Senior project. (text only)

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Senior project. (text only)

Post by rsG on Mon Dec 07, 2009 1:36 pm

Imagine a silent killer capable not only of taking the life of an individual, but claiming the next four generations of his descendants as well. One such killer is Agent Orange, a dioxin based chemical compound, used as an herbicide during the Vietnam War. This chemical weapon has been proven to cause major birth defects, numerous cancers, gastrointestinal diseases, skin disorders and diabetes. Now imagine that a government, charged with the responsibility of ensuring the freedoms of the peace-loving people of South Vietnam, knowingly dispersed this poison over both Vietnamese and American troops. This is the reality of Agent Orange. The problem it poses is that the poison does not naturally reduce, but lingers in soil, waterways and human bodies, causing massive damage to all. The solution is a cleanup that is time-consuming, labor intensive and very expensive. The disgrace is that no one will accept responsibility for the aftermath of the dropping of this toxin or for the necessary cleanup. As the United States government was the agency responsible for the application of Agent Orange, and did so with willful negligence, it only seems right that it should shoulder the burden of making things right.

During the Vietnam War the United States used over 21 million gallons of Agent Orange as a defoliant to remove ground vegetation and to deny cover to the enemy. This compound accounts for over 66 percent of all defoliants used in the war effort. Other agents used include Agent White and Agent Blue, but the most intense agent used was Agent Orange. This chemical weapon possesses a compound known as Tccp. In this compound is dioxin, a chemical that poses many serious health risks. The Institute of Medicine has concluded that exposure to Agent Orange is responsible for at least “three types of cancer and other health problems including soft tissue sarcoma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and Hodgkin’s disease.” (Landscaper.net) “Other illnesses attributed to exposure to this chemical weapon include: cognitive and neuropsychiatry disorders, female reproductive cancers, leukemia, low birth weight, motor dysfunction and diabetes.” (Vetshome.com-3) These illnesses have been experienced by both Vietnamese citizens and generations of their children and American veterans and their children. The only difference between the two affected populations is that the Americans do not have to live in the affected area and reap the ongoing damage caused by exposure to contaminated soil and water supplies. That is the legacy left by Agent Orange to the Vietnamese. The manufacturers of this poison, chiefly Monsanto and Dow Chemical Companies, have escaped any responsibility for the damage caused by their products. A committee reviewing the chemical weapons used in Operation Ranch Hand, during which Agent Orange was used, has concluded that “through an extensive review of the scientific literature that indeed, there does appear to be a link between exposure to the herbicide and certain diseases.” (landscaper.net) Still, the manufacturers accept no liability.

Monsanto and Dow assume no responsibility because they believe the product was accurately described to the purchaser. As the buyer, the U.S. Military was aware of the potential side effects. The term, “Operation Ranch Hand” was the “military code for the spraying of herbicides from U.S. Air Force aircraft, in Southeast Asia from 1962 through 1971.” (Agent Orange) When America scrambled out of Vietnam, quickly gathering its supplies and troops, it left behind caches of these chemicals. They leaked into the soil and waterways for over thirty years. In the late 90’s, scientists took samples from people in Bien Hoa city, one of the epicenters of Agent Orange exposure. Dioxin had seeped into the city’s water system. Nineteen of twenty people in Bien Hoa proved to have dioxin blood levels 130 times higher than individuals not exposed to Agent Orange. Dr. James Clary, an American military scientist, who made spray tanks for the airplanes used to drop the chemical said, “When we initiated the herbicide program n the 1960’s, we were aware of the potential for damage due to dioxin contamination in the herbicide. We were even aware that the military formation had a higher dioxin concentration than the civilian version, due to the lower cost of speed and manufacture. However, because the material was to be used on the enemy, none of us were overly concerned.” (Levy) Unfortunately, what this means is that the issues faced by those exposed to the deadly herbicide, are the by product of concern over cost effectiveness in weapon manufacture. Because this was the overriding concern of the American military, not the potential health of the South Vietnamese or the American veteran exposed to the weapon, there was willful negligence on the part of the American government.

The government response to these allegations has been to blame the chemical companies for the manufacture of dioxin -contaminated Agent Orange. Tetrachorobenzo-p-dioxin was the main compound in Agent Orange. Some chemicals dissolve over time, but this chemical does not. It remains in the soil over which it was sprayed, in the waterways and in the animals, fish and humans exposed to the weapon over forty years ago. Studies have linked dioxin exposure to over twenty-eight fatal conditions including gastro-intestinal diseases, birth defects, chronic skin conditions, neurological disease and most types of cancer.(Watson) The situation for all exposed is a dire one. The American veteran has no recourse because the government refuses to acknowledge many of his medical claims. The Vietnamese see even less relief on the horizon. The former Vice President of South Vietnam, Nguyen Thi Binh states, “It’s very late to do anything. We put this issue directly on the table with the U.S. So far they have not dealt with the problem. If our relationship is ever to be normal, the U.S. has to accept responsibility. Go and see the situation for yourself.” (Levy) So far, little has been done to remedy the situation.

