Many forget that war has no victor. Everyone loses in war. And the enormous scale and duration of the Vietnam War swallowed countless lives. An estimated three million Vietnamese people, both civilians, and soldiers were killed. Today, over half a million children are born with birth defects in Vietnam, with over two million still suffering from cancer and other illnesses due to the United States’ use of Agent Orange, a dangerous herbicide used by the US forces to destroy forests and crops in North Vietnam.
The Vietnam War lasted for almost twenty years, and was a continued struggle against colonization and a fight for independence, resulting in many losses on both sides and severe repercussions, especially for the Vietnamese people. The consequences of this war, like most other wars, are still present today and define life for many Vietnamese.
For ten years, from 1961 to 1971, the US sprayed twenty million gallons over the three states of Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. This herbicide contained a chemical known as dioxin, which causes serious health issues, both mental and physical, including birth defects, psychological issues, cancerous tumors, and rashes. Agent Orange was so potent that it is still affecting millions of Vietnamese today. Newborn children are born with serious disorders, creating abnormalities in their speech, their movements as well as causing brain damage and blindness. It also causes liver issues, destruction of the immune system, type 2 diabetes, muscular and hormonal issues, and heart disease.
The use of Agent Orange was so extensive that it targeted water resources, food crops, and forests used for cover by North Vietnamese forces. It seeped into every inch of the country. Besides this, the US sprayed various herbicides and chemical sprays, including Agent Blue, Agent White, and so on, all of which were manufactured by the company Monsanto.
America’s use of such a chemical was unfair, irresponsible, incautious, and heinous and has brought ruin to multiple generations. Dioxin’s danger can be seen by the fact that its consequences are felt for decades even after its use. It accumulates into crops, trees, water, and even inside the tissue of fish and other animals. American use of Agent Orange did not spare a single tree in Vietnam. The damage caused is irreparable and it is hopeless to assume that the country will ever be free from its potent side effects.
A US Air Force officer, James Clary, had stated that they were aware of the risks of using this herbicide and the diseases and damage linked to dioxin. However, he states, no one was overly concerned because it was to be used on our enemies. The US only began paying attention to its effects when their own officers who had served in Vietnam became affected by its side effects. This led to many American war veterans filing lawsuits against the companies who had manufactured the herbicide and they received millions of dollars in compensation. However, when a similar suit was filed by the Vietnamese, it was rejected, even though it was the Vietnamese who suffered most and still suffer from its effects today. The United States has never even apologized for its atrocious war crimes in Vietnam.
Other heinous war crimes committed by the US in Vietnam include the My Lai Massacre. The US army killed children, women, and men, all of whom were unarmed civilians, in 1968 in the Vietnamese village of My Lai. Before killing girls and women, American officers raped and mutilated their bodies. During this massacre, families were ousted from their houses, dragged out into the streets and into ditches, beaten, tortured, raped, and then murdered. Over five hundred innocents were brutally exterminated. As outrageous as this act already was, the officers went so far as to cover up the massacre and this caused it to go unreported for an entire year.
What the United States committed in Vietnam was in violation of human rights, in violation of international law, and in violation of basic humanity and morality. Every single time, colonial powers have gotten away with mass murder and grave war crimes, without any compensation to the victims, without a single word of apology.