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John McCain is now in Vietnam on a trip abroad.  This story, to my knowledge, has not been covered at all by the US mainstream media.  I happened to find out about it by reading the Vietnam News, an English language news reader put out by the Vietnamese government, while here in Ho Chi Minh City.  Here are some tidbits from that publication of Wed. April 8th, 2009.

First off, Vietnam News reports that McCain is in Vietnam on a "working visit to Vietnam" and later China; tagging along with him is his usual buddy--Sen. Lindsey Graham--(the odd couple together again?), and Sen. Amy Klobucha (sic) I think they mean, Klobuchar of Minnesota.  

The front page of the Viet Nam News has a picture with McCain shaking hands with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung in Hanoi.  While the Vietnamese repeatedly stress the trade aspects of the meeting (the Vietnmese PM is quoted as saying "the potential for economic cooperation between the two nations was very large, so the two sides should boost cooperation to bring more benefit to the two peoples"), McCain takes a different tack.  McCain, to be sure, said that he is "very impressed by economic process (sic) (progress?) that has been made since the normalisation and trade agreement between the US and Vietnam" but then he goes on to talk about military cooperation between the two countries.

"He also urged a greater military relationship between the two countries, given the facts that Viet Nam and the US had delegation exchanges in national defense and US ships' visits to Viet Nam.

'I would like to see, among other things, officials of the Vietnamese military attending our defense universities in the US,' he said.

The senator said that there were a number of military institutions and schools in the US that he thought Vietnamese officals should attend.

SOURCE:  (I am quoting from the "hard copy" but the story is also available online at this link.)

Imagine that, Vietnamese generals to be could attend a military academy just like McCain did, and even perhaps come out at the bottom of the class like he did!   Perhaps he doesn't realize it, but the Vietnamese army didn't seem to need any West Point or Annapolis grads to defeat the U.S. McCain then went on to talk about Agent Orange:

"Regarding the Agent Orange/dioxin issue, the US senator said it remained an issue for both Viet Nam and the US.  'We need to continue to address the issue both in compensation of victims, as well as clean up areas that are contaminated,' he said.

The US, it will be remembered, used chemical warfare against the Vietnamese by spraying an estimated 21,136,000 gal. (80 000 m³) of Agent Orange across South Vietnam. Agent Orange contained dioxins, a cancer producing agent.  Some 4.8 million Vietnamese people were exposed to Agent Orange, resulting in 400,000 deaths and disabilities, and 500,000 children born with birth defects.

Sources: (citing figures from the U.S. Dept of Veterans and The Globe & Mail of June 12, 2008).  

Since the 1980s, several lawsuits have been filed against the companies which produced Agent Orange, among them; Dow Chemical, Monsanto, and Diamond Shamrock (which produced 5%. U.S. veterans obtained a $180 million settlement in 1984, with most affected veterans receiving a one-time lump sum payment of $1,200. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, shortly after the Vietnam War veterans reported various health complications which can be traced to exposure to the chemical Agent Orange.

In 1999, South Korean veterans filed a lawsuit in the Korean courts. In January 2006, the Korean Appeal Court ordered Monsanto and Dow to pay US$62 million in compensation. However, no Vietnamese have received compensation, and on March 10, 2005, Judge Jack B. Weinstein of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York dismissed the lawsuit filed by the Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange against the chemical companies which produced the defoliants and herbicides. The case was appealed and heard by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals on June 18, 2007. The Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal of the case stating that the herbicides used during the war were not intended to be used to poison humans and therefore did not violate international law. The lawyers for the Vietnamese have petitioned the US Supreme Court to consider the case.


Perhaps McCain could do a real service to humanity in general and to the Vietnamese in particular by:  

  1. coming out forcefully and admitting that the US used chemicals likely to harm noncombatants in violation of international law during the Vietnam War;
  1.  calling for his own Republican party to stand behind compensation for victims of Agent Orange, both American and Vietnamese
  1.  leading a bipartisan effort for this cause.  

If he did so, Senator John McCain would go a long way toward revamping his reputation which was so damaged in the last presidential campaign.  

Originally posted to fflambeau on Wed Apr 08, 2009 at 02:36 AM PDT.