The decision to use an herbicide was a logical one. The heavy Vietnamese vegetation gave the enemy too many convenient places to hide. The safety of the U.S. armed forces was a real concern. Where the government went wrong was to substitute a military grade formulation of Agent Orange for a civilian form. The reason the military grade was chosen was its lower cost of manufacture. The more toxic grade was cheaper and easier to produce. With a massive war machine eating up available resources, it seemed prudent to spend less. However, this decision would prove to be a poor one. Dioxin does not biodegrade naturally. The dumping of this chemical has had serious and lasting effects. These effects were well known to the U.S. government, nevertheless, the chemical was sprayed over 1.2 million acres of Vietnamese land. “Doing this has created more than 1 million Agent Orange victims in Vietnam alone.” (we planet.com) These victims of this chemical weapon are American and Vietnamese and they are crying out for help.

The ongoing victimization of the exposed has been well-documented. “The Vietnamese Red Cross has registered an estimated one million people disabled by Agent Orange, but has sufficient funds to help only one-fifth of them, paying out an average of $5 a month.” (we planet.com) American veterans are suffering just as badly. “Son of former U.S. Navy Commander, Captain Elmo Zumwalt Jr. contracted two forms of cancer that he believed had been caused by his exposure to Agent Orange. Every day during the war, Captain Elmo Zumwalt Jr. had swum in a river from which he had also eaten fish, in an area that was regularly sprayed with the herbicide.”(Guardian UK) American veterans and Vietnamese citizens have experienced devastating health effects from exposure to Agent Orange and their children are dealing with these effects as well.

Tien Hoa is a grandfather who spent years fighting in the war. He was repeatedly exposed to the deadly Agent Orange spray. He states, “My son was born with a deformed foot and now, my grandson has no legs and a deformed hand. I can confirm that this is because of Agent Orange.” (Jones-50)This is not a uniquely Vietnamese phenomenon. “Almost immediately after the war had finished, U.S. veterans began reporting chronic conditions, skin disorders, asthma, cancers, and gastrointestinal diseases. Their babies were born limbless or with Down’s Syndrome or spina bifida. But it would be three years before the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs reluctantly agreed to back a medical investigation, examining 300,000 former servicemen- only a fraction of those who complained of being sick- with the government warning all participants that it was indemnified from lawsuits brought by them.” (Guardian UK -4)When the government is so reluctant to protect its own citizens, can the Vietnamese expect any better treatment? It is only because of the efforts of Elmo Zumwalt’s father, that the U.S. government finally admitted that it had been aware of the potential dangers of Agent Orange. This man also uncovered “irrefutable evidence that the U.S. military had dispensed Agent Orange in concentrations 6 to 25 times the suggested rate and that 4.2 million U.S. soldiers could have made transient or significant contact with the herbicides because of Operation Ranch Hand.” (Guardian UK- 5) This action was taken even though the government was aware of the potential dangers and continued spraying the poison for ten years, in concentrations exceeding recommended guidelines by 25 times. This constitutes gross negligence on the part of the United States government.

The legacy of this negligence is undeniable. All Vietnam veterans were exposed and the Vietnamese people are in constant contact with the dioxin contamination that will never naturally degrade. Canadian surveyor, Chris Hatfield says, “Dioxin has moved from the soils to the sediments of fish ponds and into the fish themselves that are raised in the ponds for food- right up into the blood and breast milk.” (we planet.com) The resulting illnesses are being passed into three and sometimes four generations of both Americans and Vietnamese. “To break down dioxin, affected soil has to be heated to very high temperatures- an expensive process.”(we planet.com) The U.S. balks at making any effort to conduct a cleanup. Both American and Vietnamese people are getting tired of the excuses and want a humane solution.

The response of Monsanto, Dow and the U.S. government has been half-hearted. The chemical companies escaped responsibility in a N.Y. court ruling that said they were not responsible for the effects of the manufacture of Agent Orange or any other toxic herbicide. (Guardian Unlimited) Despite the fact that there is scientific proof linking the health problems experienced to Agent Orange, full scale decontamination has yet to take place. President Barack Obama, this year, doubled assistance to 6 million dollars. (Press Department Vietnam Ministry of Culture and Information) While this indicates that he acknowledges there is a problem, it is an insulting amount of funding for so immense a problem. Health insurance companies are still refusing claims from U.S. veterans regarding Agent Orange related health issues. Michael Wiley, an American veteran who contracted chronic illnesses from his exposure to Agent Orange, eventually committed suicide because of his depression. His cousin Kathy Soltani, interviewed for this project, reported that he had lost hope after languishing in a Maine VA hospital for years. Soltani stated, “Michael really believed in his mission as a soldier. He may not have agreed with the U.S. policy in Vietnam, but he saw himself as a representative of what was good and decent in the American people. To return to his own country and to be repeatedly disrespected and ignored by medical professionals and agencies to which his well-being was entrusted, was just too much. He got tired of waiting for things to get better. He might not have been able to control the way he was being treated but he could decide when he had had enough.” (Soltani-1) Like Michael Wiley, Vietnamese citizens are suffering from the adverse effects of the toxin and no one is doing anything meaningful to make amends or to clean up this poison.

The response of those caring for the affected is moving in its simplicity and power. American and Vietnamese activists are saying the same thing. Vietnamese Dr. Nhan established the office of Genetic Counseling and Disabled Children to help the victims of Agent Orange. He says, “I am not interested in apportioning blame. I don’t want to talk about science or politics. What I care about is that I have 60 sick children needing financial backers. They cannot wait for the U.S. to change its policy, take its head out of the sand and clean up the mess.” (we planet.com) His sentiments are echoed by countless agencies struggling with the same problems in the United States. The time for pointing fingers is over. The urgent need is cleanup and funding of health programs designed to deal with the by product of spraying one of the deadliest chemicals known to man on human beings and their environment. When the global community is dealing with a crime against humanity, it must look beyond assigning blame, to find real and practical solutions.

Barack Obama, in his November 2009 speech asking for support for his decision to send 37,000more troops to Afghanistan, mentioned that America is seen as a sort of global policeman. The symbol evokes the idea of trust and safety. This is not the idea that comes to the minds of Vietnamese and American servicemen who were present in Vietnam during the years spanning 1961-1971. Fro these individuals, the American government is seen more as an entity shirking responsibility for its actions. “Addressing the UN Security council, Colin Powell once clutched between his fingers a tiny vial representing concentrated anthrax spores, enough to kill thousands and only a tiny fraction of the amount that he said Sadaam Hussein had at his disposal. The Vietnamese have their own symbolic vial that it too flourishes in scientific conferences that get little publicity. It contains 80g of dioxin, just enough of the super toxin contained in Agent Orange to fill a child-sized talcum powder container. If dropped into the water supply of a city the size of New York, it would kill the entire population. Dr. Westling, former director of the UN Environment Programme, a leading authority on Agent Orange, reveals that the U.S. sprayed 170kg of it over Vietnam.” (Guardian UK -2) Colin Powell’s display bolstered a nation to back a President’s declaration of war. The Vietnamese display provokes no meaningful response for the same audience.

When one country goes to war with another, there are no real winners. War is usually about power, money, military advantage or exploitation of natural resources. The last consideration is usually the common man. What was done to all combatants in Vietnam was a crime against humanity. The U.S. government knew the dangers, understood the potential for damage to future generations and continued to spray poison over its own people as well as the Vietnamese. This devastation was not confined to the immediate “threat” in the area but has been visited on generations of innocents. The cleanup is possible but expensive. Sadly, what began as an irresponsible action made in the interest of saving money has continued to be a crime committed in the same interest. The United States can never hope to regain the glorious image it once had, among the other people of the world, if it refuses to admit that a deadly mistake was made and that a cleanup is a moral imperative. What the American government cannot manage to achieve as an agency or will not acknowledge as a world super power, has to be accomplished through the actions of good people everywhere. We must, as individuals, demand that our elected officials answer for the actions they commit in our names. We must mandate that the men and women who serve in our military be treated with a level of respect that includes caring for them when they are ill. We must investigate alternatives to chemical and biological weapons and the torture they inflict on countless individuals and their children. To do less is more than un-American. To do less is inhuman.


Wrote by Dan Schrader
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Re: Senior project. (text only)

Post by rsG on Mon Dec 07, 2009 1:37 pm

tell me what you think!
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Re: Senior project. (text only)

Post by Aleksi U on Mon Dec 07, 2009 1:53 pm

LawL not bad.

Btw Dan, where the fck have you been?
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Re: Senior project. (text only)

Post by Dray The Fingerless on Mon Dec 07, 2009 7:14 pm


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Re: Senior project. (text only)

Post by rsG on Wed Dec 09, 2009 10:21 pm

Dray The Fingerless wrote:
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Re: Senior project. (text only)

Post by rsG on Wed Dec 09, 2009 10:24 pm

i find it funny how you would View the paper in forums then not read it.... like you really showed me! went out of your way to post and over used gif that champ started.
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Re: Senior project. (text only)

Post by Dray The Fingerless on Wed Dec 09, 2009 10:51 pm





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Re: Senior project. (text only)

Post by Nihil on Thu Dec 10, 2009 4:21 am

omfg, how could i have missed this awesome thread, dray deserves rep for dis junk!!

rep

because my sides hurt now^^
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Re: Senior project. (text only)

Post by Dray The Fingerless on Thu Dec 10, 2009 11:56 am

seriously thou, good job dan.

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Re: Senior project. (text only)

Post by rsG on Thu Dec 10, 2009 12:28 pm

thanks i worked my ass off for this paper. i was suppose to present it today but since its my birthday i dont have to.
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Re: Senior project. (text only)

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