Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Week 8 - Angela Oh

The consequences of the Vietnam War are not isolated to the wartime era and its immediate aftermath. As Wilcox discusses in "Scorched Earth", the costs of the Vietnam War and the US's warfare tactics have affected the land of Vietnam and its people to this day. Agent Orange is an extremely carcinogenic pesticide employed by the US during the war. The North Vietnamese troops used the forest and its cover to their advantage, until the US started using Agent Orange (AO) to drive them out of hiding. Initially, the government insisted that AO posed no serious health threats to human beings. As we know now, they couldn't have been more wrong.

To this day, we see Vietnamese people born with deformities and cancers linked to AO. US veterans of the Vietnam War also suffer from the highest rate of testicular cancer than any other group of war veterans. Interestingly, the South Vietnamese government assumed ownership of the herbicide when it was delivered to Vietnam. In a way, this allowed for the US to shift some of its moral responsibility off to another government. In addition, the US initially dismissed AO sicknesses as side effects of the Okinawa bacteria. These actions display the US's repeated motives of hiding its mistakes and avoiding addressing its failures. Rather than taking the responsibility and redress in these types of situations, the US has largely ignored its responsibilities and even got out of its 2004 lawsuit by a technicality (statutes left out "pesticides").

Question: What are some methods in which the US would be forced to accept responsibility for its actions? How would you suggest the US redress for its wrongful use of Agent Orange?

Group 8 - Legacy of Environmental Degradation

By Patrick Camarador & Camilla Mariscal
The cost of war is never truly measured accurately until many years later, and this week’s theme ‘Legacy of Environmental Degradations’ exemplifies this. The reading, (selected chapter) Scorched Earth: Legacy of Chemical Warfare in Vietnam by Fred Wilcox, explored this unacknowledged legacy by looking into the effects of Agent Orange on the people and land of Vietnam. Wilcox’s methodology was ethnographic in practice, but scientific in nature. He uses this unique approach to showcase the lasting effects of the use of herbicides in Vietnam through, testimonials, case studies of legal events, and analysis of motivations behind key actions leading to the lasting consequences in the present day.

Wilcox’s main point was to emphasize that the damages of war have not been healed and that Vietnam continues to suffer from the effects of Agent Orange years after the war and use of herbicides ceased. In Chapter 1, he gives an overview of the herbicide campaign and some of the preliminary damage assessment that took place. Chapter 6 features the lineage of Dang Van Son and how the maladies of Agent Orange usage span multiple generations. Judge Weinstein’s dismissal of the legal fight for reparations is deconstructed in Chapter 7, bringing to attention U.S. apathies despite sufficient scientific and testimonial evidence. Chapter 11 takes readers to Du Tu Hospital to witness affected children’s experiences marred by Agent Orange, while Chapter 12 has Dr. Nguyen Thi Ngoc Phuong show just how bad the defects can be for those who end up unfortunate enough. Wilcox ends with Chapter 13, showing that some efforts are being made by individuals such as Ken Herman, but that more needs to be done if the process of healing is to be carried out to completion.

When thinking of chronic environmental damages, the typical first example is nuclear fallout. Although no nuclear weapons were used in the Vietnam campaign, the timespan of the lasting environmental damages caused by herbicides is just as grievous in comparison. This ‘legacy’ of the non-nuclear damages gets overshadowed by its brazen counterpart. Through Wilcox’s work, readers realize that it takes more than a Geiger counter to judge whether or not the scars of war have healed.

With this reading, Patrick found the traditional sciences were used ways that were novel and also ways that were amoral. Rather than writing about Agent Orange using “mountains of statistics or studies jam-packed with incomprehensible charts and graphs,” Wilcox uses his ethnographic approach to “in short...listen to Vietnam.” Patrick found his approach, “scientifically anecdotal, or anecdotally scientific,” still suitable for use in one of the central dogmas of science, the Scientific Method. Despite the dominance of qualitative evidence, Wilcox still cited quantitative findings to prove a point, particularly in Chapter 7 where it was needed to dispel Weinsteins assertions. However, Wilcox also brings to light the scientific arguments made by individuals on behalf of Dow Chemical. Patrick’s previous anthropology class on drugs, science, and culture, made a point that no scientific fact is ever isolated from the culture, politics, and economics in which it is created in. The various scientific defenses Dow employed along with its secretive policies allowed for generations of Vietnamese to suffer at the hands of haphazard destruction brought about by Agent Orange.

Social sciences aren’t so different from these traditional sciences. While Patrick brought his knowledge of quantitative based sciences to this project, Camilla was able to bring their knowledge of the qualitative science models often used in works such as Scorched Earth. Before field work can even begin, a researcher must select a research topic, review literature about the topic, formulate a research question, and prepare a research design. In the case of Scorched Earth, Wilcox addressed the questions of how Agent Orange is still continuously affecting the people of Vietnam physically, emotionally, economically, and socially. After a research design in constructed, they must gain access to these groups, collect data, and formulate an analysis and conclusion. Wilcox gathered ample qualitative interview and document based data from his travels in Vietnam, and used every chapter as a way to compile his field notes with analysis. While this form of data gathering cannot create a solid conclusion the same way as traditional scientific gathering since interviews cannot be boiled down into charts and graphs, it allows for a kind of data that re-humanizes these people and shares their story with the world.

