Shoot, aim, find your target, lock-and-load…bassakword government policies – Part 1
By Ed Mattson
Some may remember the horrific wild fires that burned in Pinal Mountains of eastern Arizona near Globe, from August 28th to mid-September. They became known as The Frio Fire, which was cause by lightening. Wildfires are nothing new to the wooded forests around the world, but some will be remembered by the area residents as far more than “just wild fires”.
Every veteran knows about Agent Orange. Even most citizens over the age of 40, have heard about the US Government’s “experiment” with the defoliant, Agent Orange, to clear the jungles and destroy the food crops of the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army in “That War back in the Sixties”. Younger American haven’t a clue, as the Vietnam era has just become another page in the history books most schools won’t even go near.
For those veterans, government contractors, citizens of those Southeast Asian countries, and many USO personnel that volunteered to entertain the troops during the period of 1962 and 1969, the nightmare lives on in health problems most people can’t even fathom. The really sad part of the Agent Orange period, is that even after all these years, the Press still has it all wrong; from failure to call the government and the chemical companies to into account for the use of Agent Orange and other defoliants and saying that we, referring derogatorily to our military personnel, “lost the war” – get over it.
To me, this is a continuum of the anti-American, rhetoric which hopefully history will one day correct. In the first place, several Vietnamese historians will candidly admit that militarily, the Tet Offensive plan by Gen Vo Nguyen Giap was a failure in that the North Vietnamese lost nearly 30% of their troops and that the Viet Cong were all but wiped out, but politically it was the point that turned most American’s against the war. According to Bui Tin, a former colonel in the North Vietnamese army,
“Our losses were staggering and a complete surprise; Giap later told me that Tet had been a military defeat, though we had gained the planned political advantages when Johnson agreed to negotiate and did not run for re-election. The second and third waves in May and September were, in retrospect, mistakes. Our forces in the South were nearly wiped out by all the fighting in 1968. It took us until 1971 to re-establish our presence, but we had to use North Vietnamese troops as local guerrillas. If the American forces had not begun to withdraw under Nixon in 1969, they could have punished us severely”. In short we let the politicians snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
Most Vietnam vets have gotten over the “baby-killer stigma” painted by the press, and have too, faded into history, but what sticks to the craw of every veteran and most all who were part of the Vietnam War, from civilian contractors to the USO volunteers, is the 50-year battle with the Veterans Administration, the Defense Department, and the chemical company’s over Agent Orange and the medical problems inflicted every where it was manufactured, stored, transported, mixed, and used. Like all government cover-ups, from the Dreyfus Affair of the French government in 1900, to the Nixon Watergate break-in, it’s the denials, lies, dis-information, and stonewalling, that becomes, more often than not, more damaging than the events themselves.
This is certainly a truism with the Agent Orange situation, which has cost trillions of dollars over it’s fifty year history in terms of actual dollars spent for clean-up, healthcare costs throughout the world, veterans benefits, disability, early loss of life for the victims, and in the continual cost of caring for birth defective children. The story is so large it almost can’t be told in believable fashion.
Had all the cards been laid on the table back in the early Seventies, when problems first started occurring in those exposed to Agent Orange, and proper care, adequate and safe clean-up procedures adopted, along with honest and appropriate policies adopted to deal with the fallout, we could be past the continuing and never-ending hearings, lawsuits, and legislation.
This takes us back to the Arizona Wild Fires this past year. Between 1965 and 1969, the National Forest Service used Agent Orange to defoliate areas of the Pinal National Forest. There is a great deal of information available on the internet regarding the health affects this toxin had on Globe/Miami citizens. Many died very young, suffering from the horrific affects of Agent Orange. The water table in the canyons was polluted. There are reports of ongoing health issues with children and grandchildren of those exposed, no doubt because of the residual contamination of water tables and in the soil as well.
