- On Oct. 13, the New York Times ran a news story
headlined "Door Opens to Health Claims Tied to Agent Orange,"
which was sure to be good news to many American veterans of the Indochina
War. It reported that 38 years after the Pentagon ceased spreading the
deadly dioxin-laced herbicide/defoliant over much of South Vietnam, it
was acknowledging what veterans have long claimed: in addition to 13 ailments
already traced to exposure to the chemical, it was also responsible for
three more dread diseases-Parkinson's, ischemic heart disease and hairy-cell
a new policy adopted by the Dept. of Veterans Affairs, the VA will now
start providing free care to any of the 2.1 million Vietnam-era veterans
who can show that they might have been hurt by exposure to Agent Orange.
is another belated step forward in the decades-long struggle by Vietnam
War veterans to get the Defense Department and the VA to acknowledge the
American government's responsibility for poisoning them and causing permanent
damage to them and often to their children and grandchildren. Dioxin,
one of the most poisonous substances known to man, is known to cause many
serious systemic diseases, autoimmune illnesses, cancers and birth defects.
(It is also a warning about the general Pentagon and government approach
to other hazards caused by its battlefield use of toxins-most significantly
the increasingly common use of depleted uranium projectiles in bombs, shells
and bullets-an approach which features lack of concern about health effects
on troops and civilians, denial of information to troops, and denial of
care to eventual victims.)
from the Times article, written by military affairs reporter James Dao,
which did include mention of the obstructionist role the government has
played through this whole sorry saga, was a single mention of the far larger
number of victims of Agent Orange in Vietnam-the people on whose heads
and lands the toxic chemical was actually dropped, or of the adamant refusal
by the US government to accept any responsibility for what it did to them...
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