Arrogance and defoliants

I’ll have to think of something upbeat to write after this post ;) But I was so depressed and quietly outraged by this that I just had to say something (you can skip it if you want to!).

I was reading an article in Science last night about Agent Orange, and medical studies they’re doing to evaluate the effects of dioxins on GIs and Vietnamese populations that were exposed, along with their children and grandchildren. This is something we’re all familiar with, but as I was reading the article something else really struck me. At the time, of course, they didn’t know that Agent Orange contained dioxins, so none of this was foreseeable. But… then I realized what exactly we were doing with it. It was some statistics reported in the article that really drew my attention to the things that no-one ever talks about.


We sprayed 10% of another country with a defoliant. Ten percent! Just so we could see our enemies better. This is a country where the vast majority of the population depends on agriculture to survive. 20,000 villages were directly sprayed, along with their fields and water supplies. With an herbicide. That’s 5 million people, directly sprayed, living in those villages. What did they live on after that, when everything around them withered away? What could they eat or drink, that wouldn’t be poisoned? What were we thinking?

The arrogance and inhumanity of this is breathtaking. No amount of soldiers saved from enemy fire could be worth that much disruption of native farming and village life. Just as we’ve seen in Iraq, the number of innocent people killed and affected in the countries we invade just doesn’t count compared to our own soldiers, in the eyes of the military and American people.

And there’s also some inner part of me that is just outraged about the forests, jungle, and river systems destroyed, defoliated, poisoned. All the birds, fish, plants, that special life killed in the name of war. It makes me wonder what these ecosystems look like now. Have they recovered? Will they ever recover? How did the birds and animals fare, when sprayed by herbicides and dioxins? Does anyone care? I’ve never, ever seen this even mentioned.

It makes me wonder if we would do this today. Almost immediately some inner voice pipes up and says, of course we would. Look at Iraq – absolutely trashed. Sure it’s not all our doing, but enough of it is. How long did it take before the Iraqi casualties began to be reported and debated alongside our own? How much infrastructure is nonfunctional, how many irreplaceable archaeological sites destroyed, how many millions lost their homes? How can anyone think this is worth it?

Sign me… baffled.


4 thoughts on “Arrogance and defoliants

  1. Joe says:

    Teresa, I agree with you totally. The ecosyste devastation is absolutely mindboggling, not to mention the human toll of suffering from poisoned food and water…and the lingering birth defects.

  2. Judith B says:

    When our son, Victor, was in Iraq, he observed Earth Day (22 April). But he said the way Iraq has been trashed, they would need Earth Years.

  3. Coppermoon says:

    Careful, T, you are beginning to sound like me! I continue to be horrified at what people do to other people and even worse in my book, what people do to the environment. But then, it’s all in the name of democracy, of course.
    For freedom and the fight against terrorism.

    I think someone said once “we have met the enemy and it is us”.

  4. Tom says:

    You and the other commentaries are absolutely right, Teresa. What will it take for our government to get a clue about the destruction our planet is going through in the name of war and economics. Ever think about how much damage is being done in order to produce cheaply manufacured goods overseas?

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