The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

It Wasn’t Just Agent Orange

May 10, 2021

During the last week in April, the local Vietnam Veterans of America chapter in Fargo, North Dakota, in partnership with the Fargo Air Museum, held a week-long event that included special exhibits on the Vietnam War.

Local Vietnam veterans roamed through the Fargo exhibit. Some were discussing their health struggles with side-effects from Agent Orange, the highly toxic herbicide sprayed over the countryside of Vietnam from 1965 to 1970 by the U.S. Air Force.

Veterans were surprised when they came upon an exhibit: “The Rainbow Herbicides of the Vietnam War Era.” For the first time, they learned that more than one poison was sprayed and for a longer period of time! Chemicals sprayed included Agent Green, Agent Pink, Agent Purple, Agent Blue, Agent White, and finally, Agent Orange. Instead of happening over a 5-year span in one country, chemicals were dropped in Vietnam, Eastern Laos, and parts of Cambodia. And this happened for 11 years from 1961 to 1972. Twenty million gallons worth!

These toxic herbicides contained the chemical dioxin, which is classified as a human carcinogen. It is a chemical that accumulates in the food chain, and finally destroyed millions of acres of forest life and hundreds of thousands of acres of crop lands.

Spraying these chemicals resulted in widespread famine in the Vietnamese population and untold destruction of human life: an estimated four million Vietnamese suffered from their effects.

Hundreds of thousands of U.S. soldiers paid the price as well. After all, they drank or showered with the water that was highly contaminated, or used the empty barrels of herbicides as makeshift BBQ grills to prepare their food!

Touting the lie that this war was one to make the world “safe for democracy,” U.S. politicians, starting with President John F. Kennedy, all the way up to Richard Nixon, pitted the U.S. working class against the Vietnamese working class and peasantry.

And U.S. imperialism didn’t think twice about systematically using chemical weapons to destroy a country, and its population, in order to control it.

Companies like Dow Chemical, and other U.S. military contractors, made out like bandits. The populations of that area of the world, and the U.S. soldiers and their families, are still paying the high price for this war.