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- Month in Review
This August 10th - Justice for Victims of Agent Orange
International Agent Orange Day – August 10, 2012
51 years since first U.S. spraying of Agent Orange in Vietnam
51 seconds of silence – 51 seconds of action
On August 10th, 1961, the U.S. armed forces began the first spraying of the chemical defoliant Agent Orange in Vietnam. To date millions have died from exposure and today, three million Vietnamese and tens of thousands of U.S. veterans, and their descendents, continue to suffer terminal illnesses and disabilities from this toxic herbicide.
New generations - the children and grandchildren of those exposed to this dioxin during the war - continue to be sickened by exposure to this dioxin with cancers, immune deficiencies, reproductive illnesses and severe birth defects.
Four years ago, I visited Vietnam with a delegation of U.S. progressives and one of the most emotionally moving experiences of that trip was a visit to the Friendship Village outside of Hanoi. Created in collaboration with Vietnamese, U.S. and French veterans who shared a desire for peace and reconciliation, Friendship Village provides medical care, physical therapy, education and vocational training to Vietnamese children and elders with a range of maladies caused by Agent Orange.
Meeting these children, I was struck with how the legacy of war continues to impact those not even born until well after the war’s end. Yet to the thousands of us who marched against that war, these children are invisible casualties. We’ve moved on to other struggles and to end other more recent wars. Yet here, in this small village, as well in communties throughout Vietnam, that war is ever present in the daily lives of these young people.
Meanwhile, those responsible – the United States government and the chemical companies which made this deadly chemical weapon, including Dow Chemical and Monsanto – have yet to compensate their victims or clean up the land they poisoned. Washington recognized its responsibility with the signing of the 1973 Paris Peace Accords, promising $3 billion towards healing the wounds of war and to post-war reconstruction of Vietnam. Thirty years after the end of the Vietnam War, our government has yet to make good on that commitment.
This August 10th at 12 noon, people around the world will mark International Agent Orange Day and the 51st anniversary of the first use of Agent Orange with 51 seconds of silence and 51 seconds of action to make sure the victims receive justice and assistance. For those 51 seconds of action, The Vietnam Agent Orange Relief and Responsibility Campaign (VAORRC) is asking that you let your congressional representative know you want them to take action to help the victims of war.
Sign and circulate the postcard to your congress member asking them to support and co-sponsor H.R. 2634 – the Victims of Agent Orange Relief Act of 2011 introduced by Congressman Bob Filner (CA) in the House of Representatives. H.R. 2634 will provide health care and social services for U.S. veterans, Vietnamese, Vietnamese Americans, and their descendents affected by Agent Orange.
Achieving justice for the victims of Agent Orange is an important step towards the United States taking full responsibility for the long-term devastation its chemical weapons caused for the Vietnamese people and Vietnam war veterans. We can make this happen and on August 10th, please take a stand. For the children of Friendship Village and children throughout the world who bear the brunt of war and devastation, we CAN make a difference!