Agent Orange Continues to Poison Vietnam
From 1961 to 1971, the US military sprayed Vietnam with Agent Orange, which contained large quantities of Dioxin, in order to defoliate the trees for military objectives. Dioxin is one of the most dangerous chemicals known to man. It has been recognized by the World Health Organization as a carcinogen (causes cancer) and by the American Academy of Medicine as a teratogen (causes birth defects).
Between 2.5 and 4.8 million people were exposed to Agent Orange. The spraying covered 1.4 billion hectares of land and forest - approximately 12 percent of the land area of Vietnam.
Vietnamese who were exposed to the chemical have suffered from cancer, liver damage, pulmonary and heart diseases, defects to reproductive capacity, and skin and nervous disorders. Children and grandchildren of those exposed have severe physical deformities, mental and physical disabilities, diseases and shortened life spans. The forests and jungles in large parts of southern Vietnam have been devastated and denuded. They may never grow back and if they do, it will take 50 to 200 years to regenerate. Animals that inhabited the forests and jungles have become extinct, disrupting the communities that depended on them. The rivers and underground water in some areas have also been contaminated. Erosion and desertification will change the environment, contributing to the warming of the planet and dislocation of crop and animal life.
The US government and the chemical companies knew that Agent Orange, when produced rapidly at high temperatures, would contain large quantities of Dioxin. Nevertheless, the chemical companies continued to produce it in this manner. The US government and the chemical companies also knew that the Bionetics Study, commissioned by the government in 1963, showed that even low levels of Dioxin produced significant deformities in unborn offspring of laboratory animals. But they suppressed that study and continued to spray Vietnam with Agent Orange. It wasn't until the study was leaked in 1969 that the spraying of Agent Orange was discontinued.
US soldiers who served in Vietnam have experienced similar illnesses. After they sued the chemical companies, including Dow and Monsanto, that manufactured and sold Agent Orange to the government, the case was settled out of court for $180 million which gave few plaintiffs more than a few thousand dollars each. Later the US veterans won a legislative victory for compensation for exposure to Agent Orange. They receive $1.52 billion per year in benefits.
But when the Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange sued the chemical companies in federal court, US District Judge Jack Weinstein dismissed the lawsuit, concluding that Agent Orange did not constitute a poison weapon prohibited by the Hague Convention of 1907. Weinstein had reportedly told the chemical companies when they settled the US veterans' suit that their liability was over and he was making good on his promise. His dismissal was affirmed by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court refused to hear the case. The chemical companies admitted in their filing in the Supreme Court that the harm alleged by the victims was foreseeable although not intended. How can something that is foreseeable be unintended?
On May 15 and 16 of this year, the International Peoples' Tribunal of Conscience in Support of the Vietnamese Victims of Agent Orange convened in Paris and heard testimony from 27 victims, witnesses and scientific experts. Seven people from three continents served as judges of the Tribunal, which was sponsored by the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL).
comments powered by Disqus
Randll Reese Besch - 6/24/2009
If it isn't recognized as bad, FDA? This is a chemical weapon isn't it? Legal garbage that passes for reality in our world. Maybe they should put it into tooth paste it it doesn't violate the Hague convention of 1907 then we are fine right?
Or what it is that our soldiers, begrudgingly get recognition and some compensation but those unfortunate enough to be labeled enemies don't. Lesser treatment for lesser peoples eh? Imperial law I suppose.