News / USA

    Q&A: 'Toxic War' - The Story of Agent Orange

    FILE - Soldiers detect Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) and defoliant Agent Orange in Vietnam's central Da Nang City.
    FILE - Soldiers detect Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) and defoliant Agent Orange in Vietnam's central Da Nang City.
    U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War was long and costly in many ways.  The conflict itself raged for more than two decades, but the consequences of military actions taken in Vietnam continue to this day.  One of the darkest legacies is the effect of a widely used defoliant meant to quickly clear dense forests and flush out enemy forces.  Known as Agent Orange, the chemical induced adverse health issues for both U.S. troops and Vietnamese on both sides of the war. 
     
    Peter Sills, an attorney who helped represent the Vietnam Veterans of America in a class action lawsuit regarding the use of Agent Orange, has written about it in a new book titled Toxic War. Speaking with VOA’s Jim Stevenson, Sills told of the many ways Agent Orange had a direct effect on people, and how it even evolved into a weapon.


    SILLS:  The thing that surprised me the most, when the (U.S.) government found out people were scared of it (Agent Orange), they began spraying the Vietnamese people deliberately. Whether they knew they were poisoning them or not is a question I raise in my book. And there is evidence on both sides of that.
     
    STEVENSON:  So what you are asserting is at the very least unintentional chemical warfare.
     
    SILLS:  Yes, a chemical war. The U.S. government used chemicals that were not manufactured as weapons but they were used as weapons. That includes herbicides, riot control gasses. Napalm which is supposedly used to defoliate was modified to stick to human flesh. As we started to lose the war and become more desperate, we changed the tools we used to help in the war, we started to use them against people.
     
    STEVENSON:  How were American veterans at that time being exposed in harmful ways?
     
    SILLS:  When you start spraying towns and villages, there are American soldiers there too. That is part of it. The food that people ate became poisoned, and the water that people drank. There is another surprising thing: herbicides came in 50-gallon barrels. When they were emptied, they were not really empty. There were two or three gallons of herbicide left in the barrels. Soldiers used them for showers, for bar-b-ques (grills for cooking). Vietnamese used them to hold gasoline and wound up spraying dioxin all over Vietnam. The cities became defoliated even though they were never sprayed (from U.S. planes). They were sprayed by Vietnamese automobiles and motorcycles. No one could figure it out for a while. So people were exposed in surprising and unexpected ways.
     
    STEVENSON:  How many U.S. veterans are we talking about looking for some sort of compensation because of exposure to Agent Orange?
     
    SILLS:  Hundreds of thousands, possibly over a million. That is muddy unfortunately because there are so many people who are sick for reasons other than herbicide exposure. The symptoms of dioxin exposure, the poison in the herbicide, are not very different from what people get normally, heart attacks, diabetes, lung cancer, liver problems, neurological problems, things that people just get. So to determine whether they were actually exposed, it should be possible to do that. But the officially done science has not been able to do that.

    Jim Stevenson

    For over 35 years, Jim Stevenson has been sharing stories with the world on the radio and internet. From both the field and the studio, Jim enjoys telling about specific events and uncovering the interesting periphery every story possesses. His broadcast career has been balanced between music, news, and sports, always blending the serious with the lighter side.

    You May Like

    Syrian Rebel Realignment Likely as al-Qaida Leader Blesses Split

    Jihadist group Jabhat al-Nusra splits from al-Qaida in what observers dub a ‘deception and denial’ exercise

    New India Child Labor Law Could Make Children More Vulnerable

    Concerns that allowing children to work in family enterprises will push more to work

    What Take-out Food Reveals About American History

    Carry-out food explains a lot about the changes taking place in society, so here's the deal with pizza, Chinese food and what racism has to do with taking food to go

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Busi
    X
    July 28, 2016 4:16 AM
    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Philadelphia Uses DNC Spotlight to Profile Historic Role in Founding of United States

    The slogan of the Democratic National Convention now underway in Philadelphia is “Let’s Make History Again” which recognizes the role the city played in the foundation of the United States in the 18th century. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, local institutions are opening their doors in an effort to capitalize on the convention spotlight to draw visitors, and to offer more than just a history lesson.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora