FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Toxic Legacy of Agent Orange

by Carol Miller

On Aug. 10, 1961, the United States began spraying Agent Orange in Vietnam, in a campaign called “Operation Ranch Hand.” The spraying lasted nearly 10 years and resulted in death and disability for more than 3 million Vietnamese, including the children and grandchildren of those directly exposed.

In addition this deadly defoliant seriously damaged the environment of Vietnam. An area of 7.5 million acres were sprayed affecting nearly 26,000 villages and hamlets. Large areas still contain hot spots of contamination. (Source: Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange/ Dioxin)

What was our government thinking?

Agent Orange (AO) is a weapon that wounded both sides in the American War, as the Vietnamese call it. After years of struggle, many surviving American veterans finally receive care and compensation for Agent Orange exposure.

The U.S. Veterans Administration continues to add new diseases to the list of those they now admit were caused by exposure to Agent Orange, and its deadliest component, dioxin. Among the most recent additions are Parkinson’s disease and Type 2 diabetes. Despite many illnesses among the children and grandchildren of affected vet erans, Congress and the VA only recognize spina bifida, a very rare birth defect. In Vietnam, the govern ment’s efforts to deal with the toxic legacy of Agent Orange are very visible. Collection boxes for donations are out side of restaurants, museums, train stations; they are every­where.

Schools and job training programs are available for some of the more highly functioning affected children and young adults. There is a serious shortage of these schools. The more seriously affected victims need care 24 hours a day.

Most of the help to Agent Orange victims in Vietnam has been provided from Europe, Japan and Canada. U.S. veterans, both as individuals and through various organizations, also provide help to Vietnam.

Canadian scientists have been working with the Vietnamese to identify hot spots and determine where food can safely be grown today. Some fields have recently been approved for quick  growing crops such as leafy greens, but even in these areas, meat and fish remain too toxic to eat.

The U.S. Congress has done very little to address the legacy of Agent Orange spraying in Vietnam. A new bill could change this. HR 2634, the ‘Victims of Agent Orange Relief Act of 2011’ was introduced by Congressman Bob Filner of California in July. If passed, this law will be a significant first step to helping victims of Agent Orange in both the U.S. and Vietnam.

The beginning of August every year is a time of reflection about war here in New Mexico. There are a range of remembrances, as varied as prayer vigils to movies to debates and arguments over the atomic bombs dropped Aug. 6 in Hiroshima and Aug. 9 in Nagasaki. This year, the ongoing nuclear disaster in Fukushima brought even more passionate protests against both nuclear power and nucle ar weapons and warfare.

And now there is Aug. 10, a date to reflect on the first use of chemical warfare on Vietnam by the U.S. On a human rights delegation to Vietnam, I attended a public health presentation in the Vietnamese Central Highlands, the area that was most heavily sprayed with Agent Orange.

The speaker opened his pre sentation saying, “Vietnam is the size of the state of New Mexico and more bombs were dropped here than all the bombs dropped in World War II everywhere.”

I am still haunted by that comparison that inextricably links my home, New Mexico, with the incredible destruction imposed on Vietnam.

It is important to remem ber what the government has done in our name, includ ing the use of technological weapons that have changed the very DNA each of us has in every cell of our body. We still do not know how many future generations will suffer from wars fought decades before they were born. But we can say “enough!”

The U.S. government must help countries recover from the destruction we have caused through warfare. It is the right thing to do and our national security depends upon it.

Carol Miller is a resident of Ojo Sarco.

Carol Miller is an Independent unable to vote in the New Mexico primary. She has been working on electoral reform and creating a more democratic electoral system since the 1990’s. Miller recommends that people newly awakened to the unfairness of the electoral system support Ballot Access News (http://ballot-access.org/), Coalition for Free and Open Elections (http://www.cofoe.org/), and Fair Vote (http://www.fairvote.org/).

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

December 07, 2016
Michael Schwalbe
What We Talk About When We Talk About Class
Karl Grossman
The Next Frontier: Trump and Space Weapons
Kenneth Surin
On Being Caught Speeding in Rural America
Chris Floyd
In Like Flynn: Blowback for Filth-Peddling Fascists
Serge Halimi
Trump, the Know-Nothing Victor
Paul DeRienzo
Flynn Flam: Neocon Ex-General to Be Trump’s National Security Advisor
Binoy Kampmark
Troubled Waters: Trump, Taiwan and Beijing
Tom Clifford
Trump and China: a Note From Beijing
Arnold August
Fidel’s Legacy to the World on Theory and Practice
Dave Lindorff
Is Trump’s Idea To Fix a ‘Rigged System’ by Appointing Crooks Who’ve Played It?
John Kirk
Cuba After Fidel
Jess Guh
Repeal of Affordable Care Act is Politics Playing with the Wellbeing of Americans
Eric Sommer
Team Trump: a Government of Generals and Billionaires
Lawrence Davidson
U.S. Reactions to the Death of Fidel Castro
John Garvey - Noel Ignatiev
Abolitionism: a Study Guide
Clancy Sigal
Caution: Conspiracy Theory Ahead!
December 06, 2016
Anthony DiMaggio
Post-Fact Politics: Reviewing the History of Fake News and Propaganda
Richard Moser
Standing Rock: Challenge to the Establishment, School for the Social Movements
Behrooz Ghamari Tabrizi
Warmongering 99 – Common Sense 0: the Senate’s Unanimous Renewable of Iran Sanctions Act
Norman Solomon
Media Complicity is Key to Blacklisting Websites
Michael J. Sainato
Elizabeth Warren’s Shameful Exploitation of Standing Rock Victory
David Rosen
State Power and Terror: From Wounded Knee to Standing Rock
Kim Ives
Deconstructing Another Right-Wing Victory in Haiti
Nile Bowie
South Korea’s Presidency On A Knife-Edge
Mateo Pimentel
Some Notes and a Song for Standing Rock
CJ Hopkins
Manufacturing Normality
Bill Fletcher Jr – Bob Wing
Fighting Back Against the White Revolt of 2016
Peter Lee
Is America Ready for a War on White Privilege?
Pepe Escobar
The Rules of the (Trump) Game
W. T. Whitney
No Peace Yet in Colombia Despite War’s End
Mark Weisbrot
Castro Was Right About US Policy in Latin America
David Swanson
New Rogue Anti-Russia Committee Created in “Intelligence” Act
George Ochenski
Forests of the Future: Local or National Control?
December 05, 2016
Bill Martin
Stalingrad at Standing Rock?
Mark A. Lause
Recounting a Presidential Election: the Backstory
Mel Goodman
Mad Dog Mattis and Trump’s “Seven Days in May”
Matthew Hannah
Standing Rock and the Ideology of Oppressors: Conversations with a Morton County Commissioner
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
#NoDAPL Scores Major Victory: No Final Permit For Pipeline
Fran Shor
The End of the Indispensable Nation
Michael Yates
Vietnam: the War That Won’t Go Away
Michael Uhl
Notes on a Trip to Cuba
Robert Hunziker
Huge Antarctica Glacier in Serious Trouble
John Steppling
Screen Life
David Macaray
Trump vs. America’s Labor Unions
Yoav Litvin
Break Free and Lead, or Resign: a Letter to Bernie Sanders
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail