By Roger Pulvers
Introduction by John Junkerman
As the drum rolls sound once again for those who died in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Roger Pulvers has provided a poignant reminder of those other, far more numerous, victims the United States has left in the wake of its wars overseas. In particular, the victims of the dioxin-contaminated herbicide Agent Orange, whose suffering continues decades after the Vietnam War ended.
August 2011 was the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the American herbicide-spraying campaign in Vietnam, and the anniversary was well marked. An international conference of Agent Orange victims was held in Hanoi (link) with participants from more than 20 countries, it reflected the wide geographical and generational scope of the contamination. As Jon Mitchell’s reporting on Agent Orange in Okinawa demonstrates, we still do not know the full extent of the environmental damage. The 50th anniversary also saw the introduction of new legislation in the US Congress to provide much-delayed relief to victims of Agent Orange in the US and Vietnam. (Link. An expanded version of Mitchell’s research is forthcoming at The Asia-Pacific Journal.)
I worked as the editor of the film, Living the Silent Spring, which Pulvers discusses in his essay. The film’s director, Masako Sakata, had been struck by the fact that Rachel Carson’s Silent Springappeared at virtually the same time that the US military began spraying Agent Orange in Vietnam. Though Carson died soon after her book came out, her outrage at the irresponsible use of potent chemicals and her pleas for environmental and biological wisdom seemed to be a warning that went unheeded about the dangers of Agent Orange.
We were in the studio editing the film on March 11, when the massive earthquake and tsunami struck Japan. As the extent of the Fukushima nuclear disaster became known, and it became clear that the area around the plant would be contaminated with radiation for many decades to come, Carson’s description of chemicals as the “sinister partners of radiation”—and the film we were working on—took on a new resonance.
The Japanese trailer for the film (mostly in English) can be seen here. The film will screen with English and Japanese titles for the 6:50 pm screening on Saturdays during the run at Iwanami Hall, Tokyo. Plans for distribution of the English version are yet to be determined.