By Henry Kamens for VT and New Eastern Outlook, Moscow
My mother used to have a favorite expression: “I can put my ass where you cannot put your face”. That is the response that needs to be conveyed to some of the spin doctors of misinformation who are starting to flood the internet with articles that don’t address the issues raised over the Lugar Laboratory in Tbilisi, Georgia, but instead try to discredit the source of the revelations and blame it all on Russian disinformation.
Russian news stories about the lab rely heavily on “revelations” coming from one eccentric American living in Tbilisi, a certain Jeffrey Silverman, who says that the U.S. will use bioweapons developed in Georgia to depopulate the Middle East and take over its oil. Despite a lack of evident expertise or knowledge, Silverman is held up as a bona fide American whistle-blower in the Russian media. “That lab is a time-bomb,” he intimated in an interview with REN TV.
But let’s go beyond the deflection and cut to the chase of what is REALLY the latest story of the Lugar Lab and recent efforts by the US military and official spokespersons to distance itself from it, by claiming it is now a Georgian operation, not an American project in a biological grey zone.
Just call him Curveball!
The source of many of the Russian stories would rather be called a muckraker than a whistleblower, based on his military experience in chemical weapons, graduate work in journalism, and international science and technology policy.
The fact is that the strain of Swine fever now affecting China and several European countries is the same one that started out in Georgia in 2007. It is also a fact that the finger is being pointed back at Georgia as the original source of the strain of AFS, African swine fever, and is now wreaking havoc in China.
Russian officials are saying that the new documents they now possess “allow us to take a fresh look” at the outbreaks of African swine fever in southern Russia in 2007-2018, which “spread from the territory of Georgia into the Russian Federation, European nations and China. The infection strain in the samples collected from animals killed by the disease in those nations was identical to the Georgia-2007 strain.”
ASF is not supposed to exist outside Africa, as the name implies. The current ASF challenge outside Africa started in 2007 in Georgia, even before the Lab officially worked, and spread from there to the Russian Federation and Eastern Europe, including the EU countries in the Baltic States. Ukraine, Poland, Latvia and Romania and the Czech Republic have seen several ASF outbreaks. The disease is spreading rapidly in both wild and commercial herds.
Even so, China is thousands of miles from any known case of ASF. It cannot have been transmitted there by cattle who weren’t reading a road map, or casually mating with infected porcine tourists. The introduction of ASF into China is a major concern, and significantly, the area affected is close to the border with North Korea. We can suspect that more modern methods of transmission may have been used, even the use of specially equipped drones.
Apparently the way this disease was introduced to China is unknown. But if it got there on its own it can travel long distances, not only in infected pigs but also via contaminated food and feed, through international travelers and via other articles.
Georgia has appalling food hygiene standards, as can be seen in any shop, and has not significantly improved these despite EU urging. It also has an increasing Chinese commercial presence, which has provoked much local press comment about “foreigners” buying up all the land and big businesses at the expense of the locals.
It’s all there in the data
African Swine Flu (AFS) is not usually a zoonotic disease, spread between humans and animals; however, it can be manipulated under lab conditions and combined with human viruses. Normally it does not infect people, but it is well documented that ASF has continued to do so in Russia and Eastern European countries.
The linked map displays ASF notifications in domestic pigs (red) and wild boar (blue) from 2007 to 2017 in two different scenarios: EU and Non-EU countries (from Europe and other continents). A story map of the evolution of ASF and other diseases in time can be found here.
These maps give part of the official story of ASF. But as Gordon Duff of Veterans today writes, when looking at the bigger picture the key to understanding the issue is to look at the mechanisms of enforcement, reporting, accountability and criminal punishment, or rather the utter lack thereof.
You see, if the world has gone mad, nuclear, biological and chemical weapon proliferation, as only high-level insiders seem to be aware, with occasional “bleed through” to the media, then we are faced with questions, with issues, with threats, none of which can be addressed with mechanisms in existence.
Today governments caught in wrongdoing simply deny. Buying politicians, rigging elections in the so-called democracies is simple. Controlling the world’s corrupt corporate press is even easier.
The Russian Ministry of Defence says it has evidence that the United States is collecting, across Russia and other areas of the world, blood samples for DNA analysis to be used in the development of genetically targeted biological and chemical weapons. The implication is that the outbreak in China was created deliberately, and is part of a pattern of such outbreaks designed with an offensive purpose. There is therefore little wonder that the Russian government has said that it will take diplomatic and military measures against the Lugar laboratory if necessary.
