The CIA's Program to Spread Polio in Pakistan is Working

Two health-care workers were shot yesterday, one fatally, in Peshawar, Pakistan, leading the World Health Organization to suspend polio vaccinations there. Though no one has reportedly taken credit for the attack, it fits with an ongoing anti-vaccination terror campaign by the Pakistani Taliban, which believes health workers are agents of a western conspiracy. This belief is unfortunately not untrue.

For that, much of the credit goes to the Central Intelligence Agency, which staged a fake hepatitis vaccination campaign as part of—but not an integral or decisive part of—its effort to confirm that Osama bin Laden was in Abbotabad. An actual doctor and actual nurses were used as witting and unwitting agents of American intelligence, rather than agents of Pakistani public health. They gave incomplete doses of vaccine to local children, carrying out the sham just long enough for them to try (and apparently fail) to obtain DNA samples from the children in the compound where bin Laden was hiding.

This is not even a point of shame for the CIA. When the agency vetted the script for Zero Dark Thirty, it corrected story elements that it felt might inaccurately bring disrepute on it—insisting, for instance, that the widespread American tactic of using attack dogs to terrorize captives in American torture prisons not be shown, because the CIA technically had not used that particular tactic in its own torture prisons.

But the movie's depiction of a fake vaccination campaign was left intact, even though it specifically and incorrectly suggested that it had been a campaign against polio, rather than hepatitis. The CIA regards the use of public-health workers in covert operations as clever "tradecraft," suitable for the movies, because it is a monstrous and amoral entity guided by the proposition that non-American lives are not only less valuable than American lives, but less valuable than the transient logistical needs of the agency as it pursues various narrowly defined American power-interests.

The American public more or less agrees with this point of view, which is why no one from the CIA will ever be punished for anything it's done in the War on Terror. The doctor from the bin Laden vaccination campaign, who stayed in the country where he practiced fraudulent medicine, is now in prison in Pakistan, over the protestations of the American government and press. Fortunately for average United States citizens, the ultimate victims of the CIA's strategy will be children on the Pakistani frontier, who are unlikely to ever be in any position to pay us back for our crimes, especially if they're paralyzed from polio infections.

[Photo via Getty]