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Agent Orange: 40 years after the Vietnam War, the ghosts of chemical warfare live on

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By Harshmeet Singh

This  April 30 would mark the 40th anniversary of the fall of Saigon (South Vietnam’s erstwhile capital), which led to the conclusion of Vietnam War. Lasting two decades, the Vietnam War was fought between North Vietnam and South Vietnam. While North Vietnam was backed by China, Soviet Union and other communist allies, South Vietnam was aided by the powerful USA and its allies.

North Vietnam majorly depended on the guerrilla war tactics as it trained the National Liberation Front (NLF) to fight against the US and its anti-communist allies. South Vietnam, on the other hand, relied on major air attacks and heavy firepower of the USA to uproot its enemy.

The US was ready to pull out all stops to check the spread of communism and avert the communist powers from taking over South Vietnam. While North Vietnam forces wanted to unify the two countries and establish communist rule over a unified Vietnam, the USA’s actions were based on its domino theory, according to which, if one country takes the communist path, the other nations in the region would soon follow suit.

Role of the US

By the time North Vietnam captured Saigon in 1975 and the war ended, the loss of life was unparalleled. The war casualties were numbered close to a staggering 3 million.

USA’s biggest involvement in the war was its air strikes over North Vietnam. The US army sprayed more than 20 million gallons of ‘Agent Orange’ over the agricultural land in South Vietnam and some parts of Laos and Cambodia. Codenamed ‘Operation Ranch Hand’, this move was aimed at exposing the guerrillas hidden in forest land and depriving them of cover and food. This also led to the peasants vacating their lands, thus eroding the support base of guerrilla fighters.

Exposure to Agent Orange led to horrendous after effects. According to the data furnished by the Vietnam Government, over 3 million people have suffered disabilities and illness due to this exposure. Even after 40 years since the conclusion of war, a number of birth and respiratory defects are still found among the people living in the affected areas of Vietnam and the US war veterans who served in these areas. Contaminated soil in the region has led to poisonous food which has given rise to health problems such as skin cancer, prostate cancer and lung cancer. The chemicals from Agent Orange have entered the food chains in the region through the animals that feed over the affected area.

John Kerry, the present US Secretary of State and a fierce opponent of Vietnam War, served in the Vietnam War as an officer in charge. In 1971, he testified before the senate, saying –

“They told the stories of times that they had personally raped, cut off the ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in a fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks and generally ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam in addition to the normal ravage of war and the normal and very particular ravaging which is done by the applied bombing power of this country.”

The impact of a war long outlives the actual war. Children born without eyes, new born babies with twisted bodies and disabled adults are usual sights in the area where the deadly Agent Orange was sprayed. The victims now run in third generations. Albeit the war is long over, even today, the parents keep their fingers crossed while a new born is checked by the doctors for any signs of disability.

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US war veterans also affected

The US war veterans, who served in the affected areas of Vietnam, have incurred deadly diseases such as skin cancer, leukaemia and throat cancer at exceptionally higher rates than the average US citizens. The worse impacted ones were the personnel who were involved in loading the planes with Agent Orange and storing the chemical on the ground.

Astonishingly, according to many war veterans, while they were using this chemical in Vietnam, they were told that it is harmless. By 1993, over 39,000 war veterans in the US had filed for disability claims with the ‘Department of Veteran Affairs’, citing their exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam. Of them, only 486 victims were compensated.

Over the past decade or so, various consultations have taken place between the US and Vietnam, regarding the ill effects of Agent Orange and USA’s accountability. Although the US has agreed, more than once, to transfer technical and financial assistance to Vietnam to clean up the remaining bits of Orange Agent, the process is taking far too long to save the present generation from the chemical’s implications.

The Vietnam War possibly represents one of the biggest foreign affairs miscalculations on the part of the US. This also gave birth to the phrase ‘Vietnam Syndrome’ in the US, which depicts the government’s and public’s reluctance to enter any conflict, post the Vietnam War. Despite USA’s best efforts to stop the spread of communism in the region, Vietnam today stands as a unified, communist country. Amongst the effects of war on the US were huge federal budget deficit, over 58,000 dead soldiers and some important lessons on future military interventions. But considering the number of conflicts the US has been a part of since then, the lessons don’t seem to be taken well enough.

  • In nutshell, the US in garb of spreading democracy and ensuring peace has always been the reason for wars.

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What Difference Between Chinese Domination and American Domination?

Chinese government has always been dominant over it's people

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Who is more dominant, Chinese government or US government?. Pixabay

By N.S. Venkataraman

Chinese government has not left anybody in doubt, about it’s ambitious target of dominating the world at any cost. Chinese government has been suppressing  freedom of speech in China, taking away the rights of citizens of Hong Kong in authoritarian manner and aggressively occupying the territory of neighbours such as Tibet and part of Indian territory, which it occupied after 1962 Indo Chinese war. China is now claiming Indian province Arunachal Pradesh as it’s own and aggressively claiming territorial right in South China Sea and Senkaku island. Chinese government says that Taiwan is part of it’s territory and objects to any recognition given to Taiwan by any other country.

Further, China is trying to enforce it’s domination over small and weak  nearby  countries  such as Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and others, by extending loans, which  these countries cannot afford to repay in the foreseeable future.

Viewing China’s methods and targets, one does not find much of difference between today’s Chinese government and Hitler’s Germany. Several countries in the world are  gradually realizing that checking China’s ambition is as necessary, as checking Hitler’s ambition  that caused World War II.

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Chinese government has been suppressing freedom of speech in China. Pixabay

However, the supporters of China claim that US government too should be accused of trying to dominate the world and it has sent troops to several countries such as Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and others to enforce it’s domination. There is an element of  truth in this, as American government seem to think that it has the duty to police the world.

In any case, on careful analysis of the scenario and judiciously comparing the domination desire of China and USA, one cannot but see a subtle difference between both these countries.

While China believes in ruthless elimination of opponents both inside and outside China (just like the way Hitler did) and wants to occupy territories of other countries by coercion or force , US does not indulge in such acts of suppression of human rights or occupying territory of other countries.

US has not concealed it’s desire that freedom of speech and democratic procedures should prevail in all regions in the world. On many occasions , US has fought against totalitarian regimes, religious extremists and terrorist groups and has paid a high price by losing American lives.

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USA desires to dominate the world. Pixabay

USA may have the ambition to dominate the world and ensure it’s authority as super power, but it has no ambition of territorial expansions that China has.

All said and done, if the world were to choose between USA and China, it would inevitably come to the conclusion that world domination by USA is a lesser evil than the world domination by China.

Unlike China, the citizens of USA have the right to criticise the decisions of the government, launch protests against human rights violation, if any and exercise their franchise once in four years to change the party in power, if it would act against the wishes of the people. By such process, the conscience of USA largely remain in tact and US government is vulnerable to the pressure of public opinion, both in USA  and other parts of the world.

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In China, the citizens don’t have the right to criticise the decisions of the government. Pixabay

Also Read: McDonald’s Reveals Plan to Open More Drive-Thru Restaurants in UK

On the other hand, China has totalitarian regime and no citizen can survive in China if he would criticise the Chinese President or question the decision of the Chinese government. To this extent, it is dictatorial regime in China, which can be termed as uncivilized form of governance.

The fact is that USA has been remaining as super  power in the world for several decades now and  the world has not  become worse due to the dominating power of USA. Of course, there have been criticism against US government by some section of world opinion but  most of such critics belong to religious extremist groups  and motivated  leftist (communist) forces , whose economic  and administrative policies  have totally failed to deliver the goods.

Achieving super power status by China   and establishing it’s authority in large parts of the world with least consideration for value systems and sentiments of people, is the worst thing that can happen to the world civilization.

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New York Times Devotes Entire Front Page to COVID-19 Victims

The names of 1,000 of the COVID-19 victims were published on the front page of New York Times

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New York Times
The New York Times dedicated its front page to the names of COVID-19 victims. Pixabay

The New York Times has devoted its entire front page to the names of 1,000 of the COVID-19 victims as the US approaches nearly 100,000 virus deaths, the current highest in the world as suggested by COVID-19 Information & Resources.

The Sunday edition’s front page comprises a simple list of names and personal details taken from obituaries around the US, the BBC reported.

The headline is “US deaths near 100,000, an incalculable loss”, with a sub-heading that reads: “They were not simply names on a list. They were us.”

New York state, the epicentre of the US coronavirus pandemic, has recorded 385,000 confirmed cases, with 23,195 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University.

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Newspaper article titled “A New Physics Based on Einstein” published in ”The New York Times” on November 25, 1919. Wikimedia Commons

Also Read: New York State Allows Gatherings of up to 10 People

New York City accounts for 197,000 infections and 16,149 fatalities.

