way to manufacture or manipulate viruses and the technology to do so was not invented or many years. We all know the story behind the double helix and the supposed discovery by Watson and Crick in 1953 after they stole Rosalyn Franklin's pictographs which clearly demonstrated the double helix. Until then, nobody really had a clue.
How are the Osmonds involved in all this?
On Heinrich Mueller, the only suggestion apart from Gregory Douglas that he survived and was taken under the wings of American inteligence, at least that I have seen, is in Joseph Trento's "The Secret History of the CIA". On p. 29: "The American Army even recruited and evacuated the Head of the Gestapo, Heinrich Mueller." Trento cited CIA files in the possession of Robert Crowley. Trento knew Crowley very well. As I recall from email exchanges with Trento, he was very skeptical of Gregory Douglas but did not exclude the possiblility that Douglas may have met Crowley.

As I recall, Douglas, whoever he is, is also behind TBR News.
The tobacco mosaic virus was first isolated in the 1890s, but the technique of culturing viruses wasn't developed until 1931 (with, interestingly enough, the influenza virus). That alone makes this theory extremely unlikely - although I suppose it would've been possible to "culture" different strains of flu in live pigs and/or birds even in the early 20th Century.

I just don't buy it. It's not completely impossible, but it's wildly unlikely.

You don't have to understand the mechanisms of infection just to select for different characteristics. Pasteur managed to culture attenuated rabies virus in the 1880s without even knowing what a virus *was*.

As I said, culturing a more virulent strain of flu in living swine or birds would've been possible, but it would also have been pretty difficult. Since the same techniques could also have been used to produce a vaccine, one would have expected the developers of such a "weaponized superbug" to have inoculated our own and allied troops.

The theory just doesn't make sense to me, even if you ignore the highly dubious sources.
I have seen 2 of Gregory Douglas's books online in PDF format: "Gestapo Chief: The CIA and Heinrich Mueller" and "The CIA Covenant: Nazis in Washington". A quick search turns up no live torrents, but they're around.

Peter: My suspicion is that Douglas did know Crowley, but that doesn't mean that Crowley gave Douglas documents not available to anyone else. I think it is possible that Douglas is using this association as a way of adding verisimilitude to forgeries.

In this light, it is instructive to visit this site...

...which I learned about via Covert History. That blog is devoted to presenting nuggets of history concerning various individuals on the far right. Much of the info was derived via FOIA. It's particularly instructive to read the reports on Eustace Mullens and Dan Smoot.

The bottom line, with far-right conspiracy guys, is this: Reality is malleable. When the historical record does not say what you want it to say, simply come up with a fake document.

The gonzo right is positively ADDICTED to forgeries. That is their signal defining characteristic.

Now, about the history of virii and CBW: I will admit that it seems very, very unlikely that the U.S. could have gotten into the business of biowarfare in 1918. On the other hand, you may recall a previous post which discussed the possibility of using chemical and biological weaponry during the Franco-Prussian war in 1870. I'm still not sure if such weapons really were fully developed or not. But they were considered a serious option.

I wonder: Would you have to know precisely how a virus works in order to use a virus as a weapon?

(I'm speaking theoretically, here. I still very strongly doubt that the Muller story has any basis in fact.)
Great post Joseph.

Clearly, you do NOT have to know what a virus is in order to use it. If I'm not egregiously misinformed, many Native Americans were given blankets in which smallpox victims had previously died. And weren't plague-infested corpses hurled over walls in Medieval Europe during sieges? I'd say we were acquainted with the idea of communicability well before the modern age.

Of course, that should not be read as an argument endorsing the theory you describe. IMO, even if you had all the 800 pages of interrogation, 250 pages of memoirs and 850,000 pages of microfilm described, it would still only prove that Mueller wrote in his memoirs (sometime after 1948?) that Schreiber told him (in 1944) that he was told (in 1927) that the Americans had originally created the flu (in 1914). In that chain of communication, how many opportunities might there be for someone to bullshit someone else?
as said before there was no way 1918 to genetically engine a "killer virus" : at that time viruses were discovered but could only be traced through indirect methods. The first electron microscope came around the mid thirties and could at max magnify 400 times. Without the DNA theory there wasn't even a ground, the only genetics they knew about was Mendel's. Of course a new virus strain could have arisen by accident in lab dabbling with viruses, tissues and bacterias, but not as a controlled process. I call complete bull.
besides people didn't die of the virus....

they died in majority of bacterial infections due to poor hygiene and weakened bodies (and lungs) AFTER the flu episode itself was over. Since there were no antibiotics at that time, there was no cure when a serious opportunistic bacterial infection had developed.
Interesting stuff, but I think you hit the nail on the head when you point to the fact that they are big claims with very little backing them up. Unfortunately, the books cited don't sound promising.
Are you sure the only reason the name "Spanish Lady" stuck (and caught on) was because the disease had first been reported in the Spanish press? Like if it had been reported somewhere else first, the US media would similarly have taken the geographical handle and fixed it on, without any thought to anything so base as presenting the plague as being of foreign origin?

And that Israeli scientist who wants the current virus to be renamed "Mexican"? Maybe he ain't got no ulterior motive; he just thinks it was first reported in Mexico? :-)

In Britain at the start of the present decade the controllers rabidly promoted foot and mouth disease as being brought here by Chinese immigrants.

How you name something is really important. In Britain at the moment, by the way, the main line is that the government must buy more vaccine. Are they doing enough? is the question being asked by every sleepwalking moron who thinks they're awake. Yeah, sure, buy more vaccine! Or else we're all going to die!Of course there can't be any connection between those who cause and advertise a problem and those who call for and sell a solution. Can there?
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