Regarding Agent Orange

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Comment Preferences

  •  Thanks for sharing this info (8+ / 0-)

    with us since, as you stated the MSM isn't covering it.  Apparently, unless it's an earthquake or other natuaral disaster, Obama/Progressive bashing, or rabble rousing rhetoric it's not newsworthy.

    As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them. -John F. Kennedy

    by JaxDem on Wed Apr 08, 2009 at 03:08:15 AM PDT

  •  I think military cooperation with Vietnam is a (7+ / 0-)

    great step forward a a positive development.

    The Agent Orange issue, though, is a very complex one.

    Agent Orange itself is/was not a particularly dangerous pair of chemicals to humans.  When the U.S. military sprayed it as a defoliant, it had every reason to believe it would not have dangerous, long term effects on the local population or our veterans.

    However, a byproduct of mass production of Agent Orange was a highly toxic and carcinogenic dioxin.  Monsanto and Dow were aware of this but in order to keep their contracts, they kept this information hush hush.

    Now, unfortunately, military contractors have pretty blanket civil immunity.  This civil immunity does make some sense, although, frankly, it's designed to prevent weapons makers from being held liable for the intended death and destruction their products cause, not really to protect companies that engage in crass and sinister cover-ups of dangerous potential side effects of their products.

    But it is what it is.

    It'll be difficult to crank more out of Dow Chemical than the meager $3,000 dollars its disbursed to impacted veterans while denying liability.  And no civil liability will likely be found in any American court for damage to either Koreans, Vietnamese or American service members.

    However, as a matter of public policy, it would be a very good move for the United States government to make sincere efforts at reparations for victims.  This would be an executive remedy, not a legal remedy, which is nigh impossible.

    And further shaming the chemical companies would do some good, as well.  Perhaps if their PR continue to take hits, they'll be forced to address the damages to the Vietnamese victims of their inhuman malfeasance.

    I dunno, though.  Monsanto and Dow don't seem to have much shame.

    Yes, Santa Claus, there is a Virginia. And it went Democratic.

    by Anarchofascist on Wed Apr 08, 2009 at 03:32:57 AM PDT

  •  Eh. (3+ / 0-)

    Maybe the Senator is trying to expiate his remarks about "gooks", no?

    Seattle PI:

    On his campaign bus recently, Sen. John McCain told reporters, "I hated the gooks. I will hate them as long as I live." Although McCain said he was referring only to his prison guards, there are many reasons why his use of the word "gook" is offensive and alarming.

    It is offensive because by using a racial epithet that has historically been used to demean all Asians to describe his captors, McCain failed to make a distinction between his torturers and an entire racial group.

    It is alarming because a major candidate for president publicly used a racial epithet, refused to apologize for doing so and remains a legitimate contender.

    King of Macedon: "If I enter Laconia, I will level Sparta to the ground." Spartans: "If."

    by MBNYC on Wed Apr 08, 2009 at 03:33:45 AM PDT

    •  Come on, Sen. McCain has done (3+ / 0-)

      A LOT to help mend fences with the Vietnamese government and people.

      The use of the epithet reflected badly on his tact and his temperament -- on a lot of things that certainly would have impeded his ability to be a good president.

      But I don't think it would be right to question his sincerity on this issue, something he's been pursuing admirably for decades.

      If anything, he's attempting to expiate his guilt over the Vietnam War, not his use of an offensive word.

      Yes, Santa Claus, there is a Virginia. And it went Democratic.

      by Anarchofascist on Wed Apr 08, 2009 at 03:41:52 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  you have never been shot at in Asia have you? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      burrow owl, Anarchofascist

      even Prince Harry got in trouble for a similar comment about  the "enemy" in SW Asia and the terms theu use to decsribe the people in Iraq and Afghanistan

      spend some time being shot at and have them trying to kill you for a year and your outlook on life changes a bit  should he have been a Presidential candidate  no but not because of his verbage

    •  The Vietnamese don't hate him, MBNYC (5+ / 0-)

      I hear what you are saying MBNYC but the Vietnamese do not hate McCain.  In truth, most of the Vietnamese are too young to even remember the war and their government has treated McCain with lots of respect over the years.  Although I did not support McCain in the election, I also think he probably has some guilt feelings about what happened in that country.  The Vietnamese are smart; they have moved way beyond the war and look to the future.  We should too but I think if we did something positive toward those harmed by Agent Orange, it would be tremendous boost for the US.  It needn't even cost that much:  a public admission as to the misuse of this chemical agent; an acknowledgement that it does indeed cause harm to humans; and, compensation to victims (if even in a small amount.  A thousand dollars goes a long way in Vietnam).  

