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10 April, 2009

Getting a Death Grip on Memory

By Norman Solomon,

A headline in The New York Times announced a few days ago: "Brain Researchers Open Door to Editing Memory." This news ran above the fold on the front page.

"Suppose scientists could erase certain memories by tinkering with a single substance in the brain," the article began. Readers quickly learned that it's starting to happen: "Researchers in Brooklyn have recently accomplished comparable feats, with a single dose of an experimental drug delivered to areas of the brain critical for holding specific types of memory ..."

Big deal.

American media outlets have been pulling off such feats for a long time.

The scientists trying to learn how to wipe out "specific types of memory" are lagging way behind.

Don't need to remember the vast quantities of napalm, Agent Orange and cluster bombs that the US military dropped on Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia in the 1960's and 1970's? Or the continuing realities of burn victims, dioxin poisoning and unexploded warheads?

Don't want to consider the many thousands of civilians killed by Salvadoran death squads, Guatemalan troops and Nicaraguan contra guerillas during the 1980's, courtesy of US taxpayers?

Don't care to recall the Pentagon's estimate that the Gulf War in early 1991 killed 100,000 Iraqi people during a six-week period?

Forget about it! That's what selective memory is for.

Prefer not to recollect how the US government trained and armed President Reagan's beloved "freedom fighters" in Afghanistan - including the likes of Osama bin Laden and other fundamentalist mujahedeen - for their insurgency against the Soviet occupiers in the 1980's? Rather not remember how those "freedom fighters" became "terrorists"?

Hate that particular gray? Then wash it away!

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