Effects of Agent Orange Persist 40 Years After Historic Action Against Dow Chemical
Interview with Bernie Meyer, 1969 D.C.-9 protester, conducted by Melinda Tuhus
On May 18, the International People's Tribunal of Conscience, meeting in Paris, determined that the use of dioxin by the US military in Vietnam from 1961 to 1971 was a war crime and a crime against humanity. Dioxin -- one of the deadliest chemicals ever produced -- was the active ingredient in Agent Orange, 21 million gallons of which was used as a defoliant by American forces during the war in Southeast Asia. The tribunal found Dow Chemical, the maker of Agent Orange, and other chemical companies guilty of colluding with the U.S. government.
This decision, from an international group of lawyers, followed a ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court in March not to hear a case brought by representatives of Vietnamese civil society and by American military victims of Agent Orange. The court let stand a lower court ruling that the plaintiffs could not sue because Agent Orange was an herbicide used as a defoliant, and was not a poison targeting humans. In other words, those who died or have suffered injuries as a result of their exposure were considered expendable, described as being "collateral damage."
Thousands of GIs and their offspring were affected, along with three to four million Vietnamese. Bernie Meyer, a former Catholic priest, along with eight other activists, participated in a 1969 action that destroyed Dow Chemical Company files in Washington, D.C., as a protest against the use of Agent Orange in Vietnam. The protesters were known as the DC-9. When the group began planning a 40th anniversary gathering held in mid-May, Meyer decided it was time to visit Vietnam and meet some of the victims of Agent Orange in person. Between The Lines' Melinda Tuhus spoke with Meyer about his visit.
For more information on the Friendship Village Project, visit the website www.vietnamfriendship.org
* For more information, visit www.warlegacies.org/AgentOrange.htm
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