While Malthus’s argument that human population growth invariably leads to famine and poverty is plainly at odds with the historical evidence, which shows global living standards rising with population growth, it nonetheless persisted and even gained strength among intellectuals and political leaders in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Its most pernicious manifestation in recent decades has been the doctrine of population control, famously advocated by ecologist Paul Ehrlich, whose bestselling 1968 antihumanist tract The Population Bomb has served as the bible of neo-Malthusianism. In this book, Ehrlich warned of overpopulation and advocated that the American government adopt stringent population control measures, both domestically and for the Third World countries that received American foreign aid. (Ehrlich, it should be noted, is the mentor of and frequent collaborator with John Holdren, President Obama’s science advisor.)
Until the mid-1960s, American population control programs, both at home and abroad, were largely funded and implemented by private organizations such as the Population Council and Planned Parenthood — groups with deep roots in the eugenics movement. While disposing of millions of dollars provided to them by the Rockefeller, Ford, and Milbank Foundations, among others, the resources available to support their work were meager in comparison with their vast ambitions. This situation changed radically in the mid-1960s, when the U.S. Congress, responding to the agitation of overpopulation ideologues, finally appropriated federal funds to underwrite first domestic and then foreign population control programs. Suddenly, instead of mere millions, there were hundreds of millions and eventually billions of dollars available to fund global campaigns of mass abortion and forced sterilization. The result would be human catastrophe on a worldwide scale.
Among the first to be targeted were America’s own Third World population at home — the native American Indians. Starting in 1966, Secretary of the Interior Stuart Udall began to make use of newly available Medicaid money to set up sterilization programs at federally funded Indian Health Services (IHS) hospitals. As reported by Angela Franks in her 2005 book Margaret Sanger’s Eugenic Legacy:
These sterilizations were frequently performed without adequate informed consent.... Native American physician Constance Redbird Uri estimated that up to one-quarter of Indian women of childbearing age had been sterilized by 1977; in one hospital in Oklahoma, one-fourth of the women admitted (for any reason) left sterilized.... She also gathered evidence that all the pureblood women of the Kaw tribe in Oklahoma were sterilized in the 1970s....
Unfortunately, and amazingly, problems with the Indian Health Service seem to persist ... recently [in the early 1990s], in South Dakota, IHS was again accused of not following informed-consent procedures, this time for Norplant, and apparently promoted the long-acting contraceptive to Native American women who should not use it due to contraindicating, preexisting medical conditions. The Native American Women’s Health Education Resource Center reports that one woman was recently told by her doctors that they would remove the implant only if she would agree to a tubal ligation. The genocidal dreams of bureaucrats still cast their shadow on American soil.
Programs of a comparable character were also set up in clinics funded by the U.S. Office of Economic Opportunity in low-income (predominantly black) neighborhoods in the United States. Meanwhile, on the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico, a mass sterilization program was instigated by the Draper Fund/Population Crisis Committee and implemented with federal funds from the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare through the island’s major hospitals as well as a host of smaller clinics. According to the report of a medical fact-finding mission conducted in 1975, the effort was successful in sterilizing close to one-third of Puerto Rican women of child-bearing age.
Better Dead Than Red
However, it was not at home but abroad that the heaviest artillery of the population control onslaught was directed. During the Cold War, anything from the Apollo program to public-education funding could be sold to the federal government if it could be justified as part of the global struggle against communism. Accordingly, ideologues at some of the highest levels of power and influence formulated a party line that the population of the world’s poor nations needed to be drastically cut in order to reduce the potential recruitment pool available to the communist cause. President Lyndon Johnson was provided a fraudulent study by a RAND Corporation economist that used cooked calculations to “prove” that Third World children actually had negative economic value. Thus, by allowing excessive numbers of children to be born, Asian, African, and Latin American governments were deepening the poverty of their populations, while multiplying the masses of angry proletarians ready to be led against America by the organizers of the coming World Revolution.
President Johnson bought the claptrap, including the phony math. Two months later, he declared to the United Nations that “five dollars invested in population control is worth a hundred dollars invested in economic growth.” With the Johnson administration now backing population control, Congress passed the Foreign Assistance Act in 1966, including a provision earmarking funds from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) for population control programs to be implemented abroad. The legislation further directed that all U.S. economic aid to foreign nations be made contingent upon their governments’ willingness to cooperate with State Department desires for the establishment of such initiatives within their own borders. In other words, for those Third World rulers willing to help sterilize their poorer subjects, there would be carrots. For the uncooperative types, there would be the stick. Given the nature of most Third World governments, such elegant simplicity of approach practically guaranteed success. The population control establishment was delighted.
An Office of Population was set up within USAID, and Dr. Reimert Thorolf Ravenholt was appointed its first director in 1966. He would hold the post until 1979, using it to create a global empire of interlocking population control organizations operating with billion-dollar budgets to suppress the existence of people considered undesirable by the U.S. Department of State.
In his devastating 2008 book Population Control: Real Costs, Illusory Benefits, author Steven Mosher provides a colorful description of Ravenholt:
Who was Dr. Ravenholt? An epidemiologist by training, he apparently looked on pregnancy as a disease, to be eradicated in the same way one eliminates smallpox or yellow fever. He was also, as it happened, a bellicose misanthrope.
