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Victims of Agent Orange/dioxin: 'Agent Orange in Vietnam was a crime against humanity'

Appeal of the Second International Conference of Victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin

Hanoi, Socialist Republic of Vietnam

August 9, 2011 -- The Second International Conference of Victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin, held in Hanoi from August 8 to 9, 2011, included participants from around the world: Agent Orange victims, victims of other toxic chemicals, scientists, lawyers and social activists. The conference is a significant and important historic event, marking the 50th anniversary of the first spraying of the toxic chemical Agent Orange (1961-1971) by the US forces in Vietnam and Indochina.

The delegates to the conference agree that:

During the Vietnam War, from 1961 to 1971, US forces through Operation Ranch Hand sprayed nearly 80 million litrrs of herbicides over South Vietnam, of which 61% was Agent Orange containing at least 366kg of dioxin, the most toxic substance known to science.

Since the First International Conference of Victims of Agent Orange in 2006, there has been greater public understanding and awareness of the dangers of Agent Orange/dioxin to humans and to the environment. More diseases have been officially recognised as being due to exposure to Agent Orange. Along with the Vietnamese people, many others around the world have become victims of this toxic weapon of mass destruction. Soldiers in the US, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand were exposed during the time they fought in Vietnam, and now their children and grandchildren are suffering as well. People in the US, Canada, South Korea, Puerto Rico, Australia, New Zealand and other areas were exposed because they lived near or worked in areas where the US forces stored, buried, manufactured, tested or experimented with Agent Orange as part of their war in Vietnam.

Because of dioxin-related damage to their endocrine, immune and reproductive systems, victims of Agent Orange suffer from multiple health conditions, some of which are quickly lethal and others which doom people to a life of horrific misery. Due to these diseases, many have been denied the most basic of human rights – especially the right to life, and the pursuit of happiness. Because of their inability to work and bearing the costs of medical treatment, most victims of Agent Orange everywhere are very poor.

However, because Agent Orange was intentionally directed against the Vietnamese people, they are subject to the most onerous conditions. 4.8 million Vietnamese people directly sprayed repeatedly over extended periods of time were subject to multiple sources of exposure. The proportion of old people, women and children, who are especially susceptible to dioxin, is particularly high in Vietnam. In Vietnam, an enormous number of children continue to be born with Agent Orange-related birth defects. Now, a fourth generation of Agent Orange victims is being born. Because of this danger, in effect many women have been denied the human right to bear children. Agent Orange not only harmed human beings and devastated the environment of Vietnam during the war but also continued its devastation after the war.

Dioxin dumped in the soil continues to damage the environment and sicken the people in and around several "hot spots". Causing deforestation of nearly 3 million hectares of land, during the war, especially in coastal areas, Agent Orange has damaged not only the environment in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia but also the regional environment. It has and continues to have severe consequences for people in many areas of the world.

The use of Agent Orange in the war in Vietnam is a war crime and a crime against humanity. Its consequences are passed from generation to generation. It challenges us to end, once and for all, the use of chemical weapons and any weapons of mass destruction anywhere today.

Humanity's concern about the affects of chemical warfare, the threat of accidents at chemical manufacturing plants and the looming environmental disaster due biochemical engineering is increasing. The agony of those exposed to Agent Orange is central to this consciousness and international solidarity with Agent Orange victims' struggle for justice is growing.

Call to action

Therefore, the delegates to the conference hereby call upon:

1) Solidarity

All victims of Agent Orange, whatever their nationality or circumstances of exposure, should unite more closely and earnestly to act for our common interests. Further, to demonstrate our solidarity with victims of other weapons of mass destruction such as the atomic bomb and depleted uranium, all the victims and their supporters should work together in unity and coordinate actions. Only together, can we be effective, powerful and successful in achieving justice!

2) Organise

We ask all of humanity, all governments, organisations and individuals, whatever their social or political position, to take immediate action to support all victims of Agent Orange, with particular emphasis on those in Vietnam. In every country, and in every region, we should set up organisations and develop specific programs for mobilising material resources in whatever form and for making our voices heard in all available forums in support of the struggle of the Vietnamese Agent Orange victims for justice.

