By Medea Benjamin, Kevin Danaher, Kirsten Moller, Co-Founders, Global Exchange.
Global Exchange joins the international human rights community in condemning the recent US court ruling striking down a Vietnamese class-action lawsuit against major American corporations for their manufacture of the chemical weapon known as Agent Orange/Dioxin. This New York Court of Appeals ruling likewise dismisses further compensation for the tens of thousands of US Vietnam War veterans who continue to suffer from exposure to the war-time herbicide.
As Americans, we in particular will hold our government and corporations responsible for the enormous damage done to more than 3 million Vietnamese, including several hundred thousand children. These young second and third generation victims live tragic lives today with horrible birth defects, cancers and a host of other health problems due to AO’s gene-destroying toxin. Those responsible should pay for their care, and for clean-up of contaminated “hot spots,” as demanded in the recently dismissed lawsuit.
Ignorance is no defense. More than 60 years ago, American President Roosevelt forbade the use of Agent Orange during World War II, because of its known toxicity – Dioxin being the most toxic substance created by science. Despite decades of denial, our government made a de facto admission of the direct connection between Agent Orange/Dioxin exposure and severe health effects when it ruled in 1984 and again 1991 that US vets were to receive limited AO-related disability payments and medical care. Recently the American Public Health Association joined scientists and medical professionals around the world in calling on the US government and involved chemical companies to provide “resources for services for the disabled … for Vietnamese and Americans harmed” and “remediation and clean-up” for the most contaminated areas of Vietnam. Australian, New Zealand and South Korean Vietnam War veterans have successfully sued their governments for compensation, and support a moral compensation for Vietnam. When will our country finally take responsibility?
The Vietnamese plaintiffs, led by the Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin (VAVA) vow to continue until justice and fairness are achieved. Global Exchange, Veterans for Peace and a host of other international governments, scientists, individuals, organizations and NGOs will continue to stand by them in their quest for resolution of this devastating legacy of war.