The Population Control Holocaust


Robert Zubrin

There is a single ideological current running through a seemingly disparate collection of noxious modern political and scientific movements, ranging from militarism, imperialism, racism, xenophobia, and radical environmentalism, to socialism, Nazism, and totalitarian communism. This is the ideology of antihumanism: the belief that the human race is a horde of vermin whose unconstrained aspirations and appetites endanger the natural order, and that tyrannical measures are necessary to constrain humanity. The founding prophet of modern antihumanism is Thomas Malthus (1766-1834), who offered a pseudoscientific basis for the idea that human reproduction always outruns available resources. Following this pessimistic and inaccurate assessment of the capacity of human ingenuity to develop new resources, Malthus advocated oppressive policies that led to the starvation of millions in India and Ireland.

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.)

“Horror graph”
This full-page newspaper ad from a prominent population control group warns that Third World people are a threat to peace. (Click to enlarge)
Courtesy Princeton University LibraryUntil 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 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.


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