3) Study and remediation

Scientists, public health and environmental experts, especially from the United States, should focus on studying the specific health and environmental dangers of Agent Orange/dioxin and possibilities for remediation. This is very urgent in order to help victims whose time is running out, and in order to avoid similar disasters for future generations.

4) UN ban on weapons and war crimes

The world community in general, the United Nations and each government in particular should rapidly promulgate new measures to more effectively prevent all acts in violation of international laws prohibiting war crimes and crimes against humanity.

5) US government and chemical manufacturers to accept responsibility

The US government and chemical manufacturers of Agent Orange, particularly Monsanto and Dow Chemical, should accept their responsibility and engage in greater and fuller efforts to work with the Vietnamese people and government to clean up the existing "hot spots" and to provide comprehensive and meaningful assistance to the victims of Agent Orange and their families in Vietnam in a more practical and effective manner. Because little of the monies appropriated by the US Congress has actually reached the victims, funds intended for the victims should be given to Vietnamese NGOs like the Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange/dioxin (VAVA) so that they actually go to those who need assistance most. The need for hospitals, clinics and respite homes for the victims and their parents, is overwhelming – many of the victims require 24-hour care and their elderly parents who are doing the caring also need help.

6) Disclose locations of Agent Orange sites

The US government and all governments that have allowed the use of Agent Orange for any purpose during the Vietnam war years, should publicly disclose all the locations where Agent Orange was used, buried or dumped.

7) Partner with VAVA

The Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin is the legal and moral representative of Vietnam's Agent Orange victims and acts as a non-governmental organisation representing the interests of these victims throughout Vietnam. To hear their voices and to help Vietnamese victims effectively and specifically, people of good will and compassion should partner with VAVA and assist it programatically and materially, contacting VAVA through its website, http://www.vava.org.vn.

Now, 50 years since the first use of Agent Orange in Vietnam, the delegates of the conference declare again that the needs of the victims are urgent, requiring immediate action!

Half a century is too long to wait for justice!

We pledge to work together to make sure that justice delayed will no longer be justice denied!

Agent Orange victims to continue suing US chemical producers

VietNamNet Bridge – Senior lieutenant-general Nguyen Van Rinh, chair of the Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin (VAVA), says that Agent Orange victims who were born in peace are preparing to sue US chemical firms.

Why lodge a new lawsuit?

"The first lawsuit was rejected by the US court. If we pursue that case, they will reject it again for sure. The rejection is unfair and violates human rights. American veterans enjoy Agent Orange allowances, totalling billions of US dollar a year (around $13.5 billion in 2010) but Vietnamese Agent Orange victims are neglected. Not only Agent Orange victims in Vietnam but also victims in Japan and veterans in South Korea are ignored.

"We are determined to seek for justice. We are researching US laws and asking for assistance from excellent lawyers in the world, including American lawyers, for the new lawsuit. The new lawsuit is about to be lodged."

Who are the plaintiffs in the second lawsuit?

"In the first lawsuit, plaintiffs were veterans who were infected with Agent Orange. In the new case, they will be civilians who were born in peace time but they are disabled because of Agent Orange.

"This is a civil lawsuit of several plaintiffs. Individuals will hire lawyers. They are VAVA's members so our association will help them in the case."

Do the plaintiffs and VAVA see difficulties in this case?

"It is surely to be difficult but we are preparing very carefully. We will consult American lawyers. Many foreign lawyers are willing to assist us. They met with Vietnamese plaintiffs in both Vietnam and the US. After researching the case and collecting evidences, international lawyers say that Vietnamese plaintiffs can highly win the case."

Lawyers are very confident, how about VAVA?

"We are also very confident and hope that US firms will have to compensate Vietnamese Agent Orange victims. Previously, US veterans sued these companies and they received $180 million of compensation.

"However, in the worst case that we will not win the case, we will lodge other lawsuits." 

