Join 3,516 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


The Legacy of Agent Orange
May 7, 2007 1:14 PM   Subscribe

During the Vietnam War, millions of gallons of Agent Orange were sprayed across regions of the country to destroy forest cover used by guerillas. A photo essay from Slate: On this day in 1984, a $180 million out-of-court settlement was announced in the Agent Orange class-action suit brought by Vietnam veterans, who argued that exposure to AO had caused various cancers, birth defects, and other chronic diseases. The settlement came to government benefits of about $1,500 a month until 1997. Yet many Vietnamese victims who also suffer greatly have received nothing from the United States since the end of the war. Some images are quite graphic and not something you want to look at while eating lunch or possibly at work. I know we've done Agent Orange before ( here and here), but this collection of images is rather intense.
posted by otherwordlyglow (23 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
Yet many Vietnamese victims who also suffer greatly have received nothing from the United States since the end of the war.

I do appreciate how horrible this is, but does anyone really think the US is going to compensate the Vietnamese for an unintended an unexpected side effect, when the country was simultaneously trying to kill these same people with carpet bombing and napalm?

Is the US expected to compensate Japanese civilian victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki?
posted by Pastabagel at 1:40 PM on May 7, 2007


I once saw a scene in a vietnam war documentary where a sargent dipped a dixie cup into a barrel of agent orange and drank it right on camera. He wanted to illustrate that it was safe for humans. I wonder what happened to him.

Thank goodness Iraq is mostly desert.
posted by jmccw at 1:40 PM on May 7, 2007


"McNamara does not believe that Americans should escape international scrutiny. He speaks knowing that each carefully chosen word has implications for his own record: "Henry Kissinger was travelling in Europe the other day and there were suggestions that he should be brought before the Criminal Court. Now, I'm not certain what the allegations were or what rule of international behaviour he had violated that would justify bringing him before the court, but I can think of rules that would in my case. For example we used Agent Orange - which allegedly killed people. Or we used Napalm to burn individuals. Were those in accordance with the accepted rules of war or not? Well that subject needs a lot more discussion"."
posted by Abiezer at 1:42 PM on May 7, 2007


Thank goodness Iraq is mostly desert.

It doesn't really matter, we'll find a way to dump chemical weapons on our perceived enemies no matter what climate they've chosen as their habitat.
On November 30, 2005, General Peter Pace defended use of WP, declaring that WP munitions were a "legitimate tool of the military", used to illuminate targets and create smokescreens, and that there were better weapons for killing people:

"...it is well within the law of war to use those weapons as they're being used, for marking and for screening... A bullet goes through skin even faster than white phosphorus does"
The more things change...
In particular, some women had tried to enter their homes, and they had found a certain dust spread all over the house. The Americans themselves had told them to clean the houses with detergents, because that dust was very dangerous. In fact, they had some effect on their bodies, leading to some very strange things.
posted by prostyle at 2:00 PM on May 7, 2007


I work with a young woman who was born with relatively severe mental retardation related to Agent Orange exposure. She's my age - 35 or 26 - so I imagine the exposure was between 69 and 71. Her daughter (long story - she was promised to someone as a bride and essentially raped by her husband, whom she does not live with - she's in a group home) is about 7 and luckily undamaged by any residual effects, in fact extremely bright.

She is an American citizen, who is mentally retarded and will always have health problems as a direct result of a chemical used on her village by the American military. That's all that's important here, I think, especially since several sources claim that the long-term effects were known - or at least suspected - years before AO was used in Vietnam.
posted by luriete at 2:07 PM on May 7, 2007


I just remembered that the father of my 'office next door' colleague served in Vietnam (mid/late 1960s) and is in that original cohort of servicepeople who got and remain sick from AO. He has been suffering for over 30 years.
posted by jmccw at 2:17 PM on May 7, 2007


Were these side effects really unexpected? Has anyone ever FOIA'd government or Dow Chemical or Monsanto records to find out about what these scumbags knew and when they knew it? I just find it extremely hard to believe that nobody foresaw the so-called side effects.

To me the most horrifying birth defect linked to dioxins is anencephaly, in which babies are born without a forebrain. They are blind, deaf, unconscious, and unable to feel pain. They are usually stillborn and if not, have (unsurprisingly) an extremely poor prognosis.

Do the CEO's of chemical companies sleep well at night? I think they probably do. Sigh.
posted by scratch at 2:25 PM on May 7, 2007


Is the US expected to compensate Japanese civilian victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

Ummmm..... fuck yes, please?
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 2:37 PM on May 7, 2007


Ananecephaly...yeah, that's where they know they've got a problem when they hold up the neonate in front of a really bright light and notice they can see it shining through the kid's cranium. Or so an OB/GYN once joked...I was too busy being horrified to remember to laugh.

