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Professor Lato and his Human Rationale Project has become something of a Cold War urban legend. It appeared online in 2007 by someone claiming to have an interview with one of the researchers who was instrumental in the project’s downfall. According to the blogger, the HRP was implemented by the CIA when the Gulf of Tonkin resolution was passed by Congress as a fallback measure in case public opinion turned against the war. The CIA knew that in order to win a long war, it would need to increase the willingness of the population to join the military and fight. Propaganda wasn’t considered effective enough, and the CIA (correctly) assumed that conscription would lead to draft dodgers and riots. Rather than try to find another natural method, it was decided to go behind the Geneva Convention to develop chemical agents that could be discretely deployed to make people have the will to fight. The following are excerpts from the original post, containing both the backstory of the project, and an interview with a man who claims to have been a part of the HRP, and how he saved the minds of American citizens from government control.
Hey readers! Before I begin this post, I bet most of you will require a history lesson:
End of World War 2. Zhongma Fortress, Manchukuo. Hell.
Disguised as lumber factory, this unsuspecting facility outside Harbin was the location of the Imperial Japanese Army’s Unit 731, devoted to researching biological and chemical weapons. The ‘scientific experiments’ conducted there resulted in thousands of civilian deaths, with little to show for it. Men, women, and children were raped to test venereal diseases; vivisections took place to investigate the body’s response to harm; some subjects had their organs completely rearranged. At war’s end all Japanese personnel running the unit were brutally interrogated by the Soviet Union--or so the propaganda would have us believe! In reality, US General Douglas MacArthur granted immunity to all scientists in exchange for America’s exclusive access to their research. (Everytime I try to change the Wikipedia article to include the truth, it gets deleted!)
Creepy, right? So I bet you’re now guessing that I’m going to tell you about how the CIA and George Bush have built an underground bunker where you’ll be dissected if you vote Democrat or something, right? Wrong! Turns out, the government used the Jap’s research to develop a drug that would make us all into fighting patriots. Back in the 1960s, there was the Vietnam War, which a lot of Americans were drafted to go fight in. My granddad had already served in Korea, and my dad was too young, so my family was spared the horrors the rest of America had. So like, rather than just deploy this ‘motivation’ gas to cities to get people to fight, they would seek out draft dodgers and find ways to give them the drug to turn them into soldiers. Here’s the cinch: it worked! Many draft dodgers suddenly felt the urge to go fight, which the public (and my family too) assumed to be them simply avoiding punishment at home to go fight.
So like, how do I know this? I was once visiting my granddad (the one who fought in Korea) in his retirement home, when I started talking to this other guy who said he was a psychologist. He seemed desperate to talk, so of course I let him, being the nice guy you all know me as! He opened up that what he did during the Vietnam War has haunted him for life. I assumed he had seen some shit as a soldier, but I was wrong to assume such! I (slyly) recorded the whole thing, and have written it up for you, my awesome readers! (I edited a few things for clarity, but nothing major ;) )
“I was a student at John Hopkins when an army man came to give us a talk about signing up with the military in a psychological-warfare division. As a few of my fellow students had been drafted--my roommate Stuart had died in Cam My--I felt this was my chance to avoid battle while still serving my nation. My professor, Peter Lato--we called him Plato, and he got a kick out of that--was already working with the army, developing methods to deal with PTSD, prevent soldier suicide, and lower desertion rates. As far as I knew, Lato had been a school teacher in Kyoto, before he emmigrated to America in 1947. I was appointed to serve under his command.
“While working under Lato, I was paired with another psychologist, who had fought in the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa: Dr. Thomas Hobbes. What an asshole. I always called him Tom to rile his by-the-books ass. He was a stickler for authority, a real poster child of a disciplined, obedient servant. Our first assignment was real mellow. Over a few months, we observed the behavioural results of lab monkeys who were given certain drugs. We got into a steady rhythm, and I started to question what this was all for. How feeding monkeys was a military operation, and why my professor was a part of it eluded me at the time. Tom was rather berating to the monkeys when they acted up, saying how they needed to be kept in line to learn discipline. I thought he had been joking.
“One day, the monkeys started to pace angrily around their cages. They lashed out at us when we tried to get close. They slashed my arm, and one even got out of its cage. Hobbes happily applied euthenasia with a Colt .45, and Lato clapped his hands together approvingly. He left before I could ask questions. All I knew was that Lato said we were getting close. To me, we were even further from our goal of solving PTSD than when we started. Over time, however, the drugged monkeys didn’t act out, but calmed down...somewhat. They were still violent, and one nurse was rushed to emergency, but they could be controlled. Lato even managed in establishing a hierarchy within the monkeys. He said this emulated military ranks, and how soldiers felt more comfortable once they knew their place in society. He also said in the absence of a true leader, we would have to make one. These drugs, he said, were to help strengthen men who experience weaknesses like PTSD, and help to reinforce the idea of authority so they could be controlled. He started to lose me. The jist of it was that we were observing the development of a drug that helped expand existing human abilities to make them better perform to the best of their capacity. By using this drug, we would then essentially eliminate the weakness that allowed PTSD to exist. Or so I was told.
