[sixties-l] U.S. War Crimes in Vietnam (fwd)

From: sixties@lists.village.virginia.edu
Date: Mon Mar 04 2002 - 18:59:34 EST

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    ---------- Forwarded message ----------
    Date: Sun, 3 Mar 2002 12:48:36 -0500
    From: Jay Moore <pieinsky@igc.org>
    To: sixties@lists.village.virginia.edu
    Subject: U.S. War Crimes in Vietnam

    U.S., Vietnam discuss effects of Agent Orange
    Reuters News Agency

    Sunday, March 03 - Online Edition, Posted at 8:29 AM EST

    Hanoi - U.S. and Vietnamese government scientists and international experts
    met on Sunday to discuss effects of the toxic defoliant Agent Orange, called
    the "last significant ghost" of the Vietnam War by the U.S. ambassador.

    The three-day meeting in Hanoi will look at what is known about Agent Orange
    and its major contaminants - highly poisonous dioxins - and consider future
    research needs.

    The issue is a tricky one for the United States, which has faced
    compensation demands from both Hanoi and U.S. veterans for exposure to toxic
    defoliants, sprayed to deny communist soldiers jungle cover during the
    Vietnam War which ended in 1975.

    U.S. forces dumped millions of gallons of defoliants on Vietnam from 1962 to
    1971. Spraying was halted after it was discovered that Agent Orange, which
    contained the most dangerous form of dioxin, TCDD, caused cancer in rats.

    Vietnam estimates that more than a million of its people were exposed to the
    spraying, which it blames for tens of thousands of birth defects, incidences
    of cancer and other illnesses. Washington argues the scientific evidence is
    inconclusive and more research is needed.

    U.S. ambassador Raymond Burghardt called the Agent Orange issue "the one
    significant ghost" from the war as Hanoi and Washington moved on in their
    relationship.

    "Like much of our shared past, it is filled with controversy and emotion;
    there are few facts and findings that are universally agreed upon," he said.

    He said determining the impact of Agent Orange after so long would be
    "extraordinarily complex" and had to take into account genetic,
    environmental, viral and nutritional factors.

    "Just as their combatant predecessors had to struggle with the fog of war,
    the scientists have to struggle with the frustrating fog inherent in
    identifying increases in birth defects amid a pool of naturally-occurring
    background genetic error," he said.

    Vietnam's Vice-Minister of Health Le Ngoc Trong said research was difficult
    and expensive and would need more investment and cooperation from U.S. and
    other scientists.

    Conference chairman Christopher Portier, of the U.S. government's National
    Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, said: "Much of [Vietnam's]
    research is unpublished and we hear about it in sketchy pieces and parts."

    He added research on dioxin in Vietnam was also important for the rest of
    the world.

    Observers say conclusive research could have far-reaching and expensive
    consequences in terms of compensation claims for the United States and Agent
    Orange makers, Dow Chemical Co. and Monsato Co.

    The U.S. embassy made clear on Sunday the United States was not about to
    entertain compensation claims from Vietnam, which were blamed for stalling a
    previous conference on Agent Orange in Singapore in late 2000.

    "U.S.-Vietnam relations were normalized in 1995 after Vietnam dropped claims
    of war reparations/compensation," it said. "At the time of normalization,
    neither compensation nor reparations were granted or contemplated for the
    future."

    Asked if this could change depending on research, an embassy spokesman said:
    "I think the statement speaks for itself."

    The Hanoi conference comes after intense lobbying in the United States by
    U.S. veterans who want better compensation and assistance to Vietnamese
    victims.

    "The Vietnam Veterans of America have pushed for over 20 years to make this
    happen," VVA president Thomas Cory said in Hanoi. "We have to get the
    research started and move from there."

    More than 100,000 veterans have asked the U.S. Veterans Administration for
    help for illnesses they believe are linked to Vietnam service. Only 7,500
    are receiving any assistance.

    A group of 20,000 U.S. veterans who sued the two firms in 1999 eventually
    won a $180 million judgment.

    Agent Orange exposure is also an issue for veterans from other countries who
    served in Vietnam, including South Koreans, Australians, Thais and New
    Zealanders.

    Vietnam has permitted foreign media to attend only the opening and closing
    sessions of the meeting, a move criticized by Mr. Burghardt, who called for
    open access.
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