In a propaganda blitz that began last week, Secretary of State John Kerry hit all the major news agencies in an attempt to validate President Obama’s claim that the use of chemical weapons is not only immoral but a violation of the Geneva Protocol, signed in 1925 by over 100 nations, including the United States, Russia and China. It prohibits the use of chemical and biological weapons in warfare. Unfortunately, it didn’t prohibit the manufacturing of biological weapons.
Kerry appeared before a Senate hearing and testified that “What we saw in Syria last week should shock the conscience of the world.” It defies any code of morality. Let me be clear. The indiscriminate slaughter of civilians, the killing of women and children and innocent bystanders by chemical weapons is a moral obscenity. By any standard, it is inexcusable.”
President Obama, straddling his “red line” of political hypocrisy, defended his proposed punitive attack on Syria by saying America can’t stand idly by and watch 1400 innocent men, women and children die from poison gas without punishing the Syrian government.
The American press turned the volume up on its propaganda meter. Talk show interviews with political pundits discussed the pros and cons of possible air strikes and the effects it would have on our allies in general and Israel in particular. But with all the falderal, debate and discussion never once did I hear about how the United States used chemical weapons on innocent and defenseless men, women and children during our losing war in Vietnam. I wonder why?
Agent Orange is only one of the herbicides and defoliants the U.S. military used in Vietnam as part of its chemical warfare program. Its code name was Operation Ranch Hand. Between 1962 and 1972 the U.S. sprayed nearly 20,000,000 gallons of chemical defoliants mixed with jet fuel in Vietnam, eastern Laos and even parts of Cambodia.
The goal was to kill vegetation in the forest and farmland, eliminating cover for guerrillas defending their own land and destroying the peasant’s ability to support themselves on their meager farm. This forced the starving Vietnamese to migrate to U.S. dominated cities where they were fed with American kindness and subjected to American rule. The Red Cross of Vietnam estimated that 400,000 people were killed or maimed and 500,000 children were born with birth defects as a result of our use of chemical weapons. Naturally, the United States government has dismissed these figures as unreliable and unrealistically high.
What we did in Vietnam defied any code of Kerry’s morality and in his own words, was inexcusable. We not only killed innocent, defenseless civilian men women and children, we killed thousands of American veterans and destroyed the health and lives of any survivors, claiming they were collateral damage.
I wonder what would have happened if, on the behalf of innocent victims of our indiscriminate use of chemical weapons, Syria threatened punitive air strikes against the United States for what we did to the Vietnamese people.
David Farside is political activist and Sparks resident.