Comments

U.S. gov and corporations used bogus "science" to rob victims

I'm pasting a clip from an article I wrote for the International Socialist Review (http://www.isreview.org/issues/55/veterans.shtml) about how the U.S. government has betrayed successive generations of veterans since 1776 that details how the government and corporations used bogus "science" to avoid any liabilities for the death, damage, and suffering they caused by using agent orange:

The end of the war in Vietnam in 1975 did not mean the end of suffering for those who fought in it. As the years went by, tens of thousands of veterans began to experience strange symptoms, develop bizarre tumors, and have children with severe physical and mental birth defects. Most of these veterans were exposed to Agent Orange, a defoliant containing dioxin, one of the most toxic chemicals known. The U.S. military sprayed 77 million liters of it over Vietnam, killing dense jungle and destroying crops to deprive National Liberation Front fighters of cover and food.11 Up to 4.5 million Vietnamese12 and as many as 2.4 million U.S. soldiers were exposed to Agent Orange.13

In 1979, VA director and Vietnam veteran Max Cleland announced that the air force would conduct a twenty-five year health study of the twelve hundred pilots and chemical handlers who sprayed Agent Orange on Vietnam as part of Operation Ranch Hand. This was an unusual step for two reasons. First, caring for and monitoring the health of veterans was the VA’s job, not the air force’s. Second, the study was not broad-based and would not examine the effects of Agent Orange on ground troops who made up the bulk of those filing Agent Orange claims. It would be like studying the effects of radiation by examining the Enola Gay crew (who dropped the atomic bomb) instead of the survivors of Hiroshima. The National Academy of Sciences reviewed the parameters and methods that the air force intended to use and warned that the study “probably would not identify adverse health effects” because of its design flaws.14 That was exactly what the government wanted. These flaws were essential for the government to cheat tens of thousands of ill veterans out of disability benefits.

While the air force conducted its whitewash study, the VA continued to reject almost all Agent Orange claims out of hand, triggering a revolt from veterans who were in dire need of help. On March 14, 1981, Vietnam veteran and marine Jim Hopkins drove his jeep through the glass doors and into the lobby of the multimillion dollar Wadsworth VA hospital in Los Angeles, California. He fired rounds from his AR-14 into pictures of Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter while screaming that he was not receiving the medical attention he needed. As he was hauled away by police after the incident, he screamed into television cameras that his brain was “being destroyed by Agent Orange.”15 Hopkins’ action got national media attention focused on Agent Orange for the first time.

After Hopkins was released from prison and underwent subsequent treatment at a VA hospital, he went on a national speaking tour to publicize the Agent Orange issue. Sadly, he died of unknown causes on May 17, 1981. News of his death sparked a sit-in by veterans in the same lobby into which he crashed his jeep.

In response to the protest, the VA claimed it did not neglect veterans while the Reagan administration alternated between ignoring and ridiculing the protestors. The veterans escalated their protest by going on a hunger strike and Reagan retaliated by evicting them from the Wadsworth lobby. The starving veterans regrouped. They redeployed their protest in front of the White House and forced congressional veterans’ committees to meet with them. Fearing the collapse or death of one of the veterans, Congress agreed to a settlement: the veterans would end their fifty-three-day hunger strike and Congress would override Reagan to keep the VA’s outpatient centers open, refrain from cutting veterans’ benefits, and conduct studies of PTSD and Agent Orange.

In 1984, the air force released the preliminary results of the Ranch Hand study. Despite its flaws, it found that pilots involved with spraying Agent Orange had higher rates of skin cancer, liver disorders, circulatory problems, and that their children had higher rates of birth defects, infant mortality, odd rashes, and things described as “birthmarks.”16 However, the study claimed that there was “insufficient evidence” to prove that any of the health problems found were due to Agent Orange. In other words, the study proved that there was a correlation between Agent Orange exposure and various illnesses but it did not definitively prove that Agent Orange was the cause.

