Agent Orange: "collateral damage" in Viet Nam
Philip Jones Griffiths, for a record five years the President of Magnum Photos, created in Vietnam, Inc. a record of the war there of almost Biblical proportions. No one who has seen it will forget its haunting images. In Agent Orange he has added a postscript that is equally unforgettable. In 1960 the United States war machine concluded that an efficient deterrent to the Viet Cong would be the devastation of the crops and forestry that afforded them both succour and cover for their operations. Initial descriptions of the scheme included "Food Denial Program," later adapted to "depriving cover for enemy troops." They gave the idea the name Operation Hades, but were advised that Operation Ranch Hand was a more suitable cognomen for PR purposes. The US had developed a herbicide for the task. It became known as Agent Orange after the colour of the canisters used to distribute it. The planes that carried the canisters had 'ONLY WE CAN PREVENT FORESTS!' as a logo on their fuselages. They were right. It was very effective. Unfortunately some of the herbicide also contained Dioxin, probably one of the world's deadliest poisons. In Agent Orange Philip Jones Griffiths has photographed the children and grandchildren of the farmers whose faces were lifted to the gentle rain of the contaminated herbicide. Theoretically and scientifically there are no proven connections between the maimed subjects of his photographs and the presence of Dioxin in Agent Orange. There are certainly suspicions, sustained by the compensation payments made by the US Government to its war victims. Historians will find it sufficient to say that there will always be collateral damage, another useful PR phrase, in war, andthat Philip Jones Griffiths should understand the consequences of martial endeavours. He most certainly does. He has catalogued here a pitiless series of photographs, and there can be no doubt that they should and will be reco
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