Saturday, August 11, 2012

Poisons in the Pacific: Guam, Okinawa and Agent Orange

The heavy loss of G.I. blood on both islands imbued in many U.S. leaders a sense of entitlement to the hard-won territories. Following the end of World War II, the islands were gradually transformed into two of the most militarized places on the planet — Guam became the "Tip of the Spear" and Okinawa the "Keystone of the Pacific."

According to the Pentagon's own records, it first stored these defoliants on Guam in 1952 with the delivery of 5,000 barrels of Agent Purple. One of several so-called "rainbow herbicides," which took their names from the color-coded stripes around the barrels, Agent Purple was a forerunner of Agent Orange and today is known to be even more toxic. The U.S. military had brought the herbicides to Guam for use in the Korean War. But the conflict ended before they could be deployed and, according to the U.S. government, the chemicals were subsequently removed from Guam.

 Both installations have been in operation for more than six decades, during which time they have been subject to the daily flow of dangerous chemicals — not limited to Agent Orange — necessary to keep the military machine running smoothly. Andersen's EPA reports revealed 32 so-called "contaminants of concern" including lead, PCBs and arsenic.

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