AO, the toxic herbicide named after the orange stripe painted across drums containing the defoliant, continues to wreak horrific biological damage on newborns today, not only in the country where it was irresponsibly sprayed, but in countries where individuals, mostly veterans, of what the Vietnamese call the “American War” had sent them to fight.
President John F. Kennedy approved the large-scale chemical warfare program in August 1961 for use in Vietnam. It officially ended in 1970, although numerous firsthand accounts suggest it was extended past that point and used illegally in Cambodia and Laos.
AO, used to clear the triple canopy jungles of Vietnam, the lifeblood of that country’s civilians, contains TCDD-dioxin, the most toxic small molecule known to science. Some 50 years later, Vietnamese forests particularly hard hit by AO are still dead. Research done in 1982, where minute quantities of dioxin-laced food was fed to rhesus monkeys, proved fatal.
In October, AMERICAN FREE PRESS conducted an exclusive interview with Fred A. Wilcox, the author of Scorched Earth: Legacies of Chemical Warfare in Vietnam, to get a more thorough understanding of the topic. Wilcox, an associate professor of writing at Ithaca College, has been a veteran’s advocate, environmentalist and scholar on the Vietnam War for over 30 years.
Dave Gahary, a former submariner in the U.S. Navy, is the host of AFP’s ‘Underground Interview’ series.