Thursday, August 23, 2007


Yesterday, Bush drew parallels between the Iraq and Vietnam wars. I presume that a few spoilt brats in the National Guard, those with influential fathers perhaps, have managed to avoid being sent to Iraq too so he does have a point.

Bush played up the consequences of US withdrawal from Vietnam but failed to mention the consequences of US participation.

Let's just take one of those consequences. The US military dropped approximately 20 million gallons of Agent Orange and other "herbicides" over Vietnam during the course of the war. Here are some photos of the effects of Agent Orange on the Vietnamese population. More than 30 years after the war, parts of Vietnam are still highly contaminated and people are still suffering as a result.

The American government has set up a programme to help US veterans who've been affected by exposure to Agent Orange. Under the heading "Agent Orange and Birth Defects", the government website highlights the fact that "The Veterans’ Benefits Act of 1997 granted benefits for children of Vietnam veterans who were suffering from spina bifida". Despite that, the US government has resisted paying compensation to Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange.

In 2005, when Vietnamese victims tried to take the manufacturers of the chemical to court, the case was dismissed. The judge ruled that they had not proved that Agent Orange caused birth defects and illness. This despite the fact that in 1984, several chemical companies paid $180m (£93m) to settle a lawsuit with US war veterans, who said that their health had been affected by exposure to the substance.

Perhaps there's some scientific reason why American veterans are more susceptible to the ill effects of Agent Orange than the Vietnamese people who had the stuff dropped on themselves, their animals, their farmland and their water. Any scientists out there want to tell me what it is?

There are some signs that the US government may be slowly moving on this, due, no doubt, to the softening of relationships between the two countries rather than any humanitarian concern for the victims. Give it another 10 or 20 years and some sort of reparation might be on the cards for those who're still alive.

And perhaps, in another 30 years time, people will again draw parallels between Iraq and Vietnam.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The US soldiers were so rubbish at applying Agent Orange that they missed the Vietnamese and got it all over themselves instead?