In remembering Vietnam, we remember that the United States still has tons of Chemical Weapons which the Department of Defense has said it will destroy by December 31st, 2023. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) must accompany and verify on the ground the safe destruction of all chemical weapons still available in the U.S. and expedite their destruction.

By Olga Benário Pinheiro*

“I am a daughter of the Mekong, of colonialism and war, daughter of a magical  and poisoned land” (Tran To Nga)

Vietnam is a tiny country of gigantic historical lessons; both in the parameters of the dignity of the struggle for the independence of a people as well as in the experience of surviving ignominy, without limits, of so-called “civilized” nations that spared no resources to annihilate it for daring to be free and sovereign.

What happened there was an attack against all humanity, just like the bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. In all these events, thousands of civilians were killed, prohibited weapons were used, international humanitarian law was violated by the United States.

These facts must always be remembered by all humanity, as they are often hidden in the caves of historical denialism and the complicit omission of the mainstream media.

The very declaration of war against Vietnam originated from a piece of fake news that was disseminated by the US government about an alleged attack that never occurred, in the Gulf of Tonkin, was denied years later by Robert McNamara, former US Minister of Defense.

Three times more bombs were dropped in Vietnam than in all of World War II. Institutionalized fake news lead to the death of more than one million Vietnamese.

When referring to chemical weapons, Vietnam is an emblematic example of their catastrophic potential in many respects; napalm, cluster bombs and white phosphorous, extensively dropped arsenals that burn from skin to bone, would have been considered chemical weapons, illegal weapons, at the Nuremberg Trials, as Peter Zuznick, director of Institute for Nuclear Studies at the American University said.

This April 30th, the 46th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War, does not mark the end of the repercussions on the human and environmental health of this country bombarded for eleven long years by the US empire.

According to reports from the US National Academy of Sciences (NAS) itself, and government agencies as USAID, the US military spread more than 80 million liters (more than gallons) of herbicides over 16% of Vietnam’s territory.

The most widely used was agent orange, manufactured, among others, by the questionable Monsanto company, but there was a whole deadly watercolor, adding to this the white, blue, pink, purple, and green agent; used to cause the greatest possible damage to the crops, the land, the water and the Vietnamese.

According to the Spanish newspaper El Mundo, “This form of chemical warfare killed 400,000 people, while more than 500,000 children born later have suffered serious malformations due to its lasting effects”.

According to Unesco, one-fifth of the South Vietnamese forests were “chemically” destroyed. This is one of the reasons why the United States, in Vietnam, is considered to have waged the greatest ecological war in the history of mankind.

In the Vietnamese city of Bien Hoa, where about 900,000 people live, fishing in rivers and lakes is forbidden to this day due to the permanence of the contamination caused by the bombs dropped by the United States.

For Ken Olson, a soil expert, and professor at the University of Illinois, the definitive method to eliminate dioxin, the main component of Agent Orange and still present in Vietnam, would be to burn the land.

This is the same dioxin that causes more than three million Vietnamese people to suffer from its effects: lung and prostate cancer, skin diseases, nervous, respiratory, and circulatory systems, blindness and genetic mutations; yes, the same dioxin that continues to be detected in breast milk, can only be eliminated by incineration.

And what is to be done with the dioxin that remained attached to human adipose tissue and continues to be genetically transferred? International bodies and courts should not be lenient in taking measures to ensure that this heinous crime is not repeated. Weapons like this are already burning the prospects of three generations of Vietnamese.

In this war, justified by a lie, the White House also led to the death in combat of more than 58,000 American soldiers; thousands more were wounded, maimed, and many suffer, to this day, after-effects.

American war veterans of the Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan war do not receive enough support from the US government to be able to survive the consequences, the memories, and the obvious crisis of conscience that many have. The newspaper El Mundo wrote, 2019, that “More than 45,000 members of the US Army have taken their own lives in the last six years”.

According to reports published by the US Congress itself, U.S. war veterans, involved in the spread of Agent Orange, have the same after-effects of herbicide exposure.

Napalm was another chemical compound extensively used in Vietnam and years earlier, in what was known as the Korean War, also had dire and ongoing consequences.

Napalm was used as a weapon of choice by the U.S. Air Force after peace negotiations began in 1951, reducing almost every city in North Korea to ashes.

The level of pain and annihilation of human bodies and the ecosystem is minimally imaginable remembering that: water boils at 100 degrees Celsius. Napalm generates temperatures of 800 to 1,200 degrees Celsius.

A few weeks ago, it was reported by the British newspaper The Guardian that a fire-fighting foam (AFFF), one of the most durable and indestructible toxic chemicals known to man, is been secretly incinerated near impoverished communities in the United States, and who is behind this operation is the U.S. Army itself.

This newspaper refers to data released by Bennington College, a university center located in the State of Vermont, which reports that permanent exposure to this toxin is strongly related to a series of symptoms of cancer, developmental disorders, immune dysfunction, and infertility, as well as the aggravation of infections due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the weakening of the effectiveness of the vaccine against the lethal virus.

We have spoken of exterminations and contaminations of soils, rivers, and mother’s milk unleashed by the USA, the greatest protagonist of chemical warfare in history, and which does not even scruple to keep its population safe from these evils. If this is not enough reason to be concerned and mobilize, with effective actions, in defense of global security, perhaps it is already due to some chemical deficiency in our brain or an even more serious diagnosis: an acute loss of human sensitivity.

Why do we remember Vietnam?

In remembering Vietnam, we remember that the United States still has tons of Chemical Weapons which the Department of Defense has said it will destroy by December 31st, 2023.

In a world in permanent tension, the United States, the large-scale manufacturer of wars and breaches of international agreements, must be the target of the most unrelenting vigilance to comply with its commitments to the Chemical Weapons Convention, which states that it must not possess or use such chemical weapons nor must it continue to research or support test sites deployed anywhere in the world, where these weapons, prohibited by international law, can be produced.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) must accompany and verify on the ground the safe destruction of all chemical weapons still available in the U.S. and expedite their destruction.

The world is in danger and it is urgent to eliminate chemical weapons; pursue the reach and development of biological weapons; as well as to advance agreements for the limitation and non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.

We have the right to dream, we have the right to live. We do not want the world to explode and that more generations to continue being sons and daughters to a wonderful but poisoned earth.

*Olga Benário Pinheiro is part of the magazine El Derecho de Vivir en Paz (The Right to Live in Peace) and member of the Latin American League of Irredentos.

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