Friday, August 7, 2009

Agent Orange, again!

It seems that Agent Orange is back in the news, again! You would think with all of the years that have gone by since the Vietnam war this issue would be a rest.

For those who are not familar with agent orange, it is a mixture of herbicides composed of predominately 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T that was used by the US as a defoliating agent in the Vietnam war. The major problem was its toxicity much of which is due to 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD) which was a contaminate.

The US government has only provided a very amount of funding. Almost all of the funding has come from other governments and NGO's.

I sometimes think that the missed name US Department of Defense (DOD) is probably the worst environmental polluter of them all. And proud of it at that. Its legacy in Asia is particularly bad. Agent Orange in Vietnam, unexploded ordinance in Laos, mine fields in Korea, depleted uranium in Iraq.

In this age of "corporate responsibility" (a much overused term anyway), the military simply wants to take no responsible for its actions. Instead they hide behind the cloak of "national security" (I have discussed this before) or simply ignore the issue.

Agent Orange is a classic example. The military denies that the agent orange is toxic. They often state there is no evidence. Huh? The International Agency for Cancer Research (part of the World Health Organization) has determined there is enough evidence to classify TCDD as a known human carcinogen. Further the military state that they needed to use it to clear the fields, and it was therefore necessary. So what?

Why does the military think not take any responsibility? I feel it is simply arrogance. The military thinks it is special and therefore anything it does is right and does not care what anybody else says. It has what it feels is it mission and it will do anything to fulfill that mission. Add to this the fact that it claims that it can go anywhere in the world to support "American" interests (even if it has nothing to due with the US). And you have an corporation which is reponsible to no one but themselves.

Issues like this must also be taken from the Asia perpective, which is often forgotten or ignored. Firstly, many Asia see the US as a bully and agent orange and other similar problems simply reinforce that viewpoint. Secondly, as we have seen in the climate change debate between India and the US, developing countries have complained (rightly or wrongly) that developed countries (and especially the US) are responsible for most of the environmental damage that has been done. Again the US military actions reinforce this view. Lastly, countries such as Vietnam do not have the resources to clean up the mess and why should they pay for problems they did not create.

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