“I was told my services were good, and my contract was extended another year. They pay was good, and I no one else was desparate to hire me, so I continued working with Hobbes. I started to keep my own personal observations of Hobbes on the side. This man seemed to follow Lato’s concepts of shaping others to fulfil their natural talents, but thought that a greater localized power was needed to really make the proposed drug work. He pointed out how the monkeys would sometimes still tear into and eat each other, and if we gave those to humans we would be looking at a rise of homicides, not an increase in social order. I had to agree, but I opposed how he would personally shoot the ‘mad’ monkeys in front of others in order to ‘make an example’. It seemed a bit excessive. Then again, we do that to humans.
“Around December, we got a new member to the team. She was beautiful. A French girl, Renee was a welcome addition to balance out the scouring pad that was Hobbes. I swear, she seemed to be the most open minded person I had ever met. She would always ask questions, not out of ignorance but to affirm her own understanding. She would often ask questions I was afraid to. Hobbes would always look disgusted, then never answer; I didn’t have the answers either, but she seemed content to just think. She had sometimes kept me up at night with her crying, whispering how she ‘now understood’ and how ‘she felt a part of it’. I didn’t understand at the time, and assumed she was talking in her sleep. It was a terrible thing; if only I knew what her mind had been onto, I’d like to think we could have made a move earlier. A few weeks after Renee blew her head off, we achieved success. Lato’s new serum made the monkeys strong, assertive, and intelligent, but also made them fearful of authority. They only listened to what Lato, Hobbes, or I told them. I felt a bit of a power high, but made every effort to control myself.
“I was on a well deserved break when I got a phone call from Hobbes. He told me that the situation in Vietnam was deteriorating--the Tet Offensive had ruined public support for the war--and that Lato had ordered us to report to Minnesota for the next phase of our project. At a rural airport, the usual military escort I had grown so used to was absent. I was given a set of ordinary clothes, and driven to an isolated house in the woods. Within I found Hobbes, Lato, and a General, who Lato referred to as ‘Zeno’. I believe this was for the sake of confidentiality in case Hobbes or I talked to anyone, I assumed. ‘Zeno’, bearing the scars of war, told us how he admired our progress. He said there weren’t enough soldiers like himself--able to withstand pain and punishment, fatigue and deprivation--on the battlefields in Vietnam, and that Lato had promised him a miracle. I felt a bit oversold, and I’m sure Hobbes did too, but nonetheless we said we were ready to deliver. Before I could talk, Lato mentioned how he had personally administered multiple tests prior to this demonstration we were about to do, and affirmed that he was ready to deliver.
“I forgot to mention that we had not simply been injecting the monkeys with the serums, instead they were eating food laced with the drugs. This way, the drugs could be administered to anyone without them knowing. At this lodge, which I later learned was called the Tip Top Lodge, the vehicle for the final serum was to be fish. This constant prevented any digestive enzymes from impacting the results, I believe. I assumed we were going to observe these laced fish being served to a returning soldier to observe how Lato’s serum affected their recovery.
“A day after I arrived, a pickup truck arrived. The driver was not who I was expecting; I initially thought him to be another one of the orderlies prepping the area, or to be the one who would be putting on the old-age makeup, but instead I witnessed a fresh faced boy walk out of the truck with nothing but a bag. He seemed scared. Hobbes turned to me and said, ‘Now we see if man is strong or weak’. And with that, he flicked on his microphone. ‘‘Elroy’, he’s here.’”
“After a year and a half with Hobbes, I knew better than to just start throwing questions, but I did so anyway. I did not see the correlation between the time spent watching monkeys maul each other and this sad, young, lonely boy. Hobbes looked as if nothing had changed, like this boy was just another monkey. I had no idea where either Lato or that ‘Zeno’ figure was. Throughout the day, the boy seemed very sad, and I asked Hobbes who he was. He responded he was simply a number to us, patient H40. In our recording system, we had catalogued our monkeys by the prefix M and ascending numbers; we got all the way to M115. So H40 to me was a shock; the H was the prefix we had for humans, and this meant this poor boy had been preceded by 39 others. I didn’t understand what was going on, but everytime I asked questions I was told I was to simply observe.
“The first fish meal was given. I saw Hobbes record ‘Control Fish - No serum’. This meant we were simply gearing the boy up for something else. Hobbes was disgusted, saying ominously how primitive it all seemed to him. Over the days, they kept eating the fish, and we recorded the results. It wasn’t pretty. Already conflicted by determining whether to serve or to flee, the drug did not take well. I was one of the men who drew straws; I think I filled a bucket with what was left of the actor playing the old man, who represented how well the test subject would react with others. The test subject, H40, had been tranquilized, and we were told he was ready. He was sent to war.