Too wise denials
The US Embassy in Georgia has responded to Russian allegations, and more recent mainstream media reports (at last!) about the supposed illegal experiments conducted at the US-built, Tbilisi-based Lugar Center. It has stated that the facility is jointly owned but controlled by Georgia, and that the accusations against it are “nonsense and typical of Russian misinformation and propaganda campaigns.”
The US Embassy is fond of saying such things. However there are some subjects it never discusses, like what is causing the noxious fumes which prevent residents of nearby houses opening their windows, what happened to the succession of foreign staff who were sent home sick and subsequently died, what research papers the facility has produced to justify the millions of dollars pumped into it and why US-funded journalists not only plant stories but are working with drug companies who have financial interests in the research being conducted in Georgia.
Georgia has also dismissed allegations of various experiments on people as “absurd,” and a soap opera that will soon blow up, as a government official, Zurab Abashidze, told reporters that “no secret experiments have been conducted in this centre.” He further stressed that the work of the lab was “absolutely transparent,” and that the facility itself is owned and financed by the Georgian government.
However Abashidze is aware that the one thing he CAN’T say about the lab is that its work is not secret. Try and get anyone there to talk about it, and you run up against all kinds of clearance issues. If Abashidze said that its work was designed for the public good, it would be his word against ours. But he seems not to be able to do that, instead making the one claim which can be easily debunked.
The veracity of the US and Georgian counterclaims can be easily assessed by reading open sourced documents about who manages and pays for the lab. It is merely one of many operated by the US Department of Defense and partner countries around the world.
The work of these facilities is inspected by various individuals, one of whom was Dr. David Kelly, the man who allegedly committed suicide after he was named as the source of a statement contradicting the official UK line on Iraq’s supposed weapons of mass destruction. There has been much debate since about connections between his suspicious death and the Iraq War. Are these simply being fed to divert attention from what he knew about Lugar and its counterparts, and why some would therefore want him dead?
Can’t hide in plain sight
The coincidence of the existence of facilities such as the “Lugar Lab” in Tbilisi, which if it is not doing these things IS EQUIPPED to do them, and inexplicable outbreaks of Swine Flu and other diseases whose spread do not follow the epidemiology of natural pathogens, gives rise to frightening speculation.
The pandemic flu which emerged in 2009 in humans may have originated in swine, but remains well adapted to propagate in both humans AND pigs, thus having the advantage of two hosts. The influenza virus is being cited as a cause of the China outbreak, but had never been identified as a cause of such infections in people before the last widespread H1N1 pandemic.
As influenza is a very common disease, it is easy to see if strains have naturally changed their composition, as there are millions of examples to test every day. As no such changes have been observed in “flu only” patients, it is logical to conclude that something else has been mixed with that virus externally to make it a carrier of swine flu.
Genetic analyses of this virus have indeed shown that it originated from animal influenza viruses and is unrelated to the human seasonal H1N1 viruses which have been in general circulation amongst people since 1977. Something that mutated that virus, combining animal and human DNA in a deadly hybrid. This could lead to a crossover into the human population on the level of the 1918 Spanish flu, which accounted for almost as many deaths as the Great War which preceded it.
It will be interesting to see what happens when China and the Russian Federation compare notes about the spread of the same strain of Swine flu now affecting herds in China. There is enough of a pattern here of diseases erupting to suggest seemingly outlandish possibilities, such as that it was spread by drones, like Agent Orange was in Vietnam. China is not on the list of America’s most favoured nations nowadays, and neither is North Korea, despite Trump sucking up to it in the nuclear talks.
Let’s look at the larger game being played. We know that many of those who worked in the Lugar lab, owned by the US Department of Defense rather than a medical organisation, have been reassigned to Afghanistan. We also know that the US wants to find a new front because it is losing in Syria, and Russia is on the opposite side in that conflict. It is possible that the ASF outbreak is a precursor to a wider move against China – the same China all the Western countries are competing to sell all their infrastructure to, which will make war with it impossible before long.
Many want the Lugar lab closed. It is easy to simply dismiss the Russian allegations, BUT if Russia and China combined their efforts they could force a REAL investigation, as they are members of the permanent council of the UN, the obvious organisation to undertake such an investigation, and also the one Dr. David Kelly inspected these facilities for.
Are we to believe that the latest ASF outbreak is simply Mother Nature outwitting humans through the rapid evolution and cross breeding of a new generation of especially dangerous pathogens? If so, what has happened to the millions of dollars spent on facilities such as the Lugar lab, whose ostensible purpose is to PREVENT such things?
Henry Kamens, columnist, expert on Central Asia and Caucasus, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.