Sunday, June 19, 2011

I suppose "better late than never"

Between 1961 and 1971, during the Indochina War, the US sprayed some 12 million gallons of the defoliant Agent Orange over the jungles of Vietnam. Throughout that time, the US insisted that the compound was harmless to humans and claims of harm made by the North Vietnamese were enemy propaganda. Similar claims of harm coming from US veterans of the war were dismissed as unreliable or based on urban legends, despite reports that one of the main components of the herbicide had damaging health effects.

Eventually, however, the government was forced to admit that the same prime component had been contaminated with dioxin, a highly dangerous chemical and a known carcinogen. Eventually, the Veterans' Administration had to accept exposure to Agent Orange as connected to a number of health conditions and thus a cause for obtaining benefits with the VA.

That addressed the unintended targets. That, however, still left the intended ones.
Vietnam estimates 400,000 people were killed or maimed by the defoliants, 500,000 children have been born with defects from retardation to spina bifida and a further two million people have suffered cancers or other illnesses.
But now, after years of arguments about health effects and compensation,
Vietnam and the United States have taken the first step towards cleaning up Agent Orange contamination. ...

The development is being hailed as one of the most significant in relations between Washington and Hanoi.
And it may be a good step toward resolving the last outstanding issue about a war that ended over 35 years ago. Damn well about time, I'd say.

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