by Daniel Erickson
July 13, 2011
We still find it difficult to completely
forget one of the uglier and far-reaching atrocities of the Vietnam
War - the dissemination of a deadly herbicide,
But where we only have movies like
Apocalypse Now and a host of war novels to remind us of the
majority of the unpalatable actions that took place in the 60s, the
repercussions of Agent Orange are still rising and expanding -
through the world and media.
No matter how difficult it is to stop and listen to the stories of
U.S. military veterans who served in Vietnam, we cannot discount the
myriad of first-person accounts of the damage that was caused and
the cover-ups that have taken place since.
Chilling Legacy of U.S. Chemical Warfare in
January 21, 2008
One recent story was unveiled earlier this year by KPHO, a news
station in Phoenix, which showcased a number of Vietnam veterans'
who suggested the U.S. military had ordered them to bury barrels upon
barrels of Agent Orange in Camp Carroll, an army base in South
Veteran Steve House, who
continues to suffer from a number of the diseases that have been
commonly linked to Agent Orange exposure, describes digging a
two-acre ditch and then filling it with barrels fitting the
description of those containing Agent Orange.
House suffers from Neuropathy, a fairly uncommon disease for anyone
to develop without the help of poison or sustained use of the
affected nerve group.
Carpal Tunnel is one of the more commonly
known, and minor, types of neuropathy. The disease occurs when
damage is done to a group of nerve cells, resulting in loss of
sensation, tingling or burning sensations in the affected nerve
group, weakness, or even paralysis in extreme cases.
A fellow soldier who served with House, Robert Travis, has
corroborated the story:
"There was approximately 25 drums,
all OD green... On the barrels it said 'chemicals type Agent
Orange.' It had a stripe around the barrel dated 1967 for the
Republic of Vietnam."
Travis currently experiences extreme
weakness in his hands and feet, as well as arthritis in his neck and
A number of U.S. military personnel who traversed territory that had
been bombed with Agent Orange reported severe neuropathy in their
feet in the weeks following. They had been walking all over the
herbicide for a relatively brief period, and to this day, the
compound has been raging through their bodies, since, still limiting
their ability to function.
The majority of Vietnam veterans suffering from exposure to Agent
Orange are given federal aid to contend with the consequences of
exposure. To sufferers of ailments commonly associated with the
noxious herbicide, the U.S. government is projected to mete out up to
$67 billion over the next ten years.
As veterans in the U.S. still combat and fall to the effects of this
herbicide, children with genetic defects continue to remind
Vietnamese citizens of the potency and far-reaching effects of the
chemical of this terrifying poison, which has affected three
generations of offspring, so far.
The U.S. has spent $43 million on
these affected populations, to date, or under one-tenth what they
have spent on veterans.
But Agent Orange hotspots in Vietnam must be cleaned up if they are
to stop causing more diseases and genetic defects. In 2010, a
ten-year plan was proposed to clear the Agent Orange hotspots in
Vietnam, the areas that still contain hazardous levels of the
The $300 million plan has yet to be fully funded by the U.S.; however,
it has found a number of valuable contributors, which has helped
provide some more necessary momentum.
Having already spent $37 million on
cleaning efforts, the U.S. has shown some amount of responsibility for
its actions of the past, but it has yet to deal with the full extent
of the damage, at the source.
When Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, visited Vietnam
late last year, she connected the project to heal some of the worst
damage done to Vietnam to the strengthening of an alliance between
Vietnam and the U.S., referring to the compound still prevalent in the
"...a legacy of the painful past we
share, but the project we will undertake here, as our two
nations work hand-in-hand to clean up this site, is a sign of
the hopeful future we are building together."
Meanwhile, the herbicide continues to
produce untreatable deformities in Vietnamese youth.
Yet, despite these obvious and disturbing signs that herbicides can
be extremely harmful and difficult to dislodge, the companies that
produced Agent Orange still grow and develop, increasing their
product lines, their bottom lines, and revenue, not only in the
U.S. but across the world.
A quick glance on the Monsanto web page on
June 20 of 2011 portrays the company has grown by over 8% per year,
on average, since 2007.
Monsanto, along with
Dow Chemical, were
the two companies, which produced the approximately 12 million
gallons of Agent Orange that the U.S. military used to destroy about
14% of Vietnam's natural environment.
The companies have easily batted away all protests and claims
against them, passing the buck to the U.S. government as the culprit.
Perhaps they are well within their legal rights. After all, they
simply filled the orders given them, much like a firearms producer.
Can we blame them for how the U.S.
military dispersed their product? Perhaps not. However, there is
still plenty of room for suspicion of foul play.
If Monsanto and Dow Chemicals knew
exactly how dangerous their product was, then it would have been
their responsibility to inform the government of the long-term and
catastrophic effects of mass dissemination. If they did not know
these basic facts about the dangers of their own product, then it is
a case of rampant negligence, the kind of which they can only be
expected to reproduce, without significant consequences for their
At least these companies should acknowledge the part they did play
in what people are too afraid to label, genocide.
Len Aldis, founder of the UK-Vietnam Friendship Association,
who has contributed a large amount of his own funds and time in
support of the effort to clean up Agent Orange in Vietnam, does
level sincere blame on the heads of Monsanto and Dow Chemicals.
In a letter addressed to Monsanto's
Board of Directors, Mr. Aldis writes:
"You may not be aware of the part
played by your company in this criminal act, but there have been
many protests here in the UK and many other countries at the use
of Agent Orange on Vietnam...
I have seen the results of your
product in jars containing unborn babies, a sight not many
people could stomach seeing."
To this date, Mr. Aldis has received no
reply, a stance that is upheld on Monsanto and Dow Chemicals'
websites. These URLs make no mention of Agent
Orange, by name, by policy change, etc.
If they are content to sweep this
product under the rug,
How can they be trusted today,
as they produce genetically-enhanced seeds, herbicides, and
other product lines?
What impetus is there to
thoroughly test these lab-controlled mutations?
When we play with a fire that
has already burnt us, can we expect anything less than to be