• Media Blackout on Agent Orange: Coverage Ignores Effects on Vietnamese Victims

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    by David Lindorff:
    Where Are This War's Heroes, MilitaryandJournalistic?

     

     
     

    In mid-October,
    hundreds of thousands of Vietnam-era veterans got some good if grim
    news: The Veterans Administration announced it was adding three
    more diseases to the 11 others it automatically presumes to have
    been caused by exposure to Agent Orange, the dioxin-laced herbicide
    spread by the U.S. military across much of South Vietnam to deny
    crops and cover to North Vietnamese and Viet Cong fighters during
    the war.

    Newspapers
    and radio and TV news programs across America ran stories announcing
    that veterans of the jungle war who now suffer or may eventually
    suffer from Parkinson’s Disease, ischemic heart disease or
    a type of cancer called hairy-cell leukemia will henceforth automatically
    be offered free medical care by the VA if they’d spent at least
    one day in uniform on the ground in Vietnam.

    The connection
    of these diseases to Agent Orange exposure had first been announced
    in July by a task force of the national Institute of Medicine. But
    the medical researchers made an obvious point that has been almost
    universally ignored in the media coverage of this story: As bad
    as the impact of Agent Orange was on American troops, it was worse
    for those millions on whom the chemical was directly dumped –
    the Vietnamese people.

    The Institute
    of Medicine report notes at several points that the Vietnamese were
    exposed in far larger numbers and more extensively than were most
    American troops, and adds that when it comes to health impacts of
    Agent Orange, “The Vietnamese are an understudied population.”

    Indeed. A total
    of 20 million gallons of dioxin-containing herbicide was sprayed
    by U.S. aircraft on at least 10 percent of what was once South Vietnam
    – over 3.6 million acres, much of it populated, even heavily
    populated. Cropland was deliberately targeted, and water bodies
    used for drinking and irrigation were contaminated. As the report
    clinically puts it, “Although there are likely to be serious
    logistical challenges, the many Vietnamese people who had substantial
    exposure constitute a potentially informative study sample.”

    When New
    York Times military affairs reporter James Dao was asked why
    his October 13 article about the VA’s decision to add three
    new major illnesses to the list of Agent Orange – caused problems
    among veterans didn’t mention the obvious fact that these illnesses
    would also be afflicting many more Vietnamese, the reporter replied,
    “My beat is veterans,” adding that he “only”
    had 800 words to work with. (That’s 50 words longer than this
    piece.)

    Read
    the rest of the article

    March
    10, 2010

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