Skip to comments.The First Bioterrorism Attack in America – Oregon 1984? (Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh)
Posted on 11/07/2001 5:57:29 PM PST by CounterCounterCulture
|To keep anti-Rajneesh voters from reaching the polls, sannyasins sprayed salmonella on the salad bars at several popular restaurants in The Dalles, sending 750 people to the hospital with severe food poisoning. It was "the only case of germ warfare against a whole American city," recalls Frohnmayer. There was also a plot, which was never executed, to kill the sect's enemies, including local U.S. Attorney Charles Turner.|
The two topics of food poisoning and biological warfare are rarely considered together. However, every so often, news items of the week happen overlap. During this time period, there happened to be several related stories because of a conference on emerging infectious diseases recently held in Atlanta, GA.
The message about food poisoning is that the American food supply is becoming more dangerous, and that the government is becoming less able to ensure the safety of the supply despite such initiatives as HAACP, which is a planning method for identifying possible food contamination in production and processing. A growing proportion of the food eaten by Americans is imported from other countries. Mexico, in particular, because of NAFTA is able to import contaminated food. Perhaps the most disturbing example was the case of scores of children infected with hepatitis A by strawberries from Mexico. It turned out that the farm in question had used untreated human sewage as fertilizer to grow the strawberries.
The news about biological warfare centered around a television show. A recent 20/20 program on WABC highlighted the claims of a recent Russian defect who was the #2 man in Russia's biological weapons program. What he had to share sounded shocking. U.S. citizens are told that the Russians appear to be spending about 10 times more on such research than the even the most wild estimate. The Russian researchers had found ways to mix and match various genetic components that help create utterly toxic cocktails of deadly viral and bacterial agents. As stated in the show, the Russian strategy for attacking the U.S. would be to unleash as many as 52 different disease-causing agents in a given geographical area, such as around New York City. The rationale would be that the health care system would simply not have the resources to deal with so many different diseases affecting a large number of people.
However, there is another alternative. A low-level, persistent, campaign of spreading these agents into the food supply at different points could be even more devastating. The causes would remain mysterious, no one could be easily blamed. It would appear that greater reliance on food imports would make that approach an even more tempting target by (bio)terrorists. The point has been made. This country is ill-prepared to deal with bioterrorists. There is at least one case where food poisoning has been used to randomly attack some people. In an article in the New York Times (Mar. 11, 1998, pA21), it was reported that spiritual devotees of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh in The Dalles, Oregon in 1985 had grown and spread salmonella on food in a salad bar in a local restaurant in order to reduce voter turnout on a measure against them. Reportedly, 751 people were affected by this one attack. So, it can be appreciated the kinds of problems bioterrorism poses.
Also, in the same article, Dr. Donald A. Henderson, dean emeritus of Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, called for a revival of smallpox vaccine production as a preventive for biological warfare attacks. Somewhat related, Johns Hopkins biomedical researchers have developed a computer model for assessing likelihood of mortality as a function of different treatments for given diseases.
This technology could be adapted to biological warfare attacks, given there is enough time. Such a model would help reduce uncertainty and risks associated with deciding on a given course of treatment, not only for individuals, but also groups.
So, it should be kept in mind that the example above shows there is considerable potential for bioterrorism and the U.S. must develop measures for effectively limiting the potential impact.
THE SAFFRON SWAMI
BY RACHEL GRAHAM
| On July 29, 1983, a series of bombs ripped through the second and third floors of the Rajneesh Hotel in downtown Portland. No one was injured, apart from the bomber himself, a 34-year-old drifter named Stephen Paster. But with a bang, Portlanders became aware that something had gone seriously awry with the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh's experiment in communal living.
Without the bombs, the salmonella and the semiautomatics, the story of the Indian guru and his saffron-robed disciples who settled in rural Oregon could have been the plot for a campy Disney film about seekers of peace, love and multicultural understanding: Guru Goes West. Instead, the Rajneeshees
"committed the most significant crimes of their kind in the history of the United States," according to former Oregon Attorney General Dave Frohnmayer. "The largest single incident of fraudulent marriages, the most massive scheme of wiretapping and bugging, and the largest domestic mass poisoning."
In 1981, the 50-year-old Bhagwan and a handful of his sannyasins, "seekers of the truth," bought a 64,000-acre, severely overgrazed Big Muddy ranch near Antelope with the intent of creating a self-sufficient utopia of organic farming and dynamic meditation. Two years and $30 million later, more than 600 sannyasins had built a small city, complete with a post office, a school, a shopping mall and housing for 1,000 people.
