Fifty-one years after beginning a ten-year campaign of spraying Agent Orange in Vietnam, the U.S. announced Thursday it will begin a cleanup for the first time of just one of the 28 "hotspots" where the Dow- and Monsanto-made toxic chemical was stored.
Voice of America reports that the four-year cleanup at a former U.S. airbase in Danang involves "73,000 cubic meters of affected soil and heating it to a high temperature to burn off leftover dioxin."
Up to 12 million gallons of the toxic defoliant was sprayed affecting millions of people and about 5 million acres of forest. It left a cruel, ongoing legacy of birth defects, cancer and other diseases for both Vietnamese and U.S. soldiers.
For millions of Vietnamese, the cleanup effort is too little, too late.
Marjorie Cohn and Jeanne Mirer write:
For the past 51 years, the Vietnamese people have been attempting to address this legacy of war by trying to get the United States and the chemical companies to accept responsibility for this ongoing nightmare. An unsuccessful legal action by Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange against the chemical companies in U.S. federal court, begun in 2004, has nonetheless spawned a movement to hold the United States accountable for using such dangerous chemicals on civilian populations. The movement has resulted in pending legislation HR 2634 – The Victims of Agent Orange Relief Act of 2011, which attempts to provide medical, rehabilitative and social service compensation to the Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange, remediation of dioxin-contaminated “hot spots,” and medical services for the children and grandchildren of U. S. Vietnam veterans and Vietnamese-Americans who have been born with the same diseases and deformities.
Susan Schnall, a member of the Vietnam Agent Orange Relief and Responsibility Campaign, a project of Veterans For Peace, urges action on HR 2634:
"It's been 51 years since the beginning of the spraying, and the first of 28 hot spots is now being dealt with. Hot spots are the areas where the United States had military bases and left behind Agent Orange dioxin which remains in the land. August 10th is Worldwide Agent Orange Day, marking 51 years since the spraying started. So it's very appropriate that the cleanup is beginning now. To ensure that the United States continue this process with the remaining 27 hot spots, we're asking people to support legislation that would clean up all 28 hot spots: the Victims of Agent Orange Relief Act of 2011 (HR 2634). People can go to our website http://vn-agentorange.org and sign orange cards in support. This legislation also would provide services to the children of both Vietnamese and Americans who are suffering by the millions from the use of Agent Orange in Vietnam a half-century ago. This is a reminder to the government and to the people of the United States that war causes untold suffering that continues with succeeding generations."