Nonprofit Newswire | Agent Orange and Philanthropic Perseverance

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May 23, 2010; Source: Texarkana Gazette | The U.S. does not have a good history associated with some of its overseas military engagements in recent years such as Iraq, and some of us also have strong memories of our nation’s role in Vietnam. One of the legacies of the war in Indochina is the incidence of birth defects and environmental damage that the Vietnamese attribute to the U.S. military’s use of the herbicide Agent Orange.

Some 11 million gallons (Note: we’ve seen a GAO estimate of 18 million gallons) of this defoliant was sprayed on Vietnam between 1962 and 1971 with the intent of reducing the jungle foliage used by Vietnamese communist forces for cover. But almost half of it was used on food crops, some five million people were exposed to it, and the Vietnamese government claims half a million children were born with Agent Orange-caused birth defects.

Since a visit by George W. Bush to Hanoi, the U.S. government has pledged a total of $9 million and approved the expenditure of $6 million mostly for environmental clean-up, but contends there is no “clear link” between Agent Orange and birth defects. The government of Vietnam views $6 million as insufficient to undo the herbicide’s environmental damage.  Although the U.S.—both the Bush and Obama administrations—contends that there might be other causes of birth defects such as malnutrition, the Veterans Administration treats birth defects of children of U.S. servicemen who served in Vietnam as associated with this toxin.

Credit the Ford Foundation for its support of a coalition of faith-based and secular nonprofits (including some involved in the U.S.-Vietnam Dialogue Group on Agent Orange/Dioxin, created by former Ford Foundation president Susan Berresford) and its research funding on getting the U.S. to own up to its Agent Orange responsibilities.  This is an excellent example of foundation funding for public policy advocacy and, unlike many foundations, the power of philanthropic perseverance.—Rick Cohen

  • Sharon L. Perry

    In response to the section of the above article which mentions the VA is treating birth defects of children of Vietnam veterans [U.S. Servicemen]: Yes they do provide compensation to those children of male Vietnam veterans suffering from spina bifida. The VA doesn’t actually treat these children. These children must seek treatment outside of the VA system. The VA provides for medical insurance not the treatment. As a result it is difficult to get the kind of care one would expect with such a benefit. I believe part of the problem is that the debate concerning whether agent orange causes these birth defects, chronic illnesses, and mental illnesses or not prevents the children from improving their overall health & living situation. This debate affects the children of Vietnam veterans as well as the Vietnamese agent orange victims and many other agent orange victims. The children of women Vietnam veterans are treated for a greater number of birth defects. I don’t have statistics but, more likely than not, the population which benefits must be very small indeed. We must create alliances between the many different agent orange victims in order to resolve this one aspect of the entire campaign for justice; whether or not agent orange has caused these birth defects. So that the children, no matter their nationality, can get the care they so desperately need. Human suffering, is human suffering not matter what scale is used to measure this suffering. Sharon Perry aoelgacy@gmail.com

  • LEROY FOSTER

    I personally handled and hand sprayed AGENT ORANGE HERBICIDES on GUAM FOR THE UNITED STATES AIR FORCE for ten years 1968 to 1978. My daughter was ill from birth with asthmas, multiple health problems with immune problems, rashes, constant urinary tract infections, kidney infections, hip dysplasia, knee dysplasia, tmj, joint disease, etc. AND NOW her daughter born march 15, 2010 with multiple birth defects 12 toes, 12 fingers, heart disease. I have ischemic heart disease, arteries of man 150 yrs old, chloracne immediately upon handling agent orange, sterility immediately upon handling agent orange, treatment at the us naval hospital agana guam for the sterility that administered testosterone shots of human and animal varieties serial numbered guninea pig that destroyed my immune system with air way closure, hives, rashes, etc, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, spinal stenosis, anklylosing spondiolitis, thryoid problems, tumors on my legs, edema, peripheral neuropathy in all limbs, etc.

  • LEROY FOSTER

    i put the wrong website. it is http://www.guamagentorangeinfo.com
    for history, documents, etc on the AGENT ORANGE HERBICIDE CONTAMINATION ON GUAM