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AGENT ORANGE [Hardcover]

Philip Jones Griffiths
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

July 2 2004
Philip Jones Griffiths, for a record five years the President of Magnum Photos, created in Vietnam, Inc. a record of the war there of almost Biblical proportions. No one who has seen it will forget its haunting images. In Agent Orange he has added a postscript that is equally memorable. In 1960 the United States war machine concluded that an efficient deterrent to the enemy troops and civilians would be the devastation of the crops and forestry that afforded them both succour and cover for their operations. Initial descriptions of the scheme included "Food Denial Program", later adapted to "depriving cover for enemy troops". They gave the idea the name "Operation Hades", but were advised that "Operation Ranch Hand" was a more suitable cognomen for PR purposes. The US had developed herbicides for the task. The most infamous became known as Agent Orange after the coloured stripe on the canisters used to distribute it. The planes that carried the canisters had 'only we can prevent forests!' as a logo on their fuselages. They were right. It was very effective. Unfortunately the herbicide also contained Dioxin, probably the world's deadliest poison. In Agent Orange Philip Jones Griffiths has photographed the children and grandchildren of the farmers whose faces were lifted to the gentle rain of the poison cloud. Some maintain that the connection between the maimed subjects of Griffiths' photographs and the exposure to Agent Orange is not scientifically established. However, the compensation payments made by the herbicide manufactures to those Americans sprayed in Viet Nam refute this assertion. Historians will find it sufficient to say that there will always be collateral damage, that useful PR phrase, in war and that Philip Jones Griffiths should understand the consequences of martial endeavours. He most certainly does. He has catalogued here a pitiless series of photographs, and there can be no doubt that they should and will be recognized.

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5.0 out of 5 stars The Black Book of American Infamy March 12 2004
Format:Hardcover
For those already committed to voting for the so-called 'antiwar' candidate, I recommend putting this book in front of Sen. John Kerry and demanding to know what he will do as president to address American responsibility and pay reparations for the genocidal assault on the people of Vietnam. Such action will constitute a litmus test for this candidate, his "band of brothers" and future warriors about how the USA intends to solve the problem of terrorism. Will they acknowledge international law and prosecute the guilty parties including politicians, bureaucrats, executive military officers and defense contractors? Will they honor, finally, the Paris Accords and repair the ecocide brutally wrought upon the Vietnamese by their chemical weapons? Or will they continue to cover up a deliberate, malefic genocide by honoring war criminals like Kissinger and McNamara who now cries cinematic tears while his Pentagon successors plan the mass destruction of any nation that dares to oppose American hegemony?
Philip Jones Griffiths's AGENT ORANGE, COLLATERAL DAMAGE IN VIETNAM is a complex, dense statement that can be viewed and read several ways. Foremost, it is unquestionably the greatest work of photojournalism ever published. I do not make this statement lightly or without professional judgement. For twenty-five years, I edited the work of distinguished photojournalists -- Capa, Richards, Salgado, Peress, and Nachtwey among many others. Comparable only to W. Eugene Smith's MINIMATA: LIFE -- SACRED AND PROFANE, a passionate chronicle of the devastating effects of post-WW II industrial pollution on a Japanese town, AGENT ORANGE surpasses all previous attempts to synthesize the medium of still photography with historical documentation.
