Featured image b/w photo of David Cline (by Michael McPherson); group photo: American veterans delegation (l-r) David Cline, Ralph Steele, Joan Duffy, Frank Corcoran and Dan Shea behind “Mrs. Vietnam 2005”, Doan Thi Kim Hong, performing songs for Agent Orange affected children at hospice near Cu Chi.
Published in the VAORRC Newsletter, November 2006
by David Cline
Severe health problems associated with the U.S. military’s use of chemical defoliants during the Vietnam War have long been an issue of concern for the veteran’s community. These chemical weapons, popularly known as Agent Orange, were heavily contaminated with dioxin, TCDD, one of the most deadly cancer causing carcinogens known to man.
Over many years, Vietnam veterans who began to get sick, have birth defected children and often died, have struggled to have the Veterans Administration provide testing, treatment and compensation for those affected.
This struggle began in the 1970’s and went through many twists and turns as the companies who manufactured these chemical weapons and the US government who ordered and deployed them, tried to deny any responsibility and even claimed that they were harmless.
Eventually in 1984, the chemical companies who manufactured Agent Orange agreed to pay $180 million in damages to veterans and finally Congress passed the Agent Orange Act of 1991recognizing the negative health effects of these defoliants and acknowledging certain conditions for VA medical treatment and disability compensation..
Since that time, more conditions have been acknowledged but many others are still not recognized.
There have been lawsuits also from veterans who served in the South Korean, Australian and New Zealand militaries under the US command.
But one group, the largest number affected, who have never received any form of Justice have been the people of Vietnam, both NVA/VC and ARVN soldiers and many times more civilians who were trapped in the war zones.
In 2004, the suffering Vietnamese formed the Vietnam Association of Victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin (VAVA) and initiated a lawsuit in the US courts against the companies who manufactured these poisonous chemical weapons. That case is schedule to be heard in a federal appellate court in NYC this fall.
In support of the Vietnamese victims, we have formed the Vietnam Agent Orange Relief and Responsibility Campaign and are working with them and other Agent Orange victims throughout the world to continue this struggle until all those affected receive some Justice.
At the end of March, I lead a delegation of four other US veterans who are Agent Orange victims, Joan Duffy, Ralph Steele, Dan Shea and Frank Corcoran, to Hanoi for an International Conference on AO, that included participates from Australia, South Korea, New Zealand, Canada as well as support groups from France, England and several other European countries.
After that we travelled to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Cu Chi and Hue were we were hosted by VAVA chapters and met with victims and visited hospices and friendship villages where some of the many thousands of the most seriously deformed AO children are cared for, some run by international veterans support, religious organizations or local governments and hospitals.
This issue is an ongoing and unresolved legacy of the US war in Vietnam and is something that needs to be addressed and resolved if we are even going to heal the wounds of that period in our nation’s history.
To find out more about and get involved in the campaign here in the United States, contact the:
VIETNAM AGENT ORANGE RELIEF & RESPONSIBILITY CAMPAIGN