He took to his work of contracepting, sterilizing, and aborting the women of the world with an aggressiveness that caused his younger colleagues to shrink back in disgust. His business cards were printed on condoms, and he delighted in handing them out to all comers. He talked incessantly about how to distribute greater quantities of birth control pills, and ensure that they were used. He advocated mass sterilization campaigns, once telling the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that one-quarter of all the fertile women in the world must be sterilized in order to meet the U.S. goals of population control and to maintain “the normal operation of U.S. commercial interests around the world.” Such rigorous measures were required, Ravenholt explained, to contain the “population explosion” which would, if left unchecked, so reduce living standards abroad that revolutions would break out “against the strong U.S. commercial presence.”...
Charming he was not. To commemorate the bicentennial of the United States in 1976, he came up with the idea of producing “stars and stripes” condoms in red, white, and blue colors for distribution around the world.... Another time, at a dinner for population researchers, Ravenholt strolled around the room making pumping motions with his fist as if he were operating a manual vacuum aspirator — a hand-held vacuum pump for performing abortions — to the horror of the other guests.
Ravenholt’s view of nonwhite people is expressed well enough in a comment he made in 2000 about slavery: “American blacks should thank their lucky stars that the institution of slavery did exist in earlier centuries; if not, these American blacks would not exist: their ancestors would have been killed by their black enemies, instead of being sold as slaves.”
As his method of operation, Ravenholt adopted the practice of distributing his funds aggressively to the International Planned Parenthood Federation, the Population Council, and numerous other privately run organizations of the population control movement, enabling them to implement mass sterilization and abortion campaigns worldwide without U.S. government regulatory interference, and allowing their budgets to balloon — first tenfold, then a hundredfold, then even more. This delighted the leaders and staff of the population control establishment, who were able to embrace a luxurious lifestyle, staying in the best hotels, eating the best food, and flying first class as they jetted around the world to set up programs to eliminate the poor.
Ravenholt also had no compunction about buying up huge quantities of unproven, unapproved, defective, or banned contraceptive drugs and intrauterine devices (IUDs) and distributing them for use by his population control movement subcontractors on millions of unsuspecting Third World women, many of whom suffered or died in consequence. These included drugs and devices which had been declared unsafe by the FDA for use in America, and had faced successful lawsuits in the U.S. for their damaging results. These practices delighted the manufacturers of such equipment.
Having thus secured the unqualified support of both the population control establishment and several major pharmaceutical companies, Ravenholt was able to lobby Congress to secure ever-increasing appropriations to further expand his growing empire.
His success was remarkable. Before Ravenholt took over, USAID expenditures on population control amounted to less than 3 percent of what the agency spent on health programs in Third World nations. By 1968, Ravenholt had a budget of $36 million, compared to the USAID health programs budget of $130 million. By 1972, Ravenholt’s population control funding had grown to $120 million per year, with funds taken directly at the expense of USAID’s disease prevention and other health care initiatives, which shrank to $38 million in consequence. In just five short years, the U.S. non-military foreign aid program was transformed from a mission of mercy to an agency for human elimination.
In 1968, Robert McNamara, a staunch believer in population control, resigned his post as Secretary of Defense to assume the presidency of the World Bank. From this position he was able to dictate a new policy, making World Bank loans to Third World countries contingent upon their governments’ submission to population control, with yearly sterilization quotas set by World Bank experts. Cash-short and heavily in debt, many poor nations found this pressure very difficult to withstand. This strengthened Ravenholt’s hand immeasurably.
Destroying the Village
Upon coming into office in January 1969, the new Nixon administration sought to further advance the population control agenda. Responding to lobbying by General William H. Draper, Jr., the former under secretary of the Army and a leading overpopulation fear monger, Nixon approved U.S. government support for the establishment of the U.N. Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA). With this organization as a vehicle, vast additional American funds would be poured into the global population control effort, with their source disguised so as to ease acceptance by governments whose leaders needed to maintain a populist pose in opposition to “Yankee Imperialism.” While the United States was its primary backer, the UNFPA also served as a channel for significant additional population control funds from European nations, Canada, and Japan, collectively equal to about half the American effort.
Going still further, President Nixon in 1970 set up a special blue-ribbon Commission on Population Growth and the American Future, with longtime population control booster John D. Rockefeller III as its chairman. Reporting back in 1972, Rockefeller predictably cited the menace of U.S. population growth with alarm, and called for a large variety of population control measures to avert the putative threat of welfare-dependent, criminalistic, or other financially burdensome populations multiplying out of control. Just as predictably, the report generated scores of newspaper headlines and feature magazine articles serving to cement the population control consensus. Nixon’s politically-driven rejection of one of the commission’s recommendations — government-funded abortion on demand — only served to make Rockefeller’s Malthusian committee seem all the more “progressive.”
