The Withering Rain

The Withering Rain:¬†America’s herbicidal folly

The withering rainThe use of defoliants and other herbicides in Vietnam began in 1961; nine years later they were still being used but on a vastly greater scale; military operations have now been suspended pending investigations of the principal compounds used. Laboratory tests have shown 2, 4, 5-T, in particular, to be a potent teratogenic agent – causing fetal deaths or deformities in several species. This is in addition to the consequences on the ecology of Vietnam which may see major upsets in the life-cycle of shellfish, changes in soil leading to compacting into brick form, the introduction of many new pest growths such as weeds and bamboo, and the immediate destruction of food supply, animal stock and a way of life for countless civilians. Whiteside’s chronicle of the use and abuse of herbicides, which first appeared in the New Yorker, is both sobering and painful. The facts themselves are disquieting, but what is worse is our apparent inability, as a society, ever to unmake a decision. The first reports of fetal deaths or deformities in mice or rats lay in departmental files for months until they were forced open through a chain of events initiated by a “Nader raider.” No one general, much less bureaucratic official, cared to admit the possibility of errors in judgment, inadequate testing or poor quality control of the products used. Whiteside has wisely included a series of appendices with the pertinent data from the lab tests and the official documents and testimony of military, scientific and White House spokesmen. He has even tracked down the Army document which forces herbicides to be included under the general rubric of biological warfare – officially eschewed by President Nixon. He ends with more disquieting news concerning current laboratory tests. One is grateful to Whiteside – he is not shouting “fire” at the top of his lungs, just reporting quietly and asking some questions as Rachel Carson did. – Kirkus Review

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Dutton; 1st edition (1971)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0525235752
  • ISBN-13: 978-0525235750
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