A comprehensive study of the effects of Agent Orange on Vietnamese victims and the bilateral political attempt to help them.
Between 1961 and 1970, the United States military sprayed more than 10,000-square miles of Vietnam—and more than 5 million acres of farmland—with the herbicide known as Agent Orange in an attempt to destroy crops and generate massive defoliation. Agent Orange contained dioxin, a highly toxic compound, to which as many as 4 million Vietnamese and nearly 3 million American service people were exposed. Debut authors Bailey and Son collaboratively furnish a brief but impressively comprehensive synopsis of the medical and political aftermath of Agent Orange’s use. In the wake of the war, both the U.S. and Vietnam were reluctant to publicly discuss the issue, and Vietnam’s own research on the damage wasn’t declassified until the 2000s, making a joint national effort to remedy the situation all but impossible. That all changed in 2006, however, when U.S. President George W. Bush issued a joint statement with Vietnam’s President Nguyen Minh Triet that included the issue as a talking point, breaking the seal of silence that functioned as a barricade to bilateral cooperation. The authors unflinchingly discuss the extraordinary physical and mental effects of Agent Orange, including lung cancer, diminished mobility, and birth defects, based on the most widely accepted epigenetic and epidemiological studies. They also consider the successes and failures of the binational cooperation to assist the victims. Bailey and Son are remarkably knowledgeable about the subject. The former is a public policy analyst who spearheaded the Ford Foundation’s initiative on Agent Orange, and the latter is a medical doctor and toxicologist who served as the director of the Agent Orange Victims Fund at the Vietnam Red Cross. Collectively, the authors’ breadth is remarkable—they even analyze the attempts to pursue legal action on behalf of the victims. Also, they display admirable intellectual restraint, admitting when appropriate the inconclusiveness of the scientific studies causally linking Agent Orange to specific medical maladies.
A marvelously concise yet thorough rundown of an issue with significant geopolitical ramifications.