But Nixon’s chief interest in population control was its supposed value as a Cold War weapon. The president charged Henry Kissinger, his National Security Advisor and Secretary of State, with conducting a secret study on the role of population control measures in the fight against global communism. Kissinger pulled together a group of experts drawn from the National Security Council (NSC), the Central Intelligence Agency, the Department of Defense, the Department of State, USAID, and other agencies to study the question. The result was issued on December 10, 1974 in the form of the classified NSC document titled “Implications of Worldwide Population Growth for U.S. Security and Overseas Interests.” The document — known as National Security Study Memorandum 200 (NSSM 200), or simply as the Kissinger Report — represented the encoding of Malthusian dogma as the strategic doctrine of the United States.
NSSM 200 was declassified in 1989 and so is now available for scrutiny. Examining the document, what is apparent is the Nietzschean mindset on the part of its authors, who (implicitly embracing the communist line) clearly regarded the newborn masses of the world as America’s likely enemies, rather than her friends, and as potential obstacles to the exploitation of the world’s wealth, rather than as customers, workers, and business partners participating together with America in a grand team effort to grow and advance the world economy. The memo made the case for a population control effort that is global in scope but not traceable back to its wealthy supporters.
On November 26, 1975, NSSM 200 was formally adopted by the Ford administration. A follow-up memo issued in 1976 by the NSC called for the United States to use control of food supplies to impose population control on a global scale. It further noted the value of using dictatorial power and military force as means to coerce Third World peoples into submission to population control measures, adding: “In some cases, strong direction has involved incentives such as payment to acceptors for sterilization, or disincentives such as giving low priorities in the allocation of housing or schooling to those with larger families. Such direction is the sine qua non of an effective program.”
Without a shred of justification, but with impeccable organization, generous funding, aggressive leadership, and backing by a phalanx of established respectable opinion, the population control movement was now doctrinally enshrined as representing the core strategic interest of the world’s leading superpower. It was now positioned to wreak havoc on a global scale.
The Characteristics of Population Control Programs
Of the billions of taxpayer dollars that the U.S. government has expended on population control abroad, a portion has been directly spent by USAID on its own field activities, but the majority has been laundered through a variety of international agencies. As a result of this indirect funding scheme, all attempts to compel the population control empire to conform its activities to accepted medical, ethical, safety, or human rights norms have proven futile. Rather, in direct defiance of laws enacted by Congress to try to correct the situation, what has been and continues to be perpetrated at public expense is an atrocity on a scale so vast and varied as to almost defy description. Nevertheless, it is worth attempting to convey to readers some sense of the evil that is being done with their money. Before describing some case studies, let us consider the primary characteristics manifested by nearly all the campaigns.
First, they are top-down dictatorial. In selling the effort to Americans, USAID and its beneficiaries claim that they are providing Third World women with “choice” regarding childbirth. There is no truth to this claim. As Betsy Hartmann, a liberal feminist critic of these programs, trenchantly pointed out in her 1995 book Reproductive Rights and Wrongs, “a woman’s right to choose” must necessarily include the option of having children — precisely what the population control campaigns deny her. Rather than providing “choice” to individuals, the purpose of the campaigns is to strip entire populations of their ability to reproduce. This is done by national governments, themselves under USAID or World Bank pressure, setting quotas for sterilizations, IUD insertions, or similar procedures to be imposed by their own civil service upon the subject population. Those government employees who meet or exceed their quotas of “acceptors” are rewarded; those who fail to do so are disciplined.
Second, the programs are dishonest. It is a regular practice for government civil servants employed in population control programs to lie to their prospective targets for quota-meeting about the consequences of the operations that will be performed upon them. For example, Third World peasants are frequently told by government population control personnel that sterilization operations are reversible, when in fact they are not.
Third, the programs are coercive. As a regular practice, population control programs provide “incentives” and/or “disincentives” to compel “acceptors” into accepting their “assistance.” Among the “incentives” frequently employed is the provision or denial of cash or food aid to starving people or their children. Among the “disincentives” employed are personal harassment, dismissal from employment, destruction of homes, and denial of schooling, public housing, or medical assistance to the recalcitrant.
Fourth, the programs are medically irresponsible and negligent. As a regular practice, the programs use defective, unproven, unsafe, experimental, or unapproved gear, including equipment whose use has been banned outright in the United States. They also employ large numbers of inadequately trained personnel to perform potentially life-endangering operations, or to maintain medical equipment in a supposedly sterile or otherwise safe condition. In consequence, millions of people subjected to the ministrations of such irresponsibly run population control operations have been killed. This is particularly true in Africa, where improper reuse of hypodermic needles without sterilization in population control clinics has contributed to the rapid spread of deadly infectious diseases, including AIDS.
Fifth, the programs are cruel, callous, and abusive of human dignity and human rights. A frequent practice is the sterilization of women without their knowledge or consent, typically while they are weakened in the aftermath of childbirth. This is tantamount to government-organized rape. Forced abortions are also typical. These and other human rights abuses of the population control campaign have been widely documented, with subject populations victimized in Australia, Bangladesh, China, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Kosovo, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Tibet, the United States, Venezuela, and Vietnam.