Such ingenuous methods used to assess the costs of war must not be forgotten in the present day. While the war in Syria continues to rage on, the death toll and wounded count aren’t the only damages that are accumulating over the course of the war. Once the dust settles in the future, measures must be taken not only to measure the explicit costs, but also the implicit costs that require scientific and anthropological analysis to reveal. Using methods similar to Wilcox’s in conjunction with morally responsible scientific investigations, a more accurate picture of the state of post-war Syria can be acquired. This can lead to a more just ruling on war reparations for whoever is responsible, more effective rehabilitation efforts for people, and quicker creation of habitat restoration campaigns that assist the wildlife of the region to heal alongside the humans they exist with and are (possibly) interdependent upon for survival. The lasting benefits are cultural, environmental, and beneficial to the legacy of post-war conduct.

Warfare doesn’t have to be the driving force behind science and sociology working in tandem. Another present day example, the controversy over the Dakota Access Pipeline, offers another opportunity for multiple disciplines to collide and collaborate. Generating scientific facts alone will most assuredly fail to change the hearts and minds of people to undermine corporations. Taking the quantitative or esoteric dangers of fossil fuel use and translating it into more tangible reasons for ordinary citizens to do their part to stand in opposition of inconsiderate greed and resource mismanagement. By working together, scientists and sociologists alike can convince the public that while individually, they cannot be heroes that save the world, they can make the world a place worth saving.

Scorched Earth: Legacy of Chemical Warfare leaves a new legacy of its own: Environmental degradation cannot be ignored forever. The lasting consequences of chemical warfare will continue to plague victims until measures are taken to clean up the messes that were made. While it may take years to reveal the true total costs of war, the collaboration of science across disciplines can work to hasten the process of healing for all to benefit. If all warfare is based on deception, all cooperation in peacetime must be based on collaboration.

Works Cited:
Fred A. Wilcox. Scorched Earth: Legacy of Chemical Warfare in Vietnam. 2011.
Introduction; Chapter 1: Ecocide; Chapter 6: Generations; Chapter 7: Jurisprudence; Chapter 11: Chemical Children; Chapter 12 Evidence Room, Chapter 13: Letters Don’t Lie.

Khanh Le-Week 8

From reading "Scorched Earth: Legacies of Chemical Warfare in Vietnam" by Fred A. Wilcox, I am disappointed, but not surprised. The more we learn about all the problematic things that the U.S. commits, it’s incredibly disheartening. I understand why the U.S.  kept the damaging effects of AO under the radar, since they wanted the war to continue. But how can you risk the lives of millions in a foreign country in order to continue a war that not everyone wants? It furthers shows how important it is for this information to be spread, so that history will not repeat itself. My family, although Vietnamese, has never talked about Agent Orange, for reasons which I am unaware. Reading about the mutations, like the headless baby being born or the children born with multiple fingers and heads, shocks me because I never knew that AO had such severe consequences. And to think that AO is still affecting those generations after the war makes me wonder if it will ever stop: the pain and the suffering. This legacy of environmental degradation that the U.S. has participated in should be more well-known, in my opinion. When we watched Chau Beyond the Lines in class from Netflix, it was so heartbreaking to see these children in these conditions, unaware of why it happened to them. The children were treated like animals, the hospital a zoo for spectators. It was painful to see Chau have his dreams of being an artist go down the drain, when no one there believes in him because of his disabilities. This is the side of the war that so many Americans are blind to; these children have goals and aspirations and now all those dreams are hindered because of Agent Orange.

Question: How can we educate more people about Agent Orange to hold the U.S. accountable for these damages?


Patrick Camarador - Week 8

Fred Wilcox's Scorched Earth is a piece that goes over an oft overlooked cost of the Vietnamese War: Agent Orange. The use of this herbicide left lasting consequences for the land, people, and strength of Vietnam. This week's theme, 'Legacy of Environmental Degradation', is perhaps a misnomer; Wilcox's work outlines an infamy rather than a legacy. The secrecy of the chemical companies combined with the imperialist impetus of the United States led to a myriad of suffering for the Vietnamese people. Wilcox showcases everything from habitat destruction, multiple gimped generations, and the apathy towards reparations.

The Scientific Method. Highly applicable to Social Sciences after all! It can be argued that Wilcox tested the hypothesis of 'Agent Orange has negative lasting consequences for the Vietnamese people' through his work. Image taken from Wikipedia, licensed under CC-SA 4.0 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_method#/media/File:The_Scientific_Method_as_an_Ongoing_Process.svg
Wilcox's methodology struck me as interesting. He cites that his methods were "scientifically anecdotal, or anecdotally scientific." He did not seek to publish some article with quantitative data, charts, and trends. He sought instead to perform an ethnographic approach, to "listen to Vietnam," in his words. This approach that is sociological in nature but scientific in application, exhibits a bridging between the humanities and traditional science. It makes me wonder: Why is there such a divide between these two fields? With works such as these, is it not evident that each field can be a driving force for the other? I would hope that the integrity future of scientific studies can be preserved through sociological critique. 'Just because we could, does not mean we should.'