In response to the government’s rejection of almost all disability claims based on Agent Orange exposure, Vietnam veterans launched a class-action lawsuit in 1979 against five manufacturers of Agent Orange, hoping to win some compensation for their injuries (U.S. courts have consistently ruled that soldiers cannot sue the government for injuries suffered in war). In 1984, the chemical companies offered $180 million to the veterans if they settled the suit out of court. The veterans took the settlement because hard scientific evidence for their claim that Agent Orange was directly responsible for their illnesses was nonexistent, thanks to the government’s refusal to undertake the kind of large-scale and meticulous study needed to prove it. Without such evidence it was highly unlikely that the veterans would prevail against the army of corporate lawyers and paid “experts” that the chemical companies would employ in court. For the chemical companies, $180 million was a small price to pay to avoid admitting guilt, garnering bad publicity, and receiving the subpoenas that might have brought to light internal documents proving that they knew about dioxin’s toxicity in 1965, if not earlier.17

The Agent Orange study mandated by Congress—the hard-won demand of the hunger-striking veterans—was abandoned in 1986 by government bureaucrats at the Center for Disease Control (CDC). After spending $46 million, they claimed that no scientifically sound study could be performed. They claimed that the military’s shoddy record keeping about what areas of Vietnam were sprayed, when, and which ground units were where at a particular time made it impossible to determine who was exposed to Agent Orange. Senior CDC official Dr. Vernon Houk said, “If we could find a population of people who were exposed in sufficient numbers, we would have proceeded with our study. We just simply could not find them.”18 If Houk had really wanted to find large numbers of people to examine for Agent Orange exposure, he could have looked in Vietnam. Subsequently, the House of Representatives Government Operations Committee found in 1990 that officials in the Reagan administration “controlled and obstructed” the CDC study because they did not want to admit the government’s liability and pay disability benefits.19

Although the CDC failed to produce an Agent Orange study, it did release a report in February 1987 that showed that Vietnam veterans were dying at a rate 45 percent higher than their non-Vietnam veteran counterparts. They also had a 72 percent higher suicide rate and a high incidence of violent deaths, including homicides, suicides, motor vehicle accidents, accidental poisonings, and drug overdoses. That same year, the VA mistakenly leaked a suppressed study that showed Marines who served in Vietnam died of non-Hodgkins lymphoma at a 110 percent higher rate20 and lung cancer at a 58 percent higher rate compared to other veterans.21 This was the largest study of deaths among Vietnam veterans ever conducted by the VA at the time and involved more than 52,000 death records.

The final report of the Ranch Hand study was released in 2005 over the objections of some scientists involved with it. They revealed that some members of the “control” group, air force veterans, who were not involved in Ranch Hand but served in Southeast Asia, were exposed to Agent Orange and other herbicides because they had served in Vietnam. Therefore the basis on which the air force concluded that there were no significant differences in cancer rates between the two groups was totally undermined. When one scientist, Joel Michalek, reanalyzed the data to compensate for the flaws, he found that the cancer rate doubled among Ranch Hand veterans with the highest level of dioxin exposure. He also found that the cancer rate increased in direct proportion to dioxin levels, the first time such a trend had been seen in the Ranch Hand study. When Michalek tried to get an outside contractor to formally reanalyze the data, the air force sent him a letter on July 6, 2006, ordering him to delete the data.

In the end, the chemical companies and the VA were tremendously successful in robbing ill Vietnam veterans of the compensation and care they deserved. The $180 million settlement fund was depleted by lawyers, who received $9.2 million of the money, and was hamstrung by the stringent terms of who was eligible to receive money. Only a quarter of the 200,000 veterans and their families who filed claims actually received compensation.22 Out of 92,276 Agent Orange claims filed with the VA by veterans and their families, only 5,908 had been approved as of 1998,23 despite a 1991 law, which listed some illnesses linked to Agent Orange that would automatically qualify veterans to receive benefits.

I wish the Vietnamese government luck in its fight for the victims. Sadly, this issue has been deprioritized in its diplomatic relations with the U.S. and so this has been relegated to the American court system instead.