      •  My staff (0+ / 0-)

        averaged 25 years old and were always asking me what it was like to be there in the war.

        Whenever I heard of an study tour of US college kids coming through, I would invite them to meet a group of kids from University of Hanoi; we would rent a theatre and show "Hearts and Minds", the Peter Davis classic documentary, and then have a discussion time afterwards in the courtyard...very intense times..neither group knew much about the war, and were blown away by the film....

        I am a warrior for peace. And not a gentle man... Steve Mason, 1940-2005

        by Wayward Wind on Wed Apr 08, 2009 at 08:15:26 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  saw something about it yesterday (6+ / 0-)

    when McCain speaks of defense universities I don't think he is speaking about the service academies, he's talking about the War Colleges, etc., that foreign officers attend on military exchanges, notice he said "Vietnamese Officials could attend...", that means they're already officers.  They learn US/NATO strategy and intergration.  He's looking to buddy up with Vietnam on some hawkish China containment fantasy, I'm willing to bet, and military exercises and exchanges are necessary for that.  More neo-con fantasy stuff.

    Christ rode on an ass, but now asses ride on Christ. - Heinrich Heine

    by Jeffersonian Democrat on Wed Apr 08, 2009 at 03:37:33 AM PDT

  •  This bullshit, homophobic slam (4+ / 0-)

    (maybe a visit to Vermont or Iowa would be appropriate for these two "best of friends")

    makes anything else you have to say in this diary irrelevant.

    In the battle of meaningless political terms, my assault weapon beats your partial birth abortion. - Eddie Garcia aka kestrel9000

    by kestrel9000 on Wed Apr 08, 2009 at 03:38:13 AM PDT

  •  Vietnam, Kennedy, Johnson... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Wayward Wind, testvet6778, JaxDem

    those were ugly times, with a lot of good that came out of it too (civil rights, peace, feminist movements)

    •  it was as they say "the best and worst of times" (4+ / 0-)

      but we grow from our mistakes  I used to think except now we have 2 "Vietnam style wars" and this is 40 years later   what ahppened to the Generals promise of "no more Vietnams" they lied

      •  "Vietnams" Means No More Wars Terminated On Them (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        against their will. I see no evidence that they have not succeeded.

        Frankly, I think the conduct of Vietnam shows that they made this resolution after Ike pulled them off N. Korea. It did require a joint revolt of both the domestic draft pool plus troops in the field to stop them in Vietnam after all.

        We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

        by Gooserock on Wed Apr 08, 2009 at 04:29:23 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  quagmires is what they promised against (0+ / 0-)

          and I am sorry  from where I sit both current wars are quagmires and even General Petraues has stated there is no "victory" to be achieved in Iraq  no hills to plant flags on

          they should have used the "Powell Doctrine" instead of the Rumsfeld "I can win this on the cheap" model

          General Shinseki was right they needed a bigger invasion force  and they would probably not have had the looting and letting Al Qaeda time to get established in Iraq   Iraq qas a war that was not a necessity it is a war of choice "preemptive war"  because some people "thought" they would attack us in the future

          That is like putting me in jail for something they think I will do in the future to keep me from doing it   both ideas are wrong

          I believe in kicking azz taking no names and leave  and the military has done just the opposite in Iraq

  •  I have worked with the Vietnamese military (5+ / 0-)

    on a UXO extraction project, and can think of very little that we could teach them about tactics, about strategy, about leadership, and the other essentials of warfare.

    If they did come, they wouldn't be the first: there were several Vietnamese men and women who graduated from the service academies since the mid-80s, including a guy who came over as a child refugee, and wound up the valedictorian at the USAF Academy in the late 80s.

