No Reckoning over Agent Orange

Consortium News, August 10, 2013

Official Washington often lectures other countries on the need for accountability, especially when governments have engaged in war crimes. Yet, one of the clearest cases of a U.S. war crime – the mass spraying of Vietnam with Agent Orange – has escaped any reckoning, note Marjorie Cohn and Jeanne Mirer.

By Marjorie Cohn and Jeanne Mirer

Aug. 10 marks the 52nd anniversary of the start of the chemical warfare program in Vietnam, a long time with little or no remedial action by the U.S. government. One of the most shameful legacies of the American War against Vietnam, Agent Orange continues to poison Vietnam and the people exposed to the chemicals, as well as their offspring.

For over 10 years, from 1961 to 1975, in order to deny food and protection to those deemed to be “the enemy,” the United States defoliated the land and forests of Vietnam with the chemicals known as Agent Orange. These chemicals contained the impurity of dioxin – the most toxic chemical known to science.

A U.S. military helicopter spraying the defoliant Agent Orange over Vietnam during the Vietnam War. (U.S. Army photo)

Millions of people were exposed to Agent Orange and today it is estimated that three million Vietnamese still suffer the effects of these chemical defoliants. In addition to the millions of Vietnamese still affected by this deadly poison, tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers are also afffected.

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