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Format:Hardcover
In September, 1976, just back from eight years helping homeless streetchildren in Viet Nam, I wrote an Op/Ed piece for the New York Times ( "Learning From the Vietnamese -- And Giving", 12/04/76) that concluded: "And I'm at a loss how to tell my own people that Vietnam's needs are our remedy - to say that what the Vietnamese people have to offer us - as they did me - is so great that for our own sake we must help them." I was attempting to make a connection between the spiritual strengths the people of Viet Nam had to offer us and the technological assistance we, in turn, could give them. Philip Jones Griffiths, in his book "Agent Orange, 'Collateral Damage' in Viet Nam" has made an even more compelling, if depressing, case for interdependency, i.e., because of the American military's chemical spraying in south VN during the war years there are now thousands of people in both the U.S. and Viet Nam who are dealing with deformities and death because of a ticking "time bomb" planted in Indochina decades ago. Griffiths, author of "VIETNAM, INC.", an award-winning photography book on America's longest war, has included here some unsparing images of humans beings brutally deformed by man's more fiendish dalliance with Weapons of Mass Destruction. Here is a "legacy" that must give all of us pause by a brilliant photographer's tireless effort to bring almost unbearable evidence to us of man's inhumanity to man. Like the Holocaust itself, the full impact of these atrocities took years to come to the fore, but "Agent Orange" makes a compelling case that two countries once at war remain linked in a tragic bond that will not soon go away. This is not an easy book to read or, should I say, to view, but I think we ignore it at our peril. Read more ›
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5.0 out of 5 stars Masterfully photographed and written, poetic Feb. 13 2004
Format:Hardcover
Philip Jones Griffiths is among the unsung heroes of our time, photographing the otherwise untold, unsavory aspects of a mean-spirited war completely lacking in human decency. Agent Orange is masterfully conceived, researched, photographed and written in prose that at once is dark, beautiful poetry.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.9 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
34 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Black Book of American Infamy March 12 2004
By Robert M. Dannin - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
For those already committed to voting for the so-called 'antiwar' candidate, I recommend putting this book in front of Sen. John Kerry and demanding to know what he will do as president to address American responsibility and pay reparations for the genocidal assault on the people of Vietnam. Such action will constitute a litmus test for this candidate, his "band of brothers" and future warriors about how the USA intends to solve the problem of terrorism. Will they acknowledge international law and prosecute the guilty parties including politicians, bureaucrats, executive military officers and defense contractors? Will they honor, finally, the Paris Accords and repair the ecocide brutally wrought upon the Vietnamese by their chemical weapons? Or will they continue to cover up a deliberate, malefic genocide by honoring war criminals like Kissinger and McNamara who now cries cinematic tears while his Pentagon successors plan the mass destruction of any nation that dares to oppose American hegemony?
Philip Jones Griffiths's AGENT ORANGE, COLLATERAL DAMAGE IN VIETNAM is a complex, dense statement that can be viewed and read several ways. Foremost, it is unquestionably the greatest work of photojournalism ever published. I do not make this statement lightly or without professional judgement. For twenty-five years, I edited the work of distinguished photojournalists -- Capa, Richards, Salgado, Peress, and Nachtwey among many others. Comparable only to W. Eugene Smith's MINIMATA: LIFE -- SACRED AND PROFANE, a passionate chronicle of the devastating effects of post-WW II industrial pollution on a Japanese town, AGENT ORANGE surpasses all previous attempts to synthesize the medium of still photography with historical documentation. Griffiths's masterly images unselfconsciously insert readers into the scene of an historical crime and guide them through the evidence page by excruciating page as a means to elicit direct testimony from the perpetrators and their victims. With the possible exception of Erich Maria Remarque' s ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT, no other monograph so successfully confronts citizens with the folly of leaders who commit atrocities in their name. The stares of genetically deformed children struggling to articulate humanity across the threshold of pain and disability give absolute lie to the facile excuses of national security used by politicians to conduct high tech assault-and-battery on unwitting, innocent populations. Then it was Vietnam, today Iraq and Afghanistan.
Beginning with his eloquent book, VIETNAM INC. first published in 1971, Griffiths has pursued an unrelenting inquiry into the truth of violence and war. He reported from the Mekong Delta battlefront and also the brothels of Saigon. Returning years later, he earned the trust of farmers who had rebuilt their devastated villages with the detritus of war. Pushing his inquest further he located and photographed war orphans, now shunned as the miscegenated offspring of foreign invaders (DARK ODYSSEY, 1997). Infrequently supported by the mass media, Griffiths parlayed his skills as a commercial photographer to raise the cash necessary to return periodically to Southeast Asia, as if excavating its pitted landscape for some fragment of reason that might explain the macabre body counts and haunting trans-generational birth defects. Some photographers are celebrated for their commitments in documenting a family coming of age or the rise and fall of a nation. Journalism schools promote the virtues of in-depth or extended coverage (sometime a whole week!) while network and cable news personnel embrace the fame of sticking with a big story only to defer, in the final analysis, to the desire of corporate sponsors. By contrast Griffiths has the determination of a seasoned forensic scientist. Although no maverick, he has paid the price of banishment from the newspapers and magazines "of record" whose editors remain too frightened by management to commission or publish his work. Why would they want to remind subscribers of their own inaccuracies and slavish pandering to the official story?