    Agent Orange: there is zero doubt that we have poisoned millions for Vietnamese spanning at least three generations - I saw them and worked to assist them every day for the years that I was there - but if we wait for scientific proof sufficient to withstand judicial scrutiny, they will wait forever.  The solution is to help all of the disabled, without reference to causation, and with far more than the paltry $6 million that has been pledged so far.

    UXOs - thirty years after the end of the war, the country is still littered with mines and unexploded ordinance.  There are still over 1,000 casualties every year, most women and children in poor rural areas.  At current rates of clearance, it will take centuries to clear, and Vietnam is very low on the list of priority countries for the DoS Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement.  Laos and Cambodia are in even worse shape.

    I am a warrior for peace. And not a gentle man... Steve Mason, 1940-2005

    by Wayward Wind on Wed Apr 08, 2009 at 04:55:45 AM PDT

    •  Excellent comments, Wayward... (4+ / 0-)

      I especially like your comments on Agent Orange and unexploded ordinance.  

      What are your thoughts on the ongoing American efforts to locate yet more remains of our soldiers and send them back?  I am of two minds:  1)  it's nice for their families to have a resolution of the issue and to give them peace of mind;

      1.  it's extraordinarily expense and no other army in the world has ever done this.  Is it really necessary?  Your thoughts?
      •  JPAC (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        truong son traveler, Eloise

        is doing excellent work in recovery, and putting to rest forever the bogus MIA claims that have caused so much pain to so many families.

        However, in many, many conversations with Vietnamese, it would be a very nice gesture - and serve us very well in a lot of areas - if we put some of that technology to use in locating some of their 300,000 missing soldiers.  Their mothers weep just as much as ours....

        The expense is phenomenal, and I understand that for some of the families, it is a necessary effort; however, if it were my bones out there, I would rather they they use the money to build some schools and clinics.

        I am a warrior for peace. And not a gentle man... Steve Mason, 1940-2005

        by Wayward Wind on Wed Apr 08, 2009 at 05:36:03 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I saw one of these bone repatriations and.... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Wayward Wind

          I think it was about 1997 or 1998 when I happened to be in Vietnam and was invited along with an American team repatriating remains.  The team stayed at a 5 star hotel, had about 6 members (all flown in to the country for this specific purpose), had an expense account for each member, vehicles and drivers, and also included some additional people from our government.  In my opinion, a gigantic waste of money and also a process IN AND OF ITSELF that prolongs suffering for families.  Think what the Germans or Russians families would think of this who suffered through WWII.  

    •  Good on you Wayward Wind (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Wayward Wind

      I tried to become involved in that years back as a way to move back to SE Asia but could not make the right contacts.

      Where was your UXO extraction project?

      I took notice when you spelled Xin Loi correctly, or as correctly as possible without the VN markings.

      •  Several provinces (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        truong son traveler

        From Nghe An in the north to Quang Nai in the south while I was there...

        I can speak a little...enough to get through an airport or a restaurant...was there in 69-70, then again many times in the 80s and 90s, finally going there to live in 2006 for more than 2 years...

        I am a warrior for peace. And not a gentle man... Steve Mason, 1940-2005

        by Wayward Wind on Wed Apr 08, 2009 at 07:35:33 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Interesting, I returned the first time in '89 (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Wayward Wind

          went back several times in the early 90's and went to live in '94 in HCMC. Was there in '67-'68 and again '69-'70. My old AOs were in Quang Nam and in Thua Thien Provinces.

          Maybe we know one another.

          •  Or at least drank in the same bars...heh.. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            truong son traveler

            Was with the 199th in Vietnam and Cambodia '69-'70; was on several VVAF delegations in '84-'86; went to Phnom Penh to run their prosthetics and wheelchair operation '93-'95 (with weekends in HCMC and Hanoi); then several times as a tourist, then back to Hanoi in '06 with VVAF until last June, when I came to Nepal.  Name in email addy in profile.

            Been to both of those provinces many times - we had UXO, AO, mental health, physical rehab, disabled income generation, and school projects in 18 provinces from Ha Giang on the China border to Can Tho in the delta...great job for seeing the country....

