Thursday, June 13, 2013

"Deny, Deny Until All the Veterans Die"

Pentagon Investigation into Agent Orange on Okinawa

Indeed, Tokyo has made no comment on the investigation, nor has it publicly questioned its findings. But it might soon regret such acquiescence. In April, it was announced that over the coming years, some of the U.S. bases at the centre of Agent Orange allegations would be returned to civilian control. These installations include Futenma Air Station and Makiminato Service Area in Urasoe City, where veterans claim the military maintained its primary stockpile of Agent Orange during the Vietnam War.

If the Pentagon conducted environmental tests on these installations and the results revealed Agent Orange dioxins, U.S. service members currently stationed there would undoubtedly demand remediation. Washington is particularly sensitive to pollution worries among its own troops in the wake of recent revelations regarding drinking water contamination at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina which exposed as many as 750,000 service members and their families to harmful substances. In 2012, Congress was forced to pass an act in an attempt to resolve the problem.

However if the Pentagon can delay environmental tests on its Okinawa bases until the land reverts to civilian control - currently scheduled to occur after 2022 - it will be able to shift the cost of clean-up onto the shoulders of Japanese tax-payers. Under the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), Washington is absolved from all responsibility to restore military land formerly under its control to safe environmental levels.

I'm involved in the Camp Lejeune Historic Drinking Water deal. I was there in '65-'66. The actual sites for it come up "invalid certificate" but that link's pretty good. It's on Facebook too.

As serious a problem as that is to some veterans and their families, it pales in comparison to the number of people exposed to Agent Orange during and after the Vietnam War.

Given these figures - in addition to the compensation for which exposed veterans would be liable - the Pentagon’s need to maintain its denials is perhaps understandable. Herb Worthington, head of the Agent Orange and Other Toxic Substances Committee of the Vietnam Veterans of America, is only too familiar with such a stance. His organization led the campaign to secure assistance for U.S. veterans exposed to Agent Orange in Vietnam - a struggle which finally convinced Washington to compensate sick service members starting in 1991.

“Eventually, I am sure that Okinawa will be proven to have used or stored Agent Orange. But by the time it is admitted, most of the outspoken Veterans will have passed away. The mantra of our government agencies is ‘Deny, deny, deny.’”

Locations where the Pentagon admits the usage of Agent Orange: Cambodia, Canada, Korea, Laos, Puerto Rico, Thailand, U.S.A. and Vietnam.

Places where U.S. veterans and local residents claim Agent Orange usage - but the Pentagon denies allegations: Guam, Johnston Island, mainland Japan, Okinawa, Panama, Philippines and Saipan.

As usual, the military is doing the please-let-it-go-away-until-it's-not-our-fault-any-more-and-they're-all-dead dance. Also as usual, they'll probably get away with it.

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