19 thoughts on “Vietnamese still suffering from Agent Orange

  1. Thank you Kitty! Below is the complete article and the associated op/ed…

    http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/news/content/view/full/120421

    Support surges for Agent Orange fight
    Tuesday 19 June 2012by Roger Bagley in Parliament
    A broad campaign to aid severely suffering Vietnamese victims of US defoliant Agent Orange went into a higher gear today with surging support at Westminster.
    Even Prime Minister David Cameron signalled a nod of approval at a fundraising event organised by MPs on Monday night – although there is still no sign of large-scale British government cash aid.
    In a symbolic gesture, Mr Cameron donated a signed copy of one of his favourite books to help raise cash for a new cancer hospital in Da Nang and a treatment centre in Ho Chi Minh City.
    His choice of “Finest Years: Churchill as Warlord 1940-45″ by Max Hastings raised £350 in an auction held in Parliament’s Attlee Suite.
    Labour leader Ed Miliband raised £400 with a signed copy of one of his most-loved books, written by Gillian Slovo, daughter of leading South African communists Joe Slovo and Ruth First.
    Ms Slovo’s book Every Secret Thing: My Family, My Country tells of her experiences growing up with revolutionary parents.
    Thirty-seven years after the end of the Vietnam war, children are still being born with severe disabilities arising from US use of Agent Orange, and 4.8 million people are living with the effects.
    Parliament’s all-party Vietnam group chair George Howarth MP organised Monday’s event after MPs were moved to tears at a Ho Chi Minh hospital on a visit to severely disabled child victims.
    Britain-Vietnam Friendship Society secretary Len Aldis hailed the event, which raised over £5,000, and urged trade unionists to weigh in with support.
    He urged this year’s TUC congress to endorse the fund-raising campaign for Agent Orange victims.
    Mr Aldis said he had personally delivered a letter to Olympics organiser Sebastian Coe from the Vietnamese confederation of trade unions protesting against sponsorship by Dow Chemicals, one of the major US companies involved in producing Agent Orange and Napalm.
    Speaking at the Westminster event, Vietnamese ambassador Vu Quang Minh expressed continued gratitude for the huge protests in Britain against the war.
    He added that Anglo-Vietnam relations were now “the best ever.”
    Foreign Office minister Jeremy Browne predicted an “extremely bright” future for Vietnam.
    It was still a poor country, but was “on a real forward trajectory, with a hard-working, educated, young population.”
    rogerbagley@peoples-press.com

    op/ed

    http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/news/content/view/full/120404

    Recompense long overdue
    Tuesday 19 June 2012
    David Cameron’s willingness to donate a book to a parliamentary fund-raising event to help Vietnamese victims of the US defoliant Agent Orange is an indicator of improved British-Vietnamese relations.
    Dynamic growth of around 6.9 per cent per annum makes Vietnam an attractive proposition for British business.
    Over 100 British companies have opened offices in Vietnam, making Britain the third most important European Union investor there.
    Bilateral trade touches £2 billion, composed overwhelmingly of Vietnamese exports to Britain, which explains partly why our Prime Minister felt able to associate himself with Monday’s successful fund-raiser.
    Even though the war ended in 1975, Washington continues to refuse to meet its responsibility to help care for successive generations born with severe disabilities as a result of the widespread use of this defoliant.
    It was intended to destroy hiding places for the Vietnamese liberation forces in the country’s lush forests, but it laid waste to the environment and to people’s lives and did not prevent the military defeat of the US and its allies.
    Perhaps resentment of that defeat on the part of the world’s sole superpower at the hands of a poor, undeveloped ex-colony is what causes such inhuman indifference to suffering.
    The misery inflicted on Vietnamese children born after the conflict ended has been repeated in Iraq and elsewhere by the deployment of depleted uranium munitions, with the same official denials of responsibility.
    Britain-Vietnam Friendship Society secretary Len Aldis has done sterling work alongside Trade Union Friends of Vietnam and Medical and Scientific Aid for Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia over decades to raise cash to tackle the consequences of the aggressive war on Vietnam, which was used by the US military as a laboratory for testing new weaponry.
    The recent visit to the country by the House of Commons all-party Vietnam group chaired by George Howarth MP should raise the profile of this example of international solidarity.
    Britain’s labour movement excelled itself during the Vietnam war, the days of US carpet bombing of north Vietnamese cities and the criminal US air force’s reckless use of huge amounts of Agent Orange and napalm rained down upon defenceless civilians in rural areas.
    Trade unionists who stood alongside their Vietnamese comrades during the days of war can be relied upon to show their support in peacetime for the initiative of contributing to the cost of a new cancer hospital in Da Nang and a treatment centre in Ho Chi Minh City.
    Defending health services in Britain against the scourge of conservative coalition-inspired private-sector penetration and outright privatisation does not stand in contradiction to international solidarity.
    One struggle informs the other and enhances it, emphasising the unity of humanity and the essential need for medical care.
    It is sad that next month’s Olympic Games in London will be marred by having Dow Chemicals as an official sponsor, despite its complicity in the twin scandals of providing Agent Orange and napalm to US forces in Vietnam and failing to meet its responsibilities to the people of Bhopal in India devastated by the Union Carbide gas leaks in 1984.
    Cameron should raise this matter with Olympics organiser Sebastian Coe to reverse this shameful decision.
    He should also speak to Barack Obama to secure US recognition of the scale of its crime against the Vietnamese people and recompense for the blameless victims of imperialist war.

