Wars do not end when the bombs stop falling and the fighting ceases. The devastation continues long after, in the land and in the minds and bodies of the affected population.
Today, three million Vietnamese suffer the effects of chemical defoliants used by the United States during the Vietnam War. In order to deny food and protection to those deemed to be “the enemy,” the U.S. defoliated the forests of Vietnam with the deadly chemicals Agent Orange, White, Blue, Pink, Green and Purple. Agent Orange, which was contaminated with trace amounts of TCDD dioxin – the most toxic chemical known to science – disabled and sickened soldiers, civilians and several generations of their offspring on two continents.
In addition to the millions of Vietnamese still affected by this deadly poison, tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers are also affected. It has caused birth defects in hundreds of thousands of children in Vietnam and the U.S. – that is, the second and third generations of those who were exposed to Agent Orange decades ago. Medical evidence indicates that certain cancers (for example, soft tissue non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma), diabetes (type II), and in children spina bifida and other birth defects, are attributable to the exposure.
The deadly mark left by Agent Orange on the natural environment of Vietnam includes the destruction of mangrove forests and the long-term poisoning of soil and crops.
Surviving Vietnam veterans in the U.S., after many years of organized action, have finally achieved limited compensation from our government for some illnesses they suffer due to Agent Orange poisoning. While this struggle continues, the three million surviving Vietnamese victims received no such compensation, nor any humanitarian aid from the U.S. government.
Our government has a moral and legal obligation, under international law, to compensate the people of Vietnam for the devastating impact of Agent Orange, and to assist in alleviating its effects. Indeed, the U.S. government recognized this responsibility: In the Peace Accords signed in Paris in 1973 the Richard Nixon administration promised to contribute $3 billion dollars toward healing the wounds of war, and to post-war reconstruction of Vietnam.
Nonetheless, 30 years after the end of the Vietnam War, our government has yet to make good on its formal commitment and moral obligation to assist the Vietnamese people’s recovery from the chemical warfare waged against them and their land. Neither has it met its responsibility to the peoples of Laos and Cambodia, whose lands were also poisoned by the same chemical weapons.
Our focus is achieving justice for the Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange. We are also mindful of the fact that our government has continued to use chemical weapons, including depleted uranium and napalm, in Iraq and other places. Our actions therefore are part of an on-going international campaign to end the use of toxic weapons and to achieve justice and accountability for all victims.
The Vietnam Agent Orange Relief and 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.
We invite you to join us in:
1. Organizing to achieve justice for Vietnamese Agent Orange victims by
Signing the petition online to Congress and the President at www.petitiononline.com/AOVN.
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.”
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 us 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 made to Veterans for Peace / VAORRC, and sent to VAORRC, P.O. Box 303, Prince Station, New York, NY 10012-0006.
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!