Sixth, the programs are racist. Just as the global population control program itself represents an attempt by the (white-led) governments of the United States and the former imperial powers of Europe to cut nonwhite populations in the Third World, so, within each targeted nation, the local ruling group has typically made use of the population control program to attempt to eliminate the people they despise. In India, for example, the ruling upper-caste Hindus have focused the population control effort on getting rid of lower-caste untouchables and Muslims. In Sri Lanka, the ruling Singhalese have targeted the Hindu Tamils for extermination. In Peru, the Spanish-speaking descendants of the conquistadors have directed the country’s population control program toward the goal of stemming the reproduction of the darker non-Hispanic natives. In Kosovo, the Serbs used population control against the Albanians, while in Vietnam the Communist government has targeted the population control effort against the Hmong ethnic minority, America’s former wartime allies. In China, the Tibetan and Uyghur minorities have become special targets of the government’s population control effort, with multitudes of the latter rounded up for forced abortions and sterilizations. In South Africa under apartheid, the purpose of the government-run population control program went without saying. In various black African states, whichever tribe holds the reins of power regularly directs the population campaign towards the elimination of their traditional tribal rivals. There should be nothing surprising in any of this. Malthusianism has always been closely linked to racism, because the desire for population control has as its foundation the hatred of others.
The population control agenda has now been implemented in well over a hundred countries. Although we cannot provide detailed accounts of the efforts in each of them here, let us turn now to examine three of the most important and egregious cases.
Since the time of Malthus, India has always been a prime target in the eyes of would-be population controllers. Both the British colonial administrators and the high-caste Brahmins who succeeded them in power following independence in 1947 looked upon the “teeming masses” of that nation’s lower classes with fear and disdain. Jawaharlal Nehru’s Congress Party (which controlled India’s national government for its first three decades without interruption) had been significantly influenced by pre-independence contacts with the pro-Malthusian British Fabian Society. Notable members of the native elite, such as the influential and formidable Lady Rama Rau, had been attracted to the ideas of eugenicist and Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger. Thus during the 1950s and early 1960s, the Indian government allowed organizations like the Population Council, the Ford Foundation, and the International Planned Parenthood Federation to set up shop within the country’s borders, where they could set about curbing the reproduction of the nation’s Dalits, or “untouchables.” The government did not, however, allocate public funds to these organizations, so their programs remained relatively small.
Things changed radically in 1965, when war with Pakistan threw the country’s economy into disarray, causing harvest failure and loss of revenue. When Prime Minister Indira Gandhi — Nehru’s daughter — assumed office in January 1966, India was short twenty million tons of grain and lacked money to buy replacement stock on the world market. She was left with no choice but to go to the United States, hat in hand, to beg for food aid.
There was a lot that the United States could have asked for in return from India, such as support for the Western side in the Cold War (India was non-aligned), and particularly for the war effort in nearby Vietnam, which was heating up rapidly. One of President Lyndon Johnson’s aides, Joseph Califano, suggested in a memo to the president that the United States move rapidly to commit food aid in order to secure such a pro-American tilt. In reply he got a call from Johnson that very afternoon. “Are you out of your f***ing mind?” the president exploded. He declared in no uncertain terms that he was not going to “piss away foreign aid in nations where they refuse to deal with their own population problems.”
Indira Gandhi arrived in Washington in late March and met first with Secretary of State Dean Rusk, who handed her a memo requiring “a massive effort to control population growth” as a condition for food aid. Then, on March 28, 1966, she met privately with the president. There is no record of their conversation, but it is evident that she capitulated completely. Two days later, President Johnson sent a message to Congress requesting food aid for India, noting with approval: “The Indian government believes that there can be no effective solution of the Indian food problem that does not include population control.”
In accordance with the agreement, sterilization and IUD-insertion quotas were set for each Indian state, and then within each state for each local administrative district. Every hospital in the country had a large portion of its facilities commandeered for sterilization and IUD-insertion activities. (The IUDs, which were provided to the Indian government by the Population Council, were non-sterile. In Maharashtra province, 58 percent of women surveyed who received them experienced pain, 24 percent severe pain, and 43 percent severe and excessive bleeding.) But hospitals alone did not have the capacity to meet the quotas, so hundreds of sterilization camps were set up in rural areas, manned and operated by paramedical personnel who had as little as two days of training. Minimum quotas were set for the state-salaried camp medics — they had to perform 150 vasectomies or 300 IUD insertions per month each, or their pay would be docked. Private practitioners were also recruited to assist, with pay via piecework: 10 rupees per vasectomy and 5 rupees per IUD insertion.
To acquire subjects for these ministrations, the Indian government provided each province with 11 rupees for every IUD insertion, 30 per vasectomy, and 40 per tubectomy. These funds could be divided according to the particular population control plan of each provincial government, with some going to program personnel, some spent as commission money to freelance “motivators,” some paid as incentives to the “acceptors,” and some grafted for other governmental or private use by the administrators. Typical incentives for subjects ranged from 3 to 7 rupees for an IUD insertion and 12 to 25 rupees for a sterilization. These sums may seem trivial — a 1966 rupee is equivalent to 65 cents today — but at that time, 2 to 3 rupees was a day’s pay for an Indian laborer.
