I think we may owe the words distinction to my friend Orville Schell, who wrote a near-faultless essay of coolheaded and warmhearted prose in the old. Look magazine in March 1971. At that time, even in a picture magazine, there werent enough photographs of the crime, so his terse, mordant words had to suffice, which makes me faintly proud to be in the same profession. And at some points, being naturally scrupulous about the evidence, he could only speculate: There are even reports of women giving birth to monsters, though resume most occurrences are not reported because of nonexistent procedures for compiling statistics. Well, we know now, or at least we know better. Out of a population of perhaps 84 million vietnamese, itself reduced by several million during the war, there are as many as one million cases of Agent Orange affliction still on the books. Of these, the hardest to look at are the monstrous births. But we agree to forgive ourselves for this, and to watch real monsters such as Robert McNamara and Henry kissinger, who calmly gave the orders and the instructions, as they posture on chat shows and cash in with their memoirs.
I quite like a writing captive audience, but I didnt trust myself to say a fucking thing. Several of the children in the front row were so wizened and shrunken that they looked as if they could be my seniors. I swear to you that Jim Nachtwey has taken photographs, as one of his few rivals, Philip Jones Griffiths, also took photographs, that simply cannot be printed in this magazine, because they would poison your sleep, as they have poisoned mine. After such knowledge,. Eliot asked in Gerontion, what forgiveness? The question of forgiveness just doesnt come. The world had barely assimilated the new term genocide, which was coined only in the 1940s, before the United States government added the fresh hell of ecocide, or mass destruction of the web of nature that connects human and animal and herbal life.
Once again, after a tour of some thatched hamlets and some local schools for the special cases, i experienced an urgent need to be elsewhere or alone. How many times can one pretend to interview the parents of a child born with bright-yellow skin? The cleft palates, the deafness, the muteness, the pretzel limbs and lolling heads and the terrible expressions on the faces of the parents, who believe that this horror can sometimes skip a generation. There is just enough knowledge for agony and remorse, in other words, but not enough for any healing process. No answer, above all, to the inescapable question: When will it stop? A rain from hell began falling about 40 years ago. Unto how many unborn generations? At a school full of children who made sign language to one another or who couldnt sit still (or who couldnt move much at all or who couldnt see or couldnt hear, i took the tour of the workshops where trades such as fishnet weaving.
St josephs, catholic high school
It was inflicted, on purpose, by sophisticated human beings. I am not an epidemiologist. And there are professionals who will still tell you that there is no absolutely proven connection between the spraying of this poison and the incidence of terrifying illnesses in one generation, or the persistence of appalling birth defects in the next one or the next. Let us submit this to the arbitration of evidence and reason: what else can possibly explain the systematic convergence? I left ho chi minh City/Saigon and went down the road and along the river, by boat, essay to the delta town of Ben Tre. This is the very place where peter Arnett heard the American soldier say in 1968 that we had to destroy the town to save. My ferry churned the big muddy waters that had once been cruised by the Swift boats, and I stood out in the pre-monsoon rain to get a clear look at the riverbanks with vegetation that took so long to grow back.
Ben Tre Province, then called kien hoa, was a kind of ground zero for this experiment on human beings and animals and trees. Jungles can ostensibly rise again, but dioxin works its way down through the roots and into the soil and the water, where it can enter the food chain. The unforgivable truth is that nobody knew at the time they were spraying it how long it takes dioxin to leach out of the natural system. The muttered prayer of many vietnamese villagers is that this generation will be the last to feel their grandparents war in their bones and their blood and their epidermis, but the fact is that the town of Ben Tre is home to about 140,000 people. (I dont trust vietnamese statistics, but these were supplied to me by a woman expert who is not uncritical of the communist regime, and whose family had been subjected to forced re-education after the fall of saigon.).
What creator designs it? But all evil thoughts about euthanasia dissolve as soon as you meet, first, the other children and, second, those who care for them. In the office. Nguyen Thi Phuong Tan, a wonderful lady who is in charge of the equally impossible idea of rehabilitation, i was taking notes when a lively, pretty, but armless 10-year-old girl ran in and sprang with great agility onto the table. Pham Thi Thuy linhs grandfather had been in the south vietnamese air Force, had helped to vent Agent Orange on his Communist foes, and had suddenly succumbed to leukemia at the age. His curse has been transmitted down the generations, whether via the food chain or the chromosomes is unclear.
