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.

More articles by:

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/).

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

June 22, 2017
Jason Hirthler
Invisible Empire Beneath the Radar, Above Suspicion
Ken Levy
Sorry, But It’s Entirely the Right’s Fault
John Laforge
Fukushima’s Radiation Will Poison Food “for Decades,” Study Finds
Ann Garrison
Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour Party, and the UK’s Socialist Surge
Phillip Doe
Big Oil in the Rocky Mountain State: the Overwhelming Tawdriness of Government in Colorado
Howard Lisnoff
The Spiritual Death of Ongoing War
Stephen Cooper
Civilized, Constitution-Loving Californians Will Continue Capital Punishment Fight
Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla
Cuba Will Not Bow to Trump’s Threats
Ramzy Baroud
Israel vs. the United Nations: The Nikki Haley Doctrine
Tyler Wilch
The Political Theology of US Drone Warfare
Colin Todhunter
A Grain of Truth: RCEP and the Corporate Hijack of Indian Agriculture
Robert Koehler
When the Detainee is American…
Jeff Berg
Our No Trump Contract
Faiza Shaheen
London Fire Fuels Movement to Challenge Inequality in UK
Rob Seimetz
Sorry I Am Not Sorry: A Letter From Millennials to Baby Boomers
June 21, 2017
Jim Kavanagh
Resist This: the United States is at War With Syria
James Ridgeway
Good Agent, Bad Agent: Robert Mueller and 9-11
Diana Johnstone
The Single Party French State … as the Majority of Voters Abstain
Ted Rall
Democrats Want to Lose the 2020 Election
Kathy Kelly
“Would You Like a Drink of Water?” Please Ask a Yemeni Child
Russell Mokhiber
Sen. Joe Manchin Says “No” to Single-Payer, While Lindsay Graham Floats Single-Payer for Sick People
Ralph Nader
Closing Democracy’s Doors Until the People Open Them
Binoy Kampmark
Barclays in Hot Water: The Qatar Connection
Jesse Jackson
Trump Ratchets Up the Use of Guns, Bombs, Troops, and Insults
N.D. Jayaprakash
No More Con Games: Abolish Nuclear Weapons Now! (Part Four)
David Busch
The Kingdom of Pence–and His League of Flaming Demons–is Upon Us
Stephen Cooper
How John Steinbeck’s “In Dubious Battle” Helps Us Navigate Social Discord
Madis Senner
The Roots of America’s Identity and Our Political Divide are Buried Deep in the Land
June 20, 2017
Ajamu Baraka
The Body Count Rises in the U.S. War Against Black People
Gary Leupp
Russia’s Calm, But Firm, Response to the US Shooting Down a Syrian Fighter Jet
Maxim Nikolenko
Beating Oliver Stone: the Media’s Spin on the Putin Interviews
Michael J. Sainato
Philando Castile and the Self Righteous Cloak of White Privilege
John W. Whitehead
The Militarized Police State Opens Fire
Peter Crowley
The Groundhog Days of Terrorism
Norman Solomon
Behind the Media Surge Against Bernie Sanders
Pauline Murphy
Friedrich Engels: a Tourist In Ireland
David Swanson
The Unifying Force of War Abolition
Louisa Willcox
Senators Bernie Sanders, Cory Booker, Tom Udall Back Tribes in Grizzly Fight
John Stanton
Mass Incarceration, Prison Labor in the United States
Robert Fisk
Did Trump Denounce Qatar Over Failed Business Deals?
Medea Benjamin
America Will Regret Helping Saudi Arabia Bomb Yemen
Brian Addison
Los Angeles County Data Shows Startling Surge in Youth, Latino Homelessness
Native News Online
Betraying Indian Country: How Grizzly Delisting Exposes Trump and Zinke’s Assault on Tribal Sovereignty and Treaty Rights
Stephen Martin
A Tragic Inferno in London Reflects the Terrorism of the Global Free Market
Debadityo Sinha
Think Like a River
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail