Sunday, April 04, 2010

Vietnam / United States

Agent Orange and Vietnam's Forgotten Victims
By Geoffrey Cain
GlobalPost on, April 2, 2010
"At 46, each year of misery seems to have etched new wrinkles around Tran Thanh Dung's angry gaze. When he was child in the early 1970s, Tran says he witnessed US soldiers shoot his parents -- both of whom were communist Viet Cong soldiers during the Vietnam War. Bent on revenge, he joined the guerrilla group within hours. To this day, Tran weeps over the memories of bloodshed and the hellish cries of his dying friends. But one bizarre memory will haunt him forever. 'The American airplanes came right toward me and dropped a mist in the jungle, and the next day, the trees were dead,' he recalled. 'We weren't scared. We were confused.' Thanks to that experience, his son has been unable to walk since birth. Tran was sprayed with dioxin, codenamed by the military Agent Orange -- an herbicide that the U.S. Army used to kill off shrubbery in central Vietnam during the 1960s and early 1970s, so the Viet Cong would have no place to hide.
The defoliant is known to cause a myriad of birth defects in the children of those exposed. Today, Tran's 18-year-old son suffers from a spinal disorder called spina bifida, an ailment Tran's doctor said was caused by his contact with dioxin four decades ago. 'It makes all of us sad, our family and the Vietnamese people,' Tran said, adding that he wants the U.S. government to reimburse the families of Vietnamese soldiers for the effects of the spraying. 'The problems of war will never leave us.' During the Vietnam War, the United States sprayed up to 18 million gallons of Agent Orange around Vietnam, according to a study by the Government Accountability Office, an investigative arm of the U.S. Congress. The Vietnamese government, meanwhile, estimates that as many as 400,000 Vietnamese have died from illnesses related to exposure to dioxin, such as cancer. It also claims that up to 500,000 children have birth defects, such as spina bifida, because their parents were exposed. [...]"