Foreign Policy Blogs

Agent Orange case in US appeals court

Agent Orange case in US appeals courtThe 2nd U.S. Court of Appeals yesterday heard a class action claim against 37 producers and suppliers of the chemical herbicide, dioxin, which was used as a component in the defoliant, Agent Orange. Agent Orange, so named for the markings on its shipping containers, was used as a defoliant to destroy cover by communist forces during the Vietnam War. According to the class action suit, the herbicide had caused dioxin poisoning that later manifested itself as cancer, deformities, and organ dysfunction in some 3-million cases. The case cites the ability of the U.S. president to order the use of chemical agents during war; however, the U.S. has sovereign immunity in this case.

The U.S. dropped roughly 18-million gallons of Agent Orange on Vietnamese forests between 1962 and 1971. Lawyers for the plaintiff allege that the chemical companies, including Dow and Monsanto, knew the harmful effects of dioxin, but did nothing to prevent its use on humans during warfare. Previous cases regarding the chemical manufacturers of the agent Zyklon B , used in Nazi death camps , resulted in convictions for war crimes. But the judges in this case noted that the harmful effects of dioxin were not revealed later and that, unlike Zyklon B, Agent Orange was not deliberately used to cause harm in violation of international law. The ruling in this case will affect diplomatic efforts considering the use of depleted uranium munitions, which the World Health Organization has linked to cancer.

Many pesticides and herbicides have been linked to cancer and other health effects. The international community hailed the emergence of DDT in an anti-malarial campaign, but it was later linked to breast cancer and other deteriorating diseases.

Prosecutors at The Hague Appeals Court have prosecuted the Dutch businessman, Frans van Anraat for war crimes for supplying the dual-use materials, including herbicides and pesticides, converted to chemical weapons used by Iraq during the 1980-1989 war with Iran.




Daniel Graeber

Daniel Graeber is a writer for United Press International covering Iraq, Afghanistan and the broader Levant. He has published works on international and constitutional law pertaining to US terrorism cases and on child soldiers. His first major work, entitled The United States and Israel: The Implications of Alignment, is featured in the text, Strategic Interests in the Middle East: Opposition or Support for US Foreign Policy. He holds a MA in Diplomacy and International Conflict Management from Norwich University, where his focus was international relations theory, international law, and the role of non-state actors.

Areas of Focus:International law; Middle East; Government and Politics; non-state actors