Friday, October 20, 2006

AGENT ORANGE COURT CASE
IN NEW YORK

Letter from Len Aldis
Secretary Britain-Vietnam Friendship Society


3rd October 2006

The Honourable Judges of the
United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

40 Centre Street
New York, New York 10007USA

Ref: Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin
Et al. V. Dow Chemical Co., et al,. Docket No 05-1953-cv

Your Honours,

I am neither a scientist, nor a man of medicine. I do not have any medical experience or knowledge at all but write to you as a person who has travelled to Vietnam on many occasions, and visited many of its provinces. It is because of my visits and what I have seen that I write and ask to make a submission to the Court in favour of the plaintiffs in the appeal before you.

One of the weapons used by American forces in the war on Vietnam was chemicals. It has been established from research carried out by a team from Columbia University led by Jeanne Mager Stellman and Steven D. Stellman - published in Nature Magazine of April 2003 – of the logbooks of the pilots that 82 million litres of chemicals were sprayed over a vast area of South Vietnam. Many scientists from a number of countries have also carried out research on the effects of the use of these chemicals.

However, I wish to draw the attention of the Court to the visits I have made to Vietnam, the first in 1989, and each year since. My travels within the country have taken me to many of the provinces north, south, east and west. In the seventeen years I have been able to meet and speak to many hundreds of people, young and elderly, suffering from various illnesses and disabilities as a result of the chemicals. I have met the people affected at clinics, in schools, hospitals and in their homes. In many cases it has not been easy for me to see the terrible disabilities suffered by young adults, teenagers, and in particular children.

You will know that the War on Vietnam ended in 1975, but the use of the chemicals that included Agent Orange/Dioxin over a period from 1961 – 1972 has affected millions, many thousands of whom were born long after the war ended.

To see, as I have, seen a child of six years born with no eyes, slowly making his way around a room by touch. A young girl of eight, her body twisted by Spina Bifida, sitting at her school desk writing her times table. Youngsters minus limbs, be they an arm or a leg, for some minus either legs, or both arms. Hundreds of thousands died in the womb of their mothers, some shortly after their birth. These too I have seen in the special room at Tu Du Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City.

Born in 1930, I know of no war in my lifetime that has left such a legacy to those born after its end.

International scientists have carried out tests, have investigated the soil and forests on which the chemical were used. You will no doubt have seen the evidence presented to you from people on whom the chemical was sprayed, and are ill or disabled, or from young adults whose parents served in the Vietnamese forces during the war and were born with disabilities.

I should point out that due to the nature and severity of their illnesses and/or disabilities many of the Vietnamese affected by the chemicals would not able to travel even within their own town, city, country, let alone travel to New York to present their case before you. Documentary films have been produced showing many of these tragic victims. I would hope that the Court before coming to its decision would have seen these.

Your Honours, you will be aware that members of the U.S. forces who served in Vietnam have also been affected by the same illnesses and disabilities transmitted to their children as have occurred on the Vietnamese. Further, in a lawsuit brought by these veterans in 1984 against some of the same companies before you in this appeal, you will know that it was settled out of court for a sum of $184m.

Veterans from Australia and New Zealand are suffering from the effects of the chemicals. In a settlement announced by a high Court in South Korea, the chemical companies that included Monsanto, were told to pay compensation.

At an international conference on Agent Orange held in Hanoi earlier this year, I was pleased to meet a number of veterans from Australia, Korea, New Zealand, Vietnam and the United States. I listened with great interest to their speeches recalling their time served in Vietnam and the part that some played in spraying the chemicals. It was very moving to hear an American speak of the death of his young son in his arms when his life support was turned off. His death was undoubtedly due to his father’s experiences in Vietnam.

His story can be repeated many thousands of times by the Vietnamese who went through the same tragic experience and who, today, are witnessing their children suffering from the consequences of chemicals used over thirty years ago.

The youngsters I see in my visits are those of the third generation, how many more generations will be born remains to be seen.

In Mid-December I will be in Ho Chi Minh City having been invited to the wedding of Nguyen Duc - a victim along with his brother Viet of the chemical - both were born conjoined in 1981, ten years after the spraying ended. They were separated in 1988 and I first saw them in 1989. Viet unfortunately remains very ill and requires constant medical attention.

The best wedding present that Duc and his fiancée Thanh Tuyen can receive is for the court to rule in favour of the Vietnamese victims.

Let Justice be done.

Yours sincerely

Len Aldis.
Secretary
Britain-Vietnam Friendship Society
Flat 2, 26 Tomlins Grove
London E3 4NX.
UK

Telephone: 0208 980 7146
Intl: 44+ 208 980 7146

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