James Nachtwey

As so often happens in war, the weapons you employ against an enemy often end up harming yourselves.

Not that the armed forces who used Agent Orange against the Vietnamese, or whose missions exposed them to the chemical in other ways, had any choice in the matter.  The decision to spray herbicides was approved at the highest level of our government and not subject to questioning by the troops in the field, on the water, or in the skies. The military did what we wanted it to do.  Of course, to those who patrolled the Mekong River Delta, say, and who recognized that Agent Orange saved their lives, such questioning would have been a difficult proposition.

The Last Ghost of War

Down this road lies the whole question of means and ends, of international law and opinion, of what kinds of actions are permissible in war even in those circumstances when there’s a clear and simple connection between weaponry used and the lives of one’s troops. But even without going there, the possibility of blowback is ignored at one’s own peril.

One generally does not simply die suddenly and painlessly in one’s sleep from the illnesses associated with exposure to Agent Orange. These are grim ways to live and to die, entailing untold suffering by the victims and their families.

“I got killed in Vietnam.
I just didn’t know it at the time.”

– Paul Reutershan, former helicopter pilot, suffering
    from terminal stomach cancer, 1978.

The following conditions are currently recognized by the VA as
associated with exposure to Agent Orange: