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Recent history suggests that United States Senate minority leader Tom Daschle was on the right track when he described the Agent Orange issue as an example of Nietszche's theory of eternal recurrence. Speaking in 1988, Senator Daschle said:

An Agent Orange history scholar would undoubtedly find a remarkable resemblance between past and present Agent Orange-related stories and events. The Government has historically claimed that there is not enough scientific evidence suggestive of a link between exposure to Agent Orange and diseases suffered by Vietnam veterans to justify compensation for those veterans. The Government continues to repeat that claim in spite of the numerous scientific studies that suggest such a link or, at the very least, cast reasonable doubt on the situation. (1)

It is more than thirty years since it became apparent that the herbicides and pesticides used by American forces in the Vietnam War may be harmful to human health. In that time, this issue, commonly known as the Agent Orange controversy, has been a shameful saga of deception, aimed at concealing information from Vietnam veterans and their families.

Due to persistent digging by Vietnam veterans and others, some information has been uncovered over the past three decades. The United States Department of Veterans Affairs now accepts a link between the following illnesses and the herbicide known as Agent Orange:

Illnesses in veterans:


Hodgkins disease;

multiple myeloma;

non-Hodgkins lymphoma;

porphyria cutanea tarda;

respiratory cancers (lung, bronchus, larynx and trachea);

soft-tissue sarcoma;

acute and subacute peripheral neuropathy;

prostate cancer;

adult-onset diabetes;

chronic lymphocytic leukemia.


Birth defects in children of male veterans:

spina bifida.


Birth defects in children of female veterans:

all birth defects that are not caused by:

Familial disorder;

Birth-related injury;

Fetal or neonatal infirmity with well-established causes. (2)


The Australian Department of Veterans Affairs, while not accepting a link with Agent Orange, gives the benefit of the doubt to the veteran on a case-by-case basis. It also provides treatment for any Vietnam veteran with cancer. While not accepting a link between birth defects and Agent Orange, the DVA, in a partnership with the Department of Health and Ageing, provides treatment to children of Vietnam veterans born with cleft lip or palate, spina bifida, acute myeloid leukemia, and adrenal gland cancer. (3)

As an example of the recurring history of deception over Agent Orange, when questions were first asked in the Australian parliament in 1979 and 1980, the answers given by government ministers were evasive, misleading, and later proved to be untrue. (4) Subsequently, a Royal Commission into the Agent Orange issue was held in Sydney in 1983-85. The Royal Commissioner, Justice Philip Evatt, chose to disregard evidence presented by independent scientists, and relied instead on the evidence of scientists who were paid employees of the Monsanto chemical company, a manufacturer of Agent Orange. Monsanto, in fact, wrote a substantial amount of the Royal Commission's final report. Evatt simply changed the words "Monsanto submits " to "The Royal Commission concludes " (5). In 1990, in the case of Kemner Vs. Monsanto, a United States court found that those same Monsanto scientists who had so impressed Justice Evatt had been systematically fabricating test results and giving false evidence for decades. (6) The final report of the Evatt Royal Commission has not been altered in the light of this new evidence, though it has been so widely criticized that it has never had any credibility. (7)

In the United States, some of the most important studies into the link between Agent Orange and the health of Vietnam veterans and their offspring have been conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (the CDC studies) and the United States Air Force (the Ranch Hand studies). In 1989, and again in 2000, United States congressional inquiries found that there had been extensive and widespread falsification of data, misrepresentation of results, and political interference in both the CDC and the Ranch hand studies. (8)

Sadly, the latest chapter in the recurring history of deception is being played out at the present time in New Zealand. The New Zealand Government commissioned a report into the health of the children of New Zealand's Vietnam veterans, with the apparent intention to bring the services available to New Zealand veterans up to the standards already in place in Australia and the United States. The result was Health Outcomes for the Children of Vietnam Veterans, otherwise known as the McLeod Report. (9) Far from bringing New Zealand services up to date, the McLeod Report takes a giant leap backwards by denying the link between Vietnam service and birth defects.

