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: http://vietnamnews.vnanet.vn/ (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: http://en.wikipedia.org/... (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:
- coming out forcefully and admitting that the US used chemicals likely to harm noncombatants in violation of international law during the Vietnam War;
- calling for his own Republican party to stand behind compensation for victims of Agent Orange, both American and Vietnamese
- 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.