“I had been lied to. This was no PTSD cure. Lato had made a drug that made normal people not only ruthless fighters, but made them follow commands of a select few. Hobbes had initially taken pleasure in the experiment, but now even he felt disgusted. He confided--first time he ever spoke personally to me, mind you--how he felt the project had been corrupted. He said he understood the need to create fighting men, but doing so in this way wasn’t saving mankind by making sacrifices, it was abusing man for the wrong reason. ‘Power has its place to keep us in line, but this, this is not doing anyone any good,’ he said in a hushed tone, ‘but it is not our place to speak up, for I’m sure Lato and ‘Zeno’ know what they are doing, and if this is what they command they must know better than us’. I was worried and guilty and angry and confused and frightened and furious. Humans aren’t toys to be messed with, or monkeys that you can pretend don’t have feelings. If a man makes a choice not to go to war, that is not a sign of weakness, or a sickness that we can cure with a magic serum. It is the wise man who chooses not to go to battle. Men have the ability to make their own rationale, informed, and effective choices. Anyone who impedes that choice is a detriment to the good of society. And this is what I had become a part of'.
“In the summer of 1968, I was at the end of my rope. We were up to H61. Lato had made some tweaks, preventing such disastrous outcomes as H40, and the subjects were behaving more obediently and less prone to violent tantrums, but were still humans stripped of their own willpower. H59 didn’t take well, however, and drowned himself in the river. He was the only ‘failure’. I was dreading going into the observation booth each morning. I couldn’t take it. I felt betrayed that my superiors, my government, thought it decent and right to take away our liberties so that their phony war may continue.
“Obedient Thomas Hobbes was resistant to be a part of my scheme, but I managed to convince him of the need to usurp in order to maintain human dignity. Lato wasn’t a genius, a god, or a leader. Lato was just a sick manipulator with too much power. We had to bring him down.
"On the day H62 was to be fed the second laced fish, we stormed Lato’s room. Hobbes had found a stash of old strains, and had managed to get it into the breakfast given to ‘Zeno’ that day. Hobbes let the homicidal ‘Zeno’ loose, and closed the door. It sounded grizzly. I faintly heard Hobbes say how Lato finally got a taste of his own medicine, but I didn’t understand.
“I found the make-up the actors were using to become ‘Elroy Berdahl’. They were told to not speak if possible, so that multiple actors could play ‘Elroy’ in one week. I stayed with H62 the rest of the week. I occasionally heard screams from the forest, but I didn’t listen. I took H62 to the river. I wanted to give him the fullest means of actualizing his free will, and the river presented the opportunity for him to escape. He took off his lifejacket, and asked me whether he would sink and drown or be carried to the other side. I stayed silent; I didn’t want to give him orders. He had to make the decision himself.
“I believe H62 made the reasonable choice by not jumping. Lato had told me there were three impulses a human had to any one thing; I’d like to believe H62 made the rationale one. When we got to shore, I told him the truth. Everything I told you, and even more, just flowing out. I came undone. But I didn’t say a word out loud. I just collapsed, crying. H62 rushed to me, this having been the first noise I made since I met him. I told him he had to go, go to the war. It was the only way. I told him sacrifices had to be made. He brought me into a cabin and made me a cup of coffee.
“I was impressed by H62’s stoic attitude, but I figured that was due to the first laced fish. I told him how it was important that the life and liberties of others to be protected, and for the individual to take affairs into his own hand when those principles were in danger. He didn’t seem to understand, so I broke it down to him. If he stayed, he would be hunted down, and either made to fit the mold by a horrid experiment, or captured to be humiliated and prevent further escapes. It was not safe to be free in America. He would always have to fit in line to avoid punishment. The government would have no mercy for any attempt to flee to Canada.
“He had to make a life for himself. A life without self guidance is nothing. Sometimes we need help in ensuring our lives our protected, but the rest is up to us. In America, H62 would have no one but himself to save him; in Vietnam, he would be with men who would fight with him, for him. Mutual preservation is what we all need to survive. I saw him drive south, towards Camp Riley.
“In 1990, I read a short story that gave a similar account to what H62 went through that week, with, of course, a few details missing. The way he wrote about me made me smile. I’ve often wanted to write to that author, but I’ve never mustered up the courage. I don’t think I could ever cope if he wasn’t H62, alive and well. I must admit, while I’d like to know and have control over everything, it is better that I focus on myself now.”
Edit 23/01/2008 Sad update: The man, who I can now name as a Mr. J. C. Locke, died yesterday. Nurses say he suddenly attacked a fellow patient after a fish dinner, and later hung himself.