During the war, the US sprayed Vietnam with 45 million litres of napalm, a biological weapon. More than 40 years later, the population still faces malformations and contaminated land.
During the Vietnam War, as a war strategy to immobilise the locals, the use of ‘agent orange’ was proposed as an effective alternative to do unexpected damage. The US has never been held accountable for dropping this powerful herbicide on civilians in Laos. Years after hostilities ended, ethnic minorities in both Asian countries continue to suffer the consequences of interacting with Napalm: one of the most corrosive biological weapons in recorded history.
The toxin that makes Napalm so powerful is TCDD. With it, the possibility was raised of destroying the foliage of Vietnam, so that US soldiers could locate them more easily. Between the undergrowth and the density of the jungle, they could hardly have had a chance to gain ground on the Vietcong, the local armed forces.
In addition to being lethal to plants, this toxic compound is corrosive to the skin. After leaving acne-like skin lesions in its wake, it leaves black burns. Once it enters the body, however, it has serious repercussions on internal organs – particularly the liver. Thus, more than 45 million litres of Agent Orange were sprayed from US helicopters and planes over the jungle and the population.
In total, it is recorded that the US sent 6,000 missions to devastate the jungles of Laos and Vietnam with Agent Orange. Contrary to popular belief, it was not known as such because of an espionage code. It was simply the colour with which barrels of the active substance were labelled. A series of orange stripes were the indication that it could be used: ready to destroy. The wounds are still raw on the victims.
The Vietnam War took place between 1965 and 1975. During that decade, US hostilities against Vietcong forces did little to defeat the local war strategies. Although US soldiers failed to win the armed conflict, Agent Orange continues to claim casualties almost 50 years after the end of hostilities.
Beyond the people who died in that tragic decade for Asia, the problem with biological weapons is that they perpetuate themselves in the bodies of the survivors. The war ends abroad, but remains for generations in people’s bodies. In addition to the inevitable consequences for the metabolism of those who received the substance directly, pregnant women also suffered the harmful effects.
Many of the foetuses that received Agent Orange directly from their mothers were born with malformations. Generation after generation of people in Vietnam have been born sick as a result of intrauterine interaction with Agent Orange. Although various people affected by this biological weapon have banded together in civil society organisations to demand their war rights, their demands have fallen into a black box, unanswered.