As of Sunday, the US registered the world’s highest number of cases and deaths at 1,622,670 and 97,087, respectively. (IANS)

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US White House Releases Report Announcing Onset of Cold War With China

US has formally announced the onset of Cold War with China

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US has officially announced Cold war with China. Wikimedia Commons

By Aarti Tikoo Singh

With its new vision document on China, the US has formally announced the onset of its Cold War with the Asian giant, accusing it of exploiting rule-based world order and re-shaping international system in favour of Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) ideology and interests.

Just short of calling it Cold War, the US in its latest report titled, ‘United States Strategic Approach to the People’s Republic of China’, released by the White House, has announced that it is “responding to the CCP’s direct challenge by acknowledginga that the two major powers are in a “strategic competition and protecting” their “interests appropriately”.

Until now, the US policy towards the People’s Republic of China (PRC), the report said, was “largely premised on a hope that deepening engagement would spur fundamental economic and political opening” in China and make it a “responsible global stakeholder, with a more open society”.

However, after over 40 years, “it has become evident that this approach underestimated the will of the CCP to constrain the scope of economic and political reform”.

Over the past two decades, reforms have slowed, stalled, or reversed, the report said.

“The PRC’s rapid economic development and increased engagement with the world did not lead to convergence with the citizen-centric, free and open order as the US had hoped. The CCP has chosen instead to exploit the free and open rules- based order and attempt to reshape the international system in its favour.”

Beijing openly acknowledges that it seeks to transform the international order to align with CCP interests and ideology, the US said. “The CCP’s expanding use of economic, political, and military power to compel acquiescence from nation states harms vital American interests and undermines the sovereignty and dignity of countries and individuals around the world.”

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Beijing openly acknowledges that it seeks to transform the international order to align with CCP interests and ideology, the US said. Pixabay

The White House pointed out that Beijing in its neighborhood, engages “in provocative and coercive military and paramilitary activities in the Yellow Sea, the East and South China Seas, the Taiwan Strait, and Sino-Indian border areas”.

Just a day ago, US diplomat and acting assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian affairs, Alice Wells had called out the CCP regime for ratcheting up tensions with India along its borders. Chinese soldiers in the last few months has engaged in several violent faceoffs with Indian soldiers in Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim and Ladakh over boundary issues.

Announcing its approach, the US report said that it is “working in concert with mutually aligned partnersa”Southeast Asian nations, Japan, India, Australia, Republic of Korea and Taiwan on their outlook on the free, open and secure Indo-Pacific region”.

Guided by a return to principled realism, the report said thatA given the strategic choices China’s leadership is making, “the United States now acknowledges and accepts the relationship with the PRC as the CCP has always framed it internally: one of great power competition”.

The White House made it clear that it is not interested in effecting any change in China’s domestic governance model but at the same time said that it won’t make “concessions to the CCP’s narratives of exceptionalism and victimhood” .

The US policies, the report said, are designed to protect its interests and empower its institutions to withstand the CCP’s malign behaviour and collateral damage from the PRC’s internal governance problems.

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The White House made it clear that it is not interested in effecting any change in China’s domestic governance model. Wikimedia Commons

Accusing the CCP of running propaganda and false narratives, the White House declared that it will continue to challenge Beijing’s attempts at false equivalency between rule-of-law and rule- by-law; counterterrorism and oppression; representative governance and autocracy; and market-based competition and state-directed mercantilism.

The US will not accommodate Beijing’s actions that weaken a free, open, and rules-based international order, the report said, adding that it will continue to refute the CCP’s narrative that the the US is in strategic retreat.

Also Read: Smartly Manage Your Sweet Cravings Amid the Lockdown

Using the Cold War terminology, the White House announced that it will work with its robust network of allies and like- minded partners to resist attacks on shared norms and values, within their own governance institutions, around the world, and in international organizations.

The US government said it does not cater to CCP’s demands to create a proper “atmosphere” or “conditions” for dialogue because it sees no value in engaging with Beijing for symbolism and pageantry.

“We instead demand tangible results and constructive outcomes. We acknowledge and respond in kind to Beijing’s transactional approach with timely incentives and costs, or credible threats thereof. When quiet diplomacy proves futile, the United States will increase public pressure on the PRC government and take action to protect United States interests by leveraging proportional costs when necessary,” the report said. (IANS)