As many as 4.8 million Vietnamese citizens were directly exposed to herbicides containing dioxin, the most toxic chemical known to science, known as Agent Orange. In 2004, Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange filed a lawsuit against the herbicide manufacturers in federal court in New York. The lawsuit was dismissed on March 10, 2005 by Judge Jack Weinstein on the grounds that Agent Orange was not used as a chemical weapon. The Vietnamese plaintiffs have appealed to have their case reinstated for trial. A petition for cert to the United States Supreme Court is pending.
To date, not a single Vietnamese victim of Agent Orange has ever received a penny in compensation for the injuries they have suffered. Now is the time for the United States to stand by its pledge to support the victims of Agent Orange.
Download this Agent Orange Flyer for a valuable fact sheet that your chapter can use in organizing and spreading the word about this Campaign.
AGENT ORANGE AND THE VIETNAM WAR: MAGNITUDE
AND CONSEQUENCES THE VIETNAM AGENT ORANGE RELIEF & RESPONSIBILITY CAMPAIGN is an initiative of U.S. veterans, Vietnamese Americans and all concerned about peace and justice. Vietnamese citizens have filed a lawsuit to hold the chemical companies responsible for the crimes against humanity of which their products were a part.
Now it’s our turn to act: With this campaign, we seek to fulfill our responsibility by insisting that our government honor its moral and legal responsibility to compensate the Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange.
National Lawyers Guild attorneys have been active in supporting this litigation and the campaign for corporate accountability. The NLG encourages all Guild chapters and committees to join and support the campaign. We invite you to join the Campaign in: 1. Organizing to achieve justice for Vietnamese Agent Orange victims by passing a resolution in your community group, school, place of worship, veteran’s organization or union asking Congress to allocate funds to care for and compensate Vietnam’s Agent Orange victims and clean up the toxic “hot spots.” Also, please sign the letter to members of Congress (see below for letter) and return it to the Campaign.
2. Educating our friends, co-workers and neighbors about the suffering caused by Agent Orange in Vietnam and in other wars our government has waged. Organize an event at your home, school, community center or place of worship. Contact the Campaign for films and educational materials. We will continue to bring Vietnamese Agent Orange victims to tour communities throughout the nation with disabled U.S. veterans. These visits will also build solidarity with U.S. communities fighting against toxic contamination and environmental racism. Contact us if you would like to host a visit by a group to your area.
3. Public donations for Vietnamese Agent Orange victims. Collected funds will go to the Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin (VAVA) and to our educational work within the U.S. to achieve the goals of this campaign. Tax deductible contributions may be payable to Veterans for Peace / VAORRC and sent to P.O.Box 303, Prince Station, New York, NY 10012-0006 USA.
Achieving real justice for Vietnamese Agent Orange victims will be an important step toward our government’s taking full responsibility for the long-term devastation that its chemical weaponry caused the Vietnamese people and all Vietnam war veterans. This tragic chapter in our nation’s history will not be satisfactorily closed until WE THE PEOPLE of the United States compel our government to do the right thing. Thirty years late is better than never!
Thank you for your participation and support. Together, we can make The Vietnam Agent Orange Relief and Responsibility Campaign a resounding success!
• In 1961, as part of America’s escalating war of counter-insurgency in Vietnam, President Kennedy approved military plans to use toxic herbicides in Vietnam. Planes and helicopters from the U.S. military, under the code name “Operation Ranch Hand,” sprayed toxic chemicals throughout southern Vietnam. The spraying was intended to kill foliage to deny cover to the guerillas and to destroy crops that could be used to supply the insurgency. The spraying was also intended to make whole areas unlivable so that villagers would be driven into “pacified” areas and “strategic hamlets.”
• The main victims were civilians in the villages who were repeatedly contaminated when they ate crops and drank ground water that had been sprayed.
• The most commonly used spray was dubbed “Agent Orange” because it was shipped in barrels with an Orange stripe.
• The 2,4,5-T herbicide is contaminated with trace amounts of TCDD dioxin, the most toxic chemical known to science. Lab animals exposed to minute quantities of dioxin (in parts per billion) havesuffered increased rates of birth defects. The FDA withdrew approval for the use of 2,4,5-T in the United States in 1970. Dioxin has a half-life of about 10 years (i.e., after 10 years 50% of dioxin is still present in the soil).
• The chemicals used during the Vietnam War were produced by Dow, Monsanto, Diamond Shamrock, Hercules, Uniroyal, Thomson Chemicals, etc. In March 1965, Dow Chemical called all the manufacturers to a secret meeting at Dow Headquarters in Midland, MI. Dow’s scientists complained that producers were making very “dirty” 2,4,5-T, containing as much as 50 parts per million of TCDD dioxin. They warned that if the offenders didn’t “clean up their act” by improving product quality, it could eventually bring the entire herbicide program down. The chemical companies ignored this warning and kept the deadly dioxin in Agent Orange.
WHAT DID THE US MILITARY KNOW?
Dr. James R. Clary, a former senior scientist at the Chemical Weapons Branch (Air Force Armament Development Lab in Florida) writes:
“When we initiated the herbicide program in the 1960s, we were aware of the potential for damage due to dioxin contamination in the herbicide. We were even aware that the military formulation had a higher dioxin concentration than the civilian version due to the lower cost and speed of manufacture. However, because the material was to be used on the enemy, none of us were overly concerned.”
This statement illustrates the racism underlying the continuing use of Agent Orange against the Vietnamese people and the failure to compensate them.
MAGNITUDE OF THE PROBLEM
• After visiting Vietnam in 1969, two U.S. zoologists wrote: “The chemical weapons of a technologically advanced society are being used massively for the first time in a guerilla war… (Our) military efforts are aimed at increasing the toll of fatalities, denying food to the enemy, and depriving him of the concealment provided by natural growth. This type of warfare is, therefore, enormously destructive, both of human life and the environment.”
• Between 1962 and 1971 the United States sprayed an estimated twenty million gallons of herbicide (of which thirteen million gallons were Agent Orange) over a tenth of the total land area of southern Vietnam. The Agent Orange used is estimated to have contained over 500 pounds of TCDD dioxin!
• Over 5.6 million acres of southern Vietnam were eventually sprayed, with over 90% of the sprayed areas being hit at least twice. An estimated 11% of the areas were hit as many as ten times. Further, records show that the Air Force used 2,4,5-T herbicide in concentrations that were as much as thirteen times higher than that recommended by the manufacturers for domestic use in the U.S.
Vietnamese scientists have estimated that as many as 4.8 million Vietnamese citizens were directly exposed to these herbicides.
EFFECTS ON PEOPLE’S HEALTH
• An estimated 50,000 deformed children have been born to parents who were directly sprayed or were exposed through the consumption of food and/or water.
• The risk of death from cancer among men and women exposed to dioxin increased by 30%.
• Parents exposed to Agent Orange were 2.2 times more likely to have a deformed child than non-exposed parents.
• The Veterans Administration now automatically awards service-connected disability to Vietnam veterans for thirteen different health conditions. Conditions include soft tissue cancer, Non Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Hodgkins Disease, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, cancer of the prostate, larynx, and trachea, multiple myeloma, acute and subacute transient peripheral neuorpathy, Type II diabetes, spina bifida and chloracne.
• Exposure to Agent Orange/dioxin is also associated with disorders of the endocrine system (e.g., decreased sexual desire, gynecomastia), cardio-vascular system (e.g. increased blood pressure, blood deficiency), gastrointestinal system (e.g., nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, gastric ulcer, constipation, yellowing of eyes, abdominal pain), metabolic system (e.g. fatigue, rapid weight loss, spontaneous fever, chills), neurological system (e.g. numbness, dizziness, headaches, tingling), respiratory system (e.g. shortness of breath), and skin disorders such as rash, loss of hair, brittle nails, altered skin color.
• Dioxin from Agent Orange still contaminates the soil and natural environment in many “hot spots” in central and south Vietnam such as Da Nang, Bien Hoa, and A Luoi Valley.