In 2007, it came to light that the Department of Veterans Affairs – the US government body responsible for caring for sick soldiers – awarded compensation to a marine who had developed prostate cancer as a result of his exposure to Agent Orange in the northern jungles of the island.Then in 2009, the same department admitted that “herbicide agents were stored and later disposed in Okinawa” during Operation Red Hat – the 1971 US military project to remove its stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons from Okinawa to Johnston Island.
All of these veterans are painfully aware of the harm that Agent Orange may have caused Okinawan civilians at the time.Now, many of the US veterans who came into contact with Agent Orange on Okinawa are suffering from serious illnesses that the US government recognizes as the result of exposure to dioxins. In some cases, their sons and daughters were born with deformities consistent with Agent Orange poisoning. Despite this, none of these veterans exposed on Okinawa has been able to receive compensation – due solely to the fact that the Pentagon continues to deny that the defoliant was present on the island.
The Pentagon’s increasingly unconvincing denials not only prevent veterans from receiving the medical care that they so desperately need, but they also endanger the health of both local Okinawans and American service members currently stationed on the island.With the potential environmental and human impact so enormous, any delay by the US and Japanese governments to launch a comprehensive investigation into the issue is criminally negligent. It is time to reveal the full extent to which Okinawa has been suffering its own dioxin poisoning over the past 50 years.