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PORTSIDE  August 2011, Week 3

PORTSIDE August 2011, Week 3

Subject:

Compensate Victims of U.S. Chemical Warfare in Vietnam

From:

Portside Moderator <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

[log in to unmask]

Date:

Thu, 18 Aug 2011 20:38:18 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

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text/plain (120 lines)

Compensate Victims of U.S. Chemical Warfare in Vietnam

by Marjorie Cohn 
Submitted by the author to Portside

Marjorie Cohn Blog - marjoriecohn.com 

August 10, 2011

http://www.marjoriecohn.com/2011/08/compensate-victims-of-us-chemical.html

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,
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.

The bill, which the Vietnamese Agent Orange Relief &
Responsibility Campaign assisted Congressman Filner in
writing, defines "victim" as "any individual who is a
Vietnamese national, Vietnamese-American, or United States
veteran who was exposed to Agent Orange, or the progeny of
such an individual, and who has a disease or disability
associated with this exposure." In addition to compensating
the victims of Agent Orange, H.R. 2634 would also clean up
the toxic hot spots in Vietnam.

One provision of the bill would expand programs and research
for the benefit of U.S. vets and establish medical centers
"designed to address the medical needs of descendants of the
veterans of the Vietnam era." This creates a presumption
that certain birth defects that children and grandchildren
of exposed victims suffer would be considered the result of
contact with Agent Orange.

While the U.S. government has begun to fund environmental
cleanup in Vietnam, it has refused to recognize its full
responsibility to heal the wounds of war and provide
assistance to Vietnamese, Vietnamese-American, and U.S.
victims for the serious health and environmental devastation
caused by Agent Orange.

There has been some compensation for U.S. veteran victims of
Agent Orange, but not nearly enough. In spite of President
Richard Nixon's 1973 promise of $3.25 billion in
reconstruction aid to Vietnam "without any preconditions,"
the Vietnamese and Vietnamese-American victims of the
disgraceful chemical warfare the United States conducted in
Vietnam have not seen one penny of compensation.

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 a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of
Law and immediate past president of the National Lawyers
Guild. She is author of Cowboy Republic: Six Ways the Bush
Gang Has Defied the Law and co-author of Rules of
Disengagement: The Politics and Honor of Military Dissent.
Her anthology, The United States and Torture: Interrogation,
Incarceration and Abuse, will be published next year by NYU
Press. Her articles are archived at www.marjoriecohn.com ]

==========

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