Friday, April 5, 2013

Vietnam in the Aftermath of a Chemical Holocaust
The Geneva Agreement of 1954 ended the French colonial rule of Vietnam. However, the Eisenhower administration subverted the idea of a united and independent Vietnam. It funded a puppet government in Saigon to resist Hanoi, thus precipitating a twenty-year American War in Indochina.

In 1961, president John Kennedy approved the use of herbicides to defoliate the dense jungles of Vietnam. This decision turned a bitterly fought war into an illegal, immoral, and humiliating contest for the United States and an ecological catastrophe for Vietnam.
The Americans sprayed the forests and rice fields of Vietnam with Agent Orange, a concoction of 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D, two exceedingly toxic weed killers. One of them, 2,4,5-T, was contaminated by TCDD-dioxin, the most potent molecule in the industrial world's chemical arsenal. The chemical warfare lasted until 1970 when president Richard Nixon renounced the first use of "incapacitating chemical weapons" and "any use of biological and toxin weapons."
In 1977, the Linnean Society of London published a study on the "Ecological Effects of Pesticides." Arthur H. Westing, a dioxin expert working for the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, authored a chapter about the "Ecological effects of the military use of herbicides."
Westing theorized that it would take centuries to undo the ecological damage the Agent Orange inflicted on Vietnam. He suggested that more than 200 pounds of TCDD-dioxin "was injected into the South Vietnamese environment as a concomitant of the military spraying." 

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