Interview on “Charlie and the Agent Orange Factory”

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Why the crazy title on this work?

The title came to me as I thought of the human carnage in the Vietnam war and its last impacting on the civilian population.  The interplay of colors from intense orange to baby sea blue reminded of this climate as well.

What were the human after costs of the war? 

Obviously, one of the largest costs in terms of human life happened from the war itself with modern attack helicopters, bombing raids and on the ground troop actions.  One of the lasting results of the bombing raids was children born from mothers suffering the effects of Agent Orange.

What was Agent Orange?

Basically, the US Army requested chemical manufacturers a way to clear out the jungle so the army could fight a traditional tanks and troops battle like in WWII.  The Vietcong were very successful at making underground tunnels and just traveling with infantry only, which made their advances hidden to the complete US air domination.  Of course, this made over flights to see troops basically useless.  The US companies involved in these chemical agents were Dow Chemical, insecticide maker and Monsanto, the maker of Roundup.  Likely, Roundup is a child of the products used on the Vietnamese jungle and civilian population.

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To quote from Dow’s website: “We have a diverse portfolio of leading-edge insecticide, herbicide, fungicide and fumigant technologies for customers around the globe.”

To quote from Monsanto’s website: “Developed in 1974, Roundup brand agricultural herbicides continue to be a perfect fit with the vision of sustainable agriculture and environmental protection.”

How many were effected by their products during the war bombings?

The US air force dropped 20 million gallons of “Agent Orange” in Vietnam from 1962-71.  One of the first impacted were farmers, who had to abandon destroyed crop lands leading the Vietnamese cities to swell from 2.8M to 8M with 1.5M ending up in city slums.  Another impact were 500,000 birth defects from spraying. About 1M total people were disabled as a result of exposure.  Below you can see why it was called Agent Orange:

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The US government told the soldiers the chemicals were harmless to humans.  Of course, the handlers of the chemicals also had similiar health issues and miscarriages resulting from the exposure.  The Veteran’s Affairs only compensated 486 veterans for exposure out of 39,000 exposed or a little over 1 in 100.

How do we avoid such catastrophes in the future?

Unfortunately, governments will always stock chemical weapons.  One of the recent examples, was the US government selling Saddam Hussein WMD (ie. chemical weapons) in the 1980s to help in the war against Iran, who held US hostages one year.

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What was the impact in that war?

At least 1M killed in combat. From pure chemical weapons standpoint, 50 thousand Iranians suffered from the chemical weapons supplied by the US government.  Hence you could understand why the US is considered the Great Satan.

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Ironically, in the Gulf War II the US invaded Iraq to find WMD, but the weapons had decayed or been destroyed over time to prevent the US invasion.

 

Is this work available?

I sold the original, but you can get a print at http://fineartamerica.com/

 

Do you have a monthly newsletter?

Yes. I send about every 4-6 weeks at http://shawnshawn.co/Site/Contact

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Interview of “8:46 am in the morning” painting

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So where were you the day of 9/11 attacks?

I was driving to work and decided to see my wife, who worked at a local hotel in Berkeley.  Everyone was crowded around the TV, watching the towers burn. After 20 minutes, I drove on and heard the rest of the attacks unfold on the radio.  It was a challenge to drive, but all the drivers were muted zombies driving, no one drove aggressively as we grieved together.

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What is this painting title?

This is the time right when the first plane hit the World Trade Center in New York.  I had been painting an abstract painting and then this image started to form and I realized when I finished that it was the attack on WTC with the characteristic metal support beams on the building and explosion of the plane as it disintegrates on impact into the building.

What were the first days like afterward?

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One of the proudest moments was seeing that Art.com decided to print 100s of posters to create a massive flag on all the windows of their building. Imagine 70% of the face of this building was a massive US flag.  Immediately afterwards there was a shortage of US flags as everyone wanted to commemorate the civilian deaths around the US.

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How did artists respond to the tragedy?

Many people at first were drawn to the US flag and then people got enraged at the senseless attack on civilians not involved in US foreign policy.  People were really shocked that Osama bin Laden actually took responsibility.  People were upset at the Bush administration later for letting the family members related to Osama escape quickly out of the US.  Of course, they likely would have been lynched in the aftermath.  Above we see a massive mural by Shepherd Fairey and Saber on the 9/11 attacks.  I personally painted a type of flag painting as well, but never showed it as it was very vengeful type of work.

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“Would you like to play a game of thermonuclear war?”

What is the story in this painting?

Well, I had painted the US flag in off colors and green, which were the colors in the Saudi Arabia flag. As we know now, 11 of the bombers were Saudi in the group called “Al-queda”.  The branch in Saudi Arabia is trying to overthrow the monarchy supposedly and establish an even tighter religious ruling in Saudi Arabia.  The lettering of the Saudi flag is repeated in the painting.

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What does this lettering say?

“There is no God, but God and Mohammed is the messenger of God.”

Basically, the flag is stating that only Islam is the correct version of religion and we will enforce it by military means of the sword.  How many Saudi citizens think it is their duty to start a jihad just based on their flag design?  You have similar issues in Pakistan, where the capital is called “Islamabad”, basically the town of Islam.  How many Pakistanis think it is their duty to spread Islam as the only correct version of religion and piety?

Is there other lettering in your flag painting?

In the top left, where the 50 stars would go are the coordinates of the Mecca and Medina.  Medina is the capital of Saudi Arabia and Mecca is the holy capital of Islam, where muslims go each year in their holy journey required once in their lifetime.

Why didn’t you decide to show this work?

I was unhappy with the work and spattered it in paint and later had no idea how to finish it.  Seeing other works like from Saber, I came to realize we as artists were showing the blood shed of the event on the US flag.  The attacks were an abomination to what the US citizen believes as moral justice in the world ie. you don’t attack citizens in war, especially when you just start a war.  Below is a series of Saber’s flag works.

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So what is the title of your work about?

Basically, the title is a reference to “War Games”, a classic movie of my childhood.  The main character is a computer high school student nerd, who hacks into school system to change his grades. He then fumbles upon a secret Department of Defense computer that he can play multiple games.  One of the games is “Thermonuclear War”.  He starts to play and the computer decides the game is real and begins planning a nuclear attack on the USSR.  The student mush convince the computer that the endgame is only destruction of the world with no true victory in any scenario.

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In my painting, the coordinates of Mecca and Medina are a new updated version, where the US decides to nuke Saudi Arabia for the 9/11 attacks, since so many of their citizens were behind the attacks.

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What do you think of the conspiracy theories that came out after the dust settled?

Well one theory was that the WTC 7 was not in the attack.  When I first heard this, I thought these guys are just not processing the attacks as possible and thought there must be some type of government conspiracy to attack Iraq and Afganistan.  But really, would the US government be able to pull off such a massive conspiracy theory?

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One of the newest wrinkles in this particular story has been uncovered by Edward Snowden.  He claimed that Saddam Hussein actually planned a simultaneous attack to blow up WTC7 on the same day as al-Queda attacked with 4 planes.  Who knows if this was possible, but based on some photos like the one above you definitely start to wonder.  The conspiracy here is the disbelief that the US would actually invade Iraq without reason seeing the US as impervious to invasion, so an actual attack would have been justified if Saddam had attacked.

The reality is that it is possible that the US government just decided to invade Iraq.  We did it in Vietnam and then passed the War Powers Act of 1973 to prevent US presidents from unilateraly declaring war without Congress permission after the disaster of limited engagement in Vietnam.

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