Photo: victims of American chemical warfare in Vietnam
August 10, 2011
Compensate Victims of U.S. Chemical Warfare in Vietnam
Today marks the 50th anniversary of the start of the chemical warfare program in Vietnam without sufficient remedial action by the U.S. government. One of the most shameful legacies of the Vietnam War, Agent Orange continues to poison Vietnam and the people exposed to the chemicals, as well as their offspring.
H.R. 2634, the Victims of Agent Orange Relief Act of 2011 [ http://www.govtrack.us/congress/billtext.xpd?bill=h112-2634], which California Congressman Bob Filner just introduced in the House, would provide crucial assistance for social and health services to Vietnamese, Vietnamese-American, and U.S. victims of Agent Orange.
From 1961 to 1971, approximately 19 million gallons of herbicides, primarily Agent Orange, were sprayed over the southern region of Vietnam. Much of it was contaminated with dioxin, a deadly chemical. Dioxin causes various forms of cancers, reproductive illnesses, immune deficiencies, endocrine deficiencies, nervous system damage, and physical and developmental disabilities.
In Vietnam more than three million people, and in the United States thousands of veterans, their children, and Vietnamese-Americans, have been sickened, disabled or died from the effects of Agent Orange/dioxin.
Vietnamese of least three generations born since the war are now suffering from disabilities due to their parents’ exposure to Agent Orange or from direct exposure in the environment. The organization representing Vietnam’s victims, the Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin, has set up some ‘peace villages’ to care for the severely disabled, but many more such facilities and services are needed. Dioxin residues in the soil, sediment, and food continue to poison many people in 28 “hot spots” in southern Vietnam.
Many U.S. veterans suffer from effects of Agent Orange due to their exposure in Vietnam, as do their children and grandchildren. Vietnamese-Americans exposed directly to Agent Orange and their offspring suffer from the same health conditions.
Fifty years is long enough. It is high time to compensate the victims for this shameful chapter in our history. H.R. 2634 will go a long way toward doing just that.
Marjorie Cohn is co-coordinator of the Vietnam Agent Orange Relief and Responsibility Campaign (http://www.vn-agentorange.org).