Agent Orange survivors challenge Dow, Monsanto

By Workers World NY bureau,, June 22, 2007

Scores of people attended a rally and Federal Court of Appeals hearing June 18 calling for compensation for victims of Agent Orange by the corporations that produced the dioxin-laden toxic chemical sprayed as a defoliant extensively during the U.S. war against Vietnam.

U.S. veterans and Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange and anti-war activists accused Dow, Monsanto and others of supplying chemical warfare agents known to be toxic to humans. “Corporations must pay for their crimes” and “Justice for Vietnam Agent Orange survivors,” read some of the signs.

A larger group of Vietnamese “contras” waved the flag of colonial rule in Vietnam, screaming epithets at those calling for justice and trying unsuccessfully to surround and intimidate those supporting the survivors. Many had come by bus from Virginia, outside Washington. One boasted he had come from Paris. These were the Vietnamese who had supported the pro-colonial regime that was so unpopular it collapsed despite massive U.S. military intervention to prop it up.

Passersby listened with interest to explanations about the continuing effects of chemical warfare 30 years after the war’s end. Many had never heard of Agent Orange before.

Workers World asked Ngo Thanh Nhan, an organizer with the Vietnam Agent Orange Campaign, why these contras supported the poisoning of 3 million people from their former homeland, which has resulted in birth defects over three generations. He replied, “They think the government of Vietnam is communist and they are so fanatically opposed to communism that they don’t care about the suffering of the people.”

On June 16 the Campaign sponsored a well-attended welcome ceremony at the Martin Luther King Jr. Labor Center/1199, where Nguyen Thi Hong, age 60, Ngyen Muroi, age 24, Vo Thanh Hai, age 48, and Nguyen Van Quy, age 52, spoke in very moving terms about the difficulties of living with the deadly diseases they contracted after they—or their parents in the case of Nguyen Muroi—were exposed to the dioxins found in Agent Orange.

They are named plaintiffs in the suit that was discussed in court June 18, but not yet ruled on as of June 20.

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