Sunday, June 20, 2010

Agent Orange

"A man who is good enough to shed his blood for his country is good enough to be given a square deal afterwards. More than that no man is entitled, and less than that no man shall have." 
President Theodore Roosevelt, Speech to veterans, Springfield, IL, July 4, 1903

Recently, there was an article out of Veteran's Today (Military Veterans and Foreign Affairs Journal) about Agent Orange.  Also recently, in the New York Times, there was an article about a joint plan by American and Vietnamese representatives.  For many, the term Agent Orange is a new term.  Unless you study military history, or history in general, these two words are unfamiliar to the now labeled Millennial Generation.  It is now important to bring this issue back into focus.  As we hear more and more about things like the Gulf War Syndrome, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and brain injuries, we must try to decipher the causes.    

According to the Department of Veteran's Affairs, they describe it as follows:  

Agent Orange is the name given to a specific blend of herbicides used in Vietnam from 1961 to 1971 during the Vietnam conflict. The U.S. military sprayed millions of gallons of Agent Orange and other herbicides to remove leaves from trees that provided cover for enemy forces. Some Vietnam Veterans were exposed to these herbicides.
What is also not stated is that the general population of Vietnam was also exposed to these toxins.  The toxins are specifically dioxin.  The World Health Organization classifies this stuff as a major health hazard, potentially capable of creating birth defects, cancer among other things.  There was another report by Journeyman Pictures, which appears to be out of London.  Go here to get an overview.  What is little understood is how much damage dioxins can do, especially in terms of birth defects.  For a more brutal documentary of this issue, you can go here.  The images are brutal, so be forewarned.  Sorry, the embedding feature doesn't exist with Journeyman Pictures.

In Hoi An, there is an orphanage with children with severe handicaps and birth defects.  Locally, there is ample speculation that Agent Orange exposure may be a causal factor.  In some ways, exposure to chemicals seems to have also messed up DNA, but more studies are needed to create any clear cut connection.  The main problem appears to be actual dioxin levels.  According to Thanh Nien News, there are still significant hotspots containing this toxin.  

We are going to visit Hoi An.  I am also hoping to visit the orphanage.

You must be prepared to re-evaluate your previous ideas.