I will demonstrate that the McLeod Report's findings are based on errors of fact, misrepresentation of study results, and failure to disclose important information. In Part One of this paper, I will prove conclusively that one of the central premises of the McLeod Report, that Anzac forces in Vietnam generally served in Phuoc Tuy Province, where (according to the McLeod Report) there was no aerial spraying of herbicides, is false. My case will be entirely based on documentary evidence that was available to the authors of the McLeod Report. In Part Two, I will demonstrate that the McLeod Report has used a model for proving exposure to herbicides that is more than a decade out of date, and was never credible to begin with. I will provide more up to date information on exposure, based on sources that were available to the authors of the McLeod Report. In Part Three, I will demonstrate that the McLeod Report has misrepresented the results of a number of studies into the connection between herbicides and pesticides and birth defects. It has also failed to disclose the fact that its own interpretation of the studies is out of step with a significant body of scientific opinion. Eminent scientists have looked at the very same studies as the McLeod Report, and cited them as evidence for, not against, a link between herbicides and pesticides and birth defects. In addition, the McLeod Report has failed to disclose important information about misconduct in relation to some of the most prominent studies. Again, I will only use evidence that was available to the authors of the McLeod Report.



  1. Senator Tom Daschle, "Agent Orange and the Theory of Eternal Recurrence", The Congressional Record, Apr. 14, 1988, p. S2556.
  2. US Department of Veterans Affairs, Fact Sheet: Agent Orange and Related Issues, January 2003, Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Public Affairs, Washington DC, 2003.
  3. Vietnam Veterans' Children Support Program, Department of Health and Ageing website, http://www.health.gov.au/haf/vvcsp/index.htm
  4. For example, Defence Minister James Killen, 20 February 1979, Parliamentary Debates (Hansard) House of Representatives 1979, Volume H. of R. 113, p. 155; Senator Guilfoyle, 7 June 1979, Parliamentary Debates (Hansard), Senate 1979, Vol. S81, p. 2912; Defence Minister James Killen, 27 March 1980, Parliamentary Debates (Hansard), House of Representatives 1980, Volume H. of R. 117, pp. 1311-12.
  5. R.D. Hogg, Consultant to the Minister for Veterans Affairs, Royal Commission on the Use and Effects of Chemical Agents on Australian Personnel in Vietnam: An Assessment and Recommendations as a Basis for a Final Cabinet Submission, 19 October 1987 (the Hogg Report). Hogg noted that "to use [Monsanto's] material without obvious attribution was, to put it kindly, sheer folly. It is not possible to see how such an approach would breed confidence in the final conclusions and recommendations" (p.19).
  6. Kemner v Monsanto Co., 112 Ill. 2D 223 (1986). See also Cate Jenkins, PhD., Chemist, Regulatory Branch, United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), to John West and Kevin Guarino, Special Agent Office of Criminal Investigations, EPA, "Criminal Investigation of Monsanto Corporation - Cover up of Dioxin Contamination in Products - Falsification of Dioxin Health Studies", November 15, 1990, http://www.lightparty.com/Economic/MonsantoDioxinFraud.html. Also William Sanjour, Policy Analyst, EPA, to David Bussard, Director, Characterization and Assessment Div., EPA, "The Monsanto Investigation", http://pwp.lincs.net/sanjour/monsanto.htm.
  7. R. D. Hogg, Consultant to the Minister for Veterans Affairs,  Royal Commission on the Use and Effects of Chemical Agents on Australian Personnel in Vietnam: An Assessment and Recommendations as a Basis for a Final Cabinet Submission, 19 October 1987 (the Hogg Report). Hogg found that "the report lacks credibility" (p. 17). Space does not allow a full list of criticisms of the Evatt Commission. The Hogg Report was the basis for the Australian Government's response.




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