Global Independent Analytics
Danny Haiphong
Danny Haiphong

Location: USA

Specialization: War, Racism, Capitalist exploitation, Civil rights

Agent Orange: A Reflection of the US addiction to Biological and Chemical Warfare

In recent years, the hypocrisy of US expansionist doctrine has been further exposed by its historic involvement in the use biological warfare.

The US has committed more war crimes than any other society to date. It has committed these crimes in the name of capitalist profit while pretending to wage war for "democracy" and "freedom." One of the most heinous crimes committed by the US government involved the use of biological warfare during the Vietnam War. For a decade, the US government coordinated the mass-scale spread of "Agent Orange" poison over vast areas of Vietnam. To this day, the people of Vietnam throughout the Diaspora, as well as US servicemen, continue to suffer from the after-effects of Agent Orange. 

From 1961 to 1971, the US sprayed over 20 million gallons of herbicides over Southern Vietnam. The primary chemical sprayed was called "Agent Orange." This 50/50 mixture contained a poisonous chemical called dioxin. According to the Aspen Institute,

The herbicides were sprayed over about 24 percent of southern Vietnam, destroying 5 million acres of upland and mangrove forests and about 500,000 acres of crops (a total area the size of Massachusetts). Of these areas, 34 percent were sprayed more than once; some of the upland forests were sprayed more than four times.

Much, if not all, of Southern Vietnam, as well as portions of the entire country, were poisoned to carry out the US military's objective of full spectrum dominance in Vietnam.

The US military would eventually fail in its effort to bomb, poison, and slaughter the Vietnamese people into submission. In 1975, the national liberation struggle in Vietnam was victorious after over a half-century of suffering from French, Japanese, British, and US occupations. Vietnam's victory for national independence was celebrated all over the world as a heroic defeat of the US imperial superpower. However, the end of the Vietnam War never actually arrived for those who fought it. Agent Orange continues to wage daily terror on both the intended and unintended targets of that terrorist act, especially on the Vietnamese Diaspora.

According to the Red Cross of Vietnam, it is estimated that over three million Vietnamese people suffer from dioxin-related illness. Vietnam is also home to a disproportionate number of disabled children who inherited genetic and medical conditions related to dioxin exposure from their parents. Exposure to dioxin-laced in Agent Orange has been linked to over seventeen different illnesses. Those exposed to dioxin are more at risk for infertility, physical deformity, cognitive impairment, and various severe illnesses such as prostate cancer and immune disorders. These illnesses continue to plague all those involved in the Vietnam War, from US war veterans to the second generation and third generation Vietnamese Americans.

But the US never apologized for spraying Agent Orange, nor did it provide any redress for its victims. The US response to the effects of Agent Orange is in keeping with its historical record. The US has failed to provide reparations to Black Americans and Indigenous peoples who were the first victims of its genocidal military policy. The US government admitted to sterilizing Indigenous women between 1973-1976. Decades before this, the US government experimented on Black Americans with the biological agent of syphilis. There has also been no redress for the thirty-five percent of Puerto Rican women who remain the living victims of the forced sterilization campaign facilitated by the US in the 1930s. In fact, the US continues to wage biological and chemical warfare around the globe to maintain and expand its hegemony. 

During the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, US forces used depleted uranium weaponry against so-called “insurgents.” Many of these targets happened to be civilians. Throughout the duration of the war, the US is estimated to have used thousands of depleted uranium rounds. Depleted uranium contaminated vast portions of the country with the highly toxic metal.  The rate of cancer in the country has skyrocketed as a result, from 40 per 100,000 people before the First Gulf War in 1991, to 800 per 100,000 in 1995, to at least 1,600 per 100,000 in 2005.

The US also used white phosphorous in Iraq in its assault on Fallujah in 2004. On top of depleted uranium shells, over 300,000 Iraqis were displaced in part because the US military used white phosphorous to force migration. White phosphorus is a chemical agent that ignites and burns through solid surfaces until put out. Despite the cruel effects white phosphorous has upon human contact, the US has denied claims that the use of white phosphorous is illegal under international law. Israel, which receives 3.1 billion in military aid annually from the US, has also used white phosphorous supplied by the US on the Palestinian people. In the 2009 Israeli invasion of Gaza, the IDF used white phosphorous artillery shells on schools, hospitals, and homes. This continued until the Israeli government declared it would stop using the chemical weapon in 2013. 

Biological warfare is an act of terrorism. The primary purpose of such warfare is to instill fear into people and force them to submit to domination. However, biological and chemical warfare neither begins nor ends with the whims a particularly "evil" administration in the US or anywhere else. The use of cruel and inhumane weaponry serves the primary interests of those who control the political and economic system of the US. Fear and devastation ultimately aid US capitalism's need to expand its global market for monopoly capitalist corporations.

It must be noted that much of the depleted uranium and white phosphorous fired on Iraq was conducted by the private military contractor Blackwater. Furthermore, the Monsanto Corporation produced both the Agent Orange and white phosphorus chemical under the supervision of the Department of Defense. Since the dawn of capitalism, war has always been waged to create favorable conditions around the world for profit. Today, war itself has become a profitable venture. This is why the US spends the most money in the world on its military at over 600 billion USD per year.

The US establishment masks its real motivation for war through the creation of a mythical national identity. Since its inception, the US ruling class has painted itself as the world's beacon of democracy and civilization. It has treated the rest of the world as an uncivilized territory in need of Western medicine. In each epoch, the US framed this orientation in different ways. First the US justified expansion under the doctrine of Manifest Destiny, then anti-communism, and now the War on Terror and "humanitarian intervention."

In recent years, the hypocrisy of US expansionist doctrine has been further exposed by its historic involvement in the use biological warfare. In 2013, the Obama administration threatened to carry out a military invasion of Syria on grounds that the Syrian government had launched a sarin gas attack on its own people in the city of Ghouta. Reports later confirmed that the gas attack came from terrorist rebels funded and backed by the US and Turkey. On May 27th, President Obama will visit Hiroshima, one of the sites of the first and only use of an atomic bomb at the close of World War II. The US administration has no plans of providing redress to the people of Japan for this war crime yet.

Such arrogance on the part of the US is business as usual for the imperial system as a whole. This system costs trillions of dollars and includes joint ventures with the corporate media which has helped create a militarized culture that permeates all institutions of US society. Biological and chemical warfare will not end as long as these conditions remain intact. The war-makers and their wealthy backers must be removed from power, and their apparatus dismantled. Whatever anti-war and anti-imperialist movement emerges in the coming years, it must deal with this question and make it relevant to the day-to-day issues facing the oppressed in the US.

EXPERT OPINION

Barbara H. Peterson

This biological warfare does not only consist of external activities, but is also turned on the government’s own citizens in the form of water fluoridation, toxic vaccines, cancer-causing pesticides such as Monsanto’s Glyphosate, genetically engineered seeds produced by Monsanto, and any number of chemicals approved as ‘safe’ that are added to the food, the air, and the water as well as cosmetics and just about everything available on the supermarket shelves. The people are under assault by corporate government that thinks nothing of eating its own to advance its cause. And that cause appears to be profit and power at any cost to the people it is supposed to serve.

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