In this respect, AGENT ORANGE can also be read for its scholarship because it presents new historical research about the manufacture and deployment of chemical weapons during the Vietnam era. It has been almost twenty years since American courts acknowledged the gravity of dioxin poisoning in rulings on lawsuits filed by military veterans. Yet companies who supplied the military with these chemical defoliants continue to falsify experimental data on their products' potential for birth defects. Our government stands mute on the issue of "peace with honor" and refuses to contribute any meaningful economic assistance, nonetheless stipulated in the treaty with Hanoi. The war's apologists and neoliberal ideologues continue to deride Vietnam as a failed socialist experiment. Griffith's photographs and words rip their lies to shreds and dissolve their chauvinism in the cold truth of twisted limbs, hare lips, and hydrocehpalic fetuses preserved in formaldehyde. AGENT ORANGE is the black book of American infamy, its author has given citizens a priceless instrument to test their politicians sincerity and commitment to peace. Buy a copy and ask Kerry for a clear statement of conscience!
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The ticking "time bomb" uniting two cultures once at war. Feb. 28 2004
By Richard Hughes - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
In September, 1976, just back from eight years helping homeless streetchildren in Viet Nam, I wrote an Op/Ed piece for the New York Times ( "Learning From the Vietnamese -- And Giving", 12/04/76) that concluded: "And I'm at a loss how to tell my own people that Vietnam's needs are our remedy - to say that what the Vietnamese people have to offer us - as they did me - is so great that for our own sake we must help them." I was attempting to make a connection between the spiritual strengths the people of Viet Nam had to offer us and the technological assistance we, in turn, could give them. Philip Jones Griffiths, in his book "Agent Orange, 'Collateral Damage' in Viet Nam" has made an even more compelling, if depressing, case for interdependency, i.e., because of the American military's chemical spraying in south VN during the war years there are now thousands of people in both the U.S. and Viet Nam who are dealing with deformities and death because of a ticking "time bomb" planted in Indochina decades ago. Griffiths, author of "VIETNAM, INC.", an award-winning photography book on America's longest war, has included here some unsparing images of humans beings brutally deformed by man's more fiendish dalliance with Weapons of Mass Destruction. Here is a "legacy" that must give all of us pause by a brilliant photographer's tireless effort to bring almost unbearable evidence to us of man's inhumanity to man. Like the Holocaust itself, the full impact of these atrocities took years to come to the fore, but "Agent Orange" makes a compelling case that two countries once at war remain linked in a tragic bond that will not soon go away. This is not an easy book to read or, should I say, to view, but I think we ignore it at our peril. Griffiths knows what of he "speaks", having spent years in Indochina and seen un-speakable carnage firsthand. Here he has placed the evidence before us, as well as a precious opportunity to understand where we have gone wrong and how we may become better human beings in the future. "Agent Orange, 'Collateral Damage'", it almost goes without saying, may be the ultimate brief on America's own WMDs. - ---------------------------------------------------------------------
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Masterfully photographed and written, poetic Feb. 13 2004
By Patricia White Watson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Philip Jones Griffiths is among the unsung heroes of our time, photographing the otherwise untold, unsavory aspects of a mean-spirited war completely lacking in human decency. Agent Orange is masterfully conceived, researched, photographed and written in prose that at once is dark, beautiful poetry.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Difficult To Look At - In Many Ways April 10 2007
By photoman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The other reviewers have done a great job of describing this book so I'll keep my review short. I was not prepared for this book. I'm not sure anyone can be prepared. Halfway through I started crying and had to put it away for awhile. Our country is capable of doing some wonderful things. We (and yes I mean we, because the actions of our leaders and military represent all of us) are also capable of doing some truly horrible things. This book shines a light on one of the horrible things we did in Vietnam.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars POWERFUL Feb. 21 2011
By LINH KHANH NGO - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Received my book today. Looked through the first several photos and had to put the book down to wipe the tears from my eyes. Managed to look at all the photos, slowly flipping the pages over, a little scared to see what would be next. The photos make me sad for the people and sad that humans can do this to other humans.

You have to have a strong stomach to be able to handle this powerful book.
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