[Marxism] America Spits on Vietnamese Victims of Agent Orange
M. Junaid Alam
mjunaidalam at msalam.net
Thu Mar 10 19:57:55 MST 2005
Notice how the US veterans received a cool $180 million, whereas the
Vietnamese got fucked. How outrageous. It's "just a herbicide" when the
Vietnamese get destroyed, but somehow reparations are handed out when
the soldiers sent in to kill those Vietnamese are affected by it? You
can't deny it no matter how hard you try: nationalism still trumps
class. Imperialism as a system of advanced nations underdeveloping
poorer nations is so far off from Marx's diagnosis - "The country that
is more developed industrially only shows to the less developed the
image of its own future," - that it should be revised to read, "The
country that is more developed industrially only shows to the less
developed how barbaric it will behave to maintain its privileged future."
The criminality of imperialism, which by necessity entails "a certain
complicity", as Che put it, of the advanced workers, is an immovable
fact. The biggest barrier to socialism for over 100 years now has been
the simple fact of massive disparity between rich and poor countries, a
disparity that was never bridged or transcended by capitalist
penetration, as conceived by either neoliberals or Marxists. How do you
come to grips with this enormous question of such massive moral and
Agent Orange Case for Millions of Vietnamese Is Dismissed * By WILLIAM
Published: March 10, 2005
In a decision that could close a controversial Vietnam-era chapter of
American history, a federal judge in Brooklyn today dismissed a damage
suit filed on behalf of millions of Vietnamese that claimed American
chemical companies committed war crimes by supplying the military with
the defoliant Agent Orange.
The civil suit, filed last year, had sought what could have been
billions of dollars in damages and the environmental cleanup of Vietnam.
The suit drew international attention for its claims about Agent Orange,
which was widely used by the American military to clear the jungle until
The suit claimed that the defoliant, which contained the highly toxic
substance dioxin, left a legacy of poison in Vietnam that caused birth
defects, cancer and other health problems and amounted to a violation of
But Judge Jack B. Weinstein of the United States District Court sided
with the chemical companies and the Justice Department, which argued
that supplying the defoliant did not amount to a war crime.
"No treaty or agreement, express or implied, of the United States,"
Judge Weinstein wrote, "operated to make use of herbicides in Vietnam a
violation of the laws of war or any other form of international law
until at the earliest April of 1975."
Because of sovereign immunity, the United States government was not sued.
In 1975, President Gerald R. Ford adopted a national policy renouncing
the first use of herbicides in warfare. Also in 1975, the Senate
ratified an international Geneva accord dating from 1925, which outlawed
the use of poisonous gases during war.
The suit claimed that because of the dioxin in Agent Orange, spraying it
amounted to the use of poison during war.
But Judge Weinstein concluded in a 233-page decision that even if the
United States had been a Geneva signatory during the Vietnam War, the
accord would not have barred the use of Agent Orange.
"The prohibition extended only to gases deployed for their asphyxiating
or toxic effects on man," said the decision, issued in response to a
motion for dismissal by the defendants, "not to herbicides designed to
affect plants that may have unintended harmful side-effects on people."
William H. Goodman, a lawyer for an association of Vietnamese that filed
the suit as a class action, said the decision would be appealed. He said
the United States Supreme Court could eventually decide the issue.
"The judge missed the point," Mr. Goodman said. "He ruled as a matter of
law that what these defendants manufactured was not a poison, whereas
even these manufacturers recognized that it was at the time."
The companies have long said that dioxin was an unwanted byproduct of
the manufacture of Agent Orange, but claimed that there was no
conclusive link to the many serious health problems blamed on Agent Orange.
Over many decades, American veterans of the Vietnam War filed suits
making health claims similar to those now being pressed by the
Vietnamese. Judge Weinstein also handled those cases.
Seven American chemical companies settled the veterans' cases for $180
million in 1984.
The same chemical companies, including Dow, Monsanto and Hercules, were
sued in the Vietnamese case.
Spokesmen for some of the companies applauded the decision today.
"We believe the defoliant saved lives by protecting allied forces from
enemy ambush and did not create adverse health affects," said Scot
Wheeler, a spokesman for the Dow Chemical Company.
Glynn Young, a spokesman for Monsanto, said Judge Weinstein's decision
"The judge said they didn't make the case," Mr. Young said. "That's a
very difficult message for a lot of people to understand because there's
so much emotion wrapped up in cases like this one."
Though he ruled against the Vietnamese plaintiffs, Judge Weinstein
agreed with many arguments put forth by their lawyers. He rejected
arguments of the Justice Department that the court had no place in
reviewing military strategies adopted by President John F. Kennedy and
Saying "presidential powers are limited even in wartime," Judge
Weinstein said American courts had the power to decide whether
presidential decisions about the conduct of a war violated international
"In the Third Reich," the decision said, "all power of the state was
centered in Hitler; yet his orders did not serve as a defense at
Nuremberg," where war crimes trials were conducted after World War II.
Similarly, he rejected an argument from the chemical companies that they
were shielded by rules that typically protect military contractors from
suits for providing war materiel.
Clearly writing to influence courts in the future, Judge Weinstein used
sweeping language and employed extensive citations to historical,
military, scientific and legal writings.
If supplying contaminated herbicide had been a war crime, Judge
Weinstein wrote, the chemical companies could have refused to supply it.
"We are a nation of free men and women," he wrote, "habituated to
standing up to government when it exceeds its authority."
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