The Victims of Agent Orange the U.S. Has Never Acknowledged
Hammond, Chagnon and Sengthong make up the core of the staff of a nongovernmental organization called the War Legacies Project. Hammond, a self-described Army brat whose father was a senior military officer in the war in Vietnam, founded the group in 2008. Chagnon, who is almost a generation older, was one of the first foreigners allowed to work in Laos after the conflict, representing a Quaker organization, the American Friends Service Committee. Sengthong, a retired schoolteacher who is Chagnon’s neighbor in the country’s capital, Vientiane, is responsible for the record-keeping and local coordination. The main focus of the War Legacies Project is to document the long-term effects of the defoliant known as Agent Orange and provide humanitarian aid to its victims. Named for the colored stripe painted on its barrels, Agent Orange — best known for its widespread use by the U.S. military to clear vegetation during the Vietnam War — is notorious for being laced with a chemical contaminant called 2,3,7,8-Tetrachlorodibenzo-P-dioxin, or TCDD, regarded as one of the most toxic substances ever created. The use of the herbicide in the neutral nation of Laos by the United States — secretly, illegally and in large amounts — remains one of the last untold stories of the American war in Southeast Asia. Decades later, even in official military records, the spraying of Laos is mentioned only in passing. When the Air Force in 1982 finally released its partially redacted official history of the defoliation campaign, Operation Ranch Hand, the three pages on Laos attracted almost no attention, other than a statement from Gen. William Westmoreland, a former commander of U.S. forces in Vietnam, that he knew nothing about it — although it was he who ordered it in the first place. Laos remained a forgotten footnote to a lost war. To those who followed the conflict’s aftermath intimately, this was hardly surprising. Only in the last two decades has the United States finally acknowledged and taken responsibility for the legacy of Agent Orange in Vietnam, committing hundreds of millions of dollars to aiding the victims and cleaning up the worst-contaminated hot spots there.
Digital Trails: How the FBI Identifies, Tracks and Rounds Up Dissidents
Americans deserve the freedom to choose a life without surveillance and the government regulation that would make that possible. While we continue to believe the sentiment, we fear it may soon be obsolete or irrelevant. We deserve that freedom, but the window to achieve it narrows a little more each day. If we don’t act now, with great urgency, it may very well close for good.”—Charlie Warzel and Stuart A. Thompson, New York Times Databit by databit, we are building our own electronic concentration camps. With every new smart piece of smart technology we acquire, every new app we download, every new photo or post we share online, we are making it that much easier for the government and its corporate partners to identify, track and eventually round us up. Saint or sinner, it doesn’t matter because we’re all being swept up into a massive digital data dragnet that does not distinguish between those who are innocent of wrongdoing, suspects, or criminals.
The March Action and the Tragedy of German Communism
In December 1920, the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) merged with the left wing of the Independent Social Democrats (USPD) under the leadership of Paul Levi. The unified party had a membership in excess of four hundred thousand. Its members had recently helped defeat an attempted far-right coup, the Kapp putsch, and had great confidence about the future. Within months, however, the KPD launched an ill-fated uprising on March 17, 1921 that became known as the March Action. The insurrection was a complete failure; in its aftermath, the KPD lost more than half of its membership. Paul Frölich (1884–1953) is best remembered today for his classic biography of Rosa Luxemburg, which is still in print. Frölich was a member of the KPD leadership in the 1920s and witnessed events firsthand. In this extract from a recently discovered memoir, lost until 2007 and now translated into English, Frölich explains why the KPD came to launch the March Action and how it unfolded. He also gives his impressions of influential Communist leaders like Paul Levi and the Hungarian Béla Kun, and recalls a discussion with Lenin in Moscow after the failure of the March Action. The following is an abridged extract from Paul Frölich’s memoir In the Radical Camp: A Political Autobiography 1890–1921, translated by David Fernbach as part of the Historical Materialism Book Series.