A Fraud Called Agent Orange

This is the first in a series detailing the discovery, the military use, the legal battles over the damaging effects, and the massive ongoing cover-up of Monsanto's Agent Orange.

Refineries and oil storage tanks of the Monsanto chemical plant burn in the waterfront area in Texas City, Texas, April 16, 1947.
Refineries and oil storage tanks of the Monsanto chemical plant burn in the waterfront area in Texas City, Texas, April 16, 1947. | Source

One has to wonder why there has been what appears to be a concerted effort to ignore and deny, even coverup the damages caused by exposure to Agent Orange. It's been sixty-nine years since Dr. Arthur Galston accidentally discovered the defoliant properties of triiodobenzoic acid, also known as TIBA. It's been sixty-three years since the Monsanto plant in Nitro, West Virgina, suffered an explosion that produced a plume of vapor and white smoke that drifted across the entire town. Monsanto manufactured herbicides which contained dioxins, a by-product of the manufacturing process. One of these herbicides was used as a main ingredient in the manufacture of Agent Orange.

At the time of the explosion, a fine, black and powdery residue coated the interior of the plant buildings, as well as the workers inside. In a matter of a few days, the workers began to experience the skin eruptions of chloracne, a long lasting and disfiguring condition. Some employees reported feelings of intense pain in their limbs, chest, and trunk areas. Doctors noticed a very strong odor coming from the contaminated employees who were described as “excreting a foreign chemical through their skins”. The medical report stated that the explosion “caused a systemic intoxication in the workers involving most major organ systems.” In an effort to downplay the event, Monsanto claimed that the contaminant was only an irritant to the skin and “fairly slow acting”.

US Soldiers cutting the tops off AGENT ORANGE barrel's to use them for latrine duty, fill with dirt and use for protection against enemy fire, BAR-B-Q pits and various tasks.
US Soldiers cutting the tops off AGENT ORANGE barrel's to use them for latrine duty, fill with dirt and use for protection against enemy fire, BAR-B-Q pits and various tasks. | Source

In the following years leading up to the Vietnam War, there were several more incidents that should have alerted chemical companies like Monsanto and Dow, that their herbicides were potentially deadly to human beings. Yet, they willingly sold their death chemicals to the US government for use against the North Vietnamese Army. Instead of giving warning of the toxic effects the chemicals would have against the civilians and the military personnel, they collected their million dollar contracts.

Members of the military were told the chemicals were harmless, that they were being used to deprive the enemy of cover. The American fighting men were told the chemicals were being used in an effort to protect their lives. Our fighting men accepted what they were told. They didn't question the safety of their water for cooking, drinking, and bathing. They didn't question the hazards of having silly battles where they sprayed the “safe” defoliating chemicals, drenching their opponents in the liquid.

It wasn't until after they were home safely in the bosoms of their families that they began to get sick. Some developed chloracne, liver dysfunction, and cancers. Many, many veterans underwent major personality changes that were severe and often violent, causing them to succumb to drugs and alcohol. Personality changes were blamed on the emotional burden of their experiences. But veterans began to suspect that their illnesses were a result of their time in Vietnam. They began to suspect the “harmless” chemical known as Agent Orange, as well as some of the other herbicides often referred to as the “Rainbow Herbicides” because they were named after the colors blue, white, pink, green and purple.

Claims were made to Veteran's Affairs in an effort to receive financial aid for medical treatment and/or disability. These claims were denied. Paul Reutershan took a different approach. He sued the chemical companies that manufactured the herbicides. After he filed his suit in 1978, others flocked to join him. He urged them to file separate lawsuits, knowing that a class action suit would not provide for the millions that would be necessary to pay for so many terrible illnesses. Six years later when the lawsuit was settled for a paltry $180 million dollars, Paul was not there. He had died only a few months following his filing.

News of the pending lawsuit must have certainly brought on a wave of anxiety for the herbicide manufacturers, especially Monsanto and Dow, and they jumped to action. No one has been able to determine if Judge Weinstein was on the take or if he had been instructed on how he was to handle the pending lawsuit.

It was the judge who decided that the many individual lawsuits would be lumped together into one class action suit. It was the judge who appointed the attorneys and then proceeded to bully them until they agreed to the $180 million settlement that HE had crafted, letting Monsanto and others off the hook for liability. He denied fees to those attorneys who didn't cooperate with his plan. Judge Weinstein punished those veterans who “opted out” of the class action to pursue their own lawsuit by creating two new rules of law in order to keep them away from a jury. Instead of allowing a jury to determine credibility of witnesses and decide on facts of dispute, he decided that the veterans' expert witnesses weren't credible, thereby denying them their right to a jury trial. However, the judge DID accept evidence presented by both the manufacturers and the US government. He deemed their evidence to be valid and conclusive proof that Agent Orange had not caused the injuries and illnesses.

During the years following the initial filing for suit, further dioxin research was being conducted by independent researchers and the conclusive results were unsettling. Dioxin hazards studies completed throughout the 1970's and into the 80's were giving up damning evidence, but the VA continued to deny claims for Agent Orange related illnesses. The only claims honored were for those of chloracne. As a consequence, Congress passed the Veterans' Dioxin and Radiation Exposure Compensation Standards Act of 1984.

The purpose of the Standards Act was to respond to the tens of thousands of veterans' claims. There had yet to be established a causal relationship between exposure of Agent Orange and the many diverse illnesses being represented by claimants, but evidence of dioxin toxicity was mounting. Congress mandated that the VA Administrator resolve any doubt IN FAVOR of the veteran seeking compensation.

It has always been the policy of the Veterans Administration and is the policy of the United States, with respect to individual claims for service connection of diseases and disabilities, that when, after consideration of all the evidence and material of record, there is an approximate balance of positive and negative evidence regarding the merits of an issue material to the determination of a claim, the benefit of the doubt in resolving each such issue shall be given to the claimant.”

The VA continued to deny over 31,000 veterans, insisting on proof of causation in exchange for compensation, until veterans' groups prosecuted a successful legal action finding that the VA had made unpermissible demands.

With concerns growing after the first studies of human exposure to AO (Agent Orange), Congress commissioned a large scale epidemiological study to determine potential health effects. It was to be conducted by the VA, but their reluctance and procrastination at getting started convinced Congress that some other agency should be appointed and the responsibility was given to the CDC in 1983.

When the results of the study were examined in hearings before the Human Resources and Intergovernmental Relations Subcommittee in 1989, it was ascertained that the design, implementation and conclusions suggested that political pressures had interfered with authenticity.

For information regarding the outright fraud perpetrated in manufacturing biased studies, read the Dept. of VA classified document report by Admiral E. R. Zumwalt, Jr. dated May 5, 1990.

http://www.gulfwarvets.com/ao.html

American taxpayers footed the bill for a $63 million expenditure to study the health effects of Agent Orange/Dioxins on human beings. The only thing we got for better than six years was nothing more than a multimillion dollar coverup enacted by the Reagan administration, the military, and both Monsanto and Dow Chemicals. Through it all, our veterans were suffering and dying without care or compensation from the very people who had sent them to battle.

WHY WAS THIS PERMITTED TO HAPPEN???

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Also feel free to leave a comment or tell your own Agent Orange story.

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Comments 24 comments

Mary Neal profile image

Mary Neal 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia, USA

Michael Jackson already told us, "They don't care about us." Google the video at YouTube. Somehow, they have a bunch of judges that . . .


wheelinallover profile image

wheelinallover 4 years ago from Central United States

Viet Nam wasn't the safest place to be no matter where you served. Chemical defoliation only made things worse. It is sad, my friends who lived through the police action/war died way before their time due to the effects of agent orange and other defoliants.

From a government stand point, since World war, 2 my understanding is war has always been about two things. Money and population reduction. In the case of Viet Nam it worked like a charm. Many of those who lived to make it home still lost their lives. This was true for those on both sides.

Voted up and awesome Thanks for SHARING.


Terri Meredith profile image

Terri Meredith 4 years ago from Pennsylvania Author

Hi wheelinallover! No, Vietnam certainly wasn't a safe place to be no matter the area served. Did you know that the casualties total for both sides was in excess of 2 million? Better yet, did you know that the civilian casualties were 2 1/2 that amount?! When we look at these numbers, it certainly gives us pause for thought. How could an action supposedly about liberating a people, end up destroying so many millions of them by "accident"? Our gov't documents admit that our intentions in spraying was for the purpose of destroying the crops. These weren't crops in the northern areas of the country, but in civilian areas. Why would we destroy the land and crops of the very people we claim to be liberating? These lands were in areas of which we were in possession, or rather the French possessed, ruled over by a "president" put in place by the American government.

The Agent Orange issue is a very important clue in discovering why our government seems to be ruled by certain corporations.....Monsanto, in particular. Thanks for commenting.


Becky Katz profile image

Becky Katz 4 years ago from Hereford, AZ

My husband is suffering from Agent Orange exposure. For fours years, he was in the thick of it and even used it to wash the other colors off. They told him it was safe and he believed them. Now he is bitter and did not get a thing in the class action lawsuit. The lawyers got it all.


Hollie Thomas profile image

Hollie Thomas 4 years ago from United Kingdom

I don't know what to say, Terri, other than this does not surprise me in the least. The tax payers footed the financial bill for the discoveries and the veteran's and their families footed the emotional and physical bill.

Perhaps we all just need to keep fighting and keep talking. After all, it's only when a news item is completely suppressed that is not considered. Activists may not be able to influence public opinion, but, if they keep talking, they can give the public something to think about and that is priceless.


Terri Meredith profile image

Terri Meredith 4 years ago from Pennsylvania Author

@Becky: There are so many who never got a single penny toward medical care or living expenses due to disability resulting from their exposure. The class action suit was a travesty. Judge Weinstein was the one who lumped all the individual suits into a class action suit and then determined the "class" being addressed was the entire body of Vietnam vets. That means that all those who weren't yet sick at the time of the settlement wouldn't be in a position to EVER get compensation. The attorneys got $50 million of the $180 million. There wasn't any discernible method for making the payouts to those listed in the suit, either. Some who were completely disabled were awarded $0 while some who had mild forms of illness received several thousand.

@Hollie: The Agent Orange story is so huge, so entangled, and so long, that I had no choice but to break it down into separate pieces. When I began, I was aware that Monsanto had their hands in it, aware they did their usual lying and fulfilling their misinformation quota...but I didn't know just how low they operated even during the decades where basic human rights were honored just a bit more.

I sure hope I DO give people something to talk about. I hope they talk to loud and long and fast that nothing will be able to drown them out! Thanks for the read and comment!


Hollie Thomas profile image

Hollie Thomas 4 years ago from United Kingdom

Good,tomorrow I will read part two. Bookmarked, voted up, face booked and tweeted. Let's continue the conversation.


Becky Katz profile image

Becky Katz 4 years ago from Hereford, AZ

He is being treated at the VA for all of his disabilities. He is totally disabled between the Agent Orange and PTSD. That is another problem for the vets. The Vietnam vets suffered while they said it was not a disability. They got worse without any treatment. They have fought hard and now our guys coming home will not go get help. It is a slap in the face to those Vietnam vets who fought for the treatment so hard.


Terri Meredith profile image

Terri Meredith 4 years ago from Pennsylvania Author

Thanks Hollie!

Becky, I won't downplay the PTSD, but there are some questions about whether some veterans aren't suffering more from the neurological effects of TCDD (the dioxin in AO)since it's an EDC that affects dopamine and serotonin levels. Some studies have noted that tryptophan production is also affected. My daughter was a Staff Sergeant in the Marines. She left after 10 years because she no longer had any faith that the US Military was operating on high, patriotic ideals. She said she would rise to the occasion if her country truly needed her, but she will not lift a finger to provide more riches and power for the individuals using American soldiers in their greed campaign. This may be some of the reasons that returning soldiers aren't going through the VA for care. They no longer trust government or military motives. So let's not be too hard on them. After all, they've seen how the Vietnam vets were treated by their government. These actions in the Middle East have the distinct flavor of the Vietnam horror.


Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

Wesman Todd Shaw 4 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

WOW!

I'm just glad I hadn't attempted to cover this subject already...anywhere....I'd be shamed, most likely, after reading yours.

You do really effing WELL doing this sort of thing - a short history.

Very readable!!! You're definitely NOT the least bit biased, you're just not being paid to shut up, or to argue or be misleading in opposition to someone.

I'd really like to know more about that seemingly purposefully non justice seeking and manipulative magistrate.


Terri Meredith profile image

Terri Meredith 4 years ago from Pennsylvania Author

Hey Todd, I was wondering when you'd put in an appearance. Hope you don't mind me calling you Todd. Whenever I call you Wesman, it just doesn't seem right. I think of you more as a "Todd" than a "Wes".

Thanks for the WOW! When I started doing this subject, I didn't expect it to become so big, but the more I researched, the more I knew I couldn't do justice to the topic by trying to consolidate. The is just too much. I still have at least 3 more I'm presently working on. This first one is sort of an overview. The 2nd one is a history of the discovery and the government's early use, the test trials, etc, along with how the scene for the crime was set. The 3rd one deals with the facts from the aspect of the chemical companies, Monsanto especially. The fourth one details the acts and behaviors of our "benevolent" government agencies. It's really, really going to piss you off.

The 2nd segment has a bit more about the Federal Judge and the steps he took. You'll be outraged by that as well as the list of fraudulent acts pulled by Monsanto and Dow (3rd part).

No matter how many times I'm faced with the horrific acts perpetrated by men in pursuit of power and money, I am still able to be utterly aghast, shocked, horrified. I have yet to find a story that can top Agent Orange. You want to talk about "killing fields"? They're everywhere that AO has touched...our own backyards, our neighbors, our water, and of course, Vietnam.


Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

Wesman Todd Shaw 4 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

I wonder if I'd rather remain...blissfully ignorant!!!

LOLOLOl!!!!!!!

I've always just known the ...bare essentials concerning Agent Orange...and what passes for "bare essentials" for even a somewhat bright and politically vocal/opinionated sort such as myself....wasn't anything with which to speak intelligently, and impress anyone with the relevance of that were I able.

You've provided ....the "perfect" overview here. I definitely couldn't have hoped to write a better one had I tried to. I would only ever suggest that a video be added....but there might not be one available that matches the standards of the text.

What I actually mean by that is that ...some types of persons aren't much into reading, and don't retain much of what they read anyway - some folks are just more visual oriented with learning...and would ...stay on the page longer should there be a video for them to look at, or listen to whilst putting away the dishes or something.

Time spent on a page by unique visitors goes a long ways towards telling Google, the all seeing eye of the webs, "hey, this page rocked the house for keywords 'agent orange.'"

I'm a text guy myself....I guess so much so that I'd never notices whether or not you ever market stuff on your hubs - and it doesn't matter, or shouldn't. You're on the same page of the same books as I am, and so it be-hooves me to share your links around a bit.

I also think that should we have a loosely organized "team" of persons such as ...your and my own mutual friends that comment these types of things in forums and hubs - that were we to all do just a tiny bit of promotion of something so well written as this piece is - that we'd all benefit from our combined efforts the more. I'm not just talking about the necessary virtue of earning anything - but of dominating the search engines with the best information about things important to us.


Terri Meredith profile image

Terri Meredith 4 years ago from Pennsylvania Author

Funny you should mention the teamwork thing. I was thinking of you earlier today. I'll email you on some things I have in mind. But take a look at a forum I started earlier today...it'll will give you a heads up on where I may be going with this. Don't want to spout off about it in the comments.


Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

Wesman Todd Shaw 4 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

RIGHT!

Oh...I don't make many close friends - but I seem to be sort of good at being friendly and conversational with ...damn near anyone regardless of their own glitches and mine up unto the point to where they....start seeming antagonistic towards me.

But most of my truly close friends are....pretty damned talented, and as I'm forever spending more and more time on the web....I'm amazed at the networking stuffs available to me.


Terri Meredith profile image

Terri Meredith 4 years ago from Pennsylvania Author

How could anyone be antagonistic to you? You're always so polite and quiet.....


Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

Wesman Todd Shaw 4 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

Oh it's the human condition...I sometimes rant and rage or get too obsessed over some things.

I was worried that this hub was pulled - glad to see that it wasn't, or was it another one that's been pulled or unpublished?

I'm more than a week behind in going through my daily hubpages notifications...


Terri Meredith profile image

Terri Meredith 4 years ago from Pennsylvania Author

It's the 2nd one that was pulled..The Roots of Agent Orange. It was taken care of immediately..the young lady took down her post and just left the first paragraph with a link. I had already asked her to do that and before she had it done, HP pulled it. Now I have to wait for them to get around to putting it back up. Really irritating to me how they just yank stuff like we're responsible for what the rest of the world does. Be nice if they notified us to give us a heads up before taking action. But that would be good business and make too much sense. Can you imagine the traffic I'm losing? Especially when we're talking about people clicking the link on the other website. It tells them that the hub isn't there. I doubt if they'll be back later


c l wilber 4 years ago

I only wish i was able to tell you about VIETNAM you could not understand


Terri Meredith profile image

Terri Meredith 4 years ago from Pennsylvania Author

You could certainly try to tell me about it. You might be surprised at how much I've already learned. A very, very close friend of mine was a marine who made the first land entry on the Mekong Delta. He had a photo album...that's all I'm going to say. My uncle was also there in 1968 and '69. He doesn't talk much about it. The most he's ever said was that the movie "Platoon" was the closest anyone has ever gotten to describing the experience.


Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

Wesman Todd Shaw 4 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

I've got a collection of horror stories told to me by vets or their families. I made a hubpage about it.

It's a collection of some of the saddest things I've ever heard. Ever.


c l wilber 4 years ago

well I'm sorry. but vietnam is more to a few than a movie or a picture book.

dont want to step on no toes but my brother died becuase of it I was there I'm rotting away with agent orange but the good thing is I got 100% total perm. diss. So unlike most I have an income. Besides all this I was spit at and called names wen I got home But We Have A Wall Las"Dieos


Terri Meredith profile image

Terri Meredith 4 years ago from Pennsylvania Author

Hey thanks for the heads up. I'll have to take a look at it as soon as I'm able to use my own computer. I'm expecting to get it back sometime this week. See you then!


Terri Meredith profile image

Terri Meredith 4 years ago from Pennsylvania Author

@ c l wilber: I'm certainly not trying to trivialize the Vietnam experience to only a movie or "picture book." In case you haven't noticed, I've put a lot of my own personal time into researching the Agent Orange question...5 individual articles worth, with more to come. This is solely for the purpose getting as much information into as many voters' hands as possible. Americans need to know the truth behind the horrors. My heart goes out to those who stood and fought for what they believed in, only to be betrayed by their very own government. I'm an American through and through, and as such, I believe it's my duty to stand against the corruption and avarice rife in my country's government offices.


cl wilber 4 years ago

Thank you

I thank all the people who take part in any thing that helps public awareness. the only problem with the good ole USA is people are in a confort zone and until it invades their space its ok. Keep up the good work I'll say good by

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