Agent Orange’s Genocidal Aftermath

April 6th, 2021 - by Jagjit Singh / Berkeley Daily Planet

And Biden Calls Putin “A Killer”?

Jagjit Singh / Berkeley Daily Planet

 (March 29, 2021) — When Joe Biden called Putin a killer, it brought back memories of the Vietnam War. On arriving to the US in 1967 I was swept up in the drama of the mandatory draft and rioting on college campuses opposing the war.

I must confess I was puzzled why America declared war on Vietnam, which was just recovering from the yoke of French colonialism. In the communist hysteria at the time this struggle was interpreted by the American political elite as Vietnam’s embrace of communism and therefore presented an existential threat to the US and its allies.

This was an easy sell to most Americans except many college students and the Rev. King who spoke eloquently against the war. 

In attempting to bring a speedy conclusion to the war the US military, and the CIA used everything in its arsenal with no concern of the enormous collateral damage that would occur to the Vietnamese peasants, American soldiers and later to the people of Laos and Cambodia. B52 bombers continued their saturation bombing around the clock. Cluster munitions and chemical weapons, such as the dioxin Agent Orange, and napalm were used in large quantities on a predominately civilian population raising the spectre of war crimes and genocide. 

President Nixon secretly widened the war to neighboring Laos and Cambodia and prolonged the war for half a decade to frustrate President Johnson’s reelection prospects. Many historians have leveled charges of war criminals on President Nixon and his faithful National Security adviser, Henry Kissinger. 

Between 1961 and 1971, the U.S. sprayed 21 million gallons of Agent Orange over southern Vietnam, as well as Laos and Cambodia, to defoliate dense forests and improve visibility for US military pilots. 

Susan Hammond, a US researcher visited Laos in 1991 fell in love with the country and decided to stay. She soon heard disturbing stories of the devastating impact of Agent Orange and decided to document its impact on the local population. She co-founded the War Legacies Project (WLP) with her husband Jacquelyn Chagnon and an associate, Niphaphone Sengthong. They meticulously documented the severe health impacts of Agent Orange. Under orders from General Westmorland the US military and the CIA included Laos and Cambodia with Vietnam in its in saturating bombing campaign of Agent Orange. 

What followed was a textbook definition of genocide. 

Every family they encountered shared horror stories of severe birth defects, children unable to sit, stand or talk, others suffered chronic debilitating pain. 

A conservative estimate, of at least 600,000 gallons of herbicides rained down on Laos. The Laotians find themselves trapped in a hostile toxic environment for generations to come. US officials were under strict orders to remain silent lest they be liable for $billions in cleanup operations and reparations. 

Chagnon’s daughter, Miranda, was born with multiple birth defects, a stark reminder of the long term health effects of dioxin. 

One small 10-year-old suffered intellectual disabilities and suspected arthrogryposis multiplex congenita, a condition that causes joints to permanently contract. 

Club feet are commonplace. So are cleft lips, sometimes accompanied by cleft palates. 

So, Mr. President when you accused Putin of being a killer I wonder how you would describe the “shining city on the ill” of poisoning innocent people in multiple countries for generations to come with devastating pain and misery.

Does the US ever apologize for its horrific war crimes?

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