While Pham Thi Thuy linh deftly signed her name with her right foot—with which she also handled a biscuit from the fond nurses—I learned that she had been listed for some artificial arms, perhaps with modern synthetic flesh, from an organization in Japan. All this will take is a wait until shes fully grown, and some 300,000. Money well spent, Id say. But there will be no making whole for these children—eerily combining complete innocence with the most sinister and frightening appearance, ridden and riddled with cleft palate and spina bifida. One should not run out of vocabulary to the point where one calls a child a monster, but the temptation is there. One sees, with an awful pang, why their terrified and shamed parents abandon them to this overworked clinic. One also realizes that it isnt nature, or a creator, that is to blame. This was not a dreadful accident, or a tragedy.
War in 1965: Humanity Among
In an earlier age the compassionate term for irredeemably deformed people was lusus naturae: a sport of nature, or, if you prefer a more callous translation, a joke. It was bad enough, in that spare hospital, to meet the successful half of a siamese-twin separation. This was a more or less functional human child, with book some cognition and about half the usual complement of limbs and organs. But upstairs was the surplus half, which, i defy you not to have thought if you had been there, would have been more mercifully thrown away. It wasnt sufficient that this unsuccessful remnant had no real brain and was a thing of stumps and sutures. (no ass!, murmured my stunned translator in that good-bad English that stays in your mind.) Extra torments had been thrown. The little creature was not lying torpid and still. It was jerking and writhing in blinded, crippled, permanent epilepsy, tethered by one stump to the bedpost and given no release from endless, pointless, twitching misery. What nature indulges in such sport?
And traditional vietnamese culture has a tendency to frown on malformed children, whose existence is often attributed to the rguhs sins of a past life. Furthermore, vietnamese in general set some store by pride and self-reliance, and do not like soliciting pity. I am quite proud of what I did when I came to appreciate, in every sense of the word, these obstacles. The first time i ever gave blood was to a medical Aid for vietnam clinic, in 1967. That was also the moment when I discovered that I have a very rare blood type. So, decades later, seeing a small ad in a paper in ho chi minh City (invariably still called saigon in local conversation) that asked for blood donations for Agent Orange victims, i reported to the relevant address. I dont think they get many wheezing and perspiring Anglos at this joint, let alone wheezing and perspiring Anglos with such exclusive corpuscles; at any rate i was fussed over a good deal while two units were drawn off, was given a sustaining bowl. This privilege, after a while, i came almost to regret.
this ambush-enabling greenery by poisoning it from the skies. Zumwalt believes his own son Elmo iii, who was also serving in the delta, died from the effects of Agent Orange, leaving behind him a son with grave learning disabilities. The resulting three-generation memoir of the zumwalt family—. My father, my son (1986 written by the first and second Elmos about themselves and about the grandchild—is one of the most stoic and affecting family portraits in American history. You have to go to vietnam, though, to see such fallout at first hand. I had naïvely assumed that it would be relatively easy to speak to knowledgeable physicians and scientists, if only because a state that is still Communist (if only in name) would be eager to justify itself by the crimes of American imperialism. The contrary proved to be the case, and for two main reasons. The government is too poor to pay much compensation to victims, and prefers anyway to stress the heroic rather than the humiliating aspects of the war.
In vietnam, between 19, the high command of the United States decided that, since a guerrilla struggle was apparently being protected by tree cover, a useful first step might be to defoliate those same trees. Famous corporations evernote such as Dow and Monsanto were given the task of attacking and withering the natural order of a country. The resulting chemical weaponry was euphemistically graded by color: Agent Pink, agent Green (yes, its true agent Purple, agent Blue, agent White, and—spoken often in whispers—Agent Orange. This shady gang, or gang of shades, all deferred to its ruthless chief, who proudly bore the color of hectic madness. The key constituent of Agent Orange is dioxin: a horrifying chemical that makes total war not just on vegetation but also on the roots and essences of life itself. The orange, in other words, was clockwork from the start. If you wonder what the dioxin effect can look like, recall the ravaged features of viktor Yushchenko—ironically, the leader of the Orange revolution. The full inventory of this historic atrocity is still being compiled: its no exaggeration to say that about 12 million gallons of lethal toxin, in Orange form alone, were sprayed on vietnam, on the vietnamese, and on the American forces who were fighting in the.
Making the memorial - home the new York review
To be writing these words is, for me, to undergo the shakespeare severest test of my core belief—that sentences can be more powerful than pictures. A writer can hope to do what a photographer cannot: convey how things smelled and sounded as well as how things looked. I seriously doubt my ability to perform this task on this occasion. Unless you see the landscape of ecocide, or meet the eyes of its victims, you will quite simply have no idea. I am content, just for once—and especially since it is the work of the brave and tough and undeterrable james Nachtwey—to be occupying the space between pictures. The very title of our joint subject is, i must tell you, a sick joke to begin with. Perhaps you remember the jaunty names of the callous brutes. Blue, and so on? Well, the tradition of giving pretty names to ugly things is as old as warfare.