For over 10 years, from 1961 to 1975, in order to deny food and protection to those deemed to be “the enemy,” the United States defoliated the land and forests of Vietnam with the chemicals known as Agent Orange. These chemicals contained the impurity of dioxin – the most toxic chemical known to science. Millions of people were exposed to Agent Orange and today it is estimated that three million Vietnamese still suffer the effects of these chemical defoliants. 0in;line-height:150%”>
The deadly mark left by Agent Orange on the natural environment of Vietnam includes the destruction of mangrove forests and the long-term poisoning of soil especially in the known “hot spots” near former U.S. military bases. 0in;line-height:150%”>
Our government has a moral and legal obligation to compensate the people of Vietnam for the devastating impact of Agent Orange, and to assist in alleviating its effects. Indeed, the U.S. government recognized this responsibility in the Peace Accords signed in Paris in 1973, in which the Nixon administration promised to contribute $3 billion dollars toward healing the wounds of war, and to post-war reconstruction of Vietnam. But that promise remains unfulfilled.
For the past 52 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, H.R. 2519, The Victims of Agent Orange Relief Act of 2013 [http://www.govtrack.us/
Last year on the 51st anniversary of the beginning of the U.S. chemical war on Vietnam, we requested people around the world to observe 51 seconds of silence in memory of those who suffered and suffer from the effects of Agent Orange, and after the silence to take at least 51 seconds of action to support the struggle. This year again we urge you to reflect on the ongoing tragedy and take action by ensuring that your Congressional representative co-sponsors H.R. 2519, introduced by Rep. Barbara Lee.