            I am a warrior for peace. And not a gentle man... Steve Mason, 1940-2005

            by Wayward Wind on Wed Apr 08, 2009 at 08:07:18 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  It was a defolient, and that was their (3+ / 0-)

    only objective.  It wasn't intended to harm civilians, but they took no precautions to prevent harm to either the civilian population or to our own military.  Then they denied that the chemical was harmful and for many years denied any claim that it was.

    We should be comparing that episode with the introduction of Montsano's other chemicals commonly used today in our food supply, from growth hormones to vegetable seeds.  We should be pointing out that the US has forced farmers in Iraq to use their seeds by making it illegal for those farmers to cultivate their own.

    The harm that they did in Viet Nam can never be undone with compensation, but we should be working to prevent them from continuing their practice of poisoning for money.

    The religious fanatics didn't buy the republican party because it was virtuous, they bought it because it was for sale

    by nupstateny on Wed Apr 08, 2009 at 05:05:19 AM PDT

    •  You raise some good points nupstateny but... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      truong son traveler, Eloise

      look, I'm not a professional chemist, but I am an amateur gardener and even with that limited knowledge and 1 high school chemistry course, I know that applying chemicals strong enough to strip trees of their foliage would be very dangerous to everyone involved.  I think our government and the top brass and the chemical companies knew exactly what they were doing and it fit into that "gook" mentality:  use any means to achieve our ends against orientals.  I also think that some compensation (and an offer of medical care and assistance) would go a long way to helping out lots of Vietnamese people.  We have an opportunity to be on a permanently good relationship with the Vietnamese; we only need the will.  

    •  They still deny it (0+ / 0-)

      I believe that they will never admit that it causes any harmful effects, but the world knows better - even a right winger like Christopher Hitchens was convinced by what he saw in Vietnam:

      Let us submit this to the arbitration of evidence and reason: what else can possibly explain the systematic convergence?

      The Vietnam Syndrome

      If we wait for science to catch up to existing legal liability standards, all of the victims will be dead.  Far better to spend what it takes now to assist the millions of disabled there than to try to segregate out dioxin victims and chase the science.

      I am a warrior for peace. And not a gentle man... Steve Mason, 1940-2005

      by Wayward Wind on Wed Apr 08, 2009 at 08:27:16 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  In 2007 (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    truong son traveler, Hastur

    When the Vietnamese Victims of Agent Orange visited the US in 2007 for their appeal of the 2005 ruling, I wrote this diary.

    "The initial government criteria for defoliation agents stated that the selected agent should "be safe to handle while in storage, shipment or operation . . . [and] . . . should not be injurious to the health of man and animals who come in contact with it during and after military applications."

    In February 1964, at Dow’s plant in Midland, Michigan, more than 40 workers developed chloracne, some quite severe, due to the presence of dioxin. Dow believed at the time that extreme exposure to dioxin could result in "general organ toxicity," as well as "psychopathological," and "other systemic problems." A58 (FAC ¶106). As a result of this experience with chloracne, Dow decided to explicitly inform the other defendants of its experiences and knowledge, going back to the 1940s. It organized a meeting in Midland, Michigan in March, 1965, at which it shared all this information with the other defendants.

    Monsanto and Dow fucking knew they were producing dioxin contaminated defoliants.

    The reason people don't learn from the past, is because the past was a repetitious lie to begin with. Mike Hastie U.S. Army Medic Vietnam 1970-71

    by BOHICA on Wed Apr 08, 2009 at 06:32:04 AM PDT

    •  Agree with you Bohica... (0+ / 0-)

      thanks for that information. As I said to another poster, you don't have to be a professional chemist to realize that any chemical that can defoliate plants has at least a strong potential for having adverse effects on the human body.  It ain't rocket science.  You show that Dow knew all about what it was doing and couldn't care less.  For them, they placed profits about human lives.  Pathetic!  

  •  I'd also like to see (0+ / 0-)

    McCain retract his War College, post-Vietnam thesis that the U.S. lost in Vietnam only because it didn't try hard enough, a message which carried forward has terrible implications.

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