The New Yorker this week published an extensive and utterly fascinating piece on Colonel James S. Ketchum — a psychiatrist who led the US military's drug experiments on volunteer soldiers during the Cold War. Working out of Edgewood Arsenal in Maryland, Ketchum and his team spent years exploring the frontiers of psychochemical warfare, in the belief that LSD and other psychoactive drugs could be used to debilitate enemy combatants.
It's a mad scientist narrative that seems perfect for a Kubrick film or Jacob's Ladder sequel, though Ketchum's experiments had very real consequences, leaving some soldiers with lasting psychological conditions. Now, a group of former subjects has filed a class action suit against the federal government, describing its experiments as "diabolical." The 81-year-old Ketchum, however, fiercely defends his experiments. "I would consider it dishonest to claim regret simply to gain forgiveness by critics," he said.