When these pittances did not induce enough subjects to meet the quotas, some states adopted additional “incentives”: Madhya Pradesh, for example, denied irrigation water to villages that failed to meet their quotas. Faced with starvation, millions of impoverished people had no alternative but to submit to sterilization. As the forms of coercion employed worked most effectively on the poorest, the system also provided the eugenic bonus of doing away preferentially with untouchables.
The results were impressive. In 1961, the total number of sterilizations (vasectomies and tubectomies combined) performed in India was 105,000. In 1966-67, the yearly total shot up to 887,000, growing further to more than 1.8 million in 1967-68. No doubt LBJ was proud.
But while ruining the lives of millions of people, the steep rise in sterilization figures had little impact on the overall trajectory of India’s population growth. In 1968, Paul Ehrlich wrote in The Population Bomb, “I have yet to meet anyone familiar with the situation who thinks India will be self sufficient in food by 1971, if ever,” thus justifying his explicitly antihuman call that “we must allow [India] to slip down the drain.” As in so many other things, Ehrlich was wrong; India did achieve self-sufficiency in food in 1971 — not through population control, but through the improved agricultural techniques of the Green Revolution. It did not matter. The holders of the purse-strings at USAID demanded even higher quotas. They got them. By 1972-73, the number of sterilizations in India reached three million per year.
Then, in the fall of 1973, OPEC launched its oil embargo, quintupling petroleum prices virtually overnight. For rich nations like the United States, the resulting financial blow was severe. For poor countries like India, it was devastating. In 1975, conditions in India became so bad that Prime Minister Gandhi declared a state of national emergency and assumed dictatorial power. Driven once again to desperation, she found herself at the mercy of the World Bank, led by arch-Malthusian Robert S. McNamara. McNamara made it clear: if India wanted more loans, Gandhi needed to use her powers to deal more definitively with India’s supposed population problem. She agreed. Instead of incentives, force would now be used to obtain compliance. “Some personal rights have to be kept in abeyance,” she said, “for the human rights of the nation, the right to live, the right to progress.”
Gandhi put her son Sanjay personally in charge of the new population offensive. He took to his job with gusto. Overt coercion became the rule: sterilization was a condition for land allotments, water, electricity, ration cards, medical care, pay raises, and rickshaw licenses. Policemen were given quotas to nab individuals for sterilization. Demolition squads were sent into slums to bulldoze houses — sometimes whole neighborhoods — so that armed police platoons could drag off their flushed-out occupants to forced-sterilization camps. In Delhi alone, 700,000 people were driven from their homes. Many of those who escaped the immediate roundup were denied new housing until they accepted sterilization.
These attacks provoked resistance, with thousands being killed in battles with the police, who used live ammunition to deal with protesters. When it became clear that Muslim villages were also being selectively targeted, the level of violence increased still further. The village of Pipli was only brought into submission when government officials threatened locals with aerial bombardment. As the director of family planning in Maharashtra explained, “You must consider it something like a war.... Whether you like it or not, there will be a few dead people.”
The measures served their purpose. During 1976, eight million Indians were sterilized. Far from being dismayed by the massive violation of human rights committed by the campaign, its foreign sponsors expressed full support. Sweden increased its funding for Indian population control by $17 million. Reimert Ravenholt ordered 64 advanced laparoscope machines — altogether sufficient to sterilize 12,800 people per day — rushed to India to help the effort. World Bank president McNamara was absolutely delighted. In November 1976, he traveled to India to congratulate Indira Gandhi’s government for its excellent work. “At long last,” he said, “India is moving effectively to address its population problem.”
Prime Minister Gandhi got her loans. She also got the boot in 1977, when, in the largest democratic election in history, the people of India defied three decades of precedent and voted her Congress Party out of power in a landslide.
Unfortunately, in most Third World countries, people lack such an option to protect themselves against population control. Equally unfortunately, despite the fall of the Gandhi government, the financial pressure on India from the World Bank and USAID to implement population control continued. By the early 1980s, four million sterilizations were being performed every year on India’s underclasses as part of a coercive two-children-per-family policy.
Since in rural India sons are considered essential to continue the family line and provide support for parents in their old age, this limit caused many families to seek means of disposing of infant daughters, frequently through drowning, asphyxiation, abandonment in sewers or garbage dumps, or incineration on funeral pyres. More recently the primary means of eliminating the less-desirable sex has become sex-selective abortion, skewing the ratio of the sexes so that 112 boys are born for every hundred girls in India (far beyond the natural ratio of 103 to 106), with the ratio even more skewed in some locations. A sense of the scale on which these murders were and are practiced, even just in the aspect of gendercide, can be gleaned from the fact that in India today there are 37 million more men than women.
Because of their proximity to the United States, Central and South America have long been in the sights of population controllers from the American national security establishment. Since the 1960s, on the urging of USAID, brutal population control programs have been implemented in nearly every country from Mexico to Chile. In this article we shall focus on just one of them, that of Peru, because the criminal investigation of its leading perpetrators has provided some of the best documentation of the systematic abuses that have been and continue to be carried out under the cloak of population control across Central and South America.
