Cleaning Up Agent Orange, For All the Wrong Reasons

After almost four decades, the US has agreed to help Vietnam clean up the deadly poison sprayed all over the country from 1961-1971, Agent Orange. While Washington was needlessly laying waste to the Vietnamese people, they claimed to use the dangerous herbicide to sweep away the heavy vegetation in the jungle and expose the Viet Cong. Honest people had a different way to describe it: chemical warfare.

“One scientific study estimated that between 2.1 million and 4.8 million Vietnamese were directly exposed to Agent Orange,” according to one Congressional Research Service report. “Vietnamese advocacy groups claim that there are over three million Vietnamese suffering from serious health problems caused by exposure to the dioxin in Agent Orange.”

Here’s how the AP story begins:

Vo Duoc fights back tears while sharing the news that broke his heart: A few days ago he received test results confirming he and 11 family members have elevated levels of dioxin lingering in their blood.

The family lives in a two-story house near a former U.S. military base in Danang where the defoliant Agent Orange was stored during the Vietnam War, which ended nearly four decades ago. Duoc, 58, sells steel for a living and has diabetes, while his wife battles breast cancer and their daughter has remained childless after suffering repeated miscarriages. For years, Duoc thought the ailments were unrelated, but after seeing the blood tests he now suspects his family unwittingly ingested dioxin from Agent Orange-contaminated fish, vegetables and well water.

Dioxin, a persistent chemical linked to cancer, birth defects and other disabilities, has seeped into Vietnam’s soils and watersheds, creating a lasting war legacy that remains a thorny issue between the former foes. Washington has been slow to respond, but on Thursday the U.S. for the first time will begin cleaning up dioxin from Agent Orange that was stored at the former military base, now part of Danang’s airport.

Duoc responded to the news thusly: “”It’s better late than never.” Some might say that’s an incredibly forgiving way to react to war crimes that killed millions of his own people and caused his entire immediate family to suffer all their lives.

Duoc might have responded more cynically had he been informed about the reasons the US finally agreed to the clean-up. AP continues:

The $43 million project begins as Vietnam and the U.S. forge closer ties to boost trade and counter China’s rising influence in the disputed South China Sea.

So instead of the federal government coming to their senses about the need to do something about their poisoning of several generations of innocent Vietnamese, they agreed to the clean-up as part of their selfish, power-seeking statecraft against a rising China. It just doesn’t get vulgar than that.

25 thoughts on “Cleaning Up Agent Orange, For All the Wrong Reasons”

  1. I imagine this is part of the larger Vietnam project Obama announced awhile back? One that sounded very much like a rebranding, so that future generations will willingly swallow our imperial conquests. I can’t remember what website it was on, but there was a great article on that speech I mentioned above. I wouldn’t be surprised if I linked to it from AW, you all are so great at sharing stories like that. It was a speech given at the Vietnam Memorial, earlier this year.

  2. Agent Orange was a combination of 2-4-d weed killer and 2-4-5 T brush killer that was shipped in Orange barrels. The US military decided to spray it at 20-50 times recommended doses. I remember one man who was sprayed with the stuff and he would die from cancer about 30 years ago. The US has steadfastly refused to pay compensation in Viet Nam for all the illnesses caused by the Agent Orange. The national disgrace is Congress passed a law that presumed that anyone who stepped foot in Viet Name during the war had come in contact with the stuff. Dozens of billions have been paid out to vets for claims of diabetes, erectile dysfunction, and other medical problems which are a result of old age and obesity, not contact with Agent Orange.

    1. In response to Aarky…do you have evidence that the "presumed list" of adverse health issues is bogus? Your simplistic view of the causes of disease is astonishing! Were you around for the debates on cigarette smoking and lung cancer? The tobacco lobby managed to keep the argument going for decades because they did not want a simple warning label being placed on the packages containing tobacco! They denied that nicotine was addictive and that the tobacco itself, when ignited, released carcinogens that cause cancer…some people could smoke and smoke all day and not develop cancer whilst others could get it from simply being too close to a smoker. Have you no knowledge of this? Heck, as a kid, most everyone referred to cigarettes as "cancer sticks" … yet the official proclamations stated that cigarettes were harmless!!

      Likewise with Agent Orange … similar to our modern day issues concerning anthropogenic global warning, the original denials of a link between Agent Orange dioxin contamination and health issues were based on political agendas…NOT scientific ones:

      The November, 2006 issue of The American Journal of Industrial Medicine published a report conducted by the Dep't of Veterans Affairs. If you decide to get that report, you'll find that, amongst other issues, is the conclusion that an exposed Vietnam veteran had a higher rate of developing diabetes than the various cancers!

      Look at these pics and please tell me where all the original has gone:… Before the military built their bases, they would spray the area with defoliants and herbicides to destroy the vegetation, and they would continue spraying the place with hand-heldp spraying equipment…the grassless ground contained dioxin because Agent Orange was the chemical of choice that generated the most money for the chemical companies; that's why it was "fast-cooked"…to produce more of it for greater profit; only problem for the Vietnam vets was that this processed generated thousand of times more potent dioxin than the "slow-cooked" process.

      I'm sure I'm running out of room for this little rebuttal, so let me wrap it up by saying that if there were any places in the United States that looked like the grassless American base camps in Vietnam, and knowing that *extra super-strong dioxin laden herbicdes and defoliants were being used to kill the vegetation, they would be declared HAZARDOUS WASTE SITES requiring full protective clothing and probably self-contained Scott Air Packs breathing apparatus!

      1. correction … "Look at these pics and please tell me where all the original has gone" should read
        "Look at these pics and please tell me where all the original *vegetation* has gone"

      2. Your diatribe about smoking is apple and oranges.You made some excellent points about the Agent Orange. In my original post, I neglected to point out that there were no great instances of diabetes in Viet Nam. Most of the problems were birih defects and certain types of cancer, certainly not the erectile dysfunction, diabetes, or heart conditions that were almost certainly caused by old age and obesity in the Viet veterans.

  3. This was simply a war crime and act against humanity. But Vietnam was not the first, Korean war was another, then the Iraq the killings of thousands of fleeing Iraqis from Kuwait on the highway of death, is yet another one, the bombardment of innocent people in Iraq, use of depleted uranium in Fallujah, murdering a million Iraqi including babes, the bombardment of Yugoslavia, in Sudan, in Afghanistan and now the proxy war in Syria is yet another war crime either orchestrated, planed or conducted by US and EU.

    What happened to that “monkey" inquiries for Tony Blair, what happened to ICC being the flag ship of justice for the world, what happened to US democrats wanting to implement justice but falling short prosecuting Dick Cheney and George W. Bush and rest of his gang for committing war crimes in Iraq.., what happen to justice for all and no one is above the law.

  4. Sometimes I think about issues like slavery reparations payments, and while I know all the intellectual arguments againt them (noone existing was alive then, many people living in this country now didn't even have relatives in this country then etc. etc..), I'm actually able to see the *emotional* appeal.

    A country that was contrite about slavery, about the Japanese-Americans who were interned (at least they got their reparations, in some of their lifetimes), about the Japanese Japanese who were turned into shadows on the pavement, about the Vietnamese poisoned by Agent Orancge, etc. etc., would be a *VERY* different country. I don't want a country where everyone goes around paralyzed by personal guilt, because that's just silly, we aren't responsible for what happened before we were born, and we're only to some degree responsible for what the powerful do in our names now (the powerful are much more the guilty ones than us). But just a country that could acknowledge all the harm done in it's name, it would be a very different country indeed.

  5. George Warmonger Bush & the Bushmen declared war on Iraq for having those non-existent WMD's. After Gulf War I, the UN weapons inspectors saw to it that they were destroyed. The US used Agent Orange in the Vietnam War. Russia and China didn't declare war. The Russians used chemical weapons in Afghanistan and the US didn't declare war.

  6. Only 43 million bucks to clean up the mess? Why it cost a lot more than that to make it.
    Who says there's no such thing as a bargain any more? Why the US could 'afford' to do a hundred Agent Oranges at that rate.

    “We were told, ‘It’s totally safe and it won’t hurt you at all,’” he added. “We were told, ‘You can drink it, you can brush your teeth with it, or you can bathe in it. It won’t hurt you. Those were lies.” Capt. Phil Stewart USA (ret) to the Nagtional assembly in Soeul S. Korea 26/07/2011

  7. 200Mio $ for 1 crappy F-35 jet fighter, and now after 40 years you "invest" a lousy 40 mio to clean up the toxic mess and poisoned landscape you left behind in Vietnam?
    Another insult to the Vietnamese people !

  8. condemning Rand Paul's position, but she was lumping him in with 'far rightists' who were demanding full-fledged US military intervention in Egypt on behalf of A Certain Country.

  9. we're only to some degree responsible for what the powerful do in our names now (the powerful are much more the guilty ones than us). But just a country that could acknowledge all the harm done in it's name, it would be a very different country indeed.

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