Dang Hong Nhut
was just 29 when she joined the Vietnamese resistance working to expel
the US army. Along the way, she endured brutal conditions, but when the
war ended, she attempted to return to normal life. However, almost
immediately, tragedy struck. She had a series of miscarriages, and when
she finally managed to carry a pregnancy to five months, she miscarried
again, with the doctors telling her that the fetus had severe congenital
deformities as a result of her exposure to Agent Orange during the war.
She was advised to avoid pregnancies in the future — and now, decades
later, she’s fighting multiple cancers, also possibly linked to the
infamous herbicide. She, like many Vietnamese, was saddled with the legacy of a war that should have ended long ago.
In the Vietnam War, Operation Ranch Hand
dumped untold amounts of defoliating chemicals on Vietnam in an attempt
to remove the heavy jungle that made it easy for opposing forces to
appear and disappear, engaging U.S. soldiers in vicious and devastating
firefights. Unconcerned with the potential environmental impacts or
human health effects, the United States used products like Herbicide
Orange, also known as Agent Orange — and, thanks to the lack of
international precedent, the United States did so largely without
scrutiny. It wasn’t until 1977 that the UN opened the Environmental Modification Convention for signatures and ratification, inviting member nations to reconsider the use of chemicals like Agent Orange.