Mountainous Peru features some of the most thinly populated regions on the planet. This fact, however, in no way deterred USAID planners from deeming these rural areas to be overpopulated, nor from funding programs designed to eliminate their people. Begun in 1966, these efforts proceeded on a comparatively low level until the 1990s, when strongman Alberto Fujimori assumed nearly dictatorial powers in the country.
In 1995, President Fujimori launched a nationwide sterilization campaign. Mobile sterilization teams were assembled in Lima and then deployed to move through the countryside to conduct week-long “ligation festivals” in one village after another. Prior to the arrival of the sterilization teams, Ministry of Health employees were sent in to harass local women into submission. Women who resisted were subjected to repeated home visits and severe verbal abuse by the government workers, who chided the native women and girls that they were no better than “cats” or “dogs” for wanting to have children. If this did not suffice, mothers were told that unless they submitted to ligation, their children would be made ineligible for government food aid.
Both the government harassment squads and the members of the sterilization units themselves operated under a quota system, striving to meet the nationwide target of 100,000 tubal ligations per year. They were paid if they met their quotas but punished if they failed to capture the designated number of women for sterilization. As a result, many women entering clinics for childbirth were sterilized without any pretext of gaining their permission. Given the limited training of the sterilization personnel (provided in many cases by imported Chinese population control experts), the unsanitary conditions prevailing during the village “ligation festivals,” and the complete lack of post-operation care, it is not surprising that many suffered severe complications and more than a few died subsequent to their mutilations.
While the government personnel performing the mass sterilizations were urbanites of Spanish derivation, the overwhelming majority of the victims were rural Quechua-speaking natives of Inca descent. This, of course, was no coincidence. When Fujimori was booted out in 2000, the new president, Alejandro Toledo, asked the Peruvian Congress to authorize an investigation into the population control campaign. Accordingly, an investigative commission known as the AQV was formed under the direction of Dr. Hector Chavez Chuchon. The AQV submitted its report to the Human Rights Commission of the Peruvian Congress on June 10, 2003.
According to the report, in the course of a five-year effort the Fujimori government had sterilized 314,605 women. Furthermore, Fujimori’s population control campaign had “carried out massive sterilizations on designated ethnic groups, benefiting other ethnic or social groups which did not suffer the scourge with the same intensity ... the action fits the definition of the crime of Genocide.” The report went on to make a “Constitutional Indictment” Fujimori and various officials of his government “for the alleged commission of crimes against Individual Liberty, against Life, Body, and Health, of Criminal Conspiracy, and Genocide.”
The primary funders of Fujimori’s genocide campaign were USAID (which ignored U.S. law and a 1998 congressional investigation to continue its financial support for the effort), the UNFPA, and the International Planned Parenthood Federation.
In June 1978, Song Jian, a top-level manager in charge of developing control systems for the Chinese guided-missile program, traveled to Helsinki for an international conference on control system theory and design. While in Finland, he picked up copies of The Limits to Growth and Blueprint for Survival — publications of the Club of Rome, a major source of Malthusian propaganda — and made the acquaintance of several Europeans who were promoting the reports’ method of using computerized “systems analysis” to predict and design the human future.
Fascinated by the possibilities, Song returned to China and republished the Club’s analysis under his own name (without attribution), establishing his reputation for brilliant and original thinking. Indeed, while Club of Rome computer projections of impending resource shortages, graphs showing the shortening of population-increase times, and discussions of “carrying capacities,” “natural limits,” mass extinctions, and the isolated “spaceship Earth” were all clichés in the West by 1978, in China they were fresh and striking ideas. In no time at all, Song became a scientific superstar. Seizing the moment to grasp for greater power and importance, he pulled together an elite group of mathematicians from within his department, and with the help of a powerful computer to provide the necessary special effects, issued the profoundly calculated judgment that China’s “correct” population size was 650 to 700 million people — which is to say some 280 to 330 million less than its actual 1978 population. Song’s analysis quickly found favor at top levels of the Chinese Communist Party because it purported to prove that the reason for China’s continued poverty was not thirty years of disastrous misrule, but the very existence of the Chinese people. (To make the utter falsity of Song’s argument clear, it is sufficient to note that in 1980, neighboring South Korea, with four times China’s population density, had a per capita gross national product seven times greater.) Paramount Leader Deng Xiaoping and his fellows in the Central Committee were also very impressed by the pseudo-scientific computer babble Song used to dress up his theory — which, unlike its Club of Rome source documents in the West, ran unopposed in the state-controlled Chinese technical and popular media.
Song proposed that China’s rulers set a limit of one child per family, effective immediately. Deng Xiaoping liked what Song had to say, so those who might have had the power to resist the one-child policy were quick to protect themselves by lining up in support. At the critical Chengdu population conference in December 1979, only one brave man, Liang Zhongtang, a teacher of Marxism at the Shaanxi Provincial Party School, called upon his party comrades to consider the brutality they were about to inflict: “We have made the peasants’ suffering bitter enough in the economic realm. We cannot make them suffer further.” Liang also tried to argue from a practical standpoint. If we implement this policy, he said, every working Chinese married couple will need to support four elderly grandparents, one child, and themselves — a clear impossibility. None of the children will have any brothers or sisters, or uncles or aunts. None of the parents will have any relatives of their own generation to help out in time of need. The social fabric of village life will break down completely. There will be no one to serve in the Army.