      • (slightly off-topic)

        Amerikkka should be ashamed!

        (Jean Bricmont) – ‘Remembering the U.S. Attack on Vietnam
        Fifty Years Ago’

        The Vietnamese received no reparations for the suffering inflicted upon them. Nobody ever apologized for what had been done to them. They never insisted: they were content with their victory. They never demanded that an International Criminal Court judge their aggressors. At most, they politely requested cooperation in “healing the wounds of war,” which, of course, was contemptuously rejected. As the future Nobel Peace Prize winner Jimmy Carter put it, “the destruction was mutual.” Indeed: some 50,000 dead on one side, several million on the other. One nation intact, the other in ruins.

        http://campaign.r20.constantcontact.com/render?llr=ltx99deab&v=00177_hio5ARRGabkZWwqkp9BPhQnSihq-hOpaNTVEFWsYQCP4qd9lkpGKAOVPxwWxQSkVKJIVOnmEifu_VXsKj6KGvbpKBcM27hiJd3CCwG5PG9-HSw63rTC9S7kmxdKpFzYiPXsjqeEcYQ_d_VRWK5OdagtEgBCLxYUwnejXFq-SMzBwl0zTnykqkh86y7j1Pv9et8-g2cfXrzQoRZ9BQBCwg1Xp4pnpKfCyfCsnARkNThwbPuiNtjjUIryITTf5MrorSH1jLWHbtnYIfbo3b6kpsW7miEMHsRvm89uvUGQzb6LCQTQcFAg%3D%3D&id=preview#LETTER.BLOCK25

        “The Most Destructive and Murderous Act of Aggression of the post-World War II period”

        Remembering the U.S. Attack on Vietnam
        Fifty Years Ago
        By Jean Bricmont

