22 February 2014
Hill AFB and Davis-Monthan Officials Deceived Public & Media
That's right...press releases were wordsmithed and approved, just in case the media made inquiries. But nobody did. It was a total non-event, just as planed.
The non-event was the destruction as toxic waste of the surplus fleet of obsolete former Agent Orange spray airplanes, the C-123. Davis-Monthan AFB's famous Boneyard had stored them for decades. Something had to be done with what the AF leaders, medical folks and scientists all called "the Agent Orange airplanes."
Why destroy them? Because the EPA was a constant threat...if EPA found out about the earlier base civilian employee complaints, or if the inspectors were able to locate the special HAZMAT quarantine storage area the planes had been moved to, a potential $3.4 billion fine could be levied against the USAF.
$30,000 a day, warned Air Force officials to each other!
So destruction of the C-123 fleet was approved, and accomplished by shredding and smelting the scraps in April-June 2010. All very hush-hush.
The idea was spelled out in base memos...keep everything below the radar. Of particular concern to the Office of Secretary of Defense Consultant was his worry that veterans who'd flown the C-123s after Vietnam, and who were already exposed to Agent Orange residue, would turn to the VA for treatment of their Agent Orange-associated illnesses.
Logical enough from the veterans' perspective. Must be prevented, from base officials' perspective.
The consultant guided base public affairs in eliminating those attention-grabbing words like "Agent Orange." "dioxin," "toxin," and instead created a masterpiece of PA manipulation and press deception..."the airplanes were recycled in an environmentally safe manner to free up desert storage space."
The news was that Agent Orange airplanes were being destroyed by special process because they were too toxic for landfill and too poisonous to be sold. The news was that veterans...already exposed....were to be kept from news that they'd been exposed to the Agent Orange residue left in the warplanes after Vietnam.
At first this was all innocent...nobody seemed to know the planes had remained contaminated. But that fact became known in 1994 when USAF toxicologists learned the planes were heavily contaminated and a danger to public health...their words in sworn federal court testimony.
The AF decided not to tell the veterans. According to senior Air Force leaders, the decision to keep mum was "to prevent undue distress."
Now, the VA and AF both deny the possibility of the veterans having become exposed. VA did this by redefining the word "exposure" in 2012 to require veterans to prove that Agent Orange had affected them..decades after the fact that's an impossibility. The AF opted to simply say it couldn't decide one way or the other, but probably no exposure occurred.
Anything to prevent another 2000 or so veterans burdening the overtaxed VA medical facilities!
Fortunately for the veterans, researchers Drs Jeanne Stellman, Peter Lurker, Fred Berman and Richard Clapp published their article, "Post-Vietnam Military Herbicide Exposures in UC-123 Agent Orange Spray Aircraft." This appeared in the Journal of Environmental Research, and establishes the fact of the veterans' exposures. Not only did the authors contradict the AF and VA positions, they also sharply criticized both agencies' lack of scientific basis for obstructing veterans' claims.
Sometimes, scientists deserve a salute, too!