But such commonsense objections were of no avail. The word soon came down from the top: one child per family was now the policy of the infallible Party leadership, and no further disagreements would be tolerated.
Thus began the most forceful population control program since Nazi Germany. No more would the population controllers need to depend on tricks, bribes, denial of benefits, traveling ligation festivals, or slum demolition platoons to obtain their victims. They now had the organized and unrelenting power of a totalitarian state to enforce their will, holding sway over not only a massive bureaucracy, but gigantic police and military forces, secret police, vast prison facilities, total media control, and tens of millions of informers. In The Population Bomb, Paul Ehrlich had called for state control of human reproduction, with “compulsory birth regulation.” Now, just twelve years later, Ehrlich’s utopian dream had become a nightmare reality for one-fifth of the human race.
Qian Xinzhong, a Soviet-trained former major general in the People’s Liberation Army, was placed in charge of the campaign. He ordered that all women with one child were to have a stainless-steel IUD inserted, and to be inspected regularly to make sure that they had not tampered with it. To remove the device was deemed a criminal act. All parents with two or more children were to be sterilized. No pregnancies were legal for anyone under 23, whether married or not, and all unauthorized pregnancies were to be aborted. “Under no circumstances is the birth of a third child allowed,” Qian said.
Women who defied these injunctions were taken and sterilized by force. Babies would be aborted right through the ninth month of pregnancy, with many crying as they were being stabbed to death at the moment of birth. Those women who fled to try to save their children were hunted, and if they could not be caught, their houses were torn down and their parents thrown in prison, there to linger until a ransom of 20,000 yuan — about three years’ income for a peasant — was paid for their release. Babies born to such fugitives were declared to be “black children,” illegal non-persons in the eyes of the state, without any right to employment, public schooling, health care, or reproduction.
The leaders of the UNFPA and the International Planned Parenthood Federation were delighted, and rushed to send money (provided to them primarily by the U.S. State Department) and personnel to help support the campaign. China was so openly brutal in its methods that IPPF’s own information officer, Penny Kane, expressed alarm — not at what was being done to millions of Chinese women, girls, and infants, but at the possible public-relations disaster that could mar the IPPF’s image if Americans found out what it was doing. “Very strong measures are being taken to reduce population,” Kane wrote from China, “I think that in the not-too-distant future this will blow up into a major press story as it contains all the ingredients for sensationalism — Communism, forced family planning, murder of viable fetuses, parallels with India, etc. When it does blow up, it is going to be very difficult to defend.... We might find it extremely difficult to handle the press and the public if there were a major fuss about the Chinese methods.”
Disregarding Kane’s concerns, the IPPF stepped up its support for the campaign. True to her worries, however, the story did begin to break in the West. On November 30, 1981, the Wall Street Journal ran an eyewitness story by Michele Vink reporting women being “handcuffed, tied with ropes, or placed in pig’s baskets” as they were being hauled off for forced abortions. According to Vink, vehicles transporting women to hospitals in Canton were “filled with wailing noises,” while unauthorized infants were being killed en masse. “Every day hundreds of fetuses arrive at the morgue,” one of Vink’s sources said.
On May 15, 1982, New York Times foreign correspondent Christopher Wren offered an even more devastating exposé. He reported on stories of thousands of Chinese women being “rounded up and forced to have abortions,” and tales of women “locked in detention cells or hauled before mass rallies and harangued into consenting to abortion,” as well as “vigilantes [who] abducted pregnant women on the streets and hauled them off, sometimes handcuffed or trussed, to abortion clinics.” He quoted one Chinese reporter who described “aborted babies which were actually crying when they were born.” The horror became so open that it could not be denied. By 1983, even Chinese newspapers themselves were running stories about the “butchering, drowning, and leaving to die of female infants and the maltreating of women who had given birth to girls.”
Unfazed by the press coverage, Qian redoubled the effort. Local Communist Party officials were given quotas for sterilizations, abortions, and IUD insertions. If they exceeded them, they could be promoted. If they failed to meet them, they would be expelled from the Party in disgrace. These measures guaranteed results. In 1983, 16 million women and 4 million men were sterilized, 18 million women had IUDs inserted, and over 14 million infants were aborted. Going forward, these figures were sustained, with combined total coerced abortions, IUD implantations, and sterilizations exceeding 30 million per year through 1985.
In celebration of Qian’s achievements, the UNFPA in 1983 gave him (together with Indira Gandhi) the first United Nations Population Award, complete with diploma, gold medal, and $25,000 cash. In a congratulatory speech at the award ceremony in New York, U.N. Secretary General Javier Pérez de Cuéllar said: “Considering the fact that China and India contain over 40 per cent of humanity, we must all record our deep appreciation of the way in which their governments have marshaled the resources necessary to implement population policies on a massive scale.” Qian stood up and promised to continue “controlling population quantity and raising population quality.” The U.N. was not alone in expressing its appreciation. The World Bank signaled its thanks in the sincerest way possible — that is to say, with cash, providing China with $22 billion in loans by 1996.
