The U.S. war crime of spraying one-eighth of Vietnam with the defoliant Agent Orange continues to wreak havoc four decades later with severe health consequences for Vietnamese civilians, U.S. veterans and their families, prompting a new bill to address this tragedy, writes Marjorie Cohn.
A half century ago, the U.S. government began a campaign of spraying Agent Orange herbicides on the forests of Southeast Asia, thinking that by defoliating vast areas, the military could more effectively bomb the “enemy” but instead created an ecological and health catastrophe, as Gary G. Kohls recalls.
Official Washington often lectures other countries on the need for accountability, especially when governments have engaged in war crimes. Yet, one of the clearest cases of a U.S. war crime – the mass spraying of Vietnam with Agent Orange – has escaped any reckoning, note Marjorie Cohn and Jeanne Mirer.
Among the many acts of U.S.-inflicted devastation in the Vietnam War was the aerial spraying of Agent Orange and other herbicides to kill vegetation, thus making the Vietcong easier to hunt down and kill. However, the cancer-causing chemicals proved dangerous in other ways to both those on the ground and in the air, as Marjorie…