Okinawa Residents Sickened By Agent Orange Still Want Justice

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.

In the decades following the war, the United States has denied the human health effects of the compound, as well as its lingering legacy in Vietnam, where concentrations of Agent Orange in the air, soil and water were far above EPA guidelines in the wake of Operation Ranch Hand. Numerous birth defects among Vietnamese survivors and Vietnam veterans, as well as their families, have been linked to exposure to the chemical, and it has also been implicated in the development of some cancers. By denying the effects of the chemical, the United States can also avoid paying damages. The nation’s stance has been aided by a number of conflicting studies that have obscured the details on the links between Agent Orange and environmental illnesses — despite the fact that babies are being born generations later with birth defects that can be traced back to the use of the chemical in Vietnam.

It’s not just in Vietnam, however, where the issue is of political concern. Those barrels of Agent Orange had to be stored somewhere, and they appear to have taken up residence in Okinawa between chemical dispersant runs. Japanese activists allege that the chemical entered the air, soil and water there as well, interfering with crops and causing health problems — and they want to be compensated for the loss of income as well as subsequent illnesses. They’re demanding an investigation to confirm that the chemical was stored on the controversial base, to determine the extent of the pollution caused by the U.S. military, and to calculate a reasonable amount of damages to award to those affected by Agent Orange.

In January, excavators in Japan found precursors to Agent Orange in a dump site on Okinawa, strongly suggesting that the product had been mixed and stored there. Notably, the drums bore Dow Chemical insignia, another damning link to the notorious herbicide. Researcher Jon Mitchell, who has made the cause of dumped environmental toxins on Okinawa an important part of his work, has painstakingly researched the history of chemical storage on former military sites and turned up damaging evidence suggesting that the military knew Agent Orange and other chemicals were there and covered it up, concerned about the public relations ramifications. If his allegations are true, they add another twist to an already very tangled story.

The US government has grudgingly admitted in a few individual cases that Agent Orange was present, and is linked to health problems, as in the instance of a former Marine who was awarded compensation after he was diagnosed with cancer. While each of these individual cases sets a precedent, it’s still time for the landslide or slam-dunk case that would allow for a mass suit against the US government — and, say some Okinawans, the Japanese government as well.

Photo credit: manhhai.

65 comments

Jack Y
Jack Y6 months ago

thanks

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Jack Y
Jack Y6 months ago

thanks

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JL A.
JL A4 years ago

restitution is long overdue

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Jack Lad
Jack L4 years ago

Thanks

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Mike Kelly
Mike Kelly4 years ago

My boss and mentor died of Agent Orange related cancer. He was a self-described Marine "Grunt" in the Vietnam War that was based on the Gulf of Tonkin lie. He often spoke of planes flying overhead and dumping the orange dust inside his collar and down his back.

The cancer, that killed my friend and boss, first exhibited on the back of his neck. He left a wife and two grown children.

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Mike Kelly
Mike Kelly4 years ago

Today, Monsanto is dumping ever increasing quantities of herbicides directly on our food crops. They dump soooo much of the Agent Orange related chemical on our crops that the weeds are developing a tolerance and the food crops are dying from the herbicide. Monsanto has decided that they need to change the molecular, genetic structure of our food to make it more resistant to the weed killer. In this way Monsanto can sell ever more increasing quantities of the toxin to the factory farm industry.

The genetic structure of the new Monsanto potato has just been approved for the general public's consumption. One of the major purchasers of these potatoes is McDonalds. Your grandchildren will be eating the new Monsanto laboratory experiment with every "Happy" Meal.

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Cynthia no frwd B.
cynthia l4 years ago

I
This is a disgrace, the US should never have been there to begin with.
This really should wake people up to chemicals being used today and the long term damages they carry, NOW on our food crops and the repercussions of such.

Thanks to all whom commented and attested to the damage of Agent Orange

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Carole R.
Carole R4 years ago

It is awful and so very sad.

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pam w.
pam w4 years ago

My youngest brother-in-law was forced to jump out of airplanes, through clouds of Agent Orange. At 22, he was diagnosed with testicular cancer and, had he not been VERY tall and strong, his doctors said the chemo would have killed him.

In addition, I can't really think too long about what we did to the wild life in those forests.

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GYPSY FIRE
Past Member 4 years ago

Thank you.

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