Given the supreme importance to rural Chinese families of having a son, both to take care of aging parents and to continue the line and honor family ancestors, many peasants simply could not accept a daughter as their only child. The resultant spike in female infanticide was perhaps not especially troubling to the authorities in itself, given their attitude toward related matters, but the total social breakdown it betokened was. Facing this reality, in 1988 the government in some provinces compromised just a little and agreed that couples who had a daughter as their first child would be allowed one more try to have a son — provided that there were no unauthorized births or other violations of the population policy by anyone in the couple’s village during that year. While giving a bit on the population front, this “reform” had the salutary effect — from the totalitarian point of view — of destroying peasant solidarity, which previously had acted to shield local women giving birth in hiding. Instead, hysterical group pressure was mobilized against such rebels, with everyone in the village transformed into government snoops to police their neighbors against possible infractions.
The killing of daughters, however, continued apace. During the period from 2000 to 2004, almost 1.25 boys were born for every girl born — indicating that one-fifth of all baby girls in China were either being aborted or murdered. In some provinces the fraction eliminated was as high as one-half.
The Terrible Toll
In 1991, UNFPA head Nafis Sadik went to China to congratulate the oligarchs of the People’s Republic for their excellent program, which by that time had already sterilized, implanted IUDs in, or performed abortions on some 300 million people. “China has every reason to feel proud of and pleased with its remarkable achievements made in its family planning policy and control of its population growth over the past ten years,” she said. “Now the country could offer its experiences and special experts to help other countries.... UNFPA is going to employ some of [China’s family planning experts] to work in other countries and popularize China’s experience in population growth control and family planning.”
Sadik made good on her promise. With the help of the UNFPA, the Chinese model of population control was implemented virtually in its entirety in Vietnam, and used to enhance the brutal effectiveness of the antihuman efforts in many other countries, from Bangladesh and Sri Lanka to Mexico and Peru.
Meanwhile, many other countries have similarly grim stories. The Indonesian population control program was extensive and coercive; Betsy Hartmann has recounted a case in 1990 in which “family planning workers accompanied by the police and army went from house to house and took men and women to a site where IUDs were being inserted. Women who refused had IUDs inserted at gunpoint.” The Indonesian government’s longstanding commitment to population control meant that other areas of health care were not prioritized, which is why the country’s infant mortality rate is double that of neighboring Malaysia and Thailand.
The misallocation of scarce health resources is even more apparent in sub-Saharan Africa. Health care professionals and programs that should be dedicated to fighting malaria and other deadly diseases are instead dedicated to population control. As Dr. Stephen Karanja, former secretary of the Kenyan Medical Association, wrote in 1997:
Our health sector is collapsed. Thousands of the Kenyan people will die of malaria, the treatment of which costs a few cents, in health facilities whose shelves are stocked to the ceiling with millions of dollars’ worth of pills, IUDs, Norplant, Depo-Provera, and so on, most of which are supplied with American money.... Special operating theaters fully serviced and not lacking in instruments are opened in hospitals for the sterilization of women. While in the same hospitals, emergency surgery cannot be done for lack of basic operating instruments and supplies.
In a 2000 interview, Karanja continued, “You can’t perform operations because there is no equipment, no materials. The operation theater isn’t working. But if it is for a sterilization, the theater is equipped.” Worse still, as Steven Mosher has argued in his book Population Control, there is good reason to believe that the 100 million hypodermic needles that were shipped to Africa since the 1990s for injecting contraceptive drugs have been a major cause of the continent’s horrific AIDS epidemic — which has resulted in tens of millions of deaths, with nearly two million more deaths expected this year, and next, and for years more to come.
Around the world, the population control movement has resulted in billions of lost or ruined lives. We cannot stop at merely rebutting the pseudoscience and recounting the crimes of the population controllers. We must also expose and confront the underlying antihumanist ideology. If the idea is accepted that the world’s resources are fixed with only so much to go around, then each new life is unwelcome, each unregulated act or thought is a menace, every person is fundamentally the enemy of every other person, and each race or nation is the enemy of every other race or nation. The ultimate outcome of such a worldview can only be enforced stagnation, tyranny, war, and genocide. The horrific crimes advocated or perpetrated by antihumanism’s devotees over the past two centuries prove this conclusively. Only in a world of unlimited resources can all men be brothers.
That is why we must reject antihumanism and embrace instead an ethic based on faith in the human capacity for creativity and invention. For in doing so, we make a statement that we are living not at the end of history, but at the beginning of history; that we believe in freedom and not regimentation; in progress and not stasis; in love rather than hate; in life rather than death; in hope rather than despair.
Robert Zubrin is aNew Atlantis contributing editor. This essay is adapted from his new book — the latest volume in our New Atlantis Books series — Merchants of Despair: Radical Environmentalists, Criminal Pseudo-Scientists, and the Fatal Cult of Antihumanism.