VIETNAMESE AGENT ORANGE JUSTICE TOUR FINISHES (excerpts)
by Michael Uhl
I write you from Vietnam. This is my second return visit since my tour of duty with the notorious 11th inf. Bde., which eight months prior to my arrival in country, had massacred more than five hundred Vietnamese – women and children for the most part – in a cluster of coastal hamlets known to us as My Lai. The purpose for my first return in the summer of 1994 was largely for research on post-war developments in Vietnam generally. Now I am back in Vietnam for a third time, as many of you know, with a delegation under the auspices of the Agent Orange Relief and Responsibility Campaign, a project sponsored by Veterans For Peace which David Cline helped to create and which is a legacy to his memory. Unlike the more general briefing we received during my return in ’94, our work here now has been entirely focused on gathering concrete data and informed impressions surrounding the persistent damage inflicted on the Vietnamese people and their environment by the thousands of gallons of dioxin-laced herbicides, primarily Agent Orange, sprayed over 25% of the landmass of then South Vietnam between 1961-1971.
The delegation will visit Agent Orange victims in hospitals and care facilities, and in particular meet with affected families living in rural areas where health-delivery resources are less available and poverty persists.
Estimates of Vietnamese ill from widespread and persistent dioxin residues, now reaching into the third generation since Vietnam’s reunification in 1975, range from three to five million victims. Herbicides contaminated by dioxin were sprayed from 1961 to 1971 over approximately 1/8 the land area of southern Vietnam as a part of the US arsenal used against the Vietnamese resistance.
U.S Veterans’ Agent Orange Delegation Meets With Vietnamese Premier
April 7, 2010
Hanoi–At a meeting with American veterans here yesterday, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung urged “the United States government to take responsibility for solving the aftermath of its war with Vietnam.”
During the war, Mr. Dung emphasized, more than two million Vietnamese were killed, millions more were injured, and more than 300,000 are still missing. Moreover, three million people were exposed to toxic chemicals like Agent Orange sprayed by the U.S. military during the war.
Mr. Dung further urged the U.S. government to “listen to its conscience,” and to cooperate with Vietnam’s government by giving assistance to Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange to help them overcome the difficulties they face, and to aid in the clean-up of the dioxin contaminated environment…
For a complex set of reasons too lengthy to touch on here, the Vietnamese consciousness of the legacy of these poisonous herbicides, now forty years after the final Agent Orange sortie was flown, is stronger than ever. It is the mission of this delegation to investigate and understand why this is the case…
Full time care givers have little time for work outside the family, to include the labor intensive activities necessary for food production to support their essentially subsistence economies. Thus their victimization is compounded by this additional source of economic hardship. Needless to say access to medicines and medical care in these remote areas is also problematic. That said, we have been impressed by the efforts of our host VAVA’s (Vietnam Agent Orange Victims Association) local chapters to ameliorate the worst consequences of this scarcity of basis services through volunteer programs on the part of their members and through the distribution of modest social welfare subsidies.
The focus of Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin (VAVA) and Veterans for Peace is on getting legislation passed which will help compensate these victims. “Agent Orange is not an artifact of a long-ago war, it is a bomb that continues to explode in the lives of the people of Vietnam, today,” said Vietnam veteran Paul Cox. “It is time for the US to step up to help the Vietnamese as they have finally done for US veterans.”
The VAVA delegation is finishing its several month national Agent Orange Justice Tour in the Bay Area this weekend. Appearances include
• May 13 1:00 pm Lunch with VAORRC supporters, email firstname.lastname@example.org
• May 13 4:00 pm Laney College, Oakland — Prof. Roger Chung
• May 13 6:30 pm APALA – Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, Alameda Chapter dinner, Berkeley, Josie Camacho
• May 14 Friday 7:00 pm Public Event at SF Veterans Building, Van Ness Ave @ McAllister, Rm. 223
• May 15 2 pm Vietnamese American Community BBQ
• May 16 Leave for Vietnam
–Michael Uhl co-authored “G.I. Guinea Pigs: How the Pentagon Exposed Our Soldiers to Dangers More Deadly Than War”, an exposé on the human health effects of agent orange and radioactive fallout, and is volunteer editor of the Veterans for Peace newsletter.
This piece originally appears in its entirety at Vietnam Agent Orange Trip – 2010