Friendly fire in combat occurs because of misdirection and/or errors in identifying friendly and enemy forces. Often friendly fire is investigated by higher authority. Attempts are made to better identify between friendly and enemy troops.
The grim outcome of friendly fire ranges from unintentional injury to death.
Weapons used in wartime come in many forms other then conventional. One such weapon is chemical. The most recognizable chemical weapon used during the Vietnam War was tactical herbicides. These were used to defoliate the forests and jungles, affording the enemy fewer places to hide and to reduce the enemy's food supply. The most common was Agent Orange, the most deadly of the so-called rainbow of herbicides.
The Department of Veterans Affairs has concluded that exposure to Agent Orange can cause health hazards that may be crippling and life-threatening. The Institute of Medicine reports Agent Orange can cause serious diseases. This undermines previous statements by the Department of Defense, stating that Agent Orange is relatively nontoxic. Therefore, it took no precautions to prevent exposure, as stated by the U.S. comptroller general in November 1979.
Tactical herbicides as chemical weapons were authorized and deliberately used, causing illness and death among our troops. This is not friendly fire but deliberate fire by use of chemical weapons.
Our government should be held responsible and accountable for its actions.
Congress needs to recognize this by passing a non-loophole law affording care and compensation to all Vietnam veterans affected by Agent Orange poisoning.
John J. Bury
The writer is a U.S. Navy Vietnam War veteran.
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