By Paul Cox
By the time you read this, the fourth Vietnamese delegation of Agent Orange victims co-sponsored by VVAW will have finished their 10-city tour, including a stop in Chicago where they were hosted by VVAW. Public events were held at the Gage Gallery in Roosevelt University and at the Jane Hull House, and they were interviewed on NPR's World View program. Bob Gronko did a great job organizing their stay in Chicago, and VVAW made a generous donation to support the tour.
VVAW has a long history of fighting for justice for victims of Agent Orange poisoning; VVAW was a loud and clear voice exposing AO and calling for help and compensation for veterans suffering the ill effects of AO/dioxin since 1978. In recent years, VVAW has strongly supported the Vietnamese people in their efforts to achieve recognition and for relief from the massive damage AO/dioxin has done to their environment and their people.
VVAW has hosted in Chicago Agent Orange victims delegations in 2005, 2007, and October 2008 (the other delegation went only to DC). The delegations are from the Vietnam Association of Victims of Agent Orange/dioxin (VAVA), which is the membership organization in Vietnam fighting for justice for the Vietnamese. Dave Cline and Bill Davis—both of whom we lost last year—and many others in VVAW have worked hard on the AO issue, which continues to develop as more information becomes available about its effects. But much more work is needed.
As reported in the last issue of The Veteran, the US Court of Appeals failed in its duty to reinstate the VAVA lawsuit against the chemical companies that was dismissed by Jack Weinstein. On October 6, attorneys for VAVA filed a writ of certiorari with the Supreme Court asking them to hear the case for reinstatement. This court, though, is not likely to accept the case, but the Vietnamese want to exhaust all remedies. Whether or not the case dies at the steps of the Supreme Court, the struggle will continue.
As you may know the Vietnam Agent Orange Relief and Responsibility Campaign (VAORRC) is one of the organizations in the US that is working to support VAVA. Dave Cline and Bill Davis were on the national board and national coordinators of VAORRC, as are VVAW members Barry Romo and Paul Cox. At the steps of the Supreme Court, VAORRC launched the international corporate campaign against Dow and Monsanto: "Do the right thing – compensate Vietnam's Agent Orange victims!" Next year VAORRC will mount a legislative campaign to convince Congress to step up to our responsibilities and provide—if for no other reason—real funds for humanitarian assistance to the Vietnamese victims of AO. The legislation has not yet been written, but a number of influential congress members and senators have expressed firm support for such a bill. When the bill is submitted, it should have provisions for a number of distinct projects:
• Environmental clean-up of the forty identified hotspots.
• Stationary or mobile clinics for pre-natal testing of pregnant women who may have been exposed to AO.
• Testing programs for populations living near hot spots for dioxin in their bodies.
• Genetic and epidemiological research into the multi-generational effects of dioxin exposure.
• Reconstructive surgery for the many children with deformities whose lives could be improved by it.
• Prostheses, wheelchairs, accessibility modifications to habitat, and independent living training for those whose can benefit from such aid.
• Medical treatment for those sick from AO.
• Long-term supportive care for those who are disabled from exposures or birth defects.
• Financial assistance to those families driven into poverty due to disabilities or birth defects of family members.
Getting comprehensive well-funded legislation through Congress will take a major advocacy effort. If it is to be successful, it will require some effort from every VVAW member and supporter, and every person in this country who thinks our nation needs to step up to its responsibilities. Once the legislation is introduced, we will all have to contact our representatives and urge them to support it. Actually, in some cases, we will have to not only urge it; we will have to require it, insist upon it, demand it, and shout it. It will be a fight worthy of VVAW!
Paul Cox served as a Marine in Vietnam from 1969 to 1970 and is a member of VVAW.
He is on the national board of the Vietnam Agent Orange Relief and Responsibility Campaign.
|Mrs. Dang Hong Nhut, translator Ms.Dinh Thi Minh Huyen and Ms. Tran Thi Hoan|
at Agent Orange victims tour in Chicago, October 2008
|(l-r) Mrs. Dang Hong Nhut, Ms. Tran Thi Hoan, translator Ms. Dinh Thi Minh|
Huyen, Steve Nelson and Bob Gronko at WBEZ, Chicago Public Radio, October 2008
|Ms. Tran Thi Hoan|