        Noam Chomsky has pointed out that this year we are failing to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of what he calls “President John F. Kennedy’s decision to launch the most destructive and murderous act of aggression of the post-World War II period: the invasion of South Vietnam…” Indeed, it was in 1962 that U.S. armed forces began to bomb South Vietnam, but this is a non-event in the public consciousness of the West. The Battle of Dien Bien Phu and the 1954 Geneva Accords had put an end to the French war to restore their colonial rule in Indochina. The Accords promised to reunite the country through democratic elections. Since it seemed clear that the party of Ho Chi Minh would win those elections, the Eisenhower administration refused to allow them to be held, and installed an unpopular anti-communist government in South Vietnam, which by 1962 was totally discredited and risked collapsing in the face of an internal insurrection.
        The standard U.S. history of the Vietnam War begins only in 1964-1965, with the Gulf of Tonkin incident and the start of U.S. bombing of North Vietnam. This serves to maintain the American myth that it was “defending” South Vietnam from the North, which ignores the refusal to hold the promised elections and the use of the U.S. Air Force to bomb the South starting in 1962.
        Although forgotten, that 1962 intervention was the beginning of one of the greatest tragedies of the twentieth century and the worst since 1945. Three countries – Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos – were devastated for decades to come, millions of human lives were lost, even if no one knows exactly how many. In their “body counts,” the Americans applied the “mere gook rule”: if it’s dead and slant-eyed, it’s a Viet Cong, that is, a communist guerilla. That way of counting had the advantage of playing down the number of civilian casualties.
        When it comes to the Vietnamese, there is no Duty of Memory. No law punishes the massive revisionism that prevails in our culture regarding that non-event. There are no museums or statues to remind us of the millions of victims slaughtered or maimed in that conflict. There are no university chairs endowed to study that tragedy. Men who took part in those massacres or justify them are still welcomed by governments all around the world, without fear of being accused of “complicity” or “minimizing genocide.”
        No “lesson of history” is drawn from the Vietnam War. Official lessons of history all echo the same theme: Munich, Munich, Munich. Lamentations over the weakness of democracies in the face of totalitarianism, meaning we must take up arms, or, rather, we must send bombers and drones against whatever country is in the clutches of a “new Hitler” to stop a “new Holocaust”: Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya already, Syria or Iran next. Even from a historical point of view, the discourse on Munich is inaccurate, but leave that aside. The point of the Munich discourse is to enable the left to rally to the Stars and Stripes in the name of anti-fascism.
        Worse still, the tragedies which accompanied the end of that 30-year war (1945-1975), the boat people and the Khmer Rouge, were immediately used in the West – primarily by French “left intellectuals” – to initiate and justify the policy of intervention; although it is precisely the constant intervention of the United States in the internal affairs of Vietnam that was the cause of those tragedies.
        If “lessons of history” were really drawn from Vietnam, they would all point in the “wrong” direction – toward peace, disarmament, a bit of modesty in the West concerning Russia, China, Cuba, Iran, Syria or Venezuela. The exact opposite of the “lessons” of Munich and the Holocaust.
        The Vietnamese were not victims of “symbolic domination” or “incitement to hatred,” but of massive bombing by fragmentation bombs, napalm, Agent Orange. They did not see themselves as victims, but as actors in their own destiny. They were led by one of the great political geniuses of history, Ho Chi Minh, accompanied by a military genius General Giap. They were not fighting for democracy but for national independence, an outdated notion in our “globalized” world. And they pursued that combat against the leading democracies, France and the United States.
        And yet, the Vietnamese did not despise our “values” (not a key word in that period), they did not hate the West, or science, or rationality, or modernity. They simply wanted to share the benefits freely. They were not particularly religious and did not reason in terms of identity, but of class. They constantly made the distinction between the American people and their leaders. That distinction was perhaps a simplification, but it enabled them to detach a part of the population from the country’s leaders in America itself.
        The Vietnamese received no reparations for the suffering inflicted upon them. Nobody ever apologized for what had been done to them. They never insisted: they were content with their victory. They never demanded that an International Criminal Court judge their aggressors. At most, they politely requested cooperation in “healing the wounds of war,” which, of course, was contemptuously rejected. As the future Nobel Peace Prize winner Jimmy Carter put it, “the destruction was mutual.” Indeed: some 50,000 dead on one side, several million on the other. One nation intact, the other in ruins.
        The Vietnamese went from a form of socialism to a form of capitalism, causing dismayed revisions among certain of their Western supporters. But in Asia, capitalism and communism are words for something else. The real words are national independence, development, catching up with (and soon passing) the West.
        They were bitterly reproached for wanting to re-educate their captured enemies, those airmen from far away who bombed a population they thought to be defenseless. The attempt was no doubt naive, but was it worse than assassinating them without trial or locking them up in Guantanamo?
        They stood up to an indescribable barbarism, but, whatever the problems, they always asked to find a political and negotiated solution, words that our current human rights defenders indignantly refuse to hear.
        Their combat was a vital contribution to the principal emancipation movement of the twentieth century, decolonization. It was also a sort of civilizing mission in reverse, by making part of Western youth aware of the extraordinary violence of our democracies in their relations with the rest of the world. By fighting for their national independence, the Vietnamese fought for all of humanity.
        After 1968, that awareness gradually faded, dissolved in the ideology of human rights, in subjectivism and postmodernism, and in the ceaseless conflict of identities.
        At a moment when our intervention policy is leading from disaster to chaos, amid calls for yet more intervention in Syria and Iran, it might be useful to remember that fateful decision of 1962, a mixture of imperial arrogance and belief in the irresistible power of high technology which plunged Southeast Asia into horror. When will we say, in regard to wars where we ourselves are the aggressors, “never again”? CP

        Jean Bricmont teaches physics at the University of Louvain in Belgium. He is author of Humanitarian Imperialism.

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