There's still some counterargument about the effects of Agent Orange exposure, much as I've heard about Gulf War Syndrome, but look at statistically valid arguments on the one hand and anecdotes like those above and decide which one you want to buy into.
posted by pax digita at 3:06 PM on May 7, 2007


I once saw a scene in a vietnam war documentary where a sargent dipped a dixie cup into a barrel of agent orange and drank it right on camera. He wanted to illustrate that it was safe for humans. I wonder what happened to him.

'Agent Orange' itself really isn't all that toxic, unfortunately a byproduct of the making one of its components is a dioxin. This may not have been known when it was first deployed, but I too would like to know who did know and when.

Is the US expected to compensate Japanese civilian victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

Ummmm..... fuck yes, please?


The US should pledge to do so, just as soon as the Japanese pay full reparations to all their 'comfort women'.
posted by atrazine at 3:14 PM on May 7, 2007


"The US should pledge to do so, just as soon as the Japanese pay full reparations to all their 'comfort women'."

I fail to see why this should be a requirement. Because one country refuses to do the right thing, we should refuse as well?
posted by The Light Fantastic at 3:18 PM on May 7, 2007 [3 favorites]


"But this not for religion, we are not extremists, we fought and we fight for you and your way of life"
posted by zouhair at 3:28 PM on May 7, 2007


Ananecephaly...yeah, that's where they know they've got a problem when they hold up the neonate in front of a really bright light and notice they can see it shining through the kid's cranium. Or so an OB/GYN once joked...I was too busy being horrified to remember to laugh.

Hospital humor is the blackest of the black.
posted by scratch at 3:30 PM on May 7, 2007


prostyle - Nasty though it undoubtably is I think the massive quantities of depleted uranium all over the place might be a bit more to worry about than White Phosophorous.
posted by Artw at 3:33 PM on May 7, 2007


.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:47 PM on May 7, 2007


My dad was drafted into the war. Towards the end of his life, we couldn't get him into a Veteran's hospital for the life of us. After he passed, my sister insisted on an autopsy. We found out he had thyroid cancer which had been closing off his throat, one of the usual effects of Agent Orange exposure.

Now we get to live the rest of our lives wondering if there's been any genetic damage we'll get to enjoy later in our lifetimes.

Wow, that American freedom sure feels good.
posted by yeloson at 4:03 PM on May 7, 2007


But Angent Orange sure beats the hell out of Liquid Plumber for taking tree roots out of sewer lines.

Cheaper, too.. You can buy it in 55 gal. barrels for about $400.
posted by Balisong at 6:05 PM on May 7, 2007


Talk about your axis of evil. If what's happened to the people exposed to Agent Orange (and their offspring) isn't evil, hell, I don't know what is.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:09 PM on May 7, 2007


Speaking of humor(?), the "Ranch Hands" used to joke, "Only we can prevent forests."
posted by pax digita at 6:20 PM on May 7, 2007


What is it about Agent Orange that is toxic? I had heard it was dioxins, but Seveso Italy had a vastly more concentrated dioxin exposure in 1976 with barely any measurable health effects (statistically).
posted by BrotherCaine at 6:31 PM on May 7, 2007


My dad worked for a company called Chemstrand from about 1961 to 1967, when he went to work for Monsanto. (I think Monsanto bought Chemstrand.) When I was about 4, in 1966 or 1967, I caught poison ivy in our back yard. My dad came home with some agent orange from work to spray on the poison ivy. He also came home with a suit to wear like this. They knew. (Years later he told me that they knew.)
posted by found dog one eye at 7:43 PM on May 7, 2007


Oh, yes - they knew. (A google cache; the original is not available right now.)
The earliest known effort by Monsanto to cover-up dioxin contamination of its products involved the herbicide used in Vietnam Agent Orange (2,4, 5- trichlorophenoxy acetate, 2,4,5-T). Available internal Monsanto correspondence in the 1960s shows a knowledge of this contamination and the fact that the dioxin contaminant was responsible for kidney and liver damage, as well as the skin condition chloracne."
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:57 AM on May 8, 2007


I do appreciate how horrible this is, but does anyone really think the US is going to compensate the Vietnamese for an unintended an unexpected side effect, when the country was simultaneously trying to kill these same people with carpet bombing and napalm?

Is the US expected to compensate Japanese civilian victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki?


And those that think USians will never understand war till it comes home notch their belt again. Actually, it's not much of a belt anymore. Ragged strip of leather, really. Can't wear it out at all.
posted by dreamsign at 6:24 AM on May 8, 2007


« Older Fake Chinese Gylcerin kills hundreds, possibly tho...  |  Introducing the Forbes corpora... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments