Politics, Philosophy, Polemics

The Utilitarian Doctors: A True Story

In Animal Rights, History, Human Rights, Utilitarianism on March 10, 2014 at 2:57 PM


The time: 1932. The place: Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University), in Tuskegee, Alabama, among the nation’s oldest, most respected African American institutions of higher learning. The study’s sponsor: the U.S. Public Health Service. The participants: 399 impoverished African American men who volunteered to receive, without charge, what they were told was “special treatment’’ for their “bad blood,” not knowing that in fact they suffered from syphilis and that the “medicine” they were given was not medicine at all and would have no therapeutic effect. Also unknown to the participants was the reason for the study. It was not to help them recover from their illness; it was not even to find a cure for syphilis; instead, the study was conducted to determine what would happen to the men if their condition went untreated. To learn this, the researchers thought, would help physicians understand the long-term effects of syphilis. Armed with this knowledge, syphilis sufferers in the future could receive better treatment.

Remarkably, in a country founded on respect for human dignity, the study was carried out on these uninformed, trusting men, from 1932 to 1972-for forty years with funds from, and with the knowing support of, the United States government.

All this is bad enough. What makes matters worse is that even after it became known, in 1957, that syphilis could be treated successfully using penicillin, the researchers withheld the cure. The results? By the time the true purpose of the study was exposed, twenty-eight men had died from the disease, another one hundred had died from related complications, forty wives had been infected, and nineteen children had been born with syphilis.


Tom Regan, Animal Rights, Human Wrongs: An Introduction to Moral Philosophy, (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2003), pp.68-69.

The Daily Fail

In History, World War Two on February 24, 2014 at 7:41 AM

This is a cross post. It was originally posted on Harry’s Place on  February 23rd 2014, 8:50 am

The Mail Online has an article up about an anti-fascist, topless, feminist activist in Dresden praising Bomber Harris for the bombing of that city in 1945.  Anna Edwards, who wrote the article, comments:

Between February 13th and February 14th 1945, between 35,000 and 135,000 people were killed by Allied bombing in Dresden.

In his findings in the Irving-Lipstadt trial (Section 13.126), The Hon. Mr. Justice Gray said:

In my judgment the estimates of 100,000 and more deaths which Irving continued to put about in the 1990s lacked any evidential basis and were such as no responsible historian would have made.

The Bombing of Dresden and the Anti-Imperialist Left

In Just War, World War Two on February 16, 2014 at 6:51 PM

This week is the anniversary of the 1945 bombing of Dresden. Best estimates are that approximately 25,000 people died in that bombing raid.[1] Many of them would have been civilians. In my opinion, the death of any innocent civilian in a war is a tragedy and that is irrespective of nation in which that civilian lived. That does not mean to say that I have no consideration of the context of a bombing raid or lose my moral compass as to which side in a war was fighting a just war and which side was not.

The anti-imperialist left do not have the same morals as the rest of us. For them, criticising the actions of Britain, America and their allies takes precedence over criticising Nazi Germany, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and other enemies of liberal democracies.

It therefore does not surprise me that a Facebook friend, who was long associated with the anti-imperialist left, has used his Facebook status to highlight the bombing of Dresden and to perpetuate what the historian Frederick Taylor has accurately described as a “pervasive postwar myth” that Dresden had no strategic value. [2] The 1942 Dresdner Jahrbuch (Dresden Yearbook) itself declared that Dresden was “one of the foremost industrial locations of the Reich.”[3] In fact, as Taylor demonstrates, factories in Dresden were responsible for making torpedo parts, shells, machine guns, directional guidance equipment, and much more to aid the Nazi war effort. Moreover, the city was a key junction for both North-South and East-West railways in Germany.[4]

The friend also used an out of context quote from a contemporaneous Bomber Command briefing note to express surprise that Bomber Command admitted that the bombing of Dresden was a sign to the Russians as well as an act on German’s industrial base. Had he explained the context then he would have mentioned that it was the Red Army that was advancing on Dresden and that the bombing of the city was to assist this advance.[5]

When challenged as to why he has highlighted the bombing of Dresden in his Facebook status but has not used his status to highlight the German bombing of London in the Blitz, the response, as expected, was that of course he viewed such bombing was a “bad thing.” I have no doubt that this is the case, but it does not change the fact that he has used his Facebook status to highlight the British bombing of Germany but never, as an example, used it to denounce the earlier Luftwaffe’s systematic bombing of Stalingrad which killed substantially more people than the bombing of Dresden.

Highlighting the crimes of Nazi Germany is not really of interest to the anti-imperialist left. The opportunity to attack Britain and America is of far more importance and the distortion of the historical record to do so is not something that seems to bother them.


[1] Richard J. Evans, Lying About Hitler: History, Holocaust and the David Irving Trial, (New York, Basic Books, 2002), p.177.
[2] Frederick Taylor, Dresden: Tuesday, 13 February 1945, (London: Bloomsbury, 2005), p.149.
[3] Ibid., p.148.
[4] Ibid., pp.149-165.
[5] Tami Davis Biddle, “Dresden 1945: Reality, History, and Memory,” The Journal of Military History, Volume 72, Number 2, (April 2008), P.427.


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