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War Without End
The West likes to pose as the moral authority for the whole world. The West overran the world for years with disastrous and illegal wars. Glyphosate is the Agent Orange of our time. The US accused Vietnam of attacking one of its warships in the Gulf of Tonkin and began bombing the country. But this attack was a fiction.
WAR WITHOUT END
By Peter Jaeggi
[This article published on December 7, 2016, is translated from the German on the Internet, http://www.nachdenkseiten.de. Peter Jaeggi is a Swiss author of books and films.]
The West likes to pose as the moral authority for the whole world. Freedom and democracy exist here and are protected everywhere. Often all the crimes against international law and the crimes against humanity for which the West was and still is responsible are forgotten. The West overran the world for years with disastrous and illegal wars. These supposedly just wars have already killed a hundred times more than all terrorist attacks altogether against "our" countries. The life foundations of millions of people were systematically destroyed through the use of uranium ammunition in Iraq and now also in Syria. Hardly anyone seems to know the great tragedies of war can usually be observed years and decades after the wars end.
Mr. Jaeggi: All the world speaks about the real or alleged war crimes "of Putin" and "of Assad" but hardly anyone speaks about those of the West and the US. Your book "War Without End" emphasizes the blind spots of our mass media and shows how war crimes committed many decades ago cause many deaths today, even beyond "mass perception." Why did you write this book?
More than forty years after the end of the Vietnam War, hundreds of thousands of people still suffer and nature groans under the late sequels. At that time, the US and its allies used highly toxic defoliants including dioxin-infused Agent Orange to expose the enemy and destroy their food.
This poison is still in the ground today and reaches the food chains. It can cause genetic human damage across generations. We all know pictures of Vietnamese children with terrible deformities. Over how many generations genetic defects continue spreading is unclear. Therefore my book is titled "War Without End."
My interest is showing the consequences and effects of the use of Agent Orange. But the backgrounds of these wars that began with a lie are related. The use of Agent Orange was not the only war crime.
Has the use of Agent Orange led today, a half century later, to more and more people suffering and dying the repercussions?
How many people and what kinds of sufferings occur? I assume there are more than only deformities.
The US Department of Veterans Affairs lists several dozen sicknesses that are connected with Agent Orange. They include heat- and nerve illnesses, lung cancer and Parkinson's.
There are only estimates about how many US veterans and how many Vietnamese suffer in Agent Orange. The Vietnamese Red Cross speaks of a million people who in some form suffer from the consequences of this herbicide.
Can people do anything to remove the toxins from the ground?
Cleaning the ground of dioxin is very expensive. Work has been done in the Da Nang airport area. Da Nang was the largest place of Agent Orange transshipment during the war. Thousands of cubic meters of contaminated earth are heated. Dioxin can only be destroyed through heating. This operation is financed by $80 million mainly from the US. Vietnam shares in the rehabilitation with around $1.7 million.
Former war airports where Agent Orange contaminated the soil and drinking water should now be revitalized. How much money is available for this is unclear. Moreover, there are technological problems in the local burning of dioxin that must be solved first.
Is Vietnam contaminated forever?
The contemporary pesticide Agent Orange is now used very generally in agriculture.
For example, glyphosate is the main ingredient in several broad spectrum herbicides. It is also contained in the bestseller Monsanto herbicide "Roundup." The chronic influx of glyphosate makes humans and animals sick and damages the genetic make-up.
The US applied glyphosate on drug cultivation areas in Columbia, Afghanistan, and other countries as a chemical weapon. Therefore critics say glyphosate is the Agent Orange of our time in a certain way.
An investigation initiated by the German Greens documented glyphosate in the mothers' milk of nursing women from different German states – with percentages higher than the allowed limits for drinking water.
At the start of 2016, the Heinrich Boll foundation published an alarming study that showed three-quarters of the German population are contaminated with glyphosate.
The parallels are obvious.
You say the Vietnam War began with a lie and more war crimes were committed. What lie was told? What other crimes occurred?
The US accused Vietnam of attacking one of its warships in the Gulf of Tonkin and began bombing the country. But this attack was a fiction.
During this war, the US and its allies committed many war crimes. The massacre in the My Lay farming village where over five hundred innocent civilians – men, women, and children – were slaughtered is the best known.
In my book, these crimes are described in detail. All the war parties including the North Vietnamese committed crimes that can be observed in every war.
Was this situation unmasked and made public? Were the war criminals on both sides legally prosecuted?
The situation has been known for a long time and was known at the beginning of the war. That it is still kept alive in the US is a scandal and Washington must still deconstruct this very bleak chapter of its history.
There was never a legal elaboration of the Vietnam War – either in the US or in Vietnam.
In today's wars, there are still chemical weapons whose deployment was usually blamed on underground fighters instead of the culprits accepting responsibility themselves. Uranium-bearing ammunitions are also used. Why don't we speak of a "war without end" in this context, a kind of warfare that aims at destroying landscapes, eco-systems, and foundations of life for generations of supposed enemies?
Take the example of uranium ammunition as applied in the Iraq War. The US and Great Britain shot 400,000 kilograms. The civilian population had no suspicion of the danger issuing from this.
A uranium-oxide aerosol arose in the explosion of this ammunition. People breathe the tiny particles and radioactive heavy metal was deposited in their bodies. Cancer sicknesses and damage to the DNA could be the consequences. This is a war without end as with Agent Orange.
What can and must we do to stop this "drive"? What do you suggest?
All the weapons that cause long-term damages to humans and animals must be prohibited.
In every war, civilians must obviously be spared from military actions under all circumstances. Important international laws exist. However, they are ignored by all war parties as current examples demonstrate. These include the drone deployments of the US where civilians were killed again and again.
Unfortunately, I have no magic formula or readymade solution on how this could be finally stopped. One thing is clear to me: we may never be silent.
Peter Jaeggi is a free Swiss journalist, photographer, and book and film author. His homepage is peterjaeggi.ch.