Readers are encouraged to

Readers are encouraged to visit the 'Agent Orange Action Group' for further information at www.aoag.org

Agent Orange Action Group Calls for protest at Monsanto’s annual general meeting

Monsanto, the company that manufactured Agent Orange used on Vietnam resulting in the deaths of many thousands of Vietnamese and the abnormal births of many thousands more, and also among military forces from the US and other countries who served during the Vietnam War, announced on 25th October that its Board of Directors has designated

Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2012 as the date of the next annual meeting of shareowners.

Monsanto’s annual meeting will be held at the company’s headquarters facility in suburban St. Louis. Additional meeting details will be included in the company’s proxy statement, which will be available in December.

Len Aldis, Chairman of Agent Orange Action Group called upon all who are suffering from the effects of Agent Orange to take this opportunity to purchase shares in the company in so doing they can express their anger and concerns by asking questions to the board members for the criminal damage Agent Orange has caused to all victims and their families.

For those unable to purchase share, to encourage others to join you outside the meeting in a peaceful expression of your anger.

Len Aldis. Chairman
Agent Orange Action Group
lenaoag@gmail.org
Visit our website: www.aoag.org

Call for Action

Delegates who attend the second international conference on Agent Orange as reported above, will recall the appeal I made in my speech for people to purchase shares in Monsanto in order to attend the AGM of Monsanto. The date and venue has been fixed 24th January 2011 in St Louis.

Lets take this opportunity to get our message across to the Chairtman and board members of Monsanto: We demand Justice for the Victims of Agent Orange

Agent Orange

I am a Vietnam Veteran and did 2 tours in 67-68 and 69-70 I have been fighting the VA and government for 12 years for health problems and am at 80% but still new problems arise have rash itching burning and bumps and scaps in my scalp and hands feet ears The VA does not help I have vowed never to go to those bastards again the lie and destroy evidence and will never do the right thing for the veterans or the people of Vietnam They would rather steal the money and cover it up since the 60's this has happened IF you want action expose them to the media and the world as what they are COWARDS who hide behind red tape and have the morals of a pig while they stuff their pockets rather than help the ones who are the victims.

defoliants

Could I sue the united states air force , for spraying me with defoliant in 1968 while I served in Vietnam with the Australian army .I now have prostate cancer,which in turn caused bone cancer.I have a good d.v.d of the american C123 spaying the mine field near our position , then continuing on to spay our position,not once but on a number of occasions . Yours respectfully ron calnan

What of the cover-up, the

What of the cover-up, the devastation that after 99 years the U.S. left behind in Subic Bay/San Miguel, and Clark AB, Philippines. The VA will continue to delay and deny Veterans who apply for compensation from hap hazard handling of hazardous chemicals, reference to the inspector general's Executive Summary, GAO/NSIAD report 86-60. Other than Delays and Denials, the VA also enjoys referring to the Outdated 1947 "Base Agreement" between host country, The Philippines, and the US. During the Vietnam war Clark AB, and Subic Bay became a major Distribution Center, supplying military needs, Ship/Aircraft repair, and Hospital support. Fuel, Ordinance, even Agent Orange stored at the Subic Bay facility, Reference the USS White Plains, and shipped to various ports, Vietnam. In April 2013, Two U.S. Marines, Cintron, and Marine Hernandez were given full compensation "direct exposure Agent Orange" resulting from service Subic Bay, Philippines 1970. Stars and Stripes "Decades later U.S. Military Pollution in P.I. Linked to Death" first appeared in 2010 and appeared again in 2014 !! 2011, DOD law, Subic Bay, by Fordham Environmental Law Review-Volume 6, Issue 1, 2011, Article 1. With the "base closure" Subic Bay, and Clark AB, the GAO again issued Report 92-51, which estimated the base clean-up to reach "Superfunds", the VA contends that they have met the obligations of the 1947 Base agreement, and refuses to except any further responsibility. The 1947 "agreement" did NOT apply to the Servicemen and their families stationed in the Philippines !! It was NOT our agreement !! Why if there was NO Threat to human life would clean-up become so costly and therefore ignored ??
Thank you to all who have honorably Served.. VA, Congress.. This will haunt you, until you take appropriate, humane, EQUAL actions and fulfill the promises you made to ALL our Veterans...

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