The Forest Service and the EPA initially said they knew nothing about Agent Orange being sprayed in the Pinal Mountains, but quickly provided this information. The EPA (a government agency) has stated that any contamination done by defoliants is “broken down by weather after just one growing season”, and other “government reports“
seem to support this fabricated statement:
• The first independent study on the effects of the treatment was done in 1970 by the Oregon State University and the USDA Forest Service. The study demonstrated minimal hazard to man and his environment.
• In 1992 and 1993, the Arizona Department of Environment Quality (ADEQ) sampled for 2,4,5-T, 2,4-D, silvex and their metabolites in Kellner Canyon and found no detectable amounts in all water and sediment samples.
• In 1998, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) performed a Health Consultation for the dioxin spraying. They found there was no reason for further health or environmental follow-up.
When the fires broke out the Forest Service and EPA said they knew nothing about Agent Orange being sprayed in the Pinal Mountains…right. If one were to believe the above statements and sanctification by the government agencies, why did the Arizona Emergency Information Network issue haz-mat warnings to the residents of the wildfire areas about the possibility of toxicity from the smoke of the fire? I believe we allow the alcoholics to man the liquor stores when we expect one government agency to do a true evaluation of another, particularly when one agency is so closely related to the other.
Additionally, the Arizona Department of Transportation issued this little tidbit from an ADOT Scoping Report:
Hazardous Materials Contaminated areas (dioxin) in the project area where the fires occurred (D-1) are feared to pose a safety hazard to workers and residents if disturbed or to potentially contaminate surface and groundwater. D-1 and E-1 would potentially impact NFS land, increase wildfire potential, visual quality, recreational and canyon areas, exposure to dioxin contamination, wildlife and threatened and endangered species.
Many families affected by the 1960’s spraying of Agent Orange have said the claims by the Forest Service stating that there are no dangers to the community from the fires, are like an eerie flashback of the same reports the Forest Service gave back in the Sixties. Claims that Agent Orange had no negative health affect on the community in the late 1960’s have long since been disproved. Millions of dollars in settlement money has been paid to affected families. If Agent Orange is no longer a danger “after one growing season”, why is the Federal Government spending millions of dollars today to help Vietnam eradicate the deadly toxin?
This is just another incident, another string of denials, dis-information, and cover-ups. When will it ever end?
So, let’s move on to where we are today as we try to strangle the real truth out of our government and all their cohorts. As my articles have woven a tale over the last several months that many die-hard believers of “government concern”, will simply not believe no matter how much evidence we present, we are faced with a last resort of prompting our elected legislators to take action. If they do not react and protect the citizenry, we must get rid of them at the next election, and continue the process as long as we remain alive.
Collectively we as veterans, former government contractors, and the concerned USO volunteer veterans, make-up a formidable voting bloc, which the public simply labels as “special interest groups”. But we are more than that. Our demands and the remedies we seek are a contractual obligation” of the federal government; not a hand out or “freebie” at the teat of government largess, like most other special interest groups.
Wednesday’s article will deal with some specify cases, that despite several positive events of the past few months, still remain outside realm of being remedied, and how we need to put our legislators on notice of our plight. Additionally we’ll discuss how to contact our representatives to ask for help, the importance of “follow-up”, and the consequences of turning their backs on the situation.
Following his service in the Marine Corps Ed Mattson built a diverse career in business in both sales/marketing and management. He is a medical research specialist and published author. His latest book is Down on Main Street: Searching for American Exceptionalism
Ed is currently Development Director of the National Guard Bureau of International Affairs-State Partnership Program, Fundraising Coordinator for the Warrior2Citizen Project, and Managing Partner of Center-Point Consultants in North Carolina.
Mr. Mattson is a noted speaker and has addressed more than 3000 audiences in 42 states and 5 foreign countries. He has been awarded the Order of the Sword by American Cancer Society, is a Rotarian Paul Harris Fellow and appeared on more than 15 radio and television talk-shows.