A former philosophy professor, the Bhagwan wasn't big on self-denial. He had ever-increasing collections of custom-painted Rolls Royces (up to 99 at the end) and gaudy jewelry (valued at $1 million in 1985) and, by some accounts, claimed to have had more sex partners than anyone in history. The Bhagwan's mishmash of Eastern mysticism and Western pop psychology promised his adherents self-actualization through detachment. "When you become a sannyasin," he told his followers, "I initiate you into freedom, and into nothing else...I am destroying your ideologies, creeds, cults, dogmas, and I am not replacing them with anything else."
His feel-good philosophy attracted sannyasins who were overwhelmingly well-educated, affluent urbanites with every intention of remaining in the world--on their own terms. To head off boredom on the ranch, the group bought up a Portland hotel and started the Zorba the Buddha disco at Southwest 10th Avenue and Pine Street, which featured a hot scene and lousy service, since it was staffed by sannyasins who'd never waited tables in their lives.
Initially, the sect met with begrudging tolerance from Oregonians. But that changed in 1982 when they took over the nearby town of Antelope (population 47) and renamed it Rajneeshpuram. Although the move was legal, it was a shock to local residents, many of whom were retired ranchers. Suddenly Rajneeshees wearing shades of red from head to toe and large pictures of the Bhagwan around their necks held most seats on the city council and school board. The local diner became a vegan cafe. Main Street was renamed Mavlana Bhagwan Street. "All of a sudden," former mayor Alice Hensley recalls, "it seemed like our identity was gone."
After the Bhagwan took a vow of silence in 1983, his personal secretary, 33-year-old Ma Anand Sheela, became the public face and voice of the Rajneeshees. Petite, voluble and armed with a take-no-prisoners attitude, Sheela was singularly provocative. She called locals rednecks, racists and bigots. On Nightline she gave Ted Koppel the finger for cutting off her mike after she repeatedly shouted "Bullshit!" and "You are full of shit!" whenever her opponent, 70-year-old Antelope resident Don Smith, spoke.
More disturbing were Sheela's hints of potential violence. "We are here in Oregon to stay, at whatever the cost," she wrote in The Rajneesh Times. "If that means that some of our blood is spilled...then this is the price we are prepared to pay." The Rajneeshees had enough firepower to back up these threats. By the fall of 1984, they had amassed an arsenal that included at least 28 semiautomatic rifles and handguns and $250,000 in ammunition. In Antelope, the heavily armed Rajneesh "peace force" tailed visitors and patrolled non-Rajneeshees' homes at night with bright lights.
Words turned to actions in the fall of 1984. In an effort to overwhelm the polls at the Wasco County election, the Rajneeshees bused in 4,300 homeless people from across the country, a strategy foiled by then-Secretary of State Norma Paulus, who set up a committee of 50 lawyers to review all new voter registrations. The Rajneeshees subsequently dumped most of the homeless, many of whom claimed they were doped with the tranquilizer Haldol during their stay on the ranch, on neighboring towns. To keep anti-Rajneesh voters from reaching the polls, sannyasins sprayed salmonella on the salad bars at several popular restaurants in The Dalles, sending 750 people to the hospital with severe food poisoning. It was "the only case of germ warfare against a whole American city," recalls Frohnmayer. There was also a plot, which was never executed, to kill the sect's enemies, including local U.S. Attorney Charles Turner.
Meanwhile, paranoia mounted on the ranch as Sheela and a coterie of elite sannyasins ran the commune in an increasingly authoritarian manner. Jokes were mandated at the beginning of every meeting, and "Rajneeshism"--a religion that was supposed to be ethereal as the clouds and devoid of dogma--was codified in a booklet of rules and rituals. Sheela bugged rooms and telephones, arranged for an ally to stab the Bhagwan's personal physician with a poison syringe (he survived) and had another enemy quarantined with a false-positive AIDS test. The Bhagwan, who had resumed his daily talks, charged that Sheela had tried to poison him with chemicals manufactured in a secret tunnel behind his house.
By fall 1985, state and federal police, the National Guard, the governor's office, the FBI, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the U.S. Marshal's Office and Frohnmayer were in conference every morning and evening. A showdown loomed. When Sheela and her gang abruptly left the ranch in September, the Bhagwan declared himself back in charge and tried to make her the scapegoat for the sect's bizarre activities. Rajneeshees took off their red robes (saying they were Sheela's idea) and changed Rajneeshpuram back to Antelope.
It was too late. On Oct. 23, 1985, a federal grand jury issued a 35-count indictment charging the Bhagwan with lying on his visa application and, along with Sheela and six other disciples, arranging sham marriages so foreign sannyasins could remain in the United States. The Bhagwan was arrested in Charlotte, N.C., en route to the Bahamas (for a much-needed vacation, according to his followers) in a chartered Learjet equipped with a handgun, $58,522 in cash and a box containing 38 jewel-encrusted watches and bracelets. He eventually pleaded guilty to two counts of immigration fraud, was fined $400,000 and was deported to India. He died in 1990 after changing his name to Osho. All in all, 42 sannyasins were charged and two dozen convicted of various state and federal crimes.
The Bhagwan appealed to affluent baby boomers because he offered a simple plan for spiritual enlightenment without forsaking the pleasures of home. His followers, most of them high achievers, believed they weren't dropping out like hippies of the '70s. Instead, they were "dropping up"--creating a new man and a new society.
His followers believed the Bhagwan merely held up a mirror through which they could see their "true" selves. In the end, however, the mirror warped and Rancho Rajneesh resembled nothing so much as a twisted Zen koan. The more sannyasins clung to their mantra of spontaneity, authenticity and freedom, the less able they were to question their leaders--or to see where the path they had chosen was taking them.
Also, a news report was broadcast this weekend on Oaklands KTVU-Channel 2 this past weekend. The first settlement outside of Antelope has now been taken over by a Christian group.
More background information in the next post.
Note: They go a bit overboard with the religious tolerance stuff, but you can judge for yourself
Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (1931-1990) was born Rajneesh Chandra Mohan in Kuchwara, a town in central India. One source states that "Bhagwan" means "The Blessed One" and that "Shree" means "Master". At the end of his life, he changed his name to Osho.
His parents' religion was Jainism. However, Osho never subscribed to any religious faith during his lifetime. He received "samadhi" (enlightenment in which his soul became one with the universe) on 1953-MAR-21 at the age of 21. Rajneesh obtained a masters degree in philosophy from the University of Saugar. He taught philosophy at the University of Jabalpur for nine years and concurrently worked as a religious leader. In 1966, he left his teaching post and gave his full attention to teaching his sannyasins (disciples) while pursuing a speaking career. He had an apartment in Bombay where he often met individuals and small groups, where acting as spiritual teacher, guide and friend. Most of his Sannyasins came from Europe and India in the early years.
In 1974, Osho moved from Bombay southward to Pune, India. Some anti-cult groups have claimed that this decision was made because of local opposition from the public in Bombay. In reality, it was to establish an ashram (place of teaching) which would provide larger and more comfortable facilities for his disciples. The ashram consisted of two adjoining properties covering six acres in an affluent suburb of Pune called Koregaon Park. Some estimate as many as 50,000 Westerners spent time seeking enlightenment there with the guru. In 1979, he saw his movement as the route to the preservation of the human race. He said: If we cannot create the 'new man' in the coming 20 years, then humanity has no future. The holocaust of a global suicide can only be avoided if a new kind of man can be created." He taught a syncretistic spiritual path that combined elements from Hinduism, Jainism, Zen Buddhism, Taoism, Christianity, ancient Greek philosophy, many other religious and philosophic traditions, humanistic psychology, new forms of therapy and meditation, etc.
In 1980, he was the victim of a knife attack by a Hindu fundamentalist during his morning discourse. Because of police incompetence, the charges against the terrorist were dropped.
In 1981 he left India reluctantly because of health problems. He went to the United States in order to obtain advanced treatment. There have been rumors of income tax evasion, and insurance fraud; it is not known whether these have any validity. The group settled on the 65,000 acre "Big Muddy Ranch" near Antelope, Oregon, which his sannyasins had bought for six million dollars. The ranch was renamed Rajneeshpuram ("Essence of Rajneesh"). This "small, desolate valley twelve miles from Antelope, Oregon was transformed into a thriving town of 3,000 residents, with a 4,500 foot paved airstrip, a 44 acre reservoir, an 88,000 square foot meeting hall..." 8 Many of the local folks were intolerant of the new group in their midst, because of religious and cultural differences. One manifestation of this intolerance was the town's denial of building permits to the followers of Rajneesh. Some buildings were erected on the ranch without planning board approval. When officials attempted to stop the construction, their office was firebombed by unknown person(s). When the local city council repeatedly refused to issue permits for their businesses, some sannyasins elected themselves to the city council. The town of Antelope was renamed City of Rajneesh.
Top aides of Osho were charged with a number of crimes, including the attempted murder of Osho's personal physician. There were stories of a hit list. Some fled the country for Switzerland where they had control over the group's bank accounts. Two were eventually convicted of conspiracy to murder local lawyer Charles Turner in an attempt to prevent closure of the ranch.
In 1983, Osho's secretary Sheela Silverman predicted on behalf of Osho that there would be massive destruction on earth, between 1984 and 1999. This would include both natural disasters and man-made catastrophes. Floods larger than any since Noah, extreme earthquakes, very destructive volcano eruptions, nuclear wars etc. would be experienced. Tokyo, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Bombay were all expected to disappear. There is doubt that these predictions actually came from Osho; they are not representative of his other teachings.
A number of sources have reported that spiritual devotees of Rajneesh had spread salmonella on a local restaurant's salad bar in order to reduce voter turnout on a measure that would have restricted the group's activities. Allegedly, 751 people were affected by the bacteria. 9,10
Fearing a raid of the type that later happened in Waco, several of Osho's disciples arranged for him to be flown to Charlotte for safety. In North Carolina, he ran afoul of US immigration law. He allegedly arranged a number of phony marriages between some of his Indian followers and American citizens so that the former could obtain clearance to stay in the country. He was also charged with lying on his immigration papers. He entered an "Alford Plea," commonly called a no-contest plea. His lawyers suggested that he do this because of concerns over his health and safety if he had to spend more time in prison. He was given a suspended sentence on condition that he leave the country. He returned to Pune, India in 1987, where his health began to fail. Here, he abandoned the name of Rajneesh and adopted "Osho". Osho was derived from the expression "oceanic experience" by William James. He died in Pune in 1990. Various rumors spread that he had been poisoned with thallium by the CIA, had been exposed to damaging doses of radiation by the U.S. authorities, or had heart failure. It is obvious that he did not experience thallium poisoning, because he died with a full beard, and only male-pattern baldness on the top of his head. A person suffering from thallium poisoning suffers a dramatic loss of hair with a week of exposure. 6 His death certificate lists heart failure as the cause of his death.
At its peak, they had about 200,000 members and 600 centers around the world. They were targeted by many anti-cult groups as an evil, mind control cult. One source, in a masterful stroke of religious disinformation, claimed that "Bhagwan" means "Master of the Vagina." He has been called the "sex guru."
Osho developed new forms of active medication. The best known is Dynamic Meditation which often starts with strenuous physical activity followed by silence and celebration. These were expected to lead the individual to overcome repression, lower their personal inhibitions, develop a "state of emptiness", and attain enlightenment. The person then would have "no past, no future, no attachment, no mind, no ego, no self." Prior to 1985, the disciples wore red robes, and a necklace of 108 beads which had an attached picture of Rajneesh. Osho assigned a new name to each of the disciples. Men were given the title "Swami"; women were called "Ma". Although most members lived a frugal, simple lifestyle, Rajneesh himself lived in luxury. His collection 27 Rolls Royces, given to him by his followers, was well known. (Some sources say he had as many as 100 cars). Anti-cult groups claimed that he urged his disciples to sever their connection to their families of origin. It is true that he felt that the institution of the family was out of date and that it should be replaced with alternate forms of community and ways of caring for children. However, he actually encouraged individual disciples to make peace with their families. Many became disciples themselves, including Osho's own parents.
He taught a form of Monism, that God was in everything and everyone. There is no division between "God" and "not-God". People, even at their worse, are divine. He recognized Jesus Christ as having attained enlightenment, and believed that he survived his crucifixion and moved to India where he died at the age of 112. Osho was noted for reading very offensive jokes; some were anti-Semitic; others were anti-Roman Catholicism; others insulted just about every ethnic and religious group in the world. He explained that the purpose of these jokes was to shock people and to encourage them to examine their identification with and attachment to their ethnic or religious beliefs. His contention was that national, religious, gender and racial divisions are destructive.
Osho repeatedly stated that he would not appoint a successor to replace him after his death. He viewed each disciple as his successor. However, before his death, he appointed an inner circle of 21 individuals to look after the functioning of the meditation resort at Pune and handle administrative affairs relating to his work. They now operate about 20 meditation centers worldwide. Rajneesh's main influence now is through his voluminous writings; they are read by many New Agers as well as followers of Osho.
Osho Commune International ® administers the center in Pune, India. Since it was established it has been expanded from 6 to 32 acres. The group has a Global Connections department that provides information about centers and activities worldwide. Osho International in New York, NY, administers the rights to Osho's works.
Some of Osho's aids who were imprisoned because of crimes committed in Oregon were released from prison in mid-1998 and deported to England.
LOL, I declined. I was pretty studly in my youth and was accustomed to much higher offers. Although she was a cute little thing.
Whatja spend the ten grand on?LOL, I declined. Good decision. Probably would have had to spend it quickly on attorney fees down the road. ;)
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