“Wars are never cured, they just go into remission for a few years” (David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas)
“It won’t hurt you. It’s just to kill plants. It’s called Agent Orange… and it won’t bother humans” (Karl Marlantes, Matterhorn)
“We were wrong, terribly wrong” (Robert McNamara, U.S. Secretary of Defense during Vietnam War)
Guns of August loom again as Secretary of State John Kerry takes to the airwaves to attempt to justify a U.S. “humanitarian bombing mission” against Syria. Presenting himself as a representative of noble patriotism atop some (clearly imagined) high moral ground, he maintains that “a red line has been crossed” by allegations that an evil Syrian government used chemical weapons against civilians.
“Our sense of basic humanity is offended, not only by this cowardly crime but also by the cynical attempt to cover it up. What we saw in Syria last week should shock the conscience of the world. It defies any code of morality. The indiscriminate slaughter of civilians, the killing of women and children and innocent bystanders by chemical weapons, is a moral obscenity.”
Secretary Kerry faces a hard sell to a war weary American public so recently suckered into disastrous wars of aggression in Iraq and Afghanistan over those mythical mushroom clouds and tall tales of hidden weapons of mass destruction…uranium yellow cake and so on. Déjà vu continues to reverberate throughout our still ongoing national nightmare,… Saddam is Hitler, 9/11, Osama Bin Laden, “they hate our freedom” all cleverly stoked by a Machiavellian combination of half-truths and ongoing lies. As we now return this subject of unacceptable chemical weapons it is important to remember that this is the same John Kerry who commanded swift boat operations during his 1968-69 tour of duty in the Vietnam War. As such, as well as being an active member of Vietnam Veterans Against the War, Navy Lt. Kerry would have had to been unavoidably aware of our own country’s legacy of extensive chemical warfare in Southeast Asia.
Many decades passed before either our government or military (support our troops) was willing to acknowledge any of the devastating effects that chemical herbicides and defoliants such as Agent Orange have had on 2.6 million of our own troops, their families, children and grandchildren. Outraged, relentless, and courageous activism has finally, scientifically established that Agent Orange, which created so much environmental devastation and death from above, is both gene altering, carcinogenic, and responsible for a host of other ghastly afflictions. While there are still a few corporate-funded trolls and delusional deniers, who claim that this damage was “unintentional” or “unsubstantiated“, it has been more than real enough for me. I saw many veterans, their families and other loved ones, blighted by exposure to Agent Orange, during my years at a family-practice medical clinic in Colorado. Closer to home, one of my cousins was a helicopter pilot in Vietnam who flew many of these aerial spraying missions, and as the family puts it; “hasn’t been quite right since the war”. He has difficulty maintaining employment and his children were born with birth defects.
This nightmare chemical, containing a potent dioxin, gained its name from a bright orange stripe painted on the outside of 55 lb shipping and storage drums. Agent Orange and other poisons were manufactured for the use of our Department of Defense by Monsanto, Dow Chemical and Diamond Shamrock Corporations. From 1962-1971, an ecocidal, aerosol spraying program, code named “Operation Ranch Hand“, employed 20 million gallons of Agent Orange to saturate Vietnam, eastern Laos, and regions of Cambodia; targeting jungles, forests, and essential food crops for defoliation. All of those thoroughly drenched areas retain various levels of contamination to this day.
Vietnam has chosen August 10th as Agent Orange Day, to commemorate this date as the beginning of U.S chemical weapons spraying in 1962, which continued on for 9 more years, along with unqualified blessings of Presidents Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon. Vietnamese Red Cross reports that as many as 3 million of their citizens have been affected, including, at the very least, 150,000 infants born with birth defects. Various accountings of these tragic children of the apocalypse don’t include vast numbers of stillbirths and miscarriages as well as the fact that many Vietnamese women carry high levels of dioxin in their breast milk. Their country faces ongoing challenges as their third generation born after a toxic chemical warfare onslaught launched by our American forces, continue to suffer tragic and truly horrifying after effects with no end in sight. (Snejana Faberon, “Generation Orange: Heartbreaking Portraits of Vietnamese Children Suffering From Devastating Effects of Toxic Herbicide Spraying by US Army 40